Peter Soar – Cambridge: Set 1

The first set of Peter Soar’s photographs of Cambridge Lion Yard redevelopment in 1970/71. Some background to the redevelopment of Lion Yard is given after the photo gallery.


The following text is adapted from that on Ian Kitching’s web pages at


In 1958, Cambridge City and County Councils agreed to seek tenders for redeveloping the whole block of Cambridge City Centre bounded by St Andrew’s Street, Downing Street, Corn Exchange Street and Petty Cury, except for the Post Office buildings and St Andrew’s Church.

Edgar Investments Ltd proposed a scheme including a 12-storey hotel off Downing Street, two 12-storey office blocks and a new central library. After a public enquiry in 1959, the Minister’s decision of 1960 agreed with the University that the Councils had not made a case for the need for increased shopping in the centre and rejected the application.

By 1962, the University was proposing a scheme for redevelopment of The Kite Area for shopping and that the Lion Yard be used for civic facilities, such as a library and arts centre.

Another round of planning debate in 1966 resulted in the City Council agreeing to proposals for a stage one inner ring road, for developing the Fitzroy Street area for shopping and for developing the Lion Yard for a civic centre.

Just before the development

Although many of the medieval inns and yards had gone by the mid-1960s, the Petty Cury/Lion Yard area was thriving, in particular Alexandra Street (old Red Hart Yard) and Falcon Yard. There were small shops, cheap offices for University societies, discotheques, clubs, cafes and resturants.

Boots the Chemist had moved to 31 Petty Cury from Market Hill in 1897. Alexandra Terrace had the YMCA, which was the first place in Cambridge to show ‘taking pictures’ – with performers talking from behind the screen. It was demolished in 1972, to be replaced by the Queen Anne Terrace YMCA.

The development

Work on the Lion Yard development started in 1970.

The first phase was the multi-storey car park, opened in 1972. The overlapping second phase was was the demolition of the south side of Petty Cury, Alexandra Street and the last remains of the medieval alleyways and yards.  It is the demolition and clearance for these stages that was documented by Peter Soar. The third stage was the central library.  The Magistrates Courts were moved to the top of the car park in the 1980s.
St Tibbs Row was all that survived and then only in name, as a service road for deliveries and access to the Magistrates Court.

The southern end of the site, later an extension to the car park and the Holiday Inn hotel (now The Hilton), remained a wasteland until the 1990s. Now The Grand Arcade occupies all of the site.