Capturing Cambridge
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13 – 15 Sidney Street

History of 13 - 15 Sidney Street

No.15 was the home of the De La Pryme family. It was originally a quaintly embattled gabled house. It was the home of:

Busick Harwood, 1790

Sir Busick Harwood, professor of anatomy (1745-1815)

George Pryme, professor of political economy (1781-1868)

Gateway of 15 Sidney Street


George Pryme purchased no.15. He wrote in his autobiography:

It was a large remnant of the Trinity Hostel, which, with many others of the like kind, were superseded by Colleges. In making considerable alterations I preserved as much as I could the remains of the internal arrangement. At first it seemed as if it would be impossible to remain there, for our servants believed in a rumour that the house was haunted, and for some time we had a difficulty in persuading them to remain, till at length the ghost was laid by ourselves occupying the room in which “the black lady’ was said to walk.

See Enid Porter’s article:




George Smith, 36, chimney sweep, b Windsor

Mary Ann, 33, b Cambridge

Lidda, daughter, 14, b Cambridge

George, 8, b Cambridge

William, 4, b Cambridge

Fredrick, 9 ms, b Cambridge

Charlotte Hankins, 16, gentleman’s servant, b Melbourn

Frederick G Hume Smith, lodger, 21, student, b Richmond

(13 Sidney Street Passage)

Sarah Ellen Cropley, 36, ? jeweler, b Cambridge

Martha Heath, 35, visitor, b Cambridge

Romilly notes in his diary for 11th June 1849:

Lucy had a grand excitement today. She saw a hole broken into Mr Asby’s house and a little chimney-sweep dragged out by the leg by his brutal master (Wyot I think.) She immediately sallied out, attacked the black old devil for having acted illegally in sending a boy up a flue and said she should lodge a complaint at the Station, which she immediately after did. The ruffian behaved insolently and said ‘he supposed she belonged to the Ramonoors’. Lucy’s spirited conduct deserved the highest praise. The Policeman told her she would find it hard to substantiate her charge, as the villain carried about with him a dwarfish brother of 25 whom he professes to send up the flues whenever he is charged with sending up the boy. The Policeman engaged to frighten the Master well and also to reprimand Mr Asby (without mentioning Lucy’s name), so Lucy let the matter drop…

Romilly’s editor adds: Romilly took a keen interest in legislation to protect climbing boys and in 1840 had tried in vain to persuade Tatham, Master of St John’s to sign a petition on their behalf. By statute sweeps were to take no apprentice under 16 nor was anyone under 21 to climb a chimney. The law was hard to enforce, however, and had to be made more stringent in the 1860s. Ramoneurs (a Frenchified genteelism) used machines of the same name. George Smith of Sidney Street, proprietor of Ramoneur chimney-sweeping machines, was presented with a silver medal in July 1851 by Lord Shaftesbury’s Climbing Boys Committee which was trying to suppress the old ways (Chronicle 19 July 1851).


Charles Carlton, 39, brewer’s man, b West Wratting

Jemima, 35, b Cambridge

Selena, 12, b West Wratting

Jemima, 1 m, b Cambridge


William Heath, 40, cordwinder, b Suffolk

Mary Ann, 15, dressmaker, b Cambridge



George Smith, 47, chimney sweep, b Berks


Theodora Fitch, 63, interest from mortgages, b Cambridge


Rev Charles Henry Crosse, 32, clergyman, b Norfolk

Sidney Street 1925


See 6 Maids Causeway

Mrs George Smith


According to Enid Porter, the house stood until this year when it was purchased by Messrs Sainsbury who built a grocery store. (Cambs Customs and Folklore p 152)


F W Woolworth, department store


Next, clothes store


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