Byron, the neo-pagans, skinny-dipping and a pet bear…


Cambridge’s Trinity College has a plethora of famous alumni – Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage and Francis Bacon among them.

In many ways the most infamous was Lord Byron, who was less than impressed when he arrived at the college in 1805, writing: ‘This place is wretched enough – a villainous chaos of din and drunkenness, nothing but hazard and burgundy, hunting, mathematics and Newmarket, riot and racing.’

He was reportedly reluctant to return to Trinity after his first year, but was persuaded to do so – not least because some of his poetry had been published by this point and he had become something of a celebrity in university circles.

Byron was also a member of a remarkable group of friends including the novelist Virginia Woolf, who dubbed them the neo-pagans. Also in the ‘Grantchester Group’ – so-called because they spent a great deal of their time in the nearby village of Grantchester – were the poet Rupert Brooke, the economist Maynard Keynes and the artist Augustus John.

On one occasion Byron and Woolf are reputed to have swum naked in what is now known as Byron’s pool (below), a couple of miles further into the south Cambridgeshire countryside.

Byron’s eccentricity is further illustrated by his choice of pet while at Cambridge. At the time, the keeping of dogs by college students was banned, but Byron had a perfect solution – he turned up with a pet bear in tow!

Find out more about Byron on our Cambridge tour. Click here for more information

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