Christ’s College Cambridge – The Culture

Where to start

As punting experts, we try to know everything about the colleges on our tour of the River Cam. There are seven colleges to see from our exclusive viewpoints. But what about the other Cambridge colleges? Our punting trips include the three ‘royal’ colleges, all created by Royal Charters: St John’s College, Kings College, and Trinity College. Although these are the most iconic Cambridge colleges, let’s not neglect the other amazing colleges. Today, it’s Christ’s College.

Christ College Front Court Cambridge Wisteria

The culture at Christ’s Cambridge

What is the culture like at Christ College Cambridge? Well, because they are especially academically successful, there is a sense that everyone is in on the grind together. But just like any other college, there is plenty more to student life. Christ’s College is not an intimidating academic powerhouse, more than anything, it’s a home. Annually, there will be a mother duck waddling the grounds with her entourage of pom-pom-looking ducklings. Another wholesome thing to know: the college cats have their own Instagram!

Formals at christ’s college

Let’s set the scene. Students filter into the old medieval hall decorated with exquisite portraits of patrons from across the centuries. Christ College members select their seats across three long tables. Before any food is brought in, all attendees must stand up in unison as a member of the college speaks a verse in Latin and a gong is struck. Quite intense! But then, once the wine gets flowing, the atmosphere becomes much more casual (as with any tipsy students).

tHE BUTTERY

What an odd word. It’s essentially a multi-functioning bar – but the word ‘buttery’ used to mean the cellar under a monastery where passers-by could pop in to be fed. The University of Cambridge keeps the term in use – old habits die hard. Today, the Christ College buttery hosts casual study in the daytime, cheap drinks in the evening, and a general venue for relaxation with snacks.

The staff on the bar, as with most colleges, become a well-known familiar face for college members. It goes without saying that this is a prime Christ’s College location to get a sense of the community feeling. The cocktails are especially tempting, they are carefully made and unselfishly priced.

Red cocktail with Christ's College Buttery interior in background with sofas in the back
Christ College Buttery: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=902825431845967&set=pb.100063555547786.-2207520000&type=3

Christ’s College architecture

Although Christ’s College can transport you to the fifteenth century, new projects are always on the go. At present, it is re-envisioning the library: a crucial room for any Cambridge college. Hopefully ‘squash o’clock’ (when the library brings out juice for all students amidst their studies) will continue in the re-imagined building. From the First Court, the new library will fit in seamlessly with the medieval architecture. Once inside, the library is to be bathed in natural light with its eco-conscious design. It reminds us personally of the award-winning Magdalene College New Library (which you can see from our punting tour!)

On a different note, it has to be addressed: the Typewriter building. To some, it is a beloved unique and much loved brutalist style building – to other college members, it’s a novel eye-sore. Indeed, some have even gone as far as to describe the rooms within it as akin to prison cells (read more here). To say the least – it’s certainly polarising. Does Christ College have one of the ugliest buildings in Cambridge? You can be the judge of that.

The Fellows Garden

The Fellows Garden Christs College Cambridge with old building in the background

This beautiful communal garden is ideal for mid-study strolls, summer drinks and even a swim! For the garden itself, it’s very well looked after and surrounded by architectural beauty. Within the garden sits a centuries-old mulberry tree still providing berries used for jam-making within the college. As if that wasn’t sweet enough, bee hives onsite ensure that Christ’s College has all the honey they could ever wish for.

the christ’s college SWIMMING POOL

Not only does Christ College boast a swimming pool for members to enjoy, but perhaps one of the oldest in the country! Though there are only a few months of the year where it might be best enjoyed, for those hot summer days, an afternoon splash is the perfect way to escape the heaving buzz of the city. 

As part of an effort toward student welfare, during exam season, the college provides cakes and other delightful snacks by the pool for students to as needed respite from revision. College members will queue up eagerly awaiting the buffet of sweet treats to enjoy with their feet dangling into the pool. It might be the only time some students see daylight if they are deep into their studying momentum. Christ’s is, after all, a high-achieving academic college.

Punting in Cambridge

The walk from Christ College to our punting station is less than 10 minutes! After your amazing – if I do say so myself – punting tour, pop by Christ’s College for a gander. Look at us on the map to plan your route. Now that you are an expert on Christ’s College, tell your chauffeur all about it. They will be eager to hear it because they only ever get to discuss the colleges on the River Cam. Give them something new for a change! Our lovely chauffeurs love being kept on their toes with new things to learn about Cambridge because they consider themselves as local experts.

Punting boat on the River Cam on the River Cam taken from a bridge looking down on the group

Also, read up on the secret life at King’s College and Magdalene College with our other blogs from this series of behind the front gates of the Cambridge Colleges.

FAQ’S

Who went to Christ College Cambridge? The most famous and well-celebrated is none other than Charles Darwin: father of evolutionary biology (read more here). And on a more modern note, the notorious Sacha Baron Cohen too studied at Christ’s College Cambridge before he went on to become a dictator, Austrian fashionista, and journalist from Kazakstan. 

Who founded Christ’s College? Lady Margaret Beaufort – the mother of the first Tudor monarch! In fact, she was extremely involved in helping her son establish his rule. She was there to support Henry VII throughout his whole life – the mother and son died the same year in 1509. All these years later, students are still studying at Cambridge thanks to her.