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The Counties of England by  Charlotte Mason
Table of Contents


 

 

THE SHIRES OF CAMBRIDGE AND HUNTINGDON

[176] THE two counties of Cambridge and Huntingdon fit into one another so closely, and are so much alike, that one description will serve for both. The northern half of each county belongs to the Fens, and even beyond the Fens the fields are for the most part very flat. Both counties have hills in the south; those of Cambridge are called the Gog Magog Hills. Green pastures and meadows with water-ways running through them are to be seen everywhere; these are dairy counties, that is, cows are kept from whose milk butter and cheese are made. The butter of Cambridge is sold in an odd way; you ask, not for a pound, but for a yard or two yards. Stilton in Huntingdon gives its name to a famous kind of cheese, of which gentlemen are fond. A good deal of corn is grown in Hunts, and Cambridge has large orchards scattered over the shire.

There are not many important towns in either county; Eamsey, where are still ruins of the old abbey, St. Ives, St. Neots, and the county town are the chief places in the little shire of Huntingdon. The town of Huntingdon had the honour of giving birth to Oliver Cromwell, the great opponent of Charles L, who became " Ldrd Protector of the'Commonwealth."

The towns of Cambridgeshire are, Cambridge, the cathedral city of Ely, March, Chatteris, Wisbeach, which is a port, Whittlesea, and Newmarket, where [178] most of the people are in some way busied about the horse races, which take place there seven times a year. But the one really famous place in the county is Cambridge, which is known all over the world for

THE UNIVERSITY.

The town of Cambridge stands on level ground, by the side of the river which forms part of its name; the stately college buildings, rising from among groups of splendid trees, distinguish the beautiful town. Englishmen look upon these buildings with reverent eyes, not for the sake of their beauty, but for that of the great men who have been educated within their walls, and whose names are the glory of England.

History does not declare when Cambridge first became an University, where all learning was studied, all students welcome. Most likely it grew up, like the Universities of Oxford, Paris, and some others, after the return of the Crusaders, who came home fired with a desire to possess the wonderful learning they had seen and heard of in the East.

In early days, the students of Cambridge lived in much discomfort; scattered through the town in miserable lodgings, or gathered together in "hostels," or " inns,*' where many lived under a principal of their own. But the people of the town charged such high rents for these poor places that they nearly drove the scholars away altogether.

This state of things led rich men and women, who cared about learning, to give land or money for building and endowing colleges, where the students might live and study in comfort.

St. Peter's College, or Peterhouse, was the first to be [179] built; and it, together with a church and a library of written books, was the gift of one Hugh de Balsham.

There are now in all seventeen colleges in the University; and among the most notable of these, are King's, founded by the "Boyal Saint," Henry VI., which has the most beautiful chapel in the world, with

"High embowered roof,

With antique pillars massy proof,

And storied windows richly dight,

Casting a dim religious light":—

Trinity, with its noble hall and library of precious books, and its pleasant walks by Cam; and St. John's, and Jesus College, on the banks of Cam.


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