The Eagle entrance
<- The Eagle entrance
So, which pubs in the Cambridge area might deserve a plaque? Top of the list - and hence one of the first eight nationally - must be The Eagle in Bene't Street Cambridge. It was here, on 23 February 1953, that Frances Crick and James Watson announced to fellow drinkers in their lunchtime local that they'd discovered the secret of life - DNA. Crick and Watson worked at the nearby Cavendish labs and John Gribbin's book In Search of the Double Helix is a gripping account of what they and others achieved.

The Eagle courtyard
<- The Eagle courtyard
The Eagle offers more history in its "RAF bar" where the ceiling is adorned with names and messages inscribed by RAF and USAF personnel during the second world war. There's yet more history outside, where the galleried courtyard is a rare survival of a traditional coaching inn yard.

The Eagle closed for four years in the late 1980s and seemed doomed at one point. Fortunately planning wrangles were resolved and the pub reopened in 1992, albeit greatly extended and with a new front entrance on Bene't Street. The extensions were well done and the panelled room to the right of the entrance is a particular delight. On the real ale front you can get well-kept Greene King IPA, Abbot, Old Speckled Hen and a guest beer.

The Queens Head
<- The Queens Head
The Queens Head at Newton has long been one of CAMRA's favourites and belongs to the very select band of pubs which has appeared in every edition of the Good Beer Guide. Adnams ales are served straight from the cask and simple, satisfying food is freshly cooked to order. There have only been 18 licensees here since 1729 and the present guv'nor, the redoubtable David Short, has been in charge since 1971. The building itself dates back to 1680 and is notable for its imposing tall chimney. The historical fact of interest is that in the halcyon days before the First World War, King George and his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm, stopped here for a drink. The shah of Iran and his wife also called for lunch some time in the 1960s. A more recent historic figure was Belinda the Goose who adopted the pub in 1987, patrolling the car park and hissing at any driver who double parked. You can still see her - stuffed and mounted in a glass case in the public bar.

Not far from Newton is Fowlmere, where The Chequers dates back to the sixteenth century. Samuel Pepys, the diarist, made regular journeys from London to both Cambridge and his family home at Brampton. He used a variety of routes and stayed at many inns along the way. Fowlmere was one hard day's ride from the capital and he dined and lodged at The Chequers on 24 February 1660, a day after his 27th birthday. He mentions in his diary that he "played cards until supper and then dined on breast of veal, roasted". Later in its history, The Chequers served simultaneously as an inn and as a chapel of rest, thus being able to offer overnight accommodation both to the living and dead! Nowadays, The Chequers is an upmarket, food-oriented inn though the area to the left of the bar has a good pubby feel and drinkers are made entirely welcome. Real ales are Adnams Bitter and two changing guests (Nethergate Greedy Pike and Archers Marleys Ghost on a recent visit) and their quality has earned the pub regular appearances in recent Good Beer Guides.

We also have several pubs whose names commemorate historic events or places. For instance the ever-wonderful Blue Ball at Grantchester was named after a hot-air balloon flown from Trinity Hall to Wickhambrook Suffolk in 1785. The Fort St George in England, Cambridge is named after Fort St George, Madras, India (so the "In England" was added to avoid any confusion!). At Reach, The Dyke's End is indeed at the end of the Devil's Dyke, a 6th century defensive earthwork.

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