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Calder House, Portugal Place

18 Portugal Place, Calder House (Harper House)

History of 18 Portugal Place

1891 (18)



Alfred Edwards, 58, billiards proprietor, b Cambridge


Alfred Edwards, billiard room proprietor


Irene Marguerite Keane, wife of Hugo Alfred Harper. Hugo died in 1918.

Hugo served as a 2nd Lt. with the Seaforth Highlanders and was killed at Bethune in France on 15th April 1918.

The CWN (7.5.1981) in its article about Portugal Place noted: She [Irene Harper] devoted the house as a memorial to her husband, Hugo, who was believed killed in the First World War, but Mrs Harper, apparently, never believed that he had died. She believed that he was in the Lubianka in Moscow. She always wore white because that was the colour he liked her best in. On the anniversary of his disappearance, she wore a mauve scarf around her middle. She always wore her gown – she was an MA.

1919 Irene set up the Harper House library. It came to have the largest Empire Library after that of the Royal Empire Society.

She complete a BA at Cambridge in 1925 and an MA in 1928 with a thesis on the history of Fort Edmonton 1835-1905.

From 1936 she organised annual Cambridge Empire conferences.


Irene M Harper, b 1896, university lecturer (Ministry of Labour Registry Professional Services)

Hugo D H Harper, b 1918, university student

Harper House kept going during the Second World War and the Birdwood Club was started there – a club founded for children because Mrs Harper according to contemporary newspaper reports felt “everything was being done for foreign evacuees, but nobody seems to care about the children of British servicemen.” The club was open to those British children who parents were “not pacifists” and had some connection with the armed forces.(CWN)

1941 27th July

The house was damaged by an incendiary bomb in the same attack which damaged the Union Society and Jordan’s Yard.


Mrs Hugo Harper


Hostel for the Blue Boar


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