The secret behind one of Cambridge’s oddest mysteries was uncovered by Varsity this week.

Over the years, students and tourists alike have wondered why the statue of Henry VIII in the Trinity College Great Gate holds a chair leg. The answer, as it turns out, is even more unlikely than might be expected.

The statue of Henry dates from around 1615, and originally showed the king resplendent with a golden orb and sword. Legend has it that the sword was swapped for the chair leg sometime in the nineteenth century by an irreverent student.

However, Varsity was recently tipped-off by Stephen Halliday, a Cambridge city guide and Pembroke alumnus, who advised that it was not a Victorian prankster but a window-cleaner who had armed the statue with the wooden pin. Halliday followed the trail to Peter Binge, a retired employee of the Chesterton Window Cleaning Company, who graciously agreed to talk about the episode.

Mr Binge explained that he had been cleaning the windows of the Great Gate thirty or so years ago when he noticed that the statue of was missing something in its hand.

He thought that the Cambridge Night Climbers, a shadowy group of students known for scrabbling up the University’s buildings, must have removed whatever the statue had been holding many years earlier.

He recalls, "So, just for a laugh, I said to my friend [who was holding the ladder]: ‘hold on a minute, I’m going to go inside.’" Mr Binge was a familiar face in College at the time and was friendly with the porters.

"I went up the staircase and found an old broken chair which the bedders had put out on the landing. So, I took a leg off and leaned out the window with my friend holding onto me and plonked it in the hand.

"I thought to myself: ‘that looks a treat,’ but I didn’t think anything more about it," he remembers.

Mr. Binge’s role in the plant has never been a particularly well-kept secret. He was profiled in a 1988 edition of the Cambridge Daily News and and likes retelling his story to friends and curious tourists as he passes Trinity.

He finds it "quite funny" that the leg hasn’t been removed.

"I guess it was my famous five minutes," he says.

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