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25 Magdalene Street, Cross Keys Inn

History of 25 Magdalene Street

25 Magdalene Street west range

1959 Royal Commission on Historical Monuments Survey of Cambridge: once the Cross Keys Inn, of three storeys to the street and two storeys with cellars westward, has plastered timber-framed walls and tiled roofs. It is L-shaped on plan. The long W range is of the early 16th cent., the street range of the early 17th cent….Nos 25 and 25a comprise a notable time-framed town house of the early 17th cent. with a late mediaeval rear wing; the street front though simpler than that of no.14 Trinity Street is much less restored… the panelling from the N first floor room in the street range is now in the Small Combination Room at Magdalene College.

The CWN notes (13.1.1983): The overhanging second storey of No 25 is supported by what are called “grotesque”, elaborately carved figures. Two out of what were originally four such brackets survive on the ground floor. One is of a crouching man, the second, north of the carriageway entrance, is carved with a satyr. The brackets to the second floor are carved with a seated man, a naked woman and a centaur. Local lore …. will tell you that the inn was a brothel, and that it was used by Pepys after he had been working hard across the road in the college. Bosanquet says that possibly it was a brothel for bargees, but it was more likely that the figures were protection against witchcraft – a wandering witch would be scared away by them. It is thought that the Cross Keys went out of business in the 18th century.


Thomas Hewitt, 45, fruiterer, b Cambridge


Post and Telegraph Office

Miss Gray, fruiterer and confectioner

Alfred Richard Christmas, post office


Post Office


Cross Keys Inn yard (undated)

Then and Now (David Gent) – ‘A Little Bit Of Old Cambridge’, The former yard of the Cross Keys Inn, Cambridge. Now Benson Court looking out towards Magdalene Street with Magdalene College over the road. Benson Court is now used as student accommodation for Magdalene.

First picture is an undated postcard and the second was taken in July

Benson Court, formerly yard of Cross Keys Inn (photo DG 2022)


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