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Out Of London: Pink Floyd Cambridge
Pink Floyd Cambridge: On the trail of Pink Floyd’s relics in the home city of Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Syd Barrett. Eight locations not to miss and a few practical details for a self-guided day trip from London…
Pink Floyd Cambridge: Adam writes… Did you join the London Music Tours Pink Floyd In London Walking Tour or Virtual Tour and would you like to trace the roots of the band back to their home city of Cambridge? Here are a few pointers, places to see, good record shops along with some travel info. I took my trip in February 2022.
The historic city of Cambridge lies just 55 miles to the north of London. Famous the world over as a university city, its educational establishments date to 1209. There has been settlement here since the Bronze Age and it was an important centre of trade during both the Roman and Viking periods. In the 21st century Cambridge is a leading centre of tech and bioscience.
For rock music fans it’s all about the roots of Pink Floyd…
Pink Floyd band members Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and David Gilmour were all brought up in Cambridge. In addition, Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell were also Cambridge boys – the pair formed the famous Hipgnosis design team responsible for Floyd’s iconic album sleeves, includible Ummagumma (1969) pictured above.
Syd’s Last Home
Upon his final retreat from the world of music, Syd Barrett lived here from 1981 until his death in 2006 at the age of 60. At some point during this period Syd also changed his named back to Roger, his birth name. This 1930s semi-detached property was Syd’s mother’s home from 1974 until her death. During his reclusive final decades journalists and fans alike would seek out the location hoping for a glimpse or a story. It was in this neighbourhood that many of the infamous tabloid-style snaps of Syd were taken. Blurred and haunting, these pictures paint a harrowing picture of a hunted man. When visiting, please remember that this is a residential area and respect the residents’ privacy at all times.
Roger’s Childhood Home
How’s this for nominative determinism? We find Pink Floyd’s Rogers Waters residing at Rock Road from the age of two.
Waters was born in Surrey and brought to live here by his widowed mother Mary. His father, Eric Waters was killed at the Battle of Anzio in February 1944 when Roger was just five-months-old.
David Gilmour’s Childhood Home
David Gilmour‘s family moved to 109 Grantchester Meadows, Cambridge in 1956 when David was just 10 years old. The address is famous to Floyd fans – Granchester Meadows is a track on their 1969 album Ummagumma. This pastoral ballad was written and performed not by Gilmour but by Roger Waters.
Grantchester Meadows lie approximately one mile from the city centre to the south-west and it is a pleasant stroll to get there along the River Cam and over Lammas Land. Plot a course to Skater’s Meadow (pictured below, snapped on a wintry day) and the old Gilmour family home is very nearby.
Syd’s Last Gig
Syd Barrett played his last gig at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in February 1972 fronting a three-piece outfit called Stars. The band has achieved near-mythical status in Syd’s story despite lasting for little over a month. The bass player was Jack Monck and on drums John Adler – also known as Twink – a former member of The Pretty Things. The band rehearsed in the basement of Syd’s childhood home at 183 Hills Road, Cambridge…
It’s Thursday 24th February 1972, and Stars are on the same bill as Detroit rockers The MC5. After a delay of more than an hour, Stars took the stage with the venue only a quarter full with many audience members having headed off for the last bus. In addition, the band’s act was beset with sound problems. The numbers performed that night were Octopus and No Man’s Land (from his debut solo album The Madcap Laughs, 1970); Baby Lemonade (from Syd’s second album Barrett 1970), Waving My Arms In The Air and Gigolo Aunt (also from Barrett); and Lucifer Sam (from Pink Floyd’s 1967 debut Piper At The Gates Of Dawn). The band also threw in a few inconclusive blues jams, a practise almost obligatory for the period.
Like many of his musical generation – Lennon, Keith Richards, Ray Davies to name but three – Syd was an art school boy. An excellent article on his art school career can be found on The Guardian newspaper website HERE. He subsequently moved to London to study at Camberwell School of Art, but his first art school was in his home town. The Cambridgeshire College Of Arts & Technology is now part of the Anglia Ruskin University.
Here’s the map…
The business of locating Syd’s plaque, however, is a little tricky. The plaque has been placed, and rightly so, on the actual building where the young Barrett studied. That building, however, is now engulfed by the shiny new university campus. It’s a little bit off the beaten track, so I’ve made a little video for you to follow…
Start at the front of the campus on East Road. Look for Bradmore Street immediately to the SouthWest of the main building then follow the route as presented in the video here…
Wish You Were Here…
One of the most fabled locations in the story of embryonic Pink Floyd is sadly inaccessible to us today. I’ve posted it here for reference (and also to save you a little time if your Cambridge itinerary is tight).
The village of Great Shelford lies about 4 miles to the south of Cambridge. The parish church of St Mary The Virgin dates back to around 1306 and the theatre director Sir Peter Hall lived in the station house as a child (his father was a railwayman). In 2009 President Barack Obama’s ancestry was traced back to this picturesque village.
Back in October 1965 Trinity House, one of the large country houses situated at the edge of the village, was the location for a party with live music provided by three acts – The Tea Set, Jokers Wild and a young American folk singer named Paul Simon.
Members of the Tea Set included Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Syd Barrett and Jokers Wild boasted one David Gilmour in their lineup.
The party was held in a marquee in the large garden of Trinity House in October 1965 for the occasion of a 21st birthday – that of twins Libby and Rosie January. (Some sources have it that the party was to celebrate the engagement of Libby to Storm Thorgerson.)
Various accounts of the evening paint a rich and sometimes odd picture. The stuffy audience of wealthy family friends and businessmen seemed unaware that they were the target of Paul Simon’s socially aware songs; Paul Simon joining David Gilmour‘s band onstage for a version of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode; Syd Barrett smashing an amount of crystal in a magic trick gone wrong.
Today, the closest we can get to the property is the gate on Cambridge Road – the wider grounds of old Trinity House now form a gated community of three mansions…
You have, however, already seen inside the house. In 1969 it was the location for the sleeve shoot (designed by Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell) for the Ummagumma album, a rare example of a Floyd album with a picture of the group on the front…
For a further nose-around the property visit Cambridgeshire Live here: https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/property/mansion-important-piece-pink-floyd-13855759
Cambridge Record & Book Stores
Lost In Vinyl
14 Magdalene Street
Lost In Vinyl on Magdalene Street is my favourite record shop in the city – uncluttered, well-organised and very reasonable priced.
Lost In Vinyl boasts an excellent blend of new and second-hand records. As I browsed, the proprietor chatted with regular and new customers alike, so a very friendly atmosphere, too.
There is also a branch of Fopp in the city centre and you should also check out the Oxfam Bookshop on Sidney Street which had an excellent selection of classical and opera records and CD’s when I visited.
The Cambridge University Bookshop is always worth a visit – I picked up a copy of Jon Stewart’s excellent Dylan, Lennon, Marx & God.
All four shops are marked on the map here…
Cambridge Getting There
The Cambridge trains leave London from King’s Cross Station…
Cambridge is about an hour away from London by train and services are operated by Greater Anglia.
NB. Always book direct with the train company for the cheapest fare and the most accurate and reliable info about your tickets.
Find the Greater Anglia website here: www.greateranglia.co.uk
If you are heading to Great Shelford, it is served by the No. 7 bus (operated by Stagecoach) and regular trains from Cambridge (5-10 min journey). If you are ending your Cambridge trip here, you can return to London via Thameslink from Great Shelford Station. Live timetable HERE.
Get In Touch
Any places to add to the map? Drop me a line using the form below. If you use this map and end up taking some great pics, you can share them with me on the social channels below this form…