Access guide

Location, services and transport

Great Gate on St John's Street


St John’s is located in the city centre, close to the river Cam and main shopping areas. Sample walking times (from main entrance on St John’s Street):

  • City centre (Market Square): 5 mins
  • City Centre taxi rank (St Andrew’s Street): 10 mins
  • City Centre bus station (Drummer Street): 13 mins
  • Rail station: 30 mins
  • River Cam and the Backs: 5 mins
  • University Downing Site and New Museums Site: 15 mins
  • University Library: 15 mins
  • University Sidgwick Site: 20 mins


Services and shops

Most amenities (shops, restaurants, pubs and services) can be found in the city centre, within a 10-minute walk of the College. Sainsbury’s supermarket is a 5-minute walk away, on Sidney Street.


St John's Street is part-pedestrianised but always busy with service vehicles, taxis and bicycles. Pavements are narrow and crowded. Queen's Road (at the back of the College) is also very busy with vehicle traffic, and pedestrians should only cross at designated crossing points. A zebra crossing adjacent to the back gate on Queen’s Road leads directly to the College’s playing fields.

Vehicle access to the city centre is limited by motor traffic access restrictions, including rising bollards. Disabled drivers can obtain permits to allow them through the controlled area; see Accessible Cambridge for more information. If you are planning to drive to St John’s please see Directions for route advice.

Parking in College

Limited parking on site in Cripps car park, by arrangement. Wheelchair users may be able to obtain a permit or have a parking space reserved. Contact the Porters department (01223 338671; in the first instance.

Other transport options

Several bus stops within a few minutes’ walk of the main College site (on Bridge Street, Northampton Street, Drummer Street and Emmanuel Street) link to other parts of the city and beyond. Frequent buses to Cambridge rail station leave from Emmanuel Street. The city centre taxi rank is located a 10-minute walk away, on St Andrew’s Street. Taxis can pick up and drop off at the front (Forecourt) and rear (Cripps) entrances to the College.

General site information

Drone photo

St John’s is a large College, home to around 600 undergraduates and 320 postgraduates. The College features many listed buildings, as well as several modern buildings. Accessibility improvements are ongoing, and an access audit of the College is due to be conducted. St John's welcomes enquiries from those with disabilities.


Smoking and vaping is prohibited in the College grounds and in all College building both on and off site. Smoking/vaping areas are available in the Forecourt car park, Cripps Lane, and outside the College bar (behind the patio gates) between the hours of 6pm and 10pm.

Medical facilities

Map showing location of medical equipment

The College Nurse holds weekday surgeries in the onsite Health Centre. Students are encouraged to register with a general practitioner in Cambridge and the College Nurse is able to help with this. Nearby medical practices include Newnham Walk Surgery, Trumpington Street Medical Practice and Bridge Street Medical Centre

Emergency procedures

The Deputy Head Porter coordinates Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for individual students, advised by the College Nurse and Academic Administrators. Students who are aware that they might require assistance in an emergency should contact the Deputy Head Porter as soon as possible on arrival in College.

Physical access

Chapel Court

College grounds in general 

Level entrance through front and back gates. Surfaces are mainly slabbed paving, with some cobbles. Most areas accessible. The site is large and incorporates a road (St John’s Street) and two bridges.

College buildings in general

Steps between courts are ramped. Buildings are often up one or two steps, but ramps are in place where needed. Most buildings in frequent use are accessible. The Old Divinity School, Library and Fisher Building are equipped with lifts and accessible toilets.

Areas A-Z


Ramped access from cafeteria side. Level inside.

Buttery Dining Room

Located in Second Court, adjacent to Bar. Ramped and fully accessible. Staff will help carry trays.


Three steps to main entrance, through a heavy door. Ramped access from back entrance, through heavy doors. Large and spacious inside. Fixed pews but some on ground floor, and room for a wheelchair. A map indicating wheelchair-accessible route into Chapel is available from the main entrance. Porters may be able to assist with access to Chapel by prior arrangement.

College offices

Most offices in Chapel Court, accessed via narrow, cobbled and ramped path to one side. Student Services office located on ground floor. Staff will meet elsewhere by arrangement.

Common rooms (JCR, SBR)

Fully accessible.

Computer facilities

All rooms networked. Computer room on second floor of Fisher building, accessed by large lift. Spacious inside. Computer room on third Floor of Library, accessed by key-operated lift and through doors, and computer area on mezzanine floor of Library, accessed by key-operated lift, with level access to four computers and three steps up to additional computers. Other computers located around the Library building, accessed by key-operated lift.

Dining hall

Ramped access. Level and spacious inside. Space for wheelchairs. Wheelchair users are asked to contact the Catering Office ( in advance of dining in Hall, so that staff can ensure a suitable table arrangement is in place.

Fellows' areas

Senior Combination Room upstairs, with passenger lift.


Gardens all level and accessible. Mostly gravel paths and lawn.


Student laundry down several steps. Alternative arrangements are made if necessary.


New, modern library, fully accessible by key-operated lift. Swipe card access at main door. Spacious inside, with plenty of workspace.

Porters’ lodge and post room

Access into the College is via three Porters’ Lodges; Cripps, Forecourt and the Great Gate.

Great Gate Porters’ Lodge operates between 07.30 and 22.00. There is level access into the College from St John’s Street and down a DDA compliant ramp. Access into the Porters’ Lodge is through the entrance door in A staircase via a separate ramp. Post room accessible through Porters' Lodge. [NB: Great Gate is currently closed to St John's St due to Covid-19 restrictions; the post room remains open on the College side].

Access to Forecourt Lodge is level access via the main gate at the east end in Forecourt car park. Entry into the Porters’ Lodge is through a card access controlled automatic door and the Lodge is open 24/7. Once in the Porters’ Lodge, entry into the main College is through automatic, wheelchair accessible doors.

Access to Cripps Lodge is level from the Cripps carpark (via a card access controlled gate, with an intercom to the Porters’ Lodge for visitors). The Lodge is open 24/7 and has wheelchair accessible doors.

School of Pythagoras Archive Centre

Ramped access. Reading Room on first floor accessible by lift.

Sports facilities

Gym has ramp access with swipe card entry. Sports fields across road (Queen's Road) from rear entrance to main College site. Pavilion up steps.

Teaching and meeting rooms

Supervisions with wheelchair users are commonly held in any of the six small meeting rooms available in the Fisher Building and the Old Divinity School. In addition, the Library Seminar Room and six Fellow’s rooms (all in E staircase New Court) are accessible via a lift.

All rooms in the Fisher Building listed can be accessed via lift, including:

  • Fisher Foyer (ground floor)
  • Palmerston Room (ground floor) – a ramp onto the stage can be requested
  • Dirac Room
  • Committee Room
  • Castlereagh Room
  • Castlereagh Annexe
  • Boys Smith Room
  • Boys Smith Room Annexe
  • Drawing Room
  • Music Rooms
  • Computer Room


All rooms in the Old Divinity School can be accessed via lift, including:

  • Central Hall (ground floor)
  • Teaching Room 1 (ground floor)
  • Main Lecture Theatre
  • Arthur Quiller Couch Room
  • Teaching Room 2
  • Lightfoot Room


Other meeting rooms accessible to wheelchair users include:

  • Wilberforce Room (ground level)
  • Parsons room (not ground level but accessible via a ramp)
  • Old Music Room (ground level)



Accessible toilets are located in the Old Divinity School (St John’s Street), Library (Chapel Court), Health Centre (North Court), First Court (adjacent to SBR), Second Court (adjacent to Bar, Buttery Dining Room and JCR – key obtainable from Bar), Fisher Building (River Court) and School of Pythagoras Archive Centre (Merton Court). Please note that not all buildings are open to the public.


  • Bridge of Sighs, which joins two sections of College together, is ramped but very steep, with uneven slabbed paving. A wheelchair user may need assistance to get over bridge. Alternatively, crossing Kitchen Bridge is flat and less uneven, although it is gravel, and is the more accessible route to the Paddock, Cripps, and the Playing Fields.
  • Fisher Building, with music practice rooms and meeting rooms, all accessible, with large lift to all floors and an accessible toilet.
  • Music practice rooms in First Court are ramped, and those in Fisher Building are accessible by lift.


College site accessibility - further details

Visual and hearing impairments

Old Divinity School lecture theatre


Visual and sensory fire alarms available.

Assistance dogs

Assistance dogs welcome, but discuss live-in dogs well in advance.

Computer facilities

Special hardware or software for visually impaired users could be acquired if necessary.

Induction loops

Induction loop in Library, Chapel, Old Divinity School and Palmerston Room (Fisher Building).

Large print, braille and audio

Large-print letters and information can be arranged; students are advised to discuss their needs with their Tutor or the Disability Resource Centre. Lift in Fisher Building has audio information and touch-readable buttons.

Library and magnification equipment

Magnifying glasses, bookrests and headphones available from Library Issue Desk. Photocopiers and scanners available for text enlargement. Several height-adjustable desks in Library.

Signs and wayfinding

Some signposting around College, especially in areas visited by tourists. The College site is very large, so wayfinding could be problematic if you are not familiar with it.


A fund exists to help visually impaired students. For more information contact the Student Services Manager.

Accommodation and catering

Cripps Building

Wheelchair-accessible rooms

Four student accommodation rooms have been adapted for wheelchair users and are located on the ground floor (E1 New Court, D1 and D2 Cripps, and one hostel room on Madingley Road).

Other rooms

A number of additional accommodation rooms across the College are located on the ground floor and provide step-free access suitable for ambulant disabled non-wheelchair users. Most rooms on main College site are en-suite. Further adaptations can be made as necessary.

Live-in assistants and assistance dogs

Live-in assistants and assistance dogs are possible, but please discuss this with the College well in advance.

Early induction and vacation stays

Early induction is no problem, by prior arrangement. All student rooms are available throughout the academic year. Students can apply to stay in College during the vacations, though may be required to move to an alternative room.

Catering arrangements

The Buttery Dining Room (BDR) serves three meals daily, and is ramped and fully accessible. Works are being undertaken on the BDR and Bar during 2021/22. For this period the BDR and Bar will be relocated to a ramped and fully accessible marquee structure in 1st Court. Following the works, the new BDR/Cafe/Bar facility will be more accessible than the old iterations following the installation of flat paving between H and K staircases in 2nd Court in addition to ramped access to the BDR from the patio on the west side. 

Students also have the option of eating in hall six nights per week during term time. Wheelchair users are asked to contact the Catering Office ( in advance of dining in Hall, so that staff can ensure a suitable table arrangement is in place.

Kitchen facilities attached to student accommodation varies; students are advised to contact the Accommodation Officer ( with general queries relating to self-catering facilities.

The College acknowledges the possibility of cross-contamination in shared kitchen facilities; students are advised to discuss any concerns with the College Nurse(, the Accommodation Officer or their Tutor.  Some student rooms are equipped with a fridge, and fridges can be provided for other rooms where there is a medical need.

Food allergies and intolerances

Most dietary requirements can be accommodated. Meals in Hall are booked in advance, and dietary requirements can be specified at the time of booking. For meals in the Buttery Dining Room, information regarding ingredients can be obtained by speaking directly to serving staff. If you have a diagnosed life-threatening allergy (anaphylaxis), please contact the College Nurse for further information and support.

Planned access improvements

River and Bridge of Sighs

Recent work to develop a Masterplan setting out the future estates development of St John’s College includes a proposal to construct a new, DDA-compliant bridge over the River Cam, a new Porters’ Lodge on the west side of the College, and new pathways from the west side into the heart of the College. Further access improvements will be considered following completion of the access audit.

Contact information

Access arrangements

Members of the College can contact the College Nurse for additional information and to discuss individual access needs and arrangements. The Nurse can be reached by email at or by telephone on 01223 338 664.

Visitors to the College should contact the Porters on arrival, or telephone the College in advance on 01223 338 600 for information and advice.