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  • Writer's pictureDoug Chapman, MA

A Brief History of Jesus Green in Cambridge

What is Jesus Green?

Jesus Green is a pleasant riverside green space in Cambridge that was formerly owned by Jesus College.

Jesus Green in Cambridge

Jesus Green History

This quiet riverside park is beloved for its shaded walkways, extensive open spaces, and waterfront location alongside the Cam. Jesus Green is one of the largest parks in the city: named for nearby Jesus College that once owned the land, the green is beloved by all manner of Cambridge residents. Stately horse chestnut and plane trees line the paths crossing the park, and the riverside walk meanders past Jesus Lock and on towards the various college boathouses. This is one of the best spots in the city to get close to the river without all the crowds and bustle of central Cambridge, and it’s ideal for a walk or a picnic on a sunny day. It’s also one of the main sites in the city for summer concerts and outdoor events. It’s not uncommon to hear music or speeches echoing across the green in the warmer months as it hosts many of the everyday outdoor events that colour life in Cambridge.

Jesus Green is connected to the northern side of the River Cam by the Jesus Lock Footbridge. The lock serves to separate the punters of the Magdalene Bridge area from the rowers of the boathouses across from neighbouring Midsummer Common. The green was once conjoined with the common, but the areas were divided in 1890 by the introduction of Victoria Avenue. Like many similar parks in Cambridge, the green was historically used for the grazing of livestock, but it had a second, darker purpose that’s difficult to reconcile with the peaceful modern-day retreat. Jesus Green was historically the site of a number of executions. Most notable of these was the burning of John Hullier, a clergyman and scholar of King’s College. Hullier was seized for his Protestant preaching in a time of significant religious conflict, and was burned at the stake here on the 16th of April 1556 for his refusal to renounce his faith.

However, Jesus Green is much more to the people of Cambridge than a bucolic open space by the river with a shadowed past. It’s perhaps most well-known for the Jesus Lido, one of the longest outdoor swimming pools in Europe at 91 metres and a rare surviving example of the lido-building craze that swept the continent in the 1920s and ‘30s. It’s open to the public alongside tennis courts and a skate park, and these amenities ensure that the green is consistently popular with both residents and visitors.

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