The Cambridge Market Square ‘Concept Design’

Our fountain in Market Square is looking unloved these days. In fact, it has been looking like that for decades. This was one proposal from 1995 to improve it. Recognise the artist?

This week is the last week of council meetings before councillors and activists head off for the local election campaigns. One of the last of these, the Environment & Scrutiny Committee on 25th March 2021, will be examining proposals for overhauling Market Square.

From the meeting papers here. The larger the attached files, the more likely they are going to have interesting (for community activists and anyone interested in Cambridge the town) diagrams, charts, graphs, and images that illustrate future plans. So “Appendix B – Cambridge Market Square Concept Design consultation draft ” at 22MB (text-only documents are normally measured in kB in this day and age) basically indicate Look here!

Appendix B in the meeting papers, front cover – the report dated 05 Jan 2021.

The main challenge has been re-opening up Market Square during the evenings, so as to create a more interesting fountain design and also potentially open the square up for evening events – and even the announcement of election results like in the olden days!

The idea is to have a nice framing of Great St Mary’s – pp26-28.

I can’t pretend to be a fan of the exterior of Charles Cowles Voysey‘s guildhall design. Locals positively hated it – and rocked up to The Guildhall’s large hall at the back to make their point in 1935. But they could not agree on an alternative design.

By Peck & Stephens from 1860, commissioned by Charles Henry Cooper, the Town Clerk. We could have had this, but in the end we only got the large hall at the back.

The magnificent design from architect John Belcher – which I see as the building from which to work up an improved guildhall front. Not least a lighter coloured stone would lighten the mood compared with Mr Cowles-Voysey’s darker shade of brown. Having been up on the very narrow balcony, Belcher’s design represents an improvement on that front alone.

The view from the Guildhall?

In principle it works for me. With Belcher’s Guildhall I’d go so far to suggest widening the north-south path between the stalls. But that won’t necessarily work for stallholders. And we must acknowledge this.

Friends of Cambridge Market and the challenge of Lockdown

Their FB page is here. The past 12 months haven’t been easy for them either, as has been reported in the local press. It hasn’t been easy for the councillors being the decision makers in the face of incredible and sustained incompetence from ministers responsible – in particular the promises made and then reneged on by the Housing Secretary and colleagues over the costs incurred by the entire local government sector.

The design proposals to go out to consultation were supposed to have been agreed in January, but a legal challenge over the non-release of some of the documents from the consultants have put that back until the meeting of this week. <<–This article, by Alex Spencer of the Cambridge Independent also gives the views of stallholders who say that the new size of the stalls is far too small. For some of the stalls – especially those that sell fresh fruit and foods to take home, I can see what they mean. Some will need two if not three.

Ye olde fountaine

You can still see some of the statues from the old fountain at the Museum of Cambridge. A century of acid erosion, wear and tear rendered the structure unsafe, which was why it was removed.

There were proposals to overhaul the fountain. The work of Jon Harris is instantly recognisable to longtime local residents.

Above – a commissioned design for the Cambridge Preservation Society (now Cambridge Past, Present & Future, from 1995).

I’d have liked the Guildhall front (and the building generally) to have been dealt with alongside the Market Square. Part of the challenge is where to store any portable/moveable stalls. Ditto with refuse and recycling. North-West Cambridge already has below-ground units where larger containers connect to the above-ground bins to stop them from over-flowing.

We’ve introduced them in North-West Cambridge. Could they be installed elsewhere? Or is part of the answer persuading the public and visiting tourists to take their litter home with them? Or persuade the manufacturers to minimise the amount of packaging their products are in before hand? Food for thought.

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