Lamenting the loss of old buildings by the Late Victorians in Cambridge. 1894.

Above – a sketch by Redfearn of the back of Petty Cury south side.

It’s not just the post-war generations that spoke out against the demolition of old buildings. From the Cambridge Independent of 06 April 1894 digitised in the British Newspaper Archive

“In our last issue, it will be remembered, we mentioned the fact that the old houses in Petty Cury, which have for long composed one of the sights of the town, were being destroyed. Standing there and viewing the old place, the thought struck the representative of the Cambridge Independent Press that that now almost unique specimen of the old timber buildings of centuries back—with its curious balconies, supported by projecting floor beams which form the basis of the first storey, which are approached by a common staircase, and from which the various occupants of the building gain entrance to their apartments through quaint carved doors—could not be without a history, and the result of interviewing “authorities” and looking up “annals” on the subject more than justified his belief, and he found that the place had history which would fill volume.

Above – Petty Cury South Side – from the Cambridgeshire Collection. Taken around 1870, republished in the early 1930s. You can make out the entrance to the Lion Hotel at the end of the street on the left. The black sign above the door is a lion sat down.

“However, we have not a volume to fill, and a few facts must suffice. Mr. W. D. Redfern, in his Old Cambridge,” actuated by the lament to which he gives expression on the first page of his book, that these interesting old legacies from our grandsires are passing away never to return,” gives his readers a fine view of the old yard of the Fawkon, or Fawcon Inn. part of which is now being destroyed. [i.e. The Falcon]

“It seems that the old inn dates from the 15th century, for as early 1504 we find in the will of Richard Kinge, of Wysbyche, the bequest of his house in Petycury, called the Fawcon, Cambridge, to the Prior and Convent of Barnwell, with the stipulation that “a yerely obyte be kept at Barnwell for my woule and for my frendys soullys”

“It also seems to have caused some trouble to the Mayor and Burgesses of the town, for in 1516, and again in 1528, there is mention of disputes between those worthies and the Prior and Convent of Barnwell respecting the property. Thus we can fancy in those early days of prosperity the noble guests of the inn gathered on the picturesque balconies to listen to some wandering troubadour, or minstrel the only “newspaper,” they had at that time), whilst he sang of battles and the deeds of prowess performed in the Wars of the Roses; or again at a later date, as Mr. Redfern puts it, to witness one of those queer ancient plays we read of in the time of Queen Mary.

The old Falcon Yard, via Mike Petty MBE

“It seems that the Falcon Inn was a tremendous place, and comprised what some few years back were known the Red Lion, the Red Hart, which has been pulled down, and the Falcon, part of which still remains; and was a very noted and fashionable place. In fact, it is said that Queen Elizabeth was entertained there in royal style, and weight is given to this by the splendour of the carving and other parts of the structure which exist to this day.

“Of course with the advent of the modern commercial spirit and enterprise great modifications were wrought in the venerable old structure, and it seems of late years the building it was was too large for one individual to carry on, and therefore it became split up into the three inns we have named. It will be remembered that what is now Alexandra-street used to be the Red Hart yard, and the house of that name stood on each side of it. The old house was pulled down, the yard was turned into Alexandra-street, and the Red Hart gave place to the handsome buildings which now front the Cury, known as Alexandra Buildings, which, when first erected, were utilized by Mr. Ballard as a drapery emporium.

Above – Alexandra House, from Capturing Cambridge

“Thus the old order changeth, and the Falcon has fallen away bit by bit before the hand of the moderniser. The yard now all that is left of the original, and even here the hand the man of business has from time to time made itself felt. The building which Messrs. Foisterand and Jagg have so lately vacated was used many years ago as woollen warehouse by Mr. Basham, and from that has passed through various phases until, in preparation for the printers, the balcony was enclosed, old staircases done away with, and the large windows, which caused such a noticeable contrast to the rest of the pile, were put in.

“The interest awakened by those eight windows was quite justified, for inquiry elicited that they had for years served to throw light upon worshippers at divine service, in a chapel at Barnwell, which some years ago was pulled down. The amount of valuable carving which has at different times been removed from the old place is surprising, and it is said that some years ago Dr. Robinson, of St. Catharine’s College, entered into negotiations to secure some of it for the decoration of their Hall, and Mr. Reynolds Rowe, the architect, pronounced some of it being of the most exquisite workmanship.

“The other side of the yard is at present inhabited by a number of poor persons, and to see some of them peering over the balcony as the work of destruction goes on opposite, with unwashed faces and wretched appearance, to realise the fact that the noble building has indeed reached the last stage previous to being pulled down. The property is now in the hands of Mr. Pryor, of the Cury, and we understand that it is his intention to erect business premises on the spot, which in point of magnificence and structure shall be no disgrace to the old associations incident to the place.”

/Ends

Above – the Wrestlers Inn, by Redfearn


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