Trumpington by X.Y.Z.
Transcription of the source, with comments in .
There are places upon earth to which one’s affections cling through life with an attachment that is as inexplicable to ourselves as it appears unaccountable to others. … But in all this increasing forgetfulness of the once so lovely world, a few spots are yet remembered as green oases in the universal waste: of these the little village of Trumpington, unpretending in its character and situation, and probably little cared for by any, save the inhabitants whose home and dwelling place it is, remains hallowed in our remembrance, and associated with recollections of our College life …
The situation of Trumpington is not a happy one, there is a flatness about the country as you approach it from London that is more depressing to the heart of one accustomed to rough mountain scenery of Wales, or even the undulating aspect of England generally, than can well be described: but when you come nearer to the village and see the embattled tower of its old church rising above the trees, and catch a glimpse of the avenue leading to the mansion of its lord [Trumpington Hall], and mark the cottages, not slated or tiled, but showing the good old covering of straw, and when you see the wives clustering about the doors of these cottages, and the roses peeping in at their windows, then you will admit that Trumpington is a genuine English village. To a freshman coming up to the University, it is the Rubicon on passing which he may consider himself fairly in Cambridge; for seldom is it that the broad walk between the two places is undotted by students of every class and standing, either taking a run in the keen morning air after chapel, or walking between two o’clock and four, in the cold sunshine of November, or striding desperately along when daylight has departed, and the shades of a stormy winter’s evening are fast closing around them, and the withered leaves are drifted in heaps by the wayside. From Trumpington to Cambridge the walk has objects, few and perhaps unimportant, but which in after life are often remembered from having been matters of daily contemplation – the windmill always going [at the junction of Long Road and Trumpington Road]; the thin fringe of plantation [along Trumpington Road]; the nursery with its greenhouses and flowers [Michael Brewer’s Nursery, later Willers Nursery, at the junction of Latham Road and Trumpington Road]; the milestone at the bridge with the heraldic devices on its crumbling surface [at the junction of Trumpington Road and Brooklands Avenue]; the raised walk and long blue strip of water running parallel to its side, not infrequently mistaken for the Cam [Trumpington Road beside the Botanic Gardens]; and the fine road, almost a boulevard, that finally conducts us into the town [Trumpington Road and Brookside]. Honoured, thrice honoured, may that walk ever be in the remembrance of each genuine son of Alma Mater , although far removed from the shadow of her fostering care! We write from the midst of a sea of noisy life – from the centre of the great metropolis – with the horrid din of a thousand confused sounds ringing in our ears; – yet in imagination we are still walking on the Trumpington-road – “our custom always of the afternoon” – and holding sweet communion with friends who will never in this world assemble together in the common purpose for which we were then united. Well does the great Jean Paul say, that we ought to value youth, for it comes but once a lifetime.
Trumpington is separated from its sister village, Grantchester, by a sheet of green meadow, land through which the Cam finds its way beneath blue overarching willows – the distance between the two places is but trifling – one might almost fancy them –
“Twin roses by the Zephyrs blown apart.” (Keats)
mere hamlets having one common name and parish.
We always regretted that the author of the Bath Guide ever lived at Trumpington, since the place is now associated with the recollection of a poem, so coarse and vulgar, that even at the time in which it appeared the caricature must have excited but one feeling in the minds of any who professed to entertain right notions of propriety or good taste. [Reference to Christopher Anstey (1724-1805), poet and the author of the New Bath Guide , 1766 and nearly forty later editions, whose family owned Anstey Hall, although he lived many years in Bath.] The only part we could ever read with common patience is the postscript to the Second Edition, in which we find the scenery of the Author’s home dimly shadowed out in the following lines: –
“Thus musing I wandered in splenetic mood
Where the languid old Cam rolls his willowy flood
A little further on he speaks of the river that gives a name to our University and flows through the domain of Trumpington, in terms of irreverence not more creditable than are his sneers at Alma Mater herself.
“May this lazy stream who to Granta bestows
Philosophical slumbers and learned repose,
To Granta, sweet Granta (where studious of ease
Seven years did I sleep then lost my degrees)
Truly is this “New Bath Guide” a very detestable book. That it should have been admitted into the collection of British Poets is an oversight at once to be lamented and condemned; but so it is, and while the volumes of Spenser and Milton are handed down to posterity, there will accompany them the nonsense of Gay and the ribaldry of Anstey: the whole reminding one of a band of galley slaves in ancient Rome, where we might see the Emperor and the peasant manacled together.
We could write more – much more about this, to us, well remembered and much loved village. We could, from mere recollection, draw every window in its church, and map each locality with the same correctness as though the originals were before our eyes; but we must forbear. Interesting as the subject might be to ourselves, how few are there in whose minds it would awaken the slightest sympathy?
R.B. Harraden (1809), ‘Cambridge from the London road’, looking from the Stone Bridge and the first milestone to Coe Fen and the road into Cambridge, Cantabrigia Depicta .
This article was published in the Cambridge General Advertiser , 9 November 1842, traced by Howard Slatter and transcribed by Andrew Roberts. The article seems to have been written by a former university student, who recognises “that Trumpington is a genuine English village”.