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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

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.

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



1838 Coronation dinner, Parker’s Piece

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.

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.

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

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.



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

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



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



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 (©MoC)



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