Wednesday, 5 October 2011

It's just not cricket!

For many years, possibly since about 1840 (although the earliest reference in a directory that I have found is in 1852), the pub on the corner of Melbourne Place and Prospect Row has been known as The Cricketers (Inn), the name obviously relating to nearby Parker’s Piece, a 25-acre green famous in the mid 19th century as, amongst other things, a cricket ground.[1]
Most recently it had nice, colourful, eye-catching sign:

Those who remember the old ‘Charles Dickens’ £10 note (in circulation from 1992 until 2003) might recognise it: the cricket match between the Dingley Dellers and All Muggleton in Chapter 7 of The Pickwick Papers.
However, before it was known as The Cricketers, it was known as The First and Last – certainly a pub of that name on Prospect Row is listed in Robson’s Commercial Directory of 1839 (it is said that the pub was built in 1838), but not in any subsequent directories. At the time, that would not be an unreasonable name, as the eastward expansion of Cambridge had not reached much further than that, aside from a small development where the Grafton Centre now sits, and it would be the first or last public house arrived at in that direction.[2]
It seems a rather less apt name now, in 2011, when it’s right in the middle of a web of streets forming part of the ‘Kite’ and there are other pubs close by in all directions, but that is what it has just been renamed as in its recent refurbishment. The minds of branding consultants move in mysterious ways. . .
Of course, with a refurbishment and a new name comes a new sign. This ‘thing’:
Now, that may look nice on a wall with beers, food menu or forthcoming attractions noted on it in chalk, or even as a place mat, given the new emphasis on the dining experience; but it’s hardly eye-catching from a distance – not so much a pub signboard as an empty blackboard on a pole. The only thing it's likely to be first in is a competition to find Cambridge’s Boringest Pub Sign.
Sorry Greene King, but that’s another great big FAIL.
[1] Gardner’s History, Gazetteer & Directory of Cambridgeshire, 1851, p. 182. As well as cricket, it is worth noting, undergraduates of the university were also playing ‘football’ on the Piece at about this time, the Cambridge Rules of 1848 forming the basis of what later became Association Football.
[2] See Baker’s Map of the University and Town of Cambridge, 1830.

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