Park Terrace has been transformed from a row of residential houses to being an integral part of the main College site.
The elegant gault brick, slate-roofed Georgian properties fronting Park Terrace, comprising 12 terraced houses, two central semi-detached houses and two flanking detached properties, were constructed in the 1830s as part of the general development of the Parker’s Piece area.
The grazing land on which the Terrace was built had been acquired by Jesus College at the Reformation, following the dissolution of the nunnery of St Rhadegund. The development of the site for building began in 1831 with the construction of the pair of semi-detached houses now known as 7–8 Park Terrace. Further building followed and by 1838 the entire Terrace, together with Camden House and Park Lodge, had been completed. A brook crossing Parker’s Piece was channelled into a culvert, which runs under the southern end of the Terrace.
Park Terrace was purchased by Emmanuel from Jesus College in 1982–83. The asking price was substantial but Derek Brewer was convinced that the College had to take advantage of this unique opportunity to acquire the long-coveted site and his persuasiveness carried the day. The Governing Body minutes for 17 December 1981 blandly record that ‘The Bursar was empowered to buy Park Terrace from Jesus College subject to planning permission being obtained for a sum of up to £1.5 million’, giving no hint of the rather heated debate which had taken place.
A fund-raising campaign – the Quatercentenary Appeal – was launched but the College knew it had to find a substantial part of the purchase money itself. The Bursar, John Reddaway thought it might be possible to draw on a College Sinking Fund but needed to take legal advice and consulted Clive Lewis (1952), a partner in the firm of solicitors that handled the College’s most important business. The funds in place, and planning permission for change of use having been granted, Emmanuel exchanged contracts with Jesus in August 1982 although it was not until early 1983 that all the properties had been formally conveyed.
The Terrace was acquired with sitting tenants, most of whom were Fellows of Jesus. At the time of the purchase it was hoped that Emmanuel would have vacant possession of the whole Terrace within 15 to 20 years. This proved to be optimistic but now, 30 years after the purchase, only three properties remain occupied by the original tenants.
It was intended from the outset that the Terrace would be used mainly for student accommodation and whenever a house fell vacant it was converted to this use. The College was keen to incorporate the Terrace into the main site, and in its planning application in 1982 warned the Council that ‘openings would be required in the [medieval] boundary wall to facilitate access’ and pedestrian gates were made in 1986 and 1995. Gates have also been installed to the lanes that give access to the rear of the Terrace, thus enabling us to remove the doors in the boundary wall. Students, Fellows and staff now move freely between the Paddock and the Terrace, thus realising Derek Brewer’s vision.
The College is now starting to think further about how to develop the gardens and outbuildings in a way that is sensitive to the history of the site.