Hundreds line Cambridge's streets as the funeral of Professor Stephen Hawking is held

Porters from Stephen Hawking's college carry his coffin into the church. Credit: PA
  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent David Wood

Hundreds of people have lined the streets of Cambridge to pay their respects to Stephen Hawking as his funeral took place in the city.

While Professor Hawking's funeral was private, hundreds of people lined the streets as his funeral cortege made its way to the University Church of St Mary the Great, close to Gonville and Caius College that was his academic home for 52 years.

The renowned British died peacefully at his Cambridge home on March 14 at the age of 76.

The cosmologist had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his 20s, and at the time was only given a couple of years to live.

The church bell tolled 76 times, once for each year of Prof Hawking's life, as the hearse arrived, while a round of applause spontaneously broke out as his coffin was carried into the church by six porters from Gonville and Caius College.

Many porters at the college knew Prof Hawking and provided support when he visited for dinners and other events, and they were asked by his family to be pallbearers.

Head porter Russ Holmes walked ahead of the coffin as it was carried into the church.

Crowds line the streets as the funeral procession passes. Credit: PA

Around 500 people were invited to the private service where actor Eddie Redmayne, who played the role of Prof Hawking in the 2014 biographical drama The Theory of Everything, gave a biblical reading.

Astronomer Royal Martin Rees also spoke, while Robert Hawking, Prof Hawking's eldest child, delivered a eulogy.

In a statement, Prof Hawking's children Lucy, Robert and Tim said: "On behalf of our whole family we want to express our huge gratitude to all the wonderful tributes to our father and to those who have sent us messages of condolence.

"Our father lived and worked in Cambridge for over 50 years.

"He was an integral and highly recognisable part of the university and the city.

"For this reason, we have decided to hold his funeral in the city that he loved so much and which loved him.

"Our father's life and work meant many things to many people, both religious and non-religious.

"So, the service will be both inclusive and traditional, reflecting the breadth and diversity of his life.

"We would like to thank Gonville and Caius College, the University of Cambridge and Trinity College, Cambridge for their assistance with our father's funeral service."

Following the service, a private reception was held at Trinity College.

Prof Hawking's ashes will be interred close to the remains of Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey on June 15.

A book of condolence for Prof Hawking remains open at Gonville and Caius College, and an online book has also been set up.