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St Clement's Parish east of Bridge Street in 1886

Dove House Close

History of Dove House Close

An Intimate History of the Parish of St Clement’s, T E Faber, 2006

In 1359, a William le Gode granted to Roger de Herlaston and three others ‘ a dovecot with a garden and other tofts adjoining the same garden and a grange on the common river bank in Cambridge’. This is very likely to refer to the areas later known as Sedge Yard Estate and Dove House Close. He seems to have purchased most if not all of the Anchor brewery site separately.

The Harleston estate, which included land in Coton, Chesterton and Cambridge, was bought in 1533 by St John’s College. Sedge Yard and Dovecot Close were at that time let as a single property, described in 1498-9 as ‘a garden called le pondeyarde’. No part of the Anchor brewery site was acquired by St John’s at the time.

The tenant of the pondyard in 1533 was Thomas Brakyn who paid a rent of £2 13s 4d. He also supplied St John’s with 4 pike a year.

Faber has constructed a list of the tenants of the pondyard as far as possible from the documentary evidence surviving:

1489 – 1515: Hugh Rankyn

1516 – 1545: Thomas Brakyn

1546 – 1557: Richard Brakyn

1558 – 1562: Thomas (John) Church

1563 – 1587: Oliver (John) Flint

1588 – 1607?: Widow (Joan) Flint

1608? – 1633: Joh Andrews or his widow

1634 – 1638: Thomas Purchas

1639 – 1652: Francis Sheldrake

1653 – 1665: Elizabeth Ranew

1666 – ????: Robert Ibbot

The lease of 1609 marks the moment when the Sedge Yard estate and Dove House Close were separated (though they were not yet called by those names.)

Although Dove House Close belonged to the Master and Fellows of St John’s in principle, in practice they had little say in the management of it. However by the 19th century there is correspondence that suggests the Master was treating the land as his own private property. In 1877 £100 was paid for the site of the school that was built that year.

Leases after 1609 until 1887 were granted by the Master and not the college, and have therefore not survived. Loggan’s map of 1688 shows that there were still fishponds and a dovecot. By the time of Custance’s map of 1798 most of the ponds had been filled in and the dovecot has disappeared. The land is labelled as’Clarke’s Nursery’ and it was evidently divided up into a number of beds.

Clarke paid £30 p.a. for the land; he was an old servant of Dr Chevallier, an 18th cent. master of St John’s. He must have died before 1836 as a plan of that date refers to ‘the late Mr Richard Clarke’s garden.’ he was succeeded as tenant by George Sussum, who had a greengrocer’s shop on the west side of Bridge Street for many years, so it was Mr Sussum who received compensation for the fruit trees destroyed when the school was built.

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