The Bridge of Sighs

Located at St Johns College, the Bridge of Sighs crosses the river between the college’s Third Court and New Court.

It was built in 1831 by Architect Henry Hutchinson and was named after the Bridge of Signs in Venice, even though architecturally they bear no resemblance to each other.  The bridge was said to be Queen Victoria’s favourite spot in the historical city of Cambridge and has become one of Cambridge’s main tourist attractions.

The naming of the Bridge of Sighs

Although the Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge looks nothing like the Venetian bridge it is named after it. Originally it was called ‘New Bridge’ but when Queen Victoria saw it for the first time she decided it looked like the Bridge of Sighs in Venice and nobody dared disagree. 

There is however another similarity between the 2 bridges. So, the bridge in Venice leads from the palace to the court houses. People crossing it were going to be judged and probably executed. They would sigh one last time as they crossed… However, here in Cambridge the bridge leads from the accommodation to where students get their exam results. Hopefully Cambridge no longer executes students for bad results but they still sometimes sigh as they cross. 

In the 1963’s some students had managed to punt an Austin 7 car along the river to the Bridge of Sighs from Jesus Green, using 4 punts strapped together. They then suspended the car beneath the Bridge of Sighs using metal cables. The prank became so infamous that it was copied in the 1970s with a Robin Reliant.

The Bridge of Sighs has been used as a set for some blockbuster movies including the Theory of Everything in 2014 and  Elizabeth: The Golden Age in 2007. 

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