Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Coronation Dinner

Queen Victoria’s Coronation Dinner – Parkers Piece 1838

With the Queen’s diamond jubilee almost upon us, I am tempted to compare the famous Coronation Dinner that took place on Parker’s Piece on Thursday 28th June 1838.

Early that year the great and good of Cambridge formed a committee to discuss how the town would celebrate the Coronation of Queen Victoria. Despite the fears of Rev Mr. Hose that ‘moral evil would attend the plan of having so many on Parkers Piece’, it was soon agreed “that the dinner, to be given to the poor, to celebrate the Coronation of her Majesty, be conducted on Parker’s Piece”. Each Parish in the town was tasked with selecting suitable adults and Sunday school children to invite and providing Stewards, Carvers, and Waiters to attend the dinners.

The day began with a service at Great St Mary’s. Then between 12 and 1pm Sunday Schools from all the local parishes, waving their parish flags, started their processions to the Piece. 2,700 Sunday School children, attended by 300 Sunday School teachers, marched from all over the town to Parker’s Piece where they were joined by the 12,000 local people who had been invited to attend the dinner.

Who exactly attended the dinner we are unsure but, given that others paid to watch the dinner and that the workhouse poor were excluded (although the children were allocated a shilling per head to have meat on Coronation day) we can assume that it was the respectable and deserving classes that were invited.

Class was no embarrassment to the Victorians. With the lower classes accommodated at over 70 tables on The Piece, the upper classes that had ‘subscribed’ to the fundraising were invited to purchase tickets to watch the event. The event cost £1,767 14 shillings 10 pence.

So where did the ‘better’ classes sit to watch the diners?

The Independent News reported that ‘A spacious and lofty wooden orchestra was raised in the centre of The Piece, capable of holding 100 musicians. An extensive framework, with seats on all sides, encompassed the orchestra from whence the more respectable inhabitants could have a commanding view of the dinner. Surrounding this was a green area, forming a Promenade for the accommodation of the humbler classes.’

Dinner was served to 15,000 at 2pm, and included:

1608 plum puddings

1029 joints of meat

72lbs of mustard

140lbs salt

125 gallons of pickles

4500 loaves of bread

99 barrels of best ale

100lb tobacco

6lbs snuff


It is a relief to hear that the behaviour of the poor was exemplary.

After the dinner, at 5pm, people progressed to Midsummer Common for ‘Rustic Games.’

I am not sure how much be can believed from the account of the games but it is documented that these included:

‘The Newmarket Baulk or How to Rise in Life – well soaped scaffold poles, stuck up indifferently out of the perpendicular, will be climbed for, by youthful and unsophisticated Cantabs, for Breeches, Legs of Mutton etc.

Jumping in Sacks – A distance of 50 yards, by six men. Each man to jump in a 4-bushel sack (to be provided by himself for the occasion). The winner to received a new pair of boots, second best a hat, the third a pair of shoes.

Bobbin for Oranges in Wash-Troughs – By twelve youngsters with hands tied behind them, to be approved of by the committee at the time. No one need apply whose mouth is more than 12 inches wide – or who can drink a bucket of water at one draught.

Races – Twelve men (not less than 14 stone weight) to run 100 yards. All complexions eligible (no bandy legs). First a new pair of boots, second a pair of cord trousers.’

At 7pm a Helium Balloon ascended from Butt Green, much to the amazement of all – the wind taking it to Fulbourn from whence it was somehow got back, by air, to Cambridge.

At 10pm fireworks were let off on ground adjoining the Town-Gaol (where the current Queen Anne car park stands today).

The display consisted mainly of rockets ‘displaying gold and silver rain, coloured fires and golden snakes, terminated by a rich and splendid design in the pyrotechnic art representing the imperial crown surrounded by an appropriate inscription ‘ Long Live the Queen’.

A grand and memorable day for all. How will Cambridge do on 5 June 2012?













Clone Town – for those who haven’t read it!!!!

Cambridge the ‘worst clone town’ in Britain

Cambridge, the ancient university town, has been named the worst “clone town” in Britain by a think tank.

Cambride City Centre

…Cambridge… Photo: Alamy
Harry Wallop

By , Consumer Affairs Editor

7:00AM BST 15 Sep 2010omments

Despite its sumptuous colleges and impressive architecture, the town has the least diverse high street in the country, according to the New Economics Foundation.

The think tank examined 117 town centres across Britain, surveying the shops on their main high streets. The NEF then calculated the number of independent shops and the variety of shops into a simple formula.

On Petty Cury, one of Cambridge’s main shopping streets which runs from the medieval Market Square to Christ’s College, there are 57 shops. All but one, according to the report, are chain shops, with just a single independent. And there are just nine different types of shop, with half of all the shops selling clothes.

Paul Squires, the co-author of the report, said: “Cambridge’s distinctive character still remains, but its high street is now no different from that in Exeter, Reading or Oxford.

“Cambridge’s IT success has brought in money and people to to the area, and these are the two things that attract the chain coffee shops, who need high footfall.”

He added that the lack of choice for Cambridge shoppers was partly brought about by the recession. Most of the shops are owned by the colleges, who have either increased rents or sold off property, to raise money – pushing out, for instance, an independent tobbaconist that had been there for 30 years.

Whitstable, the fishing port on the Kentish coast, was named as the town with the most diverse high street.

The report said that local, independent shops were crucial for local economies. “Although apparently economically healthy, clone towns have very little local retail left. This means that less money is likely to be circulating in the local economy, the social glue that holds the economy together will be weak, and the town is likely to have little left of the enterprise and infrastructure that supports economic resilience,” it said.

NEF added that the diversity of Britain’s high streets had not materially deteriorated since 2005 when it last conducted its survey. However, that was partly because many of the big names, including Borders, Woolworths and Zavvi had collapsed into administration.

The Nine Hills of Cambridge

The Nine Hills of Cambridge


Someone recently reminded me that there are 9 street names ending with hill in Cambridge.  Strange for a notoriously flat town.


So where are these hills?


Castle Hill

The hill is the site of the original Cambridge settlement, north of the River Cam. The Romans created a town called Durolipons here. It was a convenient place to cross the river. At the time it was at the head of the navigable part of the river, then known as the River Granta. As any local cyclist will know this is a ‘hill’.


Honey Hill

Possibly a joke about a muddy area.   Locals also mention the name as alluding to the Honey wagon – a euphorism for the vehicle that used to collect the night soil

It is located southwest of Castle Hill on the other side of Castle Street. To the south is Northampton Street.

Gogmagog Hills

Gog Magog Hills are a range of low chalk hills, extending for several miles to the southeast of Cambridge in England. A real hill – especially when trying to cycle up it!

Lime Kiln Hill

Another real hill. Running along a chalk outcrop near Cherry Hinton where there used to be a Limekiln.

A hoard of Roman coins were found around Lime Kiln Hill.

Market Hill

It is thought that this might have been called Cooks Row prior to being named Market Hill. Market Hill (aka the Market Square) is the location of the marketplace in central Cambridge.  Operating as a marketplace since Saxon times, a daily outdoor market with stalls continues to run there.

Peas Hill

This was the home of the fish market ‘peas’ may have come from the Latin pisces, a fish. Records state that this hill was once at the top of a hill that led from the River Cam.  Prior to the arrival of Kings College, and other Colleges along the famous Backs, the area along the river front was teaming with wharves and warehouses and bustling locals using the river for trading purposes.

Pound Hill

Was near the former Pound Green where stray animals were rounded up by the ‘pindar’.  Part of the old outer ring of the Roman settlement.


Senate House Hill

This is where the Senate House, designed by James Gibbs in 1722, stands.

King’s Parade, with Trinity Street, was the High Street in the C16 when it was lined with shops and tenements, even after King’s College Chapel was built. In 1828, King’s

College screen was erected, sweeping away the humble buildings, and creating a

dividing line between the colleges on the west and the town on the east.

St Andrew’s Hill

Hard to find evidence of this Hill! It runs along the side of St Andrew the Great 1842-3 built on the site of a medieval church.