25 June 2014

Enjoying the Peace of Christ and
enjoying the sun at Christ’s Pieces

A tree-lined walk in Christ’s Pieces, Cambridge, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

My own “typos” constantly prove I can never attain a claim to infallibility, so I am reluctant to point out the typing errors of others, and certainly would not want to do so in a way that would identify them publicly.

But, a few months ago I came across the peace in a service sheet in one parish that invited us to share the “Piece of Christ.”

On the other hand, there is a public park in the centre of Cambridge that is called Christ’s Pieces. This Victorian park is only a short walking distance from Sidney Sussex College, which I dropped into this afternoon [25 June 2014] on a detour through Cambridge, on my way from the annual conference of Us (formerly USPG) to Stansted Airport to catch the last flight back to Dublin.

Christ’s Pieces is to the east of Christ’s College, from which it takes its name, and to the north of Emmanuel College., and beside Drummer Street Bus Station, which is on the southern edge of Christ’s Piece near the south-west corner. There are tennis courts and a bowling green too, and the Christ’s Pieces Residents Association tries to maintain the character of the area.

In the Middle Ages, the area now known as Christ’s Piece was used for agriculture. A cereal crop is shown on a map from 1574, and later it became pasture land. At one point, the place formed part of the Barnwell Open Fields known as the Clayangles.

The 16th and 17th century paths include Pike’s Walk and Milton’s Walk. Milton’s Walk, which marks the boundary between Christ’s College and Christ’s Pieces, was once a mediaeval lane. In that map from1574, it is called “Christes Colledge Walke,” but the later name of Milton’s Walk honours the poet John Milton (1608-1674), who was once an undergraduate at Christ’s College.

By 1688, a diagonal path ran from the south-west corner to New Square. By the end of the 18th century, there was tree-planting along the boundary with Emmanuel Road. Further trees were in place along Pike’s Walk by 1830 and 1852.

With the passing of the Enclosure Act, the land passed to Jesus College. In 1886, the area was acquired from Jesus College by the Corporation of Cambridge for the sum of £1,000. The corporation drained the land, planted many more trees and a multitude of bulbs and laid out the park much as we see it today, although a planned artificial lake never materialised and the Victorian bandstand is long a thing of the past.

Today Christ’s Pieces is a pleasant space for students, workers and visitors to sit in peace away from the bustle of the city centre. Christ’s Pieces also plays an important role as a “green lung” in the heart of the city.

Before visiting Christ’s Pieces I spent some time in Waterstone’s Bookshop in Sidney Street, stopped off for light refreshment in Baroosh Bar in Market Passage, off Sidney Street, and dropped into Sidney Sussex College, where I have stayed each year since 2008.

Strolling through the heart of Cambridge in the summer sunshine this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

In between the three of these, as I was strolling along Sidney Street I bumped into Archbishop Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who is now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

On a sunny afternoon, you just don’t know what to expect or who you are going to meet in Cambridge.

But in the meantime, may you enjoy the Peace of Christ, and my you be blessed by the Peace of Christ.

Outside Sidney Sussex College in Sidney Street, Cambridge, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

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