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TOWN OF CAMBRIDGE.
THE antiquity of CAMBRIDGE, (as observed in the Origin of the University) has been a theme fruitful of disputation. That it was a British settlement is extremely probable; and the high artificial hill within the bounds of the intrenchments near the Castle, is by many persons supposed to be a specimen of British labour. But however this may be, that it was a Roman station seems certain. "The site of the Roman Granta," says Stukeley, "is very traceable on the side of Cambridge towards the Castle, on the north-west side of the river, of an irregular figure, containing thirty acres, surrounded by a deep ditch, great part of which yet remains on the south-west, and in the grounds behind Magdalene College." The ditch is at this time nearly filled up, but the banks may in several places be discovered. The Roman agger in the garden of Magdalene College
is in very excellent preservation, and has been con verted into a fine terrace for the exercise of the Fellows. Within the works, which include the north-west end of the town, were three considerable bastions, raised by order of Cromwell, two of which still appear; the gateway of the Castle, long used as the county prison; and the churches of St. Giles and St. Peter. The latter was repaired some years since, and several Roman bricks were found in the decayed walls. Various fragments of urns, many Roman coins, and other relics of antiquity, have been discovered at different times in digging.
There is, however, no doubt that Cambridge was anciently a large and populous city, and once extended from the castle of Grantchester, (now a small village two miles south-west of the town) to the castle of Chesterton, three miles in length, along the western bank of the Cam. This city was divided into four parts, by two streets, crossing each other at right angles. The principal street ran in the same direction as does that of modern Cambridge, the road being continued from the foot of Gogmagog-Hills, passed the Cam by a ford, (where the iron bridge now crosses the river,) and continued in a straight line to Godmanchester: the road which intersected it passed through the city from S.W. to N.E. towards Ely. These coincidences are too evident to need other proof of this town being the Roman Granta.
In the year 871, Cambridge was plundered and
burnt by the Danes. The desolated site was chosen by the invaders, as one of their principal stations. In 875, three of their generals wintered here with an army, and it appears that they occasionally occupied it till the year 921. When the Danish army, quartered at Cambridge, submitted to Edward the Elder, that monarch repaired the decayed buildings, and made it once more a seat of learning. In 1010, the town was again destroyed by its old enemies, the Danes. Whilst the Isle of Ely was held against William the Conqueror by the English nobility, he built here a Castle on the site of the Danish fortress, and twenty-seven houses were destroyed to make room for its erection. In 1088, the town and county were laid waste with fire and sword, by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, who was then in arms in support of the cause of Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, eldest son of the Conqueror. In 1174, a great fire happened, which, besides doing other extensive damage, injured most of the parish churches, and entirely destroyed that dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
Frequent civil discord followed these melancholy events, and the town suffered greatly from plunder and anarchy during the succeeding century. In the year 1381, a serious dispute arose between the townsmen and the University. The townspeople assembled at their hall; and having chosen and obliged John Grantceter to act as their leader, they committed the most flagrant acts of violence. They
broke open the doors of Corpus Christi College, and carried away the charters, jewels, and other goods belonging to that foundation. They obliged certain of the Masters and others to renounce, under pain of death and destruction of their dwellings, all the privileges that had ever been granted them. After this, they broke open the University-Chest in St. Mary's Church, and taking out all the records, burnt them, with the other papers, in the market-place. Many other acts of violence accompanied these proceedings; and the misguided crowd, to ensure their own safety, forced certain of the principal Members of the University to sign a bond, which vested its entire future government in the burgesses of the town; and contained an acquittance from all actions which might be brought against them on account of the present tumults. Soon afterwards, however, this usurped power was wrested from their hands, by Henry Spencer, Bishop of Norwich, who entered with some soldiers. Several of the principal leaders were imprisoned during life; the Mayor was deprived of his office; and the liberties of the town, granted by King John and Henry III., were declared forfeited, and bestowed on the Vice-Chancellor.
Not long after this event, in 1388, a Parliament was held at Cambridge, by King Richard II., who, during his abode there, was lodged in the Priory of Barnwell. Nothing remarkable occurs in the history of the town for nearly two centuries, except the