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Shelley Row gaol, 1909(Cambridgeshire Collection)

Shelley Row

History of the Old Barn Shelly Row

Cambridge Independent 6/12/1907: there is account of a walk of the antiquarian society in which they were shown a barn which had housed French prisoners at the time of the Peninsular Wars during their transfer to the prison at Norman Cross. Six or seven thousand prisoners were marched through Cambridge in batches of two or three hundred. After Napoleon was sent to Elba the men were allowed to return to France in batches again. They were no longer prisoners and were free to enjoy themselves in the town. Some had reportedly made a great deal of money through trading while they were imprisoned at Norman Cross.

Cambridge Independent 31/10/1909: Antiquaries will regret to hear that this week workmen are engaged in removing an interesting building in castle End. It is an old barn situated in Shelley Row and in it rested the French prisoners who were captured in the Peninsular War (1809-14) on their march from the South of England to the great prison at Norman Cross. For a number of years the bar, which is a lofty building with a thatched roof, was occupied by a Mr Henry Herring Smith who carried on a blacksmith’s business. He sold it to a Mr White and said he clearly remembered the French prisoners using the barn as a resting-place. he could remember them making dominoes and dice out of bones, which they sold through the bar to people as curios.

See Napoleonic prisoners

The French prisoners were also held at public houses in Cambridge, such as The True Blue, formerly The Lord Nelson in Sydney Street.

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