Saturday 21 December 2013

Gwen Raverat's Trinity Bridge

So many hits on the previous blog post about Gwen Raverat's childhood home and memoir Period Piece - thanks to a mention on the superb Cornflower Books - that I thought I'd put up a second part. Here's Gwen Raverat's print dated 1937 from a wood engraving of Trinity Bridge. Downriver from Newnham Grange, Trinity is the grandest college in Cambridge; her grandfather Charles Darwin studied here, and her father George was a Fellow. But the following extract from Period Piece tells you all you need to know about Gwen the iconoclast. (And what makes her book so entertaining.)
My mother took to [Newnham Grange, a house with a granary right on the river] with enthusiasm; which was characteristically brave of her; for most mothers would have thought the situation damp, and the river both dangerous and smelly.
And so it was; I can remember the smell very well, for all the sewage went into the river, till the town was at last properly drained, when I was about ten years old. There is a tale of Queen Victoria being shown over Trinity by the Master, Dr Whewell, and saying, as she looked down over the bridge: 'What are all those pieces of paper floating down the river?' To which, with great presence of mind, he replied: 'Those, ma'am, are notices that bathing is forbidden.' 

Raverat's depiction of Trinity Bridge, with the Wren Library in the background, is the view from the riverbank reserved for College members - a spot I came to know very well (and still feel a pang when I see it) when I had rooms in New Court opposite in both my first and third years as a student. Here's my photo of the edge of the great library the other week - note the same winter branches.

This is the view from the bridge, much sanitised since Queen Victoria's day - the modern (-ish) Garret Hostel Bridge eclipses Clare Bridge behind. I rather like the capture of the three Cambridge modes of transport: bicycle, punt and foot (cars being more trouble than they are worth in the labyrinthine one-way system around the pedestrianized town centre).

Here is the majestic Wren Library from inside Trinity, at the west end of Neville's Court...

...with the misty river beyond...

For more information about Gwen Raverat, I can recommend Frances Spalding's excellent biography, and the Raverat Archive blog, run by her grandson William Pryor, which also offers prints of her work for sale. 

And finally, some atmospheric music from the Choir of Trinity College, to go with the pictures:


Gill Edwards said...

Although ive never actually been to Cambridge i do feel an affinity as i have a heap of ancestors from there, none of them rich enough to have gone to Cambridge mind you.
These are fascinating posts Deborah.
Merry Christmas to you and yours

Gill xx

Marcheline said...

That library green looks like the place where Harry Potter learned to ride a broomstick in Professor Hooch's class... lovely!!

Muriel said...

So British! Cambridge is the very essence of Britishness, isn't it?

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