May Ball fireworks punting in Cambridge – and can you spot the fibs in our St John’s College quiz?

  1. Douglas Adams
  2. St John the Evangelist, Bridge of Sighs
  3. May Ball fireworks punting, The Cambridge Punt Company

Book your May Ball fireworks punting tour with The Cambridge Punt Company

Tuesday 19th June 2018, 8.30pm – your May Ball fireworks punting tour sets sail. Your chauffeured punt will guide you along the River Cam, to take up prime position for the St John’s College firework display. The rivalry between St John’s and Trinity College is always fierce, to put on the best pyrotechnic show – and St John’s are rumoured to have a six-figure budget for their May Ball.

So why not let The Cambridge Punt Company be your host for the evening?

Invite up to 12 people for your May Ball fireworks punting tour. Get cosy beneath our warm blankets. Sit back in comfort and pour yourself a glass of champagne or a cup of hot chocolate. Enjoy the supreme views of the riverside colleges and bridges at night, as we wait for the fireworks to start. Around 10.30pm, look up to the stars above your private punt – see the Cambridge skyline crackle and sizzle and smoke!

For a taster of this spectacular event, see this video from St John’s College or this footage of the fireworks and laser show at St John’s College Ball 2017. Book your May Ball fireworks punting tour on our website.

And now it’s time to test your St John’s College knowledge…

At The Cambridge Punt Company, we’re eagerly awaiting the May Ball fireworks at St John’s. So, we thought we’d set you a little test. Eight of these stories are true and two are make-believe. (The answers are at the bottom of this post: no cheating!).

St John the Evangelist, Bridge of Sighs1. St John’s College is named after St John the Evangelist

Yes, the very same fellow who wrote the Gospel according to John.

The Hospital of St John the Evangelist was on the site from around 1200, prior to the charter that established St John’s College in 1511.

2. The Bridge of Sighs gets the Royal seal of approval

Built in 1831, this Neo-Gothic covered walkway was loved by Queen Victoria – ‘so pretty and picturesque,’ she said of the bridge.

Named after the Venetian bridge, this beautiful River Cam crossing connects the Third Court and New Court at St John’s College.

When punting beneath the Bridge of Sighs, you can spot students and lecturers inside, going about their day.


3. Prince William studied agricultural management at St John’s College

It was a bespoke 10-week course in 2014. This was part of William’s preparation for his future role as Prince of Wales, overseeing the Duchy of Cornwall Estate.


4. Up until 1866, St John’s College held a jousting competition in First Court

First Court at St John’s College was constructed between 1511 and 1520, during the reign of Henry VIII. The most infamous King of England, Henry VIII founded Trinity College in 1546 – and the rivalry between St John’s and Trinity College exists to this day. Henry VIII was bitterly resentful of the founder of St John’s College, Bishop John Fisher, for opposing his divorce to Catherine of Aragon.

From the mid 16th Century onwards, St John’s held the jousting competition, complete with actors dressed up in padded costumes, mocking Henry VIII. The finale would see the overstuffed King toppling from his horse and splitting his pants, to raucous cheers from students. This tradition came to an abrupt end in 1866, when a leading actor of the day, Thomas Berridge, was trampled by his horse – so perhaps Henry VIII had the last laugh after all.


5. St John’s College celebrated its 500th birthday in 2011

They threw a big bash and sent the Queen and Prince Philip an invitation. Cue the excitable Cambridge masses lining the streets, some very British flag-waving and much waving of hands.

And cake – there was a 500th birthday cake. No doubt countless cups of English Breakfast tea were consumed (and several glasses of bubbly wine), which we encourage you to do on our Cambridge punting tours!


6. St John’s College fellows are allowed by law to kill and eat swans

The Royal Family also has this bizarre right to trap and consume unmarked mute swans.

Thankfully, we don’t think any of them actually indulge – we hope not, anyway.


7. William Wordsworth studied at St John’s College – he wrote about his lodgings in his poem ‘Cambridge’

The famous poet arrived as an undergraduate in Cambridge in 1787, graduating in 1791.

We’re not sure he was that impressed with his lodgings at St John’s, however. He described them as:

‘a nook obscure; right underneath, the college kitchens made a humming sound less tunable than bees!’

If only Wordsworth could have taken a punt along the River Cam – perhaps he would have enjoyed his student years more.


8. J.K. Rowling took her inspiration for the Griffyndor house crest from the St John’s College coat of arms

The St John’s College coat of arms features a mythical beast called a yale. The creature is rising up on its hind legs with front legs outstretched, tail curling up. Across the top, a majestic eagle spreads its wings.

In Rowling’s version, the Gryffindor lion takes the exact stance of the yale and she alludes to the golden wings of the St John’s spread eagle, across the top of the crest.


9. Wren Bridge aka the Kitchen Bridge

Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1711, this bridge is also known as the Kitchen Bridge because it was once used to bring food to the students from Kitchen Lane in Cambridge.


10. Douglas Adams studied English Literature at St John’s College

Douglas AdamsAdams went on to create the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.’ Here are a couple of Adams’ quotes that we rather like:

“The story so far: in the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

“On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy


Book your May Ball fireworks punting tour with The Cambridge Punt Company

For help with booking or special requests with your May Ball fireworks punting tour reservation, email or call 07943 820 437. We are a fully licensed, authorised and insured Cambridge punting company – unlike many of the street operators.

The Cambridge Punt Company also offer private punting tours and shared punting tours along the Cambridge Backs – by day and by night.

Scroll down for the St John’s College Knowledge answers!














Quiz answers

Number 4 and number 8 are the big fibs (although the first paragraph of number 4 is actually true; the jousting competition is definitely not!).

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