11 September 2014

Signs and wonders for pedestrians
on the streets of Cambridge

Petty Cury looking west towards the pinnacles of King’s College Chapel … but what does the name Petty Cury mean? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

In the early mornings this week, I have been slipping out of my rooms in Sidney Sussex College to attend the daily Eucharist in Saint Bene’t’s Church, which is only five minutes’ walk away.

In the early morning, as Cambridge begins to come to life but is still quiet and calm, I am sometimes enamoured by the names of the streets and side passages and some of the street signs.

Most mornings on way to or from Saint Bene’t’s, I have found myself walking along the strangely named Petty Cury, a pedestrianised shopping street opposite the junction of Sidney Street with Christ’s College on the corner of Hobson Street and Saint Andrew’s Street.

Petty Cury links this junction with Market Hill, the venue for outdoor market in the heart of Cambridge, and Guildhall Street. As I walk west down Petty Cury these mornings, an interesting vista opens to the Guildhall, which continues the line of the south side of the street and on to the pinnacles of King’s College Chapel rising above the buildings on the west side of market.

A street sign at the west end of Petty Cury (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

But the name of Petty Cury is intriguing. Where does it come from? And how did it survive the crass developments along the south side of this narrow street in the 1960s and 1970s?

Petty Cury is an old street and the name first appears in documents around 1330, when it is recorded as Petycure. Two generations later, Thomas Furbisshour and his wife Agnes are recorded as living there in 1396.

It is most likely that this unusual name derives from petit (meaning “little”) and cury (meaning “cooks’ row”). Well, at least Samuel Pepys, who was an undergraduate at Magdalene College, Cambridge, offers this derivation in his Diary. So, it appears, there was a number of bakers’ stalls originally lined the sides of the street.

By the 15th century, the street was lined with inns, each with yards behind. But these yards later became some of worst slums in Cambridge by the 19th century. For example, up to 300 people may have lived in the Falcon Yard, which eventually was demolished on the order of the Medical Officer of Health in 1903.

Work on the extension to Boots in the 1950s indicated that that many of the mediaeval remains on this street had not been disturbed and that there was a deep sequence dating back Norman or even Saxon times.

Major changes came in the 1960s, when the entire south side was demolished to make way for the building of the Lion Yard shopping centre. The Lion Yard development destroyed all the remaining archaeology in this street. Limited observations were made, but most of what was there was destroyed unseen.

An extensive underground parking and service area runs under all the retail buildings, making the area below Petty Cury essentially hollow.

Today, Petty Cury is pedestrianised and is one of the primary shopping streets in Cambridge, with national retailers occupying most of the ground floor units … and one good Italian restaurant, Statzione, on the corner at the west end and with tables on the street. The upper storeys of the buildings on the street are mostly in commercial use, with some used for storage and others as office space.

The building of Lion Yard in 1960s and the 1970s means, of course, that we may never be able to trace the history of Petty Cury before the 1300s. Archaeologists say that while the potential for mediaeval finds may still be high, the potential for prehistory or Roman finds is low.

Gonville and Caius College asserts its rights between Saint Mary’s Court and Rose Crescent (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

On my way back from Saint Bene’t’s each morning, another sign that has caught my eyes this week is on the north side of Saint Mary Street, opposite Saint Mary’s University Church. This sign warns all pedestrians walking between Saint Mary’s Court and Rose Crescent that we are stepping on the soil of Gonville and Caius College … although no-one has yet tried to take the ground from under my feet.

A little further along, on the corner with Rose Crescent, a sailor guards a sign letting me know that Trinity Street is also nearby. As Cambridge is some distance inland and not a port city, I wonder how he was marooned up there.

Ahoy there! … the corner of Rose Crescent and Saint Mary Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware
celebrates his 80th birthday

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware speaking at the IOCS conference in Cambridge this week (Photograph: IOCS)

Patrick Comerford

The summer schools and conferences organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge would not be the same without the humorous and gently-delivered yet scholarly and authoritative papers presented by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware.

He is the President of IOCS, having served as chair of the board, and has been a lecturer at the summer schools and conferences I have been attending in Cambridge since 2008. This week he spoke at the international conference in Sidney Sussex College on “Florovsky, Lossky and ‘Neo-Patristic Synthesis’.”

Later on Tuesday afternoon I had a valuable opportunity to catch up with him as he waited at the Porter’s Lodge for a taxi to the train that was bringing him back to Oxford. I first recall having him as a lecturer when I was a post-graduate student at the Irish School of Ecumenics in 1982-1984.

Metropolitan Kallistos is a bishop of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and is one of the best-known Eastern Orthodox theologians and writers today. He has been the Bishopric of Diokleia since 1982, and he was made a metropolitan bishop by the Patriarch in 2007.

Participants at the conference in Cambridge this week were delighted to hear that Metropolitan Kallistos celebrates his eightieth birthday today [11 September 2014].

He was born Timothy Ware in Bath on 11 September 1934, and was raised in an Anglican family. Having won a King’s Scholarship, he went to Westminster School. From there he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took a double first in classics as well as reading theology.

On 14 April 1958, at the age of 24, he joined the Orthodox Church, and later he travelled throughout Greece, where he spent much time at the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos. He also visited other major centres of Orthodoxy, including Mount Athos and Jerusalem, and spent six months in Canada at a Russian Orthodox monastery.

In 1963, while he was still a lay member of the Orthodox Church, he published the first edition of his book The Orthodox Church under his original name, Timothy Ware. This has since become the standard English-language textbook and introduction to Orthodoxy, and he has gone on to wrote and contribute to many more books and journals.

In 1966, he was ordained priest within the Ecumenical Patriarchate and was tonsured as a monk, receiving the name Kállistos. That same year, he was appointed the Spalding Lecturer in Eastern Orthodox studies at the University of Oxford.

He continued to hold that post for 35 years until his retirement. In 1970, he was also appointed to a Fellowship at Pembroke College, Oxford.

In 1982, he was consecrated a bishop with the title Bishop of Diokleia, and was appointed an assistant bishop in the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain.

Although was now a bishop, he remained at Oxford where he continued to lecture in the university as well as serving as the parish priest of the Greek Orthodox community.

He retired in 2001, but he has continued to publish and to lecture on Orthodox theology.

In 2007, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate elevated the Diocese of Diokleia to the status of a metropolitan diocese. He became a titular metropolitan although he has never had pastoral care of a diocese and he is nominally an assistant bishop in the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain.

He is President of the IOCS in Cambridge, and a former chair of the board of directors. He also chairs the Friends of Orthodoxy on Iona and the Friends of Mount Athos and serves on the advisory board of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.

The Orthodox Church, first published in 1963, has run to several editions and has been revised many times. In 1979, he produced a companion volume, The Orthodox Way.

However, his most substantial publications have emerged from his translation work. With GEH Palmer and Philip Sherrard he has undertaken to translate the Philokalia. Four volumes of five published to date, but the fifth volume has yet to appear.

Patrick Comerford and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware at the summer school in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, a few years ago