Capturing Cambridge
  • search
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
Parker's Piece seen from south west corner

Parker’s Pieces

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:’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:


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)


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



Do you have any information about the people or places in this article? If so, then please let us know using the Contact page or by emailing