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Parker's Piece seen from south west corner

Parker’s Pieces / Piece

History of Parker's Piece

Parker’s Piece

Parker’s Piece is named after a pastry cook who used the land on lease from Trinity College in 1587. It became Corporation property by exchange in 1613, to be “laid out from tillage unto sward ground, and to remain and abide for ever common of pasture at all seasons of the year.” S P Widnall’s reminscences, Gossiping Stroll through the Streets of Cambridge, recalls:

At first the land lay in ridges and furrows, with ditches and hawthorn trees about; on the west side was a small brook (‘the new river”) on its way to Barnwell Gate and the King’s Ditch; it was the resort in spring of the youth of the town who went their maying. At length three college cricket clubs levelled and re-laid part of t to play upon, and afterwards it was all levelled and fenced round, chiefly by the exertions of Mr Humfrey, who was mayor at the time (1837)…. previous to 1818 there were no homes round it….. Parker’s Piece was not always the compact square that we now see it. It was divided by a hedge and ditch starting from somewhere at the back of the Prince Regent Inn, which proceeded in an irregular line towards east Road. The part on the south side of the hedge was called Donkey Common, as well as the land so named on the other side of the road, a portion of which was enclosed to build a town gaol in 1827-8. This was taken down a few years ago (1879) when Queen Anne’s Terrace was built on the site. This we see that this road has broad strips of grass on each side.

Parker’s Piece[s] (postmarked 1910) looking towards the Catholic Church

Parker’s Piece c.1910

A brief history of Parker’s Piece[s] can be found here:’s_Piece

One feature of the site is Reality Checkpoint, a large cast-iron lamp post. The Wikipedia article about the post describes the four possible theories behind the name:

A longer history can also be found here:

Reality Checkpoint, Parker’s Pieces

Listed Building 1268376


Dinner to celebrate the Peace of 1814 on Parker’s Piece. (MoC)

Cambridge Peace Festival – celebrations on Parker’s Piece in July 1814


A great public dinner was arranged for Queen Victoria’s Coronation. These banquets were held all over the nation. The people of Cambridge took part with gusto. The below tickets are testament to the enthusiasm through which the people of Cambridge embraced the start of Victoria’s reign. Celebrations included a series of races on the 29th June, followed by a great dinner and games the next day.

A racing ticket detailing the names of the horses and the prizes to be won.

One of the many tickets issued inviting attendees to the public dinner.

It was David Matthews, a founding partner of Matthew & Gent of 25 Trinity Street, who supplied 72lbs of mustard and 140lbs of salt as well as 1,400 mustard pots and salt plates for the enormous feast for 15,000 people on parker’s Piece in Cambridge on 28th June 1838 to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria.

The 1838 complete official account by Halleck of the Cambridge Coronation Festival can be found here on Google books:

In addition there were accounts in newspapers such as, Cambridge Chronicle and Journal 30.6.1838:

June 28, 1838, Thursday last was a day to be long remembered by the inhabitants of Cambridge. Ere many of them had raised their heads from their downy pillows, the ringing of bells and the “cannons’ roar” apprised them of the unusual nature of the day; and not a few anticipated their usual hour of rising to take a peep at the sky, and satisfy themselves that the unpropitious weather which prevailed for the two preceding days had given way to the gladdening beams of a glorious sun. As it turned out, although clouds, thick and heavy, hovered about at different times in the morning, not a single shower fell to damp the anticipated joys of the thousands who were to dine in the open air with no protection interposed between them and the “ski‘ey influences’’; and as the day was made a perfect holiday by all classes, a pleasing and emulous gaiety of dress was in no wise checked by any apparent fear or caution  All without exception sought out their gayest apparel, determined to grace the day with their very best means. And indeed great was their success for it must have been particularly remarked by every observant spectator during the day, how generally good and even brilliant the dresses of the thousands of assembled persons were. In fact, the people’s hearts were engaged in the matter, and when England’s sons and daughters set their hearts upon any thing who can excel them ! All the banks and shops of the town remained spontaneously closed as requiring no attention on the part of their usually busy occupiers, and every thing promised to combine with the happy occasion, the delightful weather, the gay dresses and animated countenances of the whole population, to proclaim a festive holiday. Moreover, the great personal exertions and judicious regulations of the Committee made it previously apparent to every one that the stupendous scheme of dining upwards of 13,000 persons on one spot and at one time would he certainly attended with the complete success which it deserved.

SERMON AT GREAT SAINT MARY’s. The public proceedings of the day may be said to have commenced, as was most fitting, by a religious service. At half past 10 o’clock a numerous and respectable congregation assembled at Great St. Mary’s Church, where the morning service was performed and a very appropriate sermon preached by the Rev. Wm. Carus, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College, from 2 Kings, xi. xii. “And he brought forth the King’s son, and put the crown upon him and gave him the testimony, and they made him King and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, God save the King.” In this excellent discourse, the rev. preacher introduced a large portion of the Coronation Service, with which few persons comparatively speaking are acquainted, and which was listened to with great interest and attention. During the prayers Boyce’s Te Drum and Jubilate were chanted by the Choristers of Trinity College; and after the sermon Handel’s Coronation Anthem was very delightfully sung by the united choirs of Trinity and King’s colleges, Professor Walmesley’ presiding at the organ. At the conclusion of the service the organ struck up “God save the Queen” which was very ably varied extemporaneously the Professor…………

PROCESSIONS TO PAKKER PIECE At twelve o’clock the processions to Parker’s Piece commenced, each parish with its Sunday School train, and attended by its Parochial Minister, Churchwardens, and Stewards, forming a separate group, and preserving the most perfect order, three or four abreast. As the various parochial divisions converged to the place of their general meeting, Parker’s Piece, the interest of the sight continued to increase. Streets choked up with people, all in their holiday clothes; thousands wending their way to one point; men, women, and children happy and merry ; not an angry word to be heard; not the least pressure or confusion; not an attempt of any one to mend his position; not the slightest interference of policemen or constables, and no necessity for it! The parts of the town distant from Parker’s Piece seemed to be in danger of being wholly depopulated, and it was even melancholy to walk through some the streets after they were thus deserted. There appeared to many whole streets without a single individual in them — we mean, even in the houses. Hundreds of fathers had gone with their spouses, their sons and daughters, not forgetting their very infants, with plates, mugs, knives, and forks, to spend the remainder of the day on the Piece ; and, as if it was not supposed that even a single person could be found to turn thief on such a day, the whole household property of the town seemed to be entirely trusted to the protection of Providence—we will venture to say too, for the credit of our native town, with the most perfect security.

ARRIVAL AT PARKER’s PIECE. The orderly arrangement of more than 12,000 persons to dine at one place would of course require great attention and care on the part of the Committee but by the previous publication of the following judicious regulations every thing that could be wished was most effectually secured. Not a single person was admitted upon the ground occupied by the tables without an Admission Ticket, of which the plate at the head of our account is a faithful sketch ; and every parish, it will be seen, had its place previously allotted it:

REGULATIONS Issued by the General Committee

1.—All the stewards, carvers, and waiters, are to provide themselves with white rosettes, to be worn the on left lapelle of the coat. The stewards are to carry a wand, which may be procured at the Town-Hall.

2.—Half of the number of waiters from each parish are to assemble on Parker’s Piece at ten o’clock in the morning, accompanied by, and under the direction of, two stewards to each table, to assist in placing the provisions upon the tables.

3. —The inhabitants of each parish who are to assist at, or participate in, the Festival, are to assemble at some convenient place for the purpose of arranging themselves in an order of procession. They are then to divide into parties of 200 or 100, as may be necessary by the arrangement the tables, and (accompanied by the stewards and other officers) are to proceed to Parker’s Piece, so as to arrive on the ground not earlier than one o’clock, nor later than half-past one o’clock.

4. —The processions are reach Parker’s Piece by the following entrances, viz. :

St. Sepulchre … Table, No. 1.

St. Mary the Less …. Table, No. 2, and one side of No. 3.

St. Clement … No. 4, 5, and one side of No 3.

St. Giles and St. Peter … No. 6 to 15. inclusive.

To enter from Christ’s Pieces

St Andrew the Less .. Tables, No. 16 to 45, inclusive.

To enter in two divisions, viz., from the East-road and from Downing Terrace.

St. Andrew the Great.. Tables, …. No. 46, 47, and one side of 48.

All Saints …. No. 49, 50, and one side of 48.

Holy Trinity … No. 51, 52, 53, 51, and 55.

St. Mary the Great … No. 50, and one side cf 57.

St. Benedict … No. 58, and one side of 57

St. Botolph ….No. 50.

St. Edward … No.60  (one side).

St. Michael … No. 60 (one side.)

To enter by the University Arms Hotel.

In proceeding to the ground, parishes are particularly enjoined to avoid intermixing with each other.

5.—All the carvers, including the President, and Vice-President of each table, are to provide themselves with a carving knife and fork.

6. Every one who is to partake of the dinner must carry to his table a plate, a knife, a folk, and a mug.

7. —The stewards are to take particular care that persons do not place themselves in any other situations, at or by tables, than those assigned to them.

8. In order to prevent the admission of persons not entitled to participate in the Festival, the stewards are to require every one show a dinner ticket.

9. Tapsters having been appointed by the beer committee, who will be provided with cans and measuring-pots, no other person can be allowed to draw the beer. Beer-tickets will be given by the stewards to all who partake of the dinner, in the proportion of three pints of ale to each man, one pint to each woman, and half a-pint to each child. These tickets will distributed as soon as the parties have taken their seats at the tables, and must be delivered to the waiters, and then to the tapsters. No ale will be served out until grace has been sung.

10.—The stewards are to take their station on the sides of the tables appropriated to their respective parishes, for the purpose of preserving order and regularity.

11.—A waiter is assigned to every Twenty Guests, and, to avoid confusion, it is requested that he confine his attention to those twenty persons.

12.— The provisions that may remain after all have dined, as well as the table cloths, will be removed from the tables immediately after dinner. Pipes, tobacco, and snuff will then be introduced.

N.B.— The remaining provisions will distributed to the poor on the following day.

13.—As the children of the Sunday Schools are to leave the ground shortly after the performance of the National Anthem, it is requested, to prevent confusion, that all other persons will keep their seats till after the departure of the children.

14.—The Mayor w ill announce that Grace before Dinner is about to be sung.

The Chairman of the Committee will announce that Grace after Dinner will be sung.

The Mayor will give the Toast, ‘‘THE QUEEN,” immediately after which the National Anthem will be sung.

For the benefit of our distant readers we ought say, that Parker’s Piece is an open space of ground, very near the most populous part of the town, and well adapted for this species of entertainment. Few towns in England could afford so favourable a spot. In the centre of this beautiful green a circular Orchestra was erected to contain 100 instrumental and vocal musicians; surmounted by flag-staff 60 feet high, on which waved the royal standard of England. Encircling the Orchestra was a Rotunda, capable of containing 1600 spectators, divided into four platforms, each 10 feet wide, and each rising 9 inches higher than the outer one. Contiguous to this another belt, upon the green, was also inclosed, called the Inner Circle or Promenade, capable of containing 6000 spectators. Beyond the Promenade were three rows of tables, encircling the whole space hitherto mentioned, appropriated to the Sunday School and National School children ; and from the outer of the children’s tables the main body of the tables. 60 in number, radiated like the spokes of a cart-wheel, 125 feet in length. Beyond the enter extremity of the 60 tables, 28 others were added in a circle concentric with the Orchestra and Promenade, each 91 feet long. And the whole area was enclosed by a belt barrels of ale were placed in alternate spaces between the long tables. The diameter of the circle occupied by the tables. Promenades and orchestra from rope to roped was 588 feet, and its circumference one third of a mile. The area included 6 acres 1 rood, and would contain 26,700 persons. The tables, &c. required 5000 three-inch deals when reduced to 12 feet long and 9 inches wide; besides some hundreds of fir poles.

It were in vain to attempt to describe the appearance of the ground when, in addition to at least 13,000 persons seated for dinner, as many as or 16,000 more were nssembled to witness the scene. Only let our readers imagine the spot of ground -a fine day-nearly 30,000 persons in their best attire, all merry and cheerful, in perfect good humour with themselves and with each other. This is the picture, and we leave them to paint it for themselves.

Shortly after one o’clock, the Mayor, the Chairman of the Committee (G. Fisher, Esq.), the Treasurer ( Mr. Patrick Beales), and the two Secretaries (Messrs. Hallack and Stevenson) took their station on the Orchestra to superintend the general arrangements, and so as to be accessible to the  Presidents and Stewards at the different tables. Exactly at two o clock the Mayor announced that Grace before meat be said ; when, upon a signal being given to the various tables by the bugle, the hats flew off simultaneously as if by magic, the band struck up the Old Hundredth (which had been harmonized in the most simple manner for the occasion), and all with one accord joined in singing

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

Hereupon the affray commenced; the destruction of plum puddings was immense. No less than 1,400 puddings, weighing 6lbs. each, were speedily consumed. Beef, mutton, and pork were plentifully provided, besides bacon, ale, pickles, and bread.

During the dinner a grand Overture was performed, with the following Choral Finale;

All hail to our fair, our illustrious Queen ! May her glories be bright, and her days serene ; May remotest of countries re-echo her fame, And our national toast be Victoria’s name !

It was composed expressly for the occasion by Professor Walmisley ; but the effects arising from the blending of the instruments was necessarily lost in such a large assemblage except to those who could remain near the orchestra. The chorus was very ably written, and the most effective notes given to the different voices, so that it was much more distinct than the instrumental part. A band of three times the number could not have sufficed to do justice to the music.

When dinner was concluded, and all appeared to have laid down their arms, the Chairman of the Committee G. Fisher. Esq. announced that Grace was about be said. The bugle again sounded, the  band struck up the Old Hundredth, and with one heart and voice the whole multitude sang—

O King of Kings, Thy blessing shed On our anointed Sovereign’s head ; And, looking from Thy throne in heaven, Protect the crown Thyself hast given. Her, for Thy sake, may we obey, Uphold her right, and love her sway; Remembering —all the powers that be Are ministers ordained by Thee. By her this favoured nation bless; To her wise counsels give success; in peace, in war, by power be seen ; Confirm her strength: O save our Queen ! And, when all earthly thrones decay, And earthly glories fade away, Give her a nobler throne on high, A crown of immortality.

The cloths were then removed, and a large quantity of pipes, tobacco, and snuff being introduced, the assembled thousands continued to enjoy themselves as each saw fit, all remaining in their respective places, The Mayor shortly after proposed the Queen’s health, which was received with tremendous cheers; and then followed the National Anthem, in which the whole multitude joined. We leave our readers to imagine the sensation produced by the united voices of so many thousands – it was truly indescribable. At the conclusion of the Anthem, a balloon of large dimensions, made for the occasion, of regal colours, was inflated upon Montgolfier’s principle of rarified air, and sent off by Mr, Deck. It afforded much gratification by passing over the festive scene, and discharging a fire-work with very loud report. It rapidly attained great elevation, and was an object interest for upwards of half an hour, ultimately falling about five miles from the town. After this the children of the various Sunday Schools retired in regular order, as they came ; and having reached their schools were severally dismissed. The rest of the company were supplied with ale and tobacco for some time longer, and the most perfect good humour and order prevailed throughout. Between four and five o’clock the great body of the people withdrew to Midsummer-green to witness


This was perhaps the only part of the day’s proceedings which was attended with failure; …

1847 6th July. Josiah  Chater went on the river with some friends and called on their way back at the Roebuck Inn, Chesterton, for ginger beer and biscuits. From the garden of the inn they had a good view of the ‘grand Installation Balloon’ which went up from Parker’s Piece, the ascent being made by the aeronaut, Mr [Charles] Green, who was paid a fee of £60 16s 8d. (Victorian Cambridge, Enid Porter)


Cricket on Parker’s Piece, 1854 (MoC8.1130.37)

1856 5th June. The Treaty of Paris, which ended the Crimean War in 1856 was celebrated in Cambridge by a general holiday and by a dinner for school and Sunday school children. On 2nd Josiah Chater recorded that he attended a Committee for the Sunday Schools treat. On the 4th June he was busy decorating his house with flags etc.

I propose to have an arch to form a rainbow and from it a Dove alighting on a Globe suspended, and have got Windridge, our opposite neighbour, to consent. I have some iron from Mcintosh’s to form the arch and some hoops to make the globe, and I think it will do well.

On 5th June the mayor addressed the crowd at Market Hill then there was a procession to Parker’s Piece via Sidney Street, Trinity Street, Trumpington Street and Downing Terrace.  there was an orchestra in the middle of the Piece and tables radiating from it where nearly 7,000 children had tea. There was only enough food through for 6,000 so the rest had to be catered for at various chapels and schools.

In the evening, at half past nine, several balloons were sent up, and there was a display of fireworks, considered by some as very grand. They were, perhaps, all very well, but very expensive. The won was partly illuminated; we had a light in our Globe. Thurston had V.R. and a Crown; Stanley Swan, next door, a crown, and Sadd on the Parade an extensive display of Chinese lanterns. Joseph Bond was about the best of all, and Dr Bond about the worst – his display was beggarly.

Romilly’s  editor adds this note to the diarist’s entry of 6th June 1854: The Independent of 7 June describes the ‘Peace Rejoicings’ in enthusiastic detail. The weather was ideal, the town was hung with flags and banners, and it was estimated that by 5 o’clock some 20,000 people had crowded onto Parker’s Piece. They included 5,000 children, led by their teachers, who processed eagerly towards a sit-down tea provided by a general subscription. However, the mountains of plum cake and other delights diminished so rapidly that it became clear that another 2000 unexpected small guests had contributed to their demolition. Tearful late-comer, many from the villages, found nothing to eat and the mayor had rapidly to promise that they must be entertained at a future date. Yet the evening celebration went as planned with Isaiah Deck master-minding the firework display and an ascent of fire-balloons, and the town, though not the colleges, being partially illuminated.

The Crimean War of the 1850s comes to an end, and Cambridge has a big party. Part 1



Parker’s Piece 1862 notice (MoC)

1867 a row of lime trees fronting Parkside was planted at the suggestion and expense of the late John Odell Pain (draper of 3 Sidney Street) on the occasion of the departure of his brother Henry to Australia.

Balloon Parker’s Piece (date unknown) (MoC1101.88)


Jack Hobbs described Parker’s Piece as probably the finest and most famous public cricket ground in the world. As a boy, Hobbs rose at six and walked for half an hour to practise there before breakfast and in the summer he played all day and sometimes watched Ranjitsinhji practising at the nets.


Reality Checkpoint – the story behind the lamps at the centre of Parker’s Piece


1902 Coronation of Edward VII: Cambridge Daily News 11.8.1902:

THE CAMBRIDGE FESTIVITIES.  After the incessant rain of the past few days it was a glad omen to all when late on Friday night the clouds rolled away and the wind sank to rest. Saturday morning dawned with brilliant sunshine from a clear blue sky, and hopes rose high that the great day would be favoured with real King’s weather.  But as the morning stole on clouds rolled slowly from the horizon to the zenith and imperceptibly spread in grey masses which foreboded a continuance of the week’s deluge. The weatherwise shook their heads: holidaymakers well nigh lost their spirits. One, two, three hours slipped past, but still the rain held off, and at length, towards noon, the sun timidly asserted itself. Soon after came a period of splendour unveiled, but again the clouds grew and again anxious glances were cast skyward. Happily it was not until late in the afternoon that the first few drops of rain fell, and even then the shower was so slight that it was insufficient to cause even temporary inconvenience. The threatening storm again passed away, and on the whole, it must be admitted, the weather was kind, in Cambridge least, to the great national holiday.

How complete the holiday was a glance at the streets of Cambridge was sufficient to show. The venerable University town can have rarely witnessed such scene of animated gaiety. Street after street was bright with flags and blazing in a brave show of scarlet and white and blue. Flags were everywhere; they waved singly from isolated windows, flapped and fluttered in massed groups over shop fronts, stretched in seemingly endless profusion from side to side of the streets. As was fitting, the Royal Standard and the Union Jack predominated. But flags by no means exhausted the decorative ingenuity of the citizens; artistic devices bearing loyal mottoes abounded, and arrangements devised for the evening illuminations were cunningly made to contribute their quota to the daylight effect. If the brightness of adornment had one bad effect, it was that it brought with it by comparison a realisation of the sombre sadness of our English towns day by day. Why should we not be gay a little oftener and little more consistently ?

The town was thronged all the morning, but it was not until noon that the human tide flowed most strongly. Visitors poured in by road and rail, in vehicles and on foot, until it seemed as though the population of Cambridgeshire must have drifted en masse into the town, and left the surrounding country empty and desolate. Everyone was bright and happy ; indeed, the striking feature of the crowd was its unfailing good humour, its readiness to be amused. English decorum, not to say dullness, fell off for the nonce, the work-a-day world was forgotten, and troubles were banished in happy laughter and careless mirth. To and fro, through the narrow streets, laughing, talking, singing, and always admiring, the gay crowds eddied and swirled; they filled the thoroughfares from end end, and spread over the green turf of Parker’s Piece until that classic sward was well nigh hidden from view. What the number of the multitude must have been no man can say, but one time during the afternoon there must certainly have been from fifteen to twenty thousand people Parker’s Piece alone. The service in King’s College Chapel was not for the multitude, and it is with the multitude that we are at present chiefly concerned : other pens will describe in detail the various events which made the programme by which Cambridge expressed its loyal participation in the event of the day. But if the multitude, by reason of its size, had to be excluded from King’s, it found room on Parker’s Piece to share in the national demonstration, which was the chief event of the forenoon. The national demonstration lent the one touch of solemnity to the lighthearted crowd, and many were profoundly touched when the strains of the National Anthem—so moving to Englishmen in spite of all that may be said against it asa  literary and musical composition—floated on the air from the spot where the massed bands were grouped. The incident was impressive alike to the sight and the ear ; the great crowd, the solemn music, the exquisite setting of the scene, combined to create an impression which will ever abide with those who were fortunate enough to be present.

After this the day wore on, it began, pleasantly and happily to a close. There was plenty to amuse and interest people ready and anxious to be interested and amused. The procession was an unqualified success; the daylight fireworks a novelty that could not fail to please ; the balloon ascent was watched with close attention by thousands ; the illuminations were a charm which lasted until they flickered to extinction. The day may be written down a success; everything passed off practically without a hitch, and every feature added to the general interest and enjoyment. To all who worked loyally and without thought of self for the gratification of the public a word of thanks may be tendered, as well as hearty congratulations upon the unqualified success which they achieved.

Parker’s Pieces was the location for the Temperance Rally on Tuesday 15th October 1907. In the afternoon, according to the Cambridge Independent Press 18.10.1907, there was a parade and review of the bands of Hope and Temperance Societies.

The Nelson Street Massiv and the Adult School Movement

Cambridge Temperance Jubilee 1910

Controversy was created by the comments of Judge Rentoul in support of the event.

The Judge Rentoul controversy

There were also press reports of a Mansion House banquet at which Judge Rentoul reported seventy-four bottles of champagne had been drunk by the bishops. A spokesperson for the Archbishop of Canterbury called these ‘unfounded allegations.’

Judge Rentoul controversy 1907

1910 Tom Hayward’s charity cricket match on Parker’s Piece, September 1910.

Parker’s Piece September 1910, Tom Hayward’s charity cricket match (Cambridgeshire Collection)

In 1910 the beneficiary of this match was the District Nurses’ Home. Tom Hayward’s team of twelve players beat Frank Hayward’s fourteen players.

Back row (l to r): G Smith, H Coulson, H Tebbutt, E Moule, A S Scales, A Titchmarsh, E B Darby, Reg Hayward

Third row: Dan Hayward, G Watts, A Hobbs, S Speller, Tom Brown, W C Hunt, F E Collier, E Bryan, H Scales, W Rumbelow, F Addison

Second row: E Swann, F A Dalton, E E Stubbings, F Hayward, Tom Hayward, W C Smith, D L A Jephson, H Faulkner, Jack Hobbs, R Phillips

Front row: F Stubbings, W Hitch, O J Stibbon

Information from Chris Jakes’s ‘Cambridge’.

1911 Coronation of George V: Cambridge Daily News 23.6.1911:

CORONATION CAMBRIDGE CELEBRATIONS MEMORABLE DAY BRILLIANT SIGHTS and SCENES Enormous Crowds Participate – The Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary at Westminster Abbey yesterday was attended by scenes unprecedented in the history of the Empire. Never have such crowds assembled in the streets of the Metropolis and the ceremony in the Abbey  was of unparalleled splendour. Sightseers began to assemble long before midnight and at dawn there were thousands who had taken up their positions to watch the pageant. The enthusiasm of the crowd as their Majesties drove to and from the Abbey was intense and when the King and Queen after returning to the Palace appeared there for a few moments on the balcony their reception was tumultuous.

Coronation Day will long remain memorable in the annals of Cambridge. The Town Council and the various sub-committees appointed by that body to make the arrangements worked with unanimity and were both strenuous and successful in their desire to their give satisfaction to number inhabitant.s One might adapt Abraham Lincoln’s famous words that you can please some of the people all the time and that you can please all the people some of the time but you cannot please all the people all the time. It is certain however that local festivities in connection with the Coronation of King George V, pleased most the people most of the time and that the carefully-prepared programme was matter for congratulation of the hundreds of organisers concerned.

While regretting the absence of the popular Mayor of the Borough Alderman George Stace, Cambridge felt honoured by the invitation he had received to be present at the ceremony at Westminster Abbey. In Alderman W P Spalding his Worship had an admirable deputy who performed his numerous duties during the day with that grace and dignity Cambridge knows so well. Another notable absentee was the Chief Constable (Mr C E Holland) who as president of the Chief Constables’ Association had also been honoured with an invitation to the Abbey.

The day broke in fine dull weather with a strong and fitful wind that struggled wildly with noble flags and dainty decorations alike. Indeed the fluttering flags and battling of bunting gave the streets an animated appearance early in the day. For decorators, their enthusiasm stirred by the splendid  prize offered by the Mayor for  the best decoration put brain and brawn  into the carrying out of their schemes with admirable results. Decoration and illumination went hand in hand. Electricity played a large part the lighting schemes and immense crowds of people obtained a great deal of pleasure in walking round the streets in the day time and at dusk. The judges’ choice of the Stetchworth Dairies’ premises as having the premier decorative scheme will have been endorsed by all and it must be agreed that the Dorothy Cafe was a very fine second best.

As the judges point out in their carefully-prepared and exhaustive report a feature of the decorations which, by the way, they considered excelled anything ever before seen in Cambridge) was that even in the poor quarters of the town the inhabitants have testified to their loyalty by decorations which showed care and taste.

While those who regard a national holiday as a day for rest and particularly for prolonged matutinal repose were still snug in bed or at best yawning on their way down to breakfast, a  large number of the smart younger generation were at work. At a quarter to nine companies of the Boys’ Brigade, Boys’ Life Brigade and Boy Scouts paraded on Parker’s Piece and at nine o’clock marched to St Andrew’s Church headed by the band of the Boys’ Brigade and County School OTC and attended divine service. At the conclusion of the service they marched to King’s College where they prepared to form a  guard of honour on the arrival of the Deputy -Mayor and Corporation. Shortly after nine o’clock the Territorial forces with RAMC, the members of the Volunteer Fire Brigade and the postmen, paraded on Market-hill under Lieut-Colonel Beales VD and to King’s College by Sidney Street, Bridge-street, St John Street and King’s-parade forming up in the college. At 1015 the procession left the Guildhall and arrived at King’s College Chapel punctually for the great combined service.

After the service the procession marched to Parker’s Piece where the National Anthem was played by the band of the Cambs Regiment, a feu de joie was fired and the regiment carried out the “march past,” Lieut-Colonel Beales and the Deputy Mayor taking the salute. There was a crowd of about 10,000 on the Piece at this time. From  early morning crowds had been flocking into the town by road and rail until at mid-day the streets were crowded with people. Clouds still obscured the sky but there were no signs of rain and the cool breeze was extremely welcome. In the afternoon it seemed as though the whole of the inhabitants of the county as were on Midsummer Common where a grand military tournament took place. Every seat on the stands had been booked and the spectators stood many deep around the huge arena. On Parker’s Piece the two variety entertainments provided for the amusement of the children was received with unbounded delight by the little ones and as many of the older people who were near enough to the platforms to see and hear. The fresh young voices of the children as they sang the National Anthem and cheered at its conclusion were as  impressive as any feature of the day’s proceedings.

Bands played in various parts of the town throughout the day, filling any breaks in the programme and ensuring a continuous round of pleasure. The  exceedingly smart combination of the Gordon Highlanders gave particular delight. They performed in the grounds of  Addenbrooke’s Hospital in  the morning, the great satisfaction of  the crowd that gathered in the street. In the afternoon they performed a long programme on the tournament ground, and in the evening they gave a concert on Parker’s Piece.  The Band of the 1st Battalion Cambs Regiment and the Cambridge Town Band played in other parts of the town. The excellent concert arranged to take place in the Guildhall in the evening was well attended.

ILLUMINATIONS AND FIREWORKS Cambridge wore its Coronation on Thursday night with a splendour which has seldom been equalled, and never surpassed, in the Borough. Until dusk it was impossible to realise the full effects of the many elaborate and illuminative schemes that had been arranged. Then one saw the fulfilment of all the brilliant things were that promised by the hard work and considerable expenditure of the last few days.

In all the chief thoroughfares the buildings were bathed in the golden glory of brilliant electric lights and the soft effulgence of myriads of fairy lamps. The Guildhall, the rugged grandeur of several of the  college buildings and the grounds and fronts of many private houses were outlined in lines and curves of gorgeous colour. The fronts of the shops in Regent-street, St Andrew’s-street, Silver-street elsewhere seemed to blaze with the splendour of jewelled crowns and Royal initials, glowing stars and garlands of floral fire.

On Christ’s Pieces the illuminators had the help of natural environment in providing what was in many respects the best example of decorative work to be seen  in the Borough. The avenues across the Pieces were like walks through the enchanted garden of some fairy palace with yellow  Chinese lanterns among the dark foliage overhead and tiny fairy lamps attached to the tree-trunks. The band of the 1st Battalion Cambs Regiment  played selections on the bandstand in the centre of the Pieces and crowds listened to the  music. The principal thoroughfares were thronged with sightseers admiring the illuminations until the swish of the rockets and boom of the signal shells drew everyone post-haste to Parker’s Piece to see the firework display.

The fireworks arranged by Messrs Brock were by general consent voted the best ever seen in Cambridge. Thousands of people were on the Piece  from 9.30 until nearly 11 o’clock all the time a most gorgeous display was being given. The set pieces were real works of art. The chief designs were the colossal portraits  of the King and Queen, Niagara -Falls by moonlight, the gigantic aureola, the acrobat, the basket of Coronation flowers, and the crown of gold, accompanied by the words “Loyal Greetings.” The rockets cleft the sky like fiery serpents,  the showers like sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, pearls, glittering fireflies, and snowflakes descended,  while at frequent intervals a flood of opalescent light illumined the whole Piece and the faces of the thousands assembled there. Chinese lanterns were attached to the trees around the Piece at many of the houses, particularly at one on Regent-terrace, there were beautiful illuminations which added to the gorgeous character of the scene. For an hour previous to the firework display the Band of the Gordon Highlanders played a grand instrumental concert on the Piece, the selections including the overture to Rossini’s opera “William Tell” and a descriptive military fantasia. The sky was very dull all the evening and the fear of rain seemed ever present but fortunately although there was a rather chilly wind late in evening the weather remained fine.

THE SEARCHLIGHT The electric searchlight erected at a cost of £30 on the Castle Mound  proved very effective and its 10,000 candle-power enabled its light to be seen fully ten miles away. It was first switched on about 9.15 pm and was the signal for the discharge of the first rocket on Parker’s Piece. The light was then extinguished until the firework display was over when it was turned on and played over the station and surrounding district. From the Mound itself could be seen in the distance the ruddy glare of several bonfires and rockets going up in connection with festivities elsewhere while parts of Cambridge were thrown into strong relief as the powerful beams were swept round. The searchlight was similar to those in use on cruisers and battleships and was erected by Messrs Baily Grundy and Barrett. The  current was obtained from the main in Chesterton-lane belonging to the Electric Supply Co., the wires being carried though the grounds of Castle Brae, the residence of Miss Lewis and Miss Gibson. The apparatus was worked a swivel which enabled it to be completely revolved…..


First mass demonstration of trade unionists in Cambridge demand an 8 hour working day. 1913

Cambridge & Parker’s Piece (MoC225/72)


Parker’s Piece – Good Friday skipping, 1937 (photo R H Brindley) (Cambridgeshire Collection)

Skipping on Parker’s Piece 1937

Enid Porter (Cam Eve News 13.4.1963): By mid-day the Piece was crowded with family parties, the men of the family, by tradition, turning the ropes while the women skipped, although children made up[ their own groups too, and jumped up and down over their ropes as they chanted the many well-known skipping rhymes. When the skippers were exalted they sat down on the grass and ate the food they had brought with them, supplemented by sweets, lemonade and ginger beer brought from the many stalls which, by dinner time, were lining the sides of the Piece. In the afternoon the skipping was resumed, though less energeticaly than before, and by 3 or 4 o’clock everyone would have had enough of it and the journey home would begin. The skipping rope was usually the family clothes line.


Stalls on Parkside Good Friday 1938 (photo R H Brindley)


Skipping on Parker’s Pieces 1939 (MoC349/64)



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