Victorian-style dos and don’ts for freshers

Students lifestyles have changed in some ways over the years
Students lifestyles have changed in some ways over the years

A handy guide for freshers including advice on booze and relationships has been released by Cambridge University - but this one is from 1893.

The helpful manual for newcomers has been released in time for this year's new cohort of students includes pearls of wisdom like "Don't, if you are in lodgings, get too familiar with your landlady's daughter, as she is probably more clever than you".

Another sage tip from the book, written by Arthur John Story, an undergraduate in 1893 at St John's College, reads "don't attempt to keep every brand of wine under the sun. Most Undergrads cannot distinguish 'Bordeaux' from 'Burgundy' if served in a decanter."

The Victorian guide also told apprehensive freshers how to be cool, how not to annoy their neighbours and how to avoid getting themselves into trouble.

It is just one of many fascinating items going on public display at St John's as part of this year's Open Cambridge exhibition which showcases how student life has changed over the last 500 years.

Highlights of the display include the diary of Abraham de la Pryme, who kept a record of his time as an undergraduate at St John's in the 1690's.

Pryme talks of pranks as an essential part of student life and describes an event where some students tricked the local people of Cambridge into thinking that a house was haunted.

This was famously debunked by a passer-by, none other than Sir Isaac Newton, who told the pranksters "Fy, Fy! Go home for shame" after exposing their trick.

Other student escapades featured include the time engineering students proved their creativity by suspending a car from the Bridge of Sighs in 1963.

It took a six-man College maintenance team two hours to remove it with the use of a river punt.

Another highlight of the display are photographs of John's student Cuthbert Holthouse proudly clutching a giant wooden spoon in 1909.

The spoon was a trophy traditionally awarded to the Maths student who came bottom of his class and was a highly sought-after prize until the practice was abolished in the early part of the 20th century.

Holthouse's spoon was the last to be awarded and many years later, when Holthouse was an old man, it was returned to St John's and now hangs in the Fellows' Combination Room in Second Court.

Changing perceptions about how academic merit should be appraised are also reflected in the display, with a shift from medieval traditions of learning such as logic and rhetoric to an interest in the observable world and analytical engagement with a subject.

This year the college is expecting 3,500 fresh-faced first year student to come through the door when the term starts on October 4.

The Student experience at St John's through the centuries is open on Friday 9 September from 2pm to 4:30pm and on Saturday 10 September from 2pm to 5pm in the Old Library at St John's College, Cambridge. Entry is free.

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