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Annesley House, Union Road

Annesley House & Gymnasium, (36) Union Road

History of Annesley House

This is the location of both the old house, and the Swedish Gymnasium run by Signe Laven.

Gymnasium at Annesley House, Union Road

In 2018 it was an annex of the Stephen Perse Foundation (formerly Perse School for Girls) designed to house office accommodation. The old gymnasium was still being used as such.


Alfred Newell, 48, university servant, b Cambridge

Harriett, 48, b Fenstanton

Edith, 24, b Cambridge

Mabel, 21, b Cambridge


Harry Felton Charles, 40, musician retired, b Kent

Mildred Mary, 42, lodging house keeper, b Reigate

William Dhar, 21, lodger, law student, b Burma

The gymnasium here was built in 1911 to replace the old chapel near Addenbrookes. It was formally opened by Sir Lauder Brunton, Sir Howard Marsh (Master of Downing College) and Sir Clifford Albutt (Regius Professor of Physic). Signe Laven and Mary Willis were owners of the practice but in 1912 Mary Willis married Herbert Carsch, a Harley Street surgeon, and Signe became sole owner.

Gymnastic classes were held for various school such as the Perse School for Girls and St Mary’s Convent. At one time she employed three gymnastics teachers. It became apparent that there was a great need for a massage corps and Signe was given the use of the Anatomy Schools for her lectures. She also used her gymnasium for demonstrations. She realized that early intervention was important but her status as an alien (Swedish subject) prevented access to Military hospitals.


Miss Willis, Miss Laven: Swedish Gymnasium, Annesley House


Signe was asked by Beatrix Wherry, Commandant of a Cambridge Red Cross Detachment, to give massage to wounded Belgian soldiers. This was in a ‘rambling set of terraced houses’ vacated by a training college [probably Wordsworth Grove]. Signe would give this treatment at the end of her working day.


Felix Eugen Fritsch

Felix Eugen Fritsch, b 1879, university professor

Hedwig, b 1880



Signe Laven gymnasium, Union Road 2023

Signe Laven gymnasium, Union Road 2023

Signe Laven gymnasium, Union Road 2023

Signe Laven gymnasium, Union Road 2023

Signe Laven gymnasium, Union Road 2023


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