Cambridge Corn Exchange
The site, on the corner of Wheeler Street and Corn Exchange Street, was earmarked for a new Corn Exchange in 1868 to replace the existing corn exchange on St Andrew's Hill to the east. In the Middle Ages the Priory of Friars Hermits was located on the site, the remains of which were passed to a museum in New Zealand.
Designed by Cambridge architect Richard Reynolds Rowe in the Florentine Gothic style, the foundation stone was laid by the Mayor in 1874 and the building was opened in 1875. A quarter of a million local bricks were used in various colours.
The opening concert was a performance on 9 November by the Coldstream Guards and a local choral society. During the playing of the national anthem a mistake was made, and angry crowds subsequently attacked the Mayor's house. The resulting trial attracted the world's press and resulted in crowds of sightseers making visits to the building, interfering with the corn trading.
The site was a popular location for events throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The first Motor Show of many was held in 1898, the venue hosted the London Symphony Orchestra in 1925 and one thousand people were welcomed to a Tea For a Thousand in 1935. During the 1940s the venue was used to clean and repair rifles by local women. After the war, the venue was popular for boxing, wrestling and roller skating. The floor was usually marked out for badminton matches which were held in the building. A temporary wooden bridge across Wheeler Street was even constructed in the 1950s to join it to the neighbouring Guildhall for balls and other events.
In 1965, the venue ceased being used for trading after the Cattle Market site was opened as an alternative. In the 1970s the building was used for pop concerts and one-day exhibitions. In 1972 Syd Barrett made his last public appearance at the venue supporting MC5. In 1974 1,000 fans caused a riot after The Drifters failed to appear onstage.
The venue was closed in 1981 after the roof was found to be unsafe and following complaints from local residents about noise levels. The building was refitted following public pressure and various grants and donations, with the first concert taking place on 3 December 1986 starring Box Car Willie, though an official reopening occurred the following February with a performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The venue is presently owned and managed by Cambridge City Council.
It is used for numerous touring events, including music groups, comedians and theatre groups. Performers who have played at the venue include Adele, The Who, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, My Bloody Valentine, Manic Street Preachers, Barenaked Ladies, Oasis, The Smiths, Iron Maiden (1980, 1981), David Bowie, Tin Machine, Queen, Paul Rodgers, Gary Moore, Lily Allen, James Bay, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel (in 2005 and 2015 - the 2015 show was notable as it featured the surviving musicians from the original second line up, Jim Cregan, Stuart Elliott, and Duncan Mackay), Take That, NXT UK, and Shane Filan of Westlife.
- "About Cambridge Live | Cambridge Live". www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
- "The history of the Corn Exchange". CornEx.co.uk. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge City Council. Archived from the original on 2012-03-12. Retrieved 23 Jun 2011.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
- Care, Adam (2016-10-18). "From David Bowie to Adele: 50 years of performers celebrated at Cambridge Corn Exchange". CambridgeshireLive. Retrieved 2021-01-22.
- "Venue History". Cambridge Corn Exchange.
- "Cambridge prepares to celebrate graduations". 7 October 2016.
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