In Easter At Netherfield, the second Pride & Prejudice sequel in my Elizabeth Bennet series, Elizabeth wishes to accompany Colonel Fitzwilliam and her friend Harriet Layham to Cambridge. The Colonel and Harriet wish to speak to Harriet’s parents who are staying at the Little Rose on Trumpington Street in Cambridge for a few weeks to sort out a legal matter. At the time, Darcy and Bingley are away in London.

Elizabeth’s aim is to track down a party she hopes to talk to while the Colonel and Harriet are with Harriet’s parents, but she can’t tell her family this and has to express an interest in visiting well-known places of the time, which of course led to a considerable amount of research.

She alleges that she wishes to see the Wren Library and the Walkerian Botanic Garden. Her real object is an Inn called the Black Bear on Market Street. The Black Bear was popular at the time as a venue where concerts took place in a first floor assembly room. The inn was later demolished in the nineteenth century.

Her family are dubious about her wandering the streets of a large town alone and insist on her being accompanied by a footman.

The Walkerian Botanic Garden is no longer where it was in the late eighteenth century. It was on the site of the now New Museums. According to Wikipedia, a small patch of garden remains ‘planted with plants representative of the stock of the original garden’. Notably, these include ‘an apple tree that is reportedly a descendant of the tree that inspired Isaac Newton to formulate his theory of gravitation’!

The Wren Library is still very much in existence, being the Trinity College Library. I was assisted by a couple of WordPress articles about the Library. I was concerned to know whether the public would have been admitted in 1799, the year in which the novel is set. The articles suggest that the Library was open to the public at that time. Indeed, it would have been an interesting place as libraries were in the habit at the time of housing objects as well as books so that the Library became as much of a museum as a library.

On the subject of the admission of the public to the Library, a reply to a question posed in a comment to one of the articles referred, tantalisingly, to a guidebook dated 1790 which suggests that the public were welcomed, but I was unable to find any other reference online to this guidebook or see a copy of it.

So Elizabeth would have been able to browse in the Wren Library and walk the paths of the Walkerian Garden before sneaking off to the Black Bear, then finally arriving at the Little Rose to meet up with Colonel Fitzwilliam and Harriet. The Little Rose, incidentally, is still there approximately opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum, itself built in the nineteenth century.

The Black Bear Inn was part of Edward Storey’s estate (the Storey as in Storey’s Way, Cambridge) according to a blog entitled ‘Bygone concert venues 6: The Black Bear Inn, Cambridge’. Edward Storey appears to have been a rich man. His will dated 29th January 1692 established The Foundation of Edward Storey the object of which was to provide almshouses for the poor. I only mention this because in Easter At Netherfield, Elizabeth asks to see the manager of the Black Bear, not the owner. Of course, in 1799 there might have been a person who held a lease of the Inn and would have called himself the owner. Conversely, the Inn might have been under a manager pointed by Edward Storey or his heirs or descendants. Such precise detail is difficult to discover without a mountain of research. Whatever, I opted for a manager!

Elizabeth also sees a person responsible for organising concerts at the Black Bear. She is directed to Mr Scarborough, who did exist at the time, though my description of him is purely imaginary. According to an online collection of handbills of the Black Bear Music Club between 1789 and 1809, a Mr Scarborough, a violinist, appears to have been associated with the Club for many years and one handbill of 1789 attached to the above-named article ‘Bygone concert venues 6: The Black Bear Inn, Cambridge’ directs those requiring tickets to various local businesses including ‘Mr. Scarborough at the Black Bear’.

The attached image is of the Black Bear Inn before it was demolished in 1868. Easter at Netherfield is due to be published towards the end of December 2023 or the beginning of 2024.