The Margery Allingham Society

Cambridge walk

Saturday 23 September 2006

Mill Pond, Cambridge

Bus Ride
Bus ride
On the Saturday afternoon of the Margery Allingham Society Cambridge Weekend, Richard Cheffins led a conducted walk around Cambridge celebrating Margery's stay in the city towards the end of her schooling when she attended the Perse School for Girls and the events in her novel, Police at the Funeral. Two problems had been anticipated. The first was out of our control - the weather. Several of us remembered the walk on our previous visit conducted by Roger Johnson; it had not been ruined by the rain but a lot of the fun had been taken out of the event and the omens were not good this time. The weather the day before when we arrived varied between a steady drizzle and a downpour. But Saturday dawned fine and, in fact, the rest of the weekend was brilliantly sunny. The other potential problem was that the Arundel House Hotel, otherwise an admirable venue for our Weekend, was on the northern fringes of the city centre whereas all the Allingham sites were in the southern half of the city. A one-way walk was quite feasible but 'there and back' was a bit too far. This was solved by the whole party taking a bus to the Station and starting from there.

Sarum House
Sarum House
Coming back along Station Road we turned into Salisbury Villas, a group of six large villas set back from the road. The last of these (farthest from the Station), No. 6, otherwise Sarum House, was Margery's House for the four terms that she was at the Perse. We turned right into Hills Road to the end where, at a junction known locally as Hyde Park Corner, stands the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps the largest church in Cambridge and remarkably large for the Catholic community which, even now, is a bit thin on the ground in this part of the world. Its significance is twofold, it was where Uncle William came out of his amnesia with an empty beer-glass in his hand, and its bells were heard chiming the hour (it has an unusual chime) when Campion was waiting up late at night at Socrates Close.
Regent Street Office Building
Offices in Regent St.

Across the road in one direction is Gonville Place leading to Parker's Piece. On the far side of this green was said to be Cheshire Street where Ann Held had her digs and Campion interviewed the egregious Mr Cheetoo. Across the road in another direction is Regent Street and a few yards down here we found suitable offices for Featherstone & Featherstone, Solicitors. Further down is The University Arms, nowadays a bland modern hotel but formerly a more traditional hostelry which could have been the original for The Three Keys where Oates stayed while on the case in Cambridge.

At Bateman Street
At Bateman Street
Retracing our steps and turning down Lensfield Road by the Catholic Church and then left down Panton Street, we came to The Perse School for Girls on the corner of Union Road which Margery attended in 1919-20. [See biography] On the next corner is the Panton Arms,
Panton Arms
The Panton Arms
the most likely candidate for the pub where Uncle William spent a crucial 25 minutes on the Sunday that cousin Andrew disappeared. At the end of Panton Street is Bateman Street; turning right here brought us to the convent on the corner of Trumpington Road. This is the best candidate for Socrates Close. It is far from a perfect identification but the only other realistic candidate, the Perse Junior School, is nearly a mile further down the Trumpington Road, nearer Trumpington than Cambridge. It is hard to imagine that Andrew could have persuaded William to walk so far and equally hard to believe that the sounds of the bells of the Catholic Church would carry.

Crusoe Bridge
Crusoe Bridge
Turning right into Trumpington Road and crossing it we came to the Leys School where William's attack of amnesia started on the corner of what is now the Fen Causeway. When Margery was at School, this was Coe Fen Lane and stopped short of the river with the Fen Causeway starting on the far side. By the time Police at the funeral was published, the river had been bridged and Coe Fen renamed but the geography of Cambridge in the novel remained that of Margery's schooldays. Turning off Fen Causeway (Coe Fen Lane) onto the footpath across Coe Fen, Crusoe Bridge is passed on the left. Here Andrew failed to persuade William to accompany him on a further detour home and subsequently it was by this bridge that Andrew's body was found.

Coe Fen is presumably dialect for Cow Fen and there is certainly evidence that the meadows are still grazed by cattle. The footpath leads to Granta Place and on to Silver Street where there was break for tea or refreshments. The Mill Pit (pond) here would have been the limit of the police search for the gun that had killed Andrew, though my tentative identification of it with Byron's Pool, I now realise is false - there is, I understand, a real Byron's Pool near Granchester. Resuming the walk we turned right into Queen's Road at the end of Silver Street. At the next turning on the other side of the road is West Road and on this corner is Harvey's Court, a good location for Soul's Court in the novel, the home of the Featherstones.
St. Mary's Church
St. Mary's Church
Crossing back along Queen's Road and continuing north we came to Garret Hostel Lane; turning down this, across the Backs over the bridge, right into Trinity Lane and then left into Senate House Passage, brought us to the heart of Cambridge at Senate House Hill (Kings Parade). Here across the road is Great St Mary's, the University Church where, one can hardly doubt, the Faradays worshipped.

Henry VIII
at Trinity
Turning left out of Senate House Passage into Trinity Lane brought us to Trinity College with a statue of Henry VIII above the gatehouse with a chair leg in his hand instead of a sceptre. This is the most likely site for St Ignatius College of the story, the alma mater of both Campion and Marcus Featherstone and where the late Dr Faraday had been Master. This concluded the walk and we returned continuing north along Trinity Lane and weaving our way diagonally across Bridge Street to Jesus Green, across this and then over the footbridge by the weir reaching the hotel, ready for refreshments, a film show and more papers.


Report Richard H. A. Cheffins
Photos Lesley Simpson

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