Student and citizen have not always existed with the respectful harmony they enjoy in Cambridge today, but rarely have tensions between town and gown boiled over into an actual riot, as they did in 1781, when a St John’s College undergraduate was tipped from his canoe near the Magdalen Bridge by a passing bargeman.
A nearby canoeist, and fellow St John’s undergraduate, responded by whacking the bargeman with an oar. More students and bargemen arrived on the scene of the scuffle, and the riot was only quelled when the president of St John’s College came to the rescue of the outnumbered bargemen, who had barricaded themselves in the Magdalen Chapel.
Visitors hoping to witness a similar mix of social tension, violence and all out farce can find just that in A Village Festival (1632) by Pieter Bruegel the Younger, on the first floor of the Fitzwilliam Gallery (room 8 on the floorplan).
This is a world-class museum no visitor will want to miss.