Parker's Piece

Parker’s Piece: The City’s Playground

SHORT SUMMARY

Parker's Piece is one of Cambridge's most famous open spaces. Originally part of Trinity College, it was acquired by the town of Cambridge in 1613 as pasture land and named after a college cook, Edward Parker. In the 19th century, it was used as a first-class cricket-pitch and a sports ground for Varsity matches between the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. In 1838, a feast for over 15,000 people was held in honour of Queen Victoria's coronation. There were bands, choirs, sports and games, fireworks, and even a hot air balloon. In 1911, local history was made when former Cambridge undergraduate and aviator W.B.R. Moorhouse made an emergency landing in Parker's Piece. Today, this green space is a place football, cricket, fairs, and picnics.

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STORY CONTENT

 On 16thDecember 1587 Edward Parker, a college cook, leased the area of pasture south of Trinity College which has come to be known as Parker’s Piece. Parker leased the area, measuring 25 acres, until 1613 when it was passed onto the Mayor, Bailiffs and Burgesses of Cambridge as part of an exchange with Trinity College. Then in 1831 an initiative from members of the university requested the council’s permission to level 60 square yards to make a cricket pitch. This was granted by the council, but on the condition that it had to be for the use of the public as well as the university. Parker’s Piece has since become one of Cambridge’s most fondly used areas of public land, nurturing great sporting talent, accommodating public celebrations and long-held traditions.

As a schoolboy in the late nineteenth century, the famous cricketer Jack Hobbs would wake at 6am and walk half a mile from his home to Parker’s Piece to practice. His mother remembers him hurriedly finishing his homework in the evenings so that he could return to the Piece to play some more, always returning after dark. Hobbs himself writes in his memoirs that Parker’s Piece is “probably the finest and most famous cricket ground in the world; it is certainly one of the best.” Cricket was, at that time, particularly popular, with famous players such as Ranjit Sinhji practicing there and between thirty and forty clubs with nets on Parker’s Piece. In 1930 a pavilion was built and named after the early master of English cricket who’d began his career there: Jack Hobbs. The pavilion also provided a service for other sports that took place on Parker’s Piece. It meant that teams playing football on the Piece no longer had to get changed in tents. It was also here that the modern rules for association football were established. Prior to the drawing up of these regulations the teams would play on the Piece and each game would be played with varying sets of rules. The teams in the area met in 1848 to establish one uniform set. These rules were fixed to the trees on Parker's Piece and, later, when the Football Association was founded 1863, they used these as their basis.

Parker’s Piece has also been widely used by communities in Cambridge, providing a location for all sorts of celebrations and remarkable events.

In July, 1893, during the festivities at Cambridge to the occasion of the wedding of Prince George and Princess Mary, a thousand of Cambridge’s “aged poor” were entertained to tea on the park. The event also included the flight of a hot air balloon. Then in 1911 the community had the opportunity to view another aerial display as W.B. R. Moorhouse emergency landed his Blériot monoplane on the Piece. TheCambridge Daily Newsdescribed the event as follows:

“It was travelling at a rapid pace, but very low…The machine came over the top of Lensfield Road close to the house-tops, and well below the top of the spire of the Roman Catholic Church. It was feared that the airman would not be able to clear the house-tops in Regent Street, but he just did it, and passing over that thoroughfare near Hyde Park Corner, effected a beautiful descent upon Parker’s Piece…not far from the large electric lamp standard in the centre…A large crowd gathered as if by magic, and the monoplane was quickly surrounded.”

He was the first man to land an aeroplane in Cambridge, and would later used it to travel between the city and his home in Huntingdon. He was also yet to gain his aviators certificate at the time of his first landing.

Until the 1940s, many families would spend Good Friday on Parker’s Piece, partaking in a tradition of skipping. From 10am families would travel to the Piece prepared with long ropes (often washing lines), food and drink. There would be traders set up alongside the park selling sweets, ice-creams, toys, and lemonade, and he skipping would go on until early in the evening. The men traditionally turned the ropes with the women jumping, although children often skipped with adults too. One resident, a Mrs Hannah Gawthrop, aged 82, recalled in 1964 the song that the baker boys from across town at Castle End would sing as they sold their wares on Good Friday morning:

‘Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns,

Full of sugar, full of butter,

Full of little plums.’

 

 

 

POTENTIAL MATERIAL: FOR POETS AND COMPOSERS

 1. CN. April 14/04/1963

“Parker’s Piece Was Once Filled With Many Skippers

 

‘Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns,

Full of sugar, full of butter,

Full of little plums.’

 

This was the cry which would arouse Cambridge citizens in the past early on Good Friday morning as the bakers’ boys went from door to door ringing hand bells and selling their spicy wares from the baize-covered trays balanced on their heads.

Later in the morning, the first instalment of buns having been eaten at breakfast, the move to Parker’s Piece would be made.

From houses all over the town emerged men, women and children laden with packages of food and bottles of water or lemonade and carrying the family clothes line, ail eager to begin the annual skipping ceremony.

2. Probably the Finest Cricket Ground in the World

 

Jack Hobbs described Parker's Piece as "probably the finest and most famous cricket ground in the world" and certainly such household -names as Dan Hayward, Hobbs and Ranjitsinghi played cricket there.

 

4. Cabridge Rules

The off-side rule adopted by the Cambridge rules stated that:

"If the ball has passed a player and has come from the direction of his own goal, he may not touch it till the other side have kicked it, unless there are more than three of the other side before him. No player is allowed to loiter between the ball and the adversaries' goal." (1856, probably earlier)
from Carosi, Julian (2006), The History of Offside.

'The Cambridge Rules appear to be the most desirable for the Association to adopt'
C. W. Alcock 1863, FA committee member and founder of the FA Cup.

'They embrace the true principles of the game, with the greatest simplicity'
E. C. Morley, F.A. Hon. Sec. 1863.

Cambridge Rules circa 1856
No copy of the 1848 rules survives but the following set of University Rules, circa 1856, still exists in the Library of Shrewsbury School.

The Laws of the University Foot Ball Club
This club shall be called the University Foot Ball Club.
At the commencement of the play, the ball shall be kicked off from the middle of the ground: after every goal there shall be a kick-off in the same way.
After a goal, the losing side shall kick off; the sides changing goals, unless a previous arrangement be made to the contrary.
The ball is out when it has passed the line of the flag-posts on either side of the ground, in which case it shall be thrown in straight.
The ball is behind when it has passed the goal on either side of it.
When the ball is behind it shall be brought forward at the place where it left the ground, not more than ten paces, and kicked off.
Goal is when the ball is kicked through the flag-posts and under the string.
When a player catches the ball directly from the foot, he may kick it as he can without running with it. In no other case may the ball be touched with the hands, except to stop it.
If the ball has passed a player, and has come from the direction of his own goal, he may not touch it till the other side have kicked it, unless there are more than three of the other side before him. No player is allowed to loiter between the ball and the adversaries' goal.
In no case is holding a player, pushing with the hands, or tripping up allowed. Any player may prevent another from getting to the ball by any means consistent with the above rules.
Every match shall be decided by a majority of goals.
(Signed)
H. Snow, J. C. Harkness; Eton.
J. Hales, E. Smith; Rugby.
G. Perry, F. G. Sykes; University.
W. H. Stone, W. J. Hope-Edwardes; Harrow.
E. L. Horner, H. M. Luckock; Shrewsbury.

5. CC.39 Enid Porter,Cambridgeshire Customs and Folklore

 

FOOTBALL

‘both cricket and football were played on Parker’s Piece [Befor Hobbs’ Pavillion was erected on the Piece in 1928, tents were erected for use as changing rooms by players], part of which had been levelled by some of the Colleges and relaid as cricket pitches.

The playing of football was rendered difficult in the early nineteenth century by the fact that members of the various public schools were accustomed to different rules. Finally one set of rules was drawn up in Cambridge for the convenience of players.

In the sixteenth century the game had been forbidden to be played outside the colleges following a fight in in 1579 between undergraduates and inhabitants of Chesterton at a football match played in the village.’p.294.

 

SKIPPING

About ten o’clock in the morning families would make their way to Parker’s Piece [Good Friday] armed with long ropes (usually clothes lines) and packets of food and drink. Until early in the evening the skipping went on, the men traditionally turning the ropes and the women jumping…children often skipped with adults. Tradesmen selling sweets , icecreams, toys, lemonade, etc., set up stalls alongside Parkside. ..

…Mrs Hannah Gawthrop, aged 82, recalled in 1964 the chant of the bun-sellers in the Castle End district of Cambridge’ pp108-9.

-        TWO PHOTOS AVAILABLE

-        V.F. K33, amust-use photoof four people skipping – great community photo.

 

 

5. K11.0101 Moorhouse, W.B.R Cambs Branch Newsletter [national assoc of retired police officers] July 2008

He flew into Cambridge on the afternoon of 11thOctober 1911.

“By about 5:30pm PC Naylor had reached Sheep’s Green, when he heard a droning sound in the air, which increased in volume… Looking up he saw a small Bleriot type flying towards the town from the direction of Trumpington…

It was described in theCambridge Daily Newsas follows.

‘It was travelling at a rapid pace, but very low, and the Constable fancied from the misfiring, and feared that disaster might overtake the intrepid aviator. The machine came over the top of Lensfield Road close to the house-tops, and well below the top of the spire of the Roman Catholic Church. It was feared that the airman would not be able to clear the house-tops in Regent Street, but he just did it, and passing over that thoroughfare near Hyde Park Corner, effected a beautiful descent upon Parker’s Piece…not far from the large electric lamp standard in the centre…A large crowd gathered as if by magic, and the monoplane was quickly surrounded.

A young man, with keen, clear-cut features, wearing one of the now familiar airman’s helmets, with ear-flaps, and a short, khaki-coloured, woolly overcoat, cycling knickers and shoes, stepped out of the well of the machine…

…In order to avoid being hampered by a crowd, Mr Moorhouse made an early start from Cambridge the next morning, leaving the Piece about ten minutes past six…

… ‘I want 200 yards starting room, and 200 feet of air-space under me when I reach the trees and houses and therefore I don’t want the time to be known as a crowd would collect and hamper me, and I might not have enough room under me when I reach the houses, and a sudden gust might mean disaster.’…

…the pilot..had yet to gain his aviators certificate

 

6. Pictures in Cambridgeshire Collection

 

Cricket

  1. 1.     J.P. KO. 13895A, Cricket & spectators on Parker’s Piece
  2. 2.     J.P. J42 227 Students Playing Cricket, 1842, postcard
  3. 3.     S.1814 25, A Dinenr Given…Peace celebrations July 12th1814, 6000 in attendance
  4. 4.     C 66.1. x1905150 Views of Cambridge, great photo of people watching cricket on Parker’s Piece p.43.
  5. 5.     S1893 3169 74/22/24A Picture of Crowds on Parker’s Piece July, 1893 with accompanying text:

“A picture taken in July, 1893, during the festivities at Cambridge, on the occasion of the wedding of our present King and Queen. The scene is Parker’s Piece, where a thousand of the aged poor of Cambridge and Chesterton were entertained to tea, and the photograph was taken shortly after a balloon ascent, an event of very great interest in these days. The aeronaut was Mr Pillrow, assistant to Messrs. Spencer and Sons, who accompanied by the late Ald. Deck, then in his 68thyear. Amid enthusiastic cheers, we read in theChroniclefiles, the balloon, the City of London, was let go. The aerial monster rose steadily and hovered round the piece for some time. Eventually it reached an altitude of about 3,000 feet…Ballast reached 8,000 feet…remaining in the air for an hour and fifteen minutes, the aeronauts arrived back in Cambridge at 9pm….

…after the marriage in the Chapel Royal at ST. James Palace, the Royal couple…en route stopped at Cambridge to receive and address from the Mayor and Corporation.

Moorhouse Aviation

  1. 1.     CC44.17Victorian and Edwardian Cambridgeshire from old photographs, F.A. Reeve

“Second-Lieutenant W.B. Rhodes Moorhouse landing his Bleriot monoplane on Jesus Green, 1911. He was the first man to land an aeroplane in Cambridge, and later used it to travel between the town and his home in Huntingdon. During the First World War he was awarded the Victoria Cross as an officer of the Royal Flying Corps, and later died of wounds received in action”

PRINT VERSION: 86/16 15  8706

  1. 2.     Q.C. K11. 42717 Photograph of the plane on the ground.

 

7. C. 52 My Cricket Memories, jack Hobbs

 

As a schoolboy: late 19thcentury

“To give you an idea of my keenness, let me tell you that I used to rise at six and walk half an hour to Parker’s Piece to get a bit of practice. [would play 5pm til 9pm]

Parker’s piece is probably the finest and most famous cricket ground in the world; it is certainly one of the best. It cost a team a shilling a match to play on a prepared pitch…between thirty and forty clubs had their nets there…

…It was on Parker’s Piece that I caught my first glimpse of Ranjit Sinhji – Ranji, the idol of the cricketing public for so long.” P.5.


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LOCAL PLACE:

 Parker’s Piece, Parkside, Cambridge, CB2 1AA

Parker's Piece

 

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