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History of Mortimer Road
The Caius College Building Estate in Barnwell – Jeremy Lander:
It was not until the 1870s that Caius decided to build on their Barnwell Estate on a significant scale, and even then it was still unsure of its market and of its role as a developer.
In 1873 Caius negotiated with Edwin Bays, a local architect with offices in Sidney Street, to build a row of eight semi-detached houses overlooking Donkey’s Common. Unfortunately the original building agreements have been lost and it is difficult to ascertain whether the college acted as a developer, with Bays commissioned to execute the design of the houses. or as ground landlord only, with Bays holding the leases. But it seems that the college originally intended to act as developer and charge a rack rent of £30 p.a. on each house and then decided instead to lease the plots to Bays for 40 years at a ground rent of 10 guineas p.a. on each plot, leaving Bays responsible for the building.
The houses on Mortimer Road, as it was known, were built very slowly however and were not completed until about 1880. They are of substantial size, similar to the later developments on Harvey Road and St Paul’s Road, but, unlike those houses, were not at first taken by members of the university but by inhabitants that included two clergymen, a journalist and a newsagent. There is some suggestion that the houses on Mortimer Road’ jumped the gun’ on a demand that was about to emerge following reforms in the University, a demand that was to be taken full advantage of by Caius with the building of the Harvey Road and St Paul’s Road property.