The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge

The Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge Punting Tour

The Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge is a covered bridge belonging to St John’s College of Cambridge University. It was built in 1831 and crosses the River Cam between the college’s Third Court and New Court. The architect was Henry Hutchinson.

It is named after the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, although they have little architecturally in common beyond the fact that they are both covered. The bridge is one of Cambridge’s main tourist attractions and Queen Victoria is said to have loved it more than any other spot in the city.

A common myth states that it was the students who named this bridge “bridge of sighs,” as the context of its existing within the college grounds means that the “sighs” are those of pre-exam students. This belief probably has much to do with the function of the bridge—linking two quadrangles of St John’s College together in a covered path, as opposed to Kitchen Bridge, which is an open-air bridge. Students are rumoured for their sighs on proceeding from their quarters on the Backs to the tutor’s offices in the main college quadrangle.

On two separate occasions, students have pulled the prank of dangling a car under the bridge. In the first incident (in 1963), a 1928 Austin 7 was punted down the river using four punts that had been lashed together – then hoisted up under the bridge using ropes. The second incident (in 1968) a Bond or Reliant Regal three-wheeler car was dangled under the bridge. In neither case was the bridge damaged.

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