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By Sebastian Ballard, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Newnham Grange, Darwin College, Silver Street, no. 3 Newnham

History of Newnham Grange

Royal Commission Survey of Cambridge 1959: the house was built early in the 19th century, before 1830, for the Beales family, corn and coal merchants, and included a large irregular-shaped yard to the E largely surrounded by stables, offices, coal-stores and granaries. the property was bought by the Darwins in the last quarter of the 19th century… Newnham Grange is an early 19th century house of gracious aspect containing fittings of the period.

For a history of Newnham Grange follow this link:

Another interesting web site that gives an overview of the area in particular with reference to Gwen Raverat’s Period Piece is:

Mahogany cot used by Darwin family at Newnham Grange, now in the Museum of Cambridge:

Mahogany Cot, Darwin familty, Newnham Grange


1793: built for the family of Patrick Beales, a local corn and coal merchants, brewers, and twice Mayor of Cambridge.

1795: Henry Gunning in his Reminiscences of Cambridge recalls a very high flood in February 1795. ‘There was a ball given by the freemasons on that evening, and a carriage was waiting to take Mrs Beales and her party to it. The coachman (in order to spare his own life and that of his horses) was obliged to drive away, leaving the company behind. Monsieur Corneille, a celebrated hairdresser, whose presence was anxiously awaited by several parties in the town, could not leave Mr Beales’s house, but was obliged to take up his residence there for the night.’ (Quoted in Period Piece p.43)

1836: S P Beales died and  the business was continued by his sons Charles and Patrick. C & P Beales supplied 9 barrels of beer to the Coronation Feast in 1836.

1842: partnership dissolved and Patrick continued in sole charge.

1850: Patrick Beales was in debt and had to sell the property from Newnham Grange up  to Newnham Mill in 15 plots.


1851: Newnham

Patrick Beales, merchant

Katharine Beales, 35, wife, b Foxton








Susan Barber, 30, servant, b Cambridge

Susan Petchey,  22, servant, b Fulbourn

Sarah Sube, 25, servant, b Cambridge

Ann Toats, 43, servant, b Cambridge


1861: no. 3 Newnham

Patrick Beales

Patrick Beales, widower, 64, merchant maltster corn coal, b Cambridge

Patrick, 26, merchant, b Cambridge

Mary, 24, b Cambridge

Edward, 20, ironmonger, b Cambridge

Katherine, 19, b Cambridge

Margret, 13, b Cambridge

Emily, 10, b Cambridge

Cecilia, 8, b Cambridge

Ellen Rowlinson, 31, b Suffolk

Margaret Moore, 27, b Bourn

Emma Osborne, 15, b Cambridge


1871: no. 3 Newnham

Patrick Beales, corn and coal merchant

Mary E



Frederick, 27, merchant, b Cambridge

Emily Drine, cook, 23, b Cambridge

Susan Riches, housemaid, 25, b Ely


1881: Patrick Beales died in 1873 and by 1881 none of the family are recorded as living at this address. He was mayor of Cambridge 1856-7. He then went bankrupt at some point and was bailed out by his brother-in -law Swann Hurrell (mayor 1857-8) who took over the business.


1885: the house was bought by George Darwin. It had previously been owned by the Beales, corn and coal merchants. The house at this time had no name so George Darwin named it Newnham Grange. (Period Piece p.32)


Matilda Renfry, caretaker, widow, 49, medical rubber[?], b London

(At the time of the census the Darwin family were visiting Down House, former home of Charles Darwin, father of George)



Emma R Gage, 28, housemaid, b Suffolk

Selina Pearson, 20, kitchenmaid, b Northants

(At the time of the census the Darwin family were staying at Nelindre, Apsley Heath, Bedfordshire) With the family in Bedfordshire was Helen Jean Campbell (b 1860 Berks) the family nanny (Period Piece p.62)

The Miss Mary E Green whose drawing classes are described in Period Piece p.63 is almost certainly the Mary Green schoolteacher of 11 Parkside where she seems to have run a small boarding school. It seems likely that the Darwin family governesses, who did not live at the house, came from the same school.



George Howard Darwin, 65, professor of Astronomy University of Cambridge, b Kent

By Cecilia Beaux – The Athenaeum [1], Public Domain

Maud, 49, b USA

Gwendolen Mary, 25, b Cambridge

Margaret Elizabeth, 21, b Cambridge (married Geoffrey Keynes)

Jacques Pierre Raverat, 26, visitor, art student, b France

Louisa Philips, servant, 38, cook, b Warwicks [Mrs Philips is described in period Piece p.50. She worked for the family for nearly 30 years]

Emma Banham, servant, 32, parlourmaid, b Wisbech

Alice Collman, servant, 29, housemaid, b Durham

Mary Ann Laws, servant, 16, underhouse maid, b Norfolk

Ethel Phillips, servant, 16, kitchen maid, b Warwicks



Maud Darwin, widow

Elsie Hitchings, b 1902, cook


Nesta Parker, b 1906, parlourmaid


Gwendolen Darwin, later Gwen Raverat, recalls in her account of life in Cambridge, Period Piece (pub. 1952), how from a window at the front of Newnham Grange she could see where ‘there were railings along the road leading to the bridge, lovely Georgian railings, now improved away; and often people were glad to dodge behind them to escape from the terrified and terrifying herds of cattle, which were driven with bangs and shouts, through the streets to the Monday cattle market.’ (p.44)

From the bay window at the back of the Grange, Gwen could enjoy the more peaceful scene of a milking herd: she ‘ could look up the river, under the arching trees, and see far off the cows crossing the ford below the Newnham Millpool, as they went to and from their sheds to be milked, four times a day; a very pretty sight.’ (p.36)

Gwen also recalls the milk cart – ‘the yellow milk carts, like Roman chariots, with their big brass-bound churns of milk and their little dippers hooked on the side.’ (p.45)



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