Clicking to Connectivity

Clicking to Connectivity means that our website pages here are a bit crazy whilst we code the project. Do join us in this experiment which will be launched on Thursday, 29th October as part of the Festival of Ideas in Cambridge. Our partners at Great St Mary's on the Market Square CB2 3PQ will be hosting the project as a FREE 'drop in' event from 2pm to 7pm, with the launch of the technology involving singing and history at 5pm followed by ibeacon talks given by our ARM collaborator Jonny Austin from 5.30pm. Our ibeacons will be live until 7pm and volunteers will be in situ within the Church and at the Marketplace to help the public navigate the topics and the tech!  

However, if you want to create some public art before the geek action,  children and their families, students and our DTP cohort, are especially welcome to drop in any time between 2pm and 7pm to participate at the art table, capture their work in the camera booth, test out the new heritage touch screens. In addition, from 2pm to 5pm we are offering trips to view the area from up the Church Tower for our community connect to the city, available for free for Abbey Ward residents, Abbey Meadows families and friends, and our Festival of Ideas Volunteers! 

Clicking to Connectivity is a an experimental public art project using digital technology with the art subjects inspired by local history, using new ibeacon technology to host a trail of creative pieces, including poems and films, and thumbnails of quirky and unique historical topics to give audiences fresh insights to view the Cambridge Market Place and the long history of Cambridge 'town' and 'gown' located at Great St Mary's Church on the Market.

Children and their Teachers from Abbey Meadows School have been working with Historyworks to co-create poems, songs and more for this new technology pilot which will be extended from the Market Place all the way back to Abbey Meadows as a 'scavenger trail' later on in the project.  If you have any questions, please contact Helen Weinstein, Director of Historyworks, on

All the history and art works have been co-created with the team at Historyworks starring the rap artist, Inja Hue, and the singing teacher, Mario Satchwell, and the primary education advisor, Tizzy Faller.   Film and Photography and Audio have been captured by all team members, but especially by Helen Weinstein, Jon Calver, and Ross Casswell.   Much of the historical research would not have been completed without the excellent resources at the Cambridgeshire Collection at the City Library and the team work from the Doctoral Training Programme at the University of Cambridge, whose students are rising to the challenge of learning how to translate their research skills for mass audiences.

The aim of the project is to allow a new method of place-making, by sharing historical stories specific to an area, and to inspire a visceral connection to these locations by supporting young people to co-create artworks in film and sound, words and voices which are then edited into soundfiles and films which can be coded for the public to enjoy and 'bump into' public art and local history as an ibeacon trail.  We hope you enjoy the experiment!  

For those with stamina and an interest in innovation and creativity, please come along to 'Makespace' for more tech chat from 7pm to 9pm.  Location is four minutes walk away from the Market Square down the snickleway on Silver Street which will be signposted and maps available at Great St Mary's.  On show at 'Makespace' will be a bunch of engineering creatives showcasing 3 D printers and laser cutters and their inventions! 

The next pages are the thumbnails for the history locations to which we will be adding further artworks as they are co-created and submitted over the life of this experimental phase of the project.  All Welcome!

Datum Point & Cambridge Milestones

What many people don’t know is that Great St Mary’s is the official centre of Cambridge and has been so since 1725. Nationally, maps were printed as engravings and became popular in small pocket forms in the 1600s, with Ogilby’s “Road Maps of England and Wales” published in 1675 becoming the best seller because it illustrated main routes with distances and landmarks, the app maps of their day!  In Cambridge mapping distances became more accurate in the 1720s when a Dr William Warren began measuring the roads out of Cambridge with a sixty-six-foot surveyor’s chain and setting up milestones to guide travellers.  During World War Two, when German invasion became a threat, the markers were hidden in roadside ditches. Warren chose the door of Great St Mary’s as his milestone starting point which is why today there is a datum disc set up in the wall. It is claimed that the Warren milestones were the first ‘true’ milestones erected in Britain since Roman times! We’ve chosen this disc as an emblem of our project, “Clicking to Connectivity” bringing in communities from outside the centre of the city, to learn local history, share knowledge and their creativity, inspired by their experiences of their routes to the centre. 


Do please listen to the poem “My Cambridge is Great’ which picks out some landmarks from Abbey Ward to the Market Place, linking town and gown, written and performed by a pupil from Abbey Meadows School:

Cambridge Coat of Arms

If you look up in Cambridge you can spot the Coat of Arms on bridges, signs, and above the door of the Guildhall. The Coat of Arms of Cambridge shows the River Cam with three ships on the water to demonstrate the important role the river played in the development of the city as a market town, with boats bringing wares to sell in Cambridge. The red roses and gold Fleur de Lys (which means lily flower in french) are Royal symbols to show the status given to Cambridge by monarchs across the centuries, and specifically the charter granting this Coat of Arms by Elizabeth I in 1575. There is a bridge with fortifications to represent the “Great Bridge of Cambridge” which is the present Magdalene Bridge. The Castle at the top of the Coat of Arms is a symbol of the Castle site founded by the Romans and developed as an ongoing fortification for Cambridge where Castle Hill and Castle Street is now. Most noticeable are the two red monsters either side of the Coat of Arms which are special mythical horses belonging to Neptune, called “Hippocampi”. These seahorses are symbols of the sea emphasizing the importance of Cambridge’s access to London and the World via the river route to the Wash and sea beyond!


Please listen to the piece of music composed by Cambridge student, Alex Cook “To Seek a Dream” based on a poem by Xui Zhimo about the River Cam:

Jewish Synagogue at the Guildhall

Did you know that the area close to the Guildhall and Market Place used to be called 'the Jewry' in the 12th and 13th Centuries?  The Jewry is not an old and odd way of spelling 'jewellery'.  Even though this area in Cambridge is indeed a real gem, the name comes from the fact that the area used to be a hub for the Cambridge Jewish community.  Although the Jewry area of Cambridge was marked on earliest maps to be located around All Saints (where the craft market is held), in the early days the Jewry stretched from the Guildhall down to the Round Church. The Jewish Synagogue was beneath the very site of today’s Guildhall and adjacent there used to be the house of a wealthy Jew named Benjamin.  Benjamin's house was eventually taken from him in 1224 by King Henry II and used as a terrifying prison.  The Jewish community was discriminated against and exiled from England in 1290 and did not return again to Cambridge in numbers until Jewish intellectuals and refugees joined the University and settled between the 1890s and 1940s onwards. The Jewish community is now thriving and there is more than one Jewish congregation. What a story for this area of town!


Hobson's Fountain of 1614

In the middle ages, Cambridge was a very smelly place. The college’s toilets emptied into the river, and the dirty water spread diseases. To help clean up the city, the Town and University had a substantial donation from a local man named Thomas Hobson to build a waterway that would bring in fresh water from the countryside. It was known as Hobson’s Conduit, and you can still see a small section of it today, running in ditches on either side of Trumpington Street, outside the Fitzwilliam Museum. Thomas Hobson and his son made lots of money by running an inn, a horse rental business, and were the official couriers for the University in Tudor and Stuart times. A fountain was built in 1614 to give clean drinking water to the people of Cambridge and marked the end point of Hobson’s Conduit in Market Square. After a huge fire devastated the Square in 1849, the fountain was moved to the corner of Lensfield Road where you can see a reconstructed conduit from 1953. Today, you can find the pieces of the original Hobson fountain from Market Square on display in the courtyard at the Museum of Cambridge.


Please listen to the song about Hobson’s Horses and his Fountain recorded by Historyworks with words by CBBC’s Horrible Histories Song writer, Dave Cohen:

Cromwell's Head & the King's Head

In the 1640s there was a civil war in England between King and Parliament, and this put Cambridge in turmoil.  The University was largely royalist supporting Charles I and the townspeople were mostly parliamentarians supporting the side of Oliver Cromwell, the local MP.  The King asked the Colleges to help with fund raising, gifts of silver and cash, but Cromwell blocked the wagons taking materials and money to supply the King’s army. Instead, Cambridge Colleges were forced to house Cromwell’s troops. His men used King’s College Chapel for military exercises. Graffiti left by the soldiers is still visible near the altar. Everything was disrupted during the 1640s including the civic and ceremonial roles of Mayor and Aldermen, whose special mace (a symbol of representing the monarch locally), with a crown on top, was publicly decapitated.  So when Charles I was executed, you can see how the Cambridge mace was also executed, a jagged edge showing where the crown was ritually hacked off with a butcher’s knife to represent the King’s Head taken off with a sword.  Revenge on Cromwell’s head came decades later, because although he was not King he had ruled England as ‘Lord Protector’ until he died from natural causes in 1658 and given a fitting burial place in Westminster Abbey. However, on the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 his body was dug up and his head ended up on a spike above Westminster.  Years later it blew off in a storm and eventually was given back to his family. Cromwell’s head was then buried in a secret location nearby the Market at Sidney Sussex College, the exact location not publicly known, for fear of Royalists digging it up again!


You can listen here to the funny round, commissioned by Historyworks called “Cromwell’s head is buried in Cambridge, Near the Supermarket” which was written by CBBC’s songwriter for Horrible Histories, Dave Cohen:

Great Market Fire of 1849

The Cambridge Market square is what it is today as a result of the Great Fire. This took place on the night of Saturday 15th September 1849, when a blaze broke out at half past midnight at a clothier’s shop full of textiles. In those times, there were wooden houses and workshops erected like a shanty town in the middle of what is now the Market Square, and spreading down Petty Curry and Peas Hill.  Even Great St Mary’s had shops with upstairs dwellings leaning on the east wall, which meant if you looked up in Church you could see into neighbours’ bedrooms! It was therefore easy for a fire to spread because of the clusters of wooden structures. Water from Hobson’s Fountain should have been used to quickly put out the fire, but the key to the Conduit had been mislaid in the panic so the townspeople had to put the fire out with buckets, forming a long chain from the river. Newspaper reports describe when the Chemist shop caught fire, that the chemicals turned the flames every colour of the rainbow like a firework display!  Thankfully no-one died when many structures in and around the market were burnt to the ground. The extra space gave the market place its modern shape.

Unsung Women 1897

Although you will see many women celebrating their graduations alongside their male classmates nowadays, this wasn’t always the case. Women’s colleges were founded in the mid-1800s, but despite doing all of the hard work and exams, women weren’t full members of the University and so were not awarded any degrees in Cambridge until after World War Two, in 1948! Unsurprisingly, the women of the University became rather fed up with this lack of equality. They rallied together to bring about an official vote on the matter on the 21st of May, 1897. The day of the vote brought lots of protestors to Cambridge, men who had degrees from the University and were outraged about the campaign for women to be awarded degrees were given voting rights, even if they had graduated years before!   Unfortunately for women almost three times as many men voted against them as for them. Thrilled, some male students made fun of female students and even made effigies of a woman on a bike representing emancipated women and also the head female campaigners. They hung these figures up along wires above the queue of voters going into the Senate, and afterwards burnt the effigies in the Market Square.


If you listen to the song by Kirsty Martin called “Unsung Women” commissioned by Historyworks on this subject, you’ll hear about the longer story of the men of Cambridge making it a long journey for women to be equal in town as well as gown:

Tower of Great St Mary's

The first mention of Great St Mary’s in the records is 1205 when it was known as “St Mary-by-the-market’. When the first teachers and students arrived in 1209, it was soon taken over as the place for lectures and meetings to serve the University, until a Senate House was built across the road in 1730.  Before that, there was a time of crisis when the original wooden Church burnt to the ground in 1290, surrounded as it was then by timber-framed shops and stalls with thatched roofs all highly flammable. This called for a stone construction, and it took a long time to build the tower. It was John Wastell, the master mason from King’s Chapel, who oversaw the works, transporting stone from Weldon quarry by river.  Building stopped and started due to lack of funds and a temporary thatched roof was made to protect the stonework from frost.  The original plan to build an 80 foot spire was abandoned. To help source local stone, some was recycled from the ruins of Abbeys, even using stone from Barnwell Priory, taken after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Tragically, one of the churchwardens was killed in an accident, and you can find graffiti up the tower staircase clearly dated 1607 and a plaque in the Church saying: “Here John Warren sleeps among the dead, Who with the Church his own life finished.” At last, in 1608 the tower was finally completed and now stands 114 foot tall, and because there is no spire instead there is space for a great viewing platform to see over the entire city and suburbs.


Please do listen to a piece written and performed by a pupil from Abbey Meadows describing their experience of the tower:

Queens & Kings at Great St Mary's


In the summer of 1564, Queen Elizabeth I came to Cambridge, her only visit to the university city throughout her long reign. The students and professors of the Tudor University as well as residents of the town began preparing frantically for her arrival: the cross in the market square was painted, the churchyard and the streets were covered in sand (to hide the sewage and rubbish underneath!), and stores of food collected. When Queen Elizabeth entered the city, she was met with cheers and trumpeters playing. But because the bell tower was still not finished, the Church was fined for failing to peal out the bells to announce her arrival! Elizabeth wore pearls and precious stones but no crown on her head, and was ‘dressed in a gown of black velvet’ and ‘a hat that was spangled with gold’. She was entertained throughout her stay by members of the University, who put on plays and lectures for her. A particularly memorable event was a disputation (a type of debate in front of an audience) held in Great St Mary’s Church. Scholars from the University debated with each other whether it was better to eat more for lunch than for dinner.  The young Queen didn’t seem to enjoy it much, commenting that the scholars were very shabbily dressed in torn and muddy robes, and complaining that she couldn’t hear them as they mumbled too much!  She promised to give generously to the University like her Grandfather before her, but she never did!


Please watch the video made by Historyworks when Great St Mary’s organized a reenactment of Elizabeth I’s progress, to see for yourself what it may have been like when the Queen visited:

Burning Bodies in Tudor Times

In Tudor times, religion was a matter of life and death. Martin Bucer was a celebrated Protestant theologian. While the Protestant boy-king Edward VI ruled England, Martin Bucer became Professor of Theology at Cambridge. When Martin died, 3,000 people crammed into Great St Mary’s for his funeral – so many that the benches had to be repaired. Just six years later, the Catholic Queen Mary was on the throne and Martin Bucer’s Protestant ideas made him a target for royal revenge. Mary burned many Protestants alive, but Bucer was already dead. This didn’t stop her. Martin Bucer’s body was dug up from his grave in Great St Mary’s, chained to a stake in the market square and burned, along with a pile of books. Some people mocked the university authorities for binding the ‘rotten carcases’ with chains, saying that ‘they might be burnt loose without peril, for it was not to be feared that they would run away.’ Later, Mary’s Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I ordered the ashes from the bonfire to be reburied in Great St Mary’s again, so Martin Bucer is still remembered here today.

The Bells & Chimes of Great St Mary's

There have been bells at Great St Mary’s from at least 1303 and they rang to call everyone to Church services; to open the town Corn market; to toll for births, marriages and deaths; and to announce the start of University meetings and lectures. They rang out for great events like royal coronations and victories in battles; but also tolled every evening to remind local people to cover over the fires in their hearths for the night and this continued until the outbreak of the Second World War. And because the tower was not completed until 1608, the bells were hung on temporary frames, located both inside and outside the Church door, and in the church yard by the market, where the ringers stood using long ropes. The belfry was completed in 1596 with four bells. However, now there are thirteen new bells, all cast in 2009 as part of the 800th anniversary of Cambridge University.  You can find the belfry when you walk up the stairs of the tower, and you will be able to see all these bells in the bellchamber.  What is even more distinctive about Great St Mary’s is the noise made by the chimes of the clock. There has been a clock on Great St Mary’s above the door since 1577, when there were very few public clocks.  The tune of the chimes are known as the ‘Cambridge Quarters’ and have become very famous because they were copied for the ‘Westminster Chimes’ of Big Ben at the Houses of Parliament. Not everyone knows that our Cambridge chimes were the first bongs! 


You can hear young people from Abbey Meadows having a go at reenacting the bongs of Great St Mary’s here:

Charles Darwin's Stuffed Monkey

Charles Darwin was a scientist who studied in Cambridge. He was supposed to train as a vicar, but he found beetle collecting much more interesting, and became a scientist instead. His radical theory of evolution by natural selection made us rethink our place in the world.  Charles Darwin spread his ideas by giving lectures and talks and writing letters.  But most importantly, he wrote a famous book which was a best seller, called "On the Origin of Species" and it was first published on 24 November 1859.  His book is still read today and inspires scientists and thinkers. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection said that humans were descended from a common ape-like ancestor.  In Victorian times, this was a controversial challenge to Christian ideas about God creating humans. As an old man, Darwin returned to Cambridge in 1877 to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. During Darwin’s honorary degree ceremony, a prankster dangled this stuffed monkey dressed in academic robes from the gallery of the Senate House, which ‘excited some mirth’.  There is also a monkey that was carved in the roof at Great St Mary's centuries earlier.  See if you can spot it high up above the nave!

A Schoolboy Sailor in World War One

Christopher Cooke was one of Cambridge’s youngest war heroes. He was only 15 when he survived a disaster which proved that the deadly German U-boats had changed naval warfare forever. As a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Christopher was sent to sea on HMS Aboukir as soon as the First World War began. On 22September 1914, Christopher was asleep in his hammock as HMS Aboukir sailed near the coast of Holland when a torpedo struck. As the cruiser sank, Christopher swam towards the Aboukir’s sister ship in his pyjamas. Before he could reach safety, two British cruisers were torpedoed and sunk by the German submarines. In total, 1,459 men died in the disaster. Christopher had learned to swim in the River Cam at Newnham. He managed to stay afloat in the icy North Sea until he was rescued by a Lowestoft fishing trawler called the Coriander. Christopher returned to Cambridge and became a local celebrity for a few days, telling the story of his lucky escape at high table in the colleges.  Tragically, Christopher died in the accidental explosion of HMS Vanguard at Scapa Flow on 9 July 1917. He was 17 and you can see his name on the war memorial in Great St Mary’s. His brother, Nicholas, was killed in the Second World War.

Town Meets Gown at Great St Mary's

Nowadays, Cambridge people mix well with those who come to the city’s world famous University. Things haven’t always been this way, though. When the University first came to Cambridge in 1209, there were mixed feelings. Dons and students were a potential gold mine for this small market town in the fens, as the academics needed to buy food and drink, books and stationary, rent rooms, do laundry, hire cooks and cleaners.  However, there was often fighting, especially as the University enjoyed favour from monarchs for special privileges, so King Henry III brought together both sides in 1268 and made them swear to live peacefully. However tension did not go away as the Colleges became the landowners, charging high rents to local people. Resentment at the power and wealth of the University turned nasty in 1381, when the townspeople ransacked Great St Mary’s and burned important University documents in the market place for all to see. Today, Great St Mary’s stands as a symbol of local co-operation and enrichment, with national events jointly celebrated here. For example, in August 2014 the city and University came together to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I to honour and commemorate the sacrifice of the men and women, both ‘town’ and ‘gown’, who fought and died.


Please watch the Historyworks video filmed in Great St Mary’s Church of University and town community choirs singing together “Vela Vela Segabone” which means ‘Come Let us See You. We Come Together in Harmony’, a great sentiment for the desire for a good relationship for ‘town’ and ‘gown’ in the 21st century:


Clicking to Connectivity


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