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42 St Andrew's Street: old police station and Spinning House

42 St Andrew’s Street, Police Station & Spinning House

History of 42 St Andrew's Street

Regent Street and St Andrew’s Street, police station on left

The description of the property in the indenture of feoffment by which Thomas Hobson conveyed the property to the trustees is:

a messuage and tenement, dove-house and the site of a dove-house, a barn, and all houses and edificesthen built upon the farms, gardens, curtilages, courts and grounds thereunto belonging, with all their appurtenances, in the parish of St Andrew, without Barnwell-gate in Cambridge.”

The deed seems to imply that some kind of “poor-house” had already stood on the site. (See Outside the Barnwell Gate, Stokes, 1915)

Yet, it does seem that employment was found at the location specially for ‘combers of wooll’ and the weavers of the town, and that several of the keepers of Hobson’s Workhouse are described as ‘woolcombers’ and ‘worsted-weavers.’ In an old Cambridge newspaper (Cambridge Chronicle, quoted in Cooper’s Annals iv p.441) it is stated that on 3/2/1791, ‘the wool-combers of this place rode through the principal streets in grand procession, attended with flags and martial music, in commemoration of Bishop Blaze.’

The 1831 New Guide to Cambridge has this description:

Hobson’s Workhouse, usually called the Spinning House: being a plain brick edifice with stone dressings to the window etc. The interior is divided into wards, after the manner of a prison, it being used for the confinement of disorderly persons of both sexes, committed by the University or town authorities. 

This workhouse was founded by the benevolent and eccentric Thomas Hobson, the carrier, who by deed of gift dated 1628, conveyed the site etc to trustees for the erection of a House of Correction, for unruly and stubborn rogues and beggars, and other poor people who should refuse to work, and for providing a stock of wool, flax, and other materials. In 1630, £500 the residue of then money collected for relief of the sufferers by the plague, was appropriated to this building, as were also the rents and profits of Jesus Green, which was to be authorised to be let for ten years, and Hobson, by his will the same year, gave 100l to purchase lands for its endowment, and in 1632 and 1634 the trustees with this and other monies, amounting together to 900l purchased lands at Cottenham, Willingham, Over etc…..

Carter’s History of the County of Cambridge, commenced in the middle of the 18th century, states:

The Bridewell (called by the inhabitants the Spinning House) is pleasantly situated near the fields at the south end of the parish of Great St Andrew’s, and is chiefly used for the confinement of such lewd women as the proctors apprehend in house of ill fame; though sometimes the Corporation send small offenders thither, and the crier of the town is often there to discipline the ladies of pleasure with his whip.


For more information on the Spinning House which was demolished in 1901 and replaced by the police station, designed by architect John Morley,  see:

See also Enid Porter’s article: Proctors and Prostitutes


Also on this site for a while was the town gaol. In 1788 the town gaol was removed from the old building adjoining the town hall, called the Tolbooth, a to a newly erected edifice in the old lane now called Downing Place. This building, which stood at the back of the Spinning House, opened by a large gate into the main street, just south of the Workhouse. The new gaol cost the town £911 10s. In 1827 royal assent was given for a new gaol on the south side of Parker’s Piece.


1847: 7th January

Josiah Chater witnessed the rescue of a girl from the Proctors:

There was a great row in the street this evening with the Proctors. They had taken some girl, but the townsmen had rescued her and were hooting the Proctors.



Cambridge policemen c 1880


1891: Daisy Hopkins was sent to the Spinning House for 14 days on the grounds of immoral behaviour with an undergraduate. This sparked a furore and a well publicised legal case. For the newspaper report see Gold Street.



Police Station and Mortuary, Charles E Holland chief constable

Fire Brigade Station



City of Cambridge Police

City Road Safety Office



Photos taken of the Old Police Station:

St Andrew’s Street Police Station in 1970


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