Parker's Piece seen from south west corner
History of Parker's Piece
Parker’s Piece 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
A brief history of Parker’s Piece[s] can be found here:
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:
Reality Checkpoint, Parker’s Pieces
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)
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.
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.
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.
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