Photographing easily-missed Cambridge buildings


Photographing our city – and discovering parts of the city that I had not stopped to look up at before


It never occurred to me that above this grand entrance to what is now Jamie Oliver’s Cambridge branch of his restaurant chain was a coat of arms and the sign of the free library.


This entire complex as far as I’m aware used to be where the old central library used to be. The building poking out just behind is the large hall now part of the Guildhall complex – though it used to be separate to it once. To the left is the ‘Peas Hill’ building – which again used to be separate to the Guildhall but got incorporated into it.

Before the library was built, the old buildings were destroyed by fire


Via and again you can see the magnificent large hall behind.


Before that, Cambridge Market Square looked like above – from Fonz Chamberlain’s excellent collection

Then the ‘Peas Hill’ building got built – see below. Note that building looks like…a quarter of the new Guildhall. Then the old Guildhall (which I think dated from the mid 1700s but was clearly far too small – though note the presence of the ‘large hall’) got demolished to make way…

Market 1937FonzChamberlain

…for what we have today, which is below. You can just pick out the slightly different tone to the brickwork in this photograph below that reveals the different ages of the building.


I still think it’s a shame we didn’t get the other designs that were put forward. For example:


From 1860 above – via


From 1890


Above design from 1898 via

During my wanderings, I headed down Hobson Street and found the old county council building – again easily missed due to the traffic that flows down that road.

160406 CambridgeshireOldCountyHall.jpg

Isn’t our old county hall lovely at the front? The thing is, that building was found to be far too small within about 20 years of it being completed. Hence the construction of Shire Hall at Castle Hill.

I’m putting the photographs here that I’m taking for the purposes of some new neighbourhood planning documents that residents associations will be using to help influence the design of new homes and buildings going up in Cambridge.


2 thoughts on “Photographing easily-missed Cambridge buildings

  1. The Large Hall was “part of the Guildhall complex” from when it was built. It’s just that the main Guildhall to which it was connected was replaced, in 2 phases. I’ve never seen how long was the gap between opening of the Peas Hill frontage side to completion of the rest in 1939. Do you have a date for the photo showing only part of the present building completed? The upstairs foreground of the old Wheeler Street building most of which was the library until 1975 was offices and not part of the library. If you look at the photo of the main entrance you will see from the gap above that the upper part was in two parts. Only that to the right was part of the library.

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