Elmside including boundary wall and gate


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Elmside, 49 Grange Road, Cambridge, CB3 9BN


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Statutory Address:
Elmside, 49 Grange Road, Cambridge, CB3 9BN

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cambridge (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Two-storey house with attic storey, built 1885 to the designs of ES Prior, having single-storey addition to the south, built c1900. A range of late-C20 and early-C21 university buildings associated with Clare Hall to the west of 49 Grange Road are excluded from the listing.

Reasons for Designation

Elmside, an Arts and Crafts style house built 1885 to the designs of ES Prior, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: as an assured work by accomplished architect ES Prior, a leading architect of the Arts and Crafts movement; * Architectural composition: for its impressive asymmetrical composition, use of traditional building materials, and finely crafted details which are characteristic of the Arts and Crafts style; * Interior: for the survival of some interior details of note, including an original staircase and joinery in the entrance hall, original cupboards, and fireplaces; * Historic interest: for its association with Trinity College mathematician and author Walter William Rouse Ball, who commissioned the house and lived there until his death in 1925; * Context: it forms part of an exceptional suburban development in West Cambridge which encompasses the work of some of the most notable architects of the day; * Group value: for its group value with numerous listed houses and college buildings on Grange Road, notably 48 Grange Road by Basil Champneys opposite (c1880), and nearby Selwyn College by Sir Arthur Blomfield (1882-9) and Cambridge University Library by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1931-4), all listed at Grade II.


Cambridge is situated on the southern edge of the Fens at the highest navigable point of the River Cam. The original Celtic settlement had grown up on the north bank but the Romans established the small town of Durovigutum at the strategically important junction of four major roads. The Saxon occupation spread to the south of the river, and the Normans reaffirmed the strategic importance of the site by building a castle which led to the expansion of the settlement. Cambridge soon became a prosperous town in which several religious houses were established, and these attracted sufficient students for Henry III to recognise the town as a seat of learning in 1231. Most of the fifteen colleges in existence before the Reformation had evolved from the cloistered world of monastic scholarship. Additional colleges and university buildings have continued to be established up to the present day and much new housing was built during the inter-war period and post-war period.

The development of the former medieval West Fields began around 1870. This land, covering approximately 200 acres, was owned primarily by the colleges, notably St John’s, which had always strongly resisted any building west of the Backs (the stretch of land which runs along the back of the riverside colleges). It was the loss of college revenue from the agricultural depression that led to their decision to lease the land in building plots. Three new institutions were established – Newnham College in 1875, Ridley Hall in 1877, and Selwyn Hostel (now College) in 1879 – and suburban houses in various styles from Queen Anne to Arts and Crafts and neo-Georgian were built piecemeal over almost half a century. The demand for such large family homes was partly fuelled by a new statute passed in 1882 that finally allowed dons to marry without having to give up their fellowships. The main arteries of development were West Road, Madingley Road and Grange Road, which forms the central spine road running north-south through the suburb.

Although economic necessity had forced the colleges to allow building on the land, they were determined to keep a strict control over the residential development which consisted almost entirely of high end middle class housing, interspersed with university playing fields, without any community facilities such as churches or shops. There was no overall plan but the landowners ensured that it was restricted to an affluent market by issuing leases that specified numerous conditions, including minimum plot sizes, minimum house costs, specification of superior building materials, usually red brick and tiles, and had stringent dilapidation clauses to ensure that property values did not deteriorate. St John’s College for instance, specified one-acre plots with a minimum house cost of £1500 on its Grange Road estate, and half-acre plots with a house cost of at least £1000 on Madingley Road. To put this in context, in 1906 the sum of £1000 was considered well above the price of a substantial suburban villa.

The great majority of building leases were taken up by individuals who commissioned either local or London-based architects, many of whom are now considered to be amongst the finest of the late Victorian/ Edwardian age, notably M. H. Baillie Scott who designed nine houses in west Cambridge, E. S. Prior, J. J. Stephenson, and Ernest Newton. Most of these houses were designed to accommodate at least two live-in servants, as shown by the census returns, and some had stables; although by 1910 there were requests either to convert these to garages or to build ‘motor houses’, as they were then known.

Grange Road originated as a laneway from Barton Road to Grange Farm, and contained no permanent buildings until the south section of the road was developed from the 1860s onwards. The first building lease granted by St John’s College on Grange Road was to Walter William Rouse Ball in 1884, for the construction of Elmside or 49 Grange Road. Between 1884 and 1914 the college granted more than sixty building leases in St Giles to private individuals, and also leased land to other colleges for playing fields. The Grange Road Estate was opened up by the building of Herschel Road directly north of Elmside in 1885, running west from Grange Road towards Grange Farm, thereby serving the double function of creating more building sites and improving farm access. As development occurred, roads branched out west, and Grange Road gradually progressed north until it was connected with Madingley Road in 1910.

Elmside was designed by Edward Schroeder Prior (1852-1932), a prominent Arts and Crafts architect active in England in the late C19 and early C20. An alumnus of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, Prior was articled to Norman Shaw between 1875 and 1878, and commenced independent practice in 1880. Prior’s early works are known to include an extension to the Red House in Harrow for relatives (1883-84), which is very much in the same style as Elmside, with the same particular window design, roof profiles and materials. Prior was appointed architect for Gonville and Caius College in 1885, and Elmside was his first commission in Cambridge in the same year. Prior was a founding member of the Art Workers’ Guild (established 1884), and was appointed Slade Professor of Architectural History at the University of Cambridge from 1912 until his death in 1932, where he established the Cambridge School of Architectural Studies. Over his long and successful career, Prior published widely on English church architecture, art and sculpture.

Spalding’s Street Directories of Cambridge indicate that Elmside was occupied by Walter William Rouse Ball (1850-1925) from the time of its construction in 1886 until his death in 1925. Rouse Ball took his first degree at University College London, where he was awarded the gold medal in mathematics. He then matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1871, and became a fellow of the college in 1875. Over his illustrious career at Trinity College, Rouse Ball was appointed Director of Mathematical Studies in 1891, and later Senior Tutor in 1898. Ball also acted as representative of the University on the Borough Council and various other bodies. He published A 'Short Account of the History of Mathematics' (1888), and 'Mathematical Recreations and Essays' (1892), which have run to five and fourteen editions respectively. He also authored 'The History of Mathematical Studies at Cambridge' (1889), 'The Genesis and History of Newton's Principia' (1893), and 'A History of the First Trinity Boat Club' (1908). Rouse Ball was a keen amateur magician and the founding president of the Cambridge Pentacle Club in 1919, one of the world’s oldest magic societies.

Following Rouse Ball’s death, Elmside was briefly occupied by JAH Wood, and then by Arthur John Berry from c1935 until c1970, Fellow Emeritus of Downing College and University Lecturer in Chemistry. Elmside transferred in c1970 to the newly founded Clare Hall (established 1966) and became Clare College Hostel. Elmside continues to provide accommodation for students of Clare Hall.


Two-storey house with attic storey, built 1885 to the designs of ES Prior, having single-storey addition to the south, built c1900.

MATERIALS: red brick laid in English bond, with sections of red hung tiles, and plain tiled roofs.

PLAN: the house faces east onto Grange Road, and is roughly rectangular in plan with a single-storey rectangular-plan projection to the north elevation, and a single-storey rectangular-plan extension to the south elevation, built c1900.

EXTERIOR: Elmside was built in the Arts and Crafts style, having sections varying in height from single-storey to two storeys and attic storey. The northern section of the main house has a mansard roof, and the southern section is a combination of multi-faceted hipped, pitched and flat roofs with one dormer window on its east slope. The single-storey projection to the north is hipped, and the extension to the south is half-hipped and gabled to the west, with a central rectangular hipped lantern. The house features five red brick chimneystacks on the multiple roof slopes. The front (east) elevation to Grange Road consists of four parts: a rectangular single-storey block to the north; a tall north block with an attic storey over a doorway; a south block of two-storeys with a dormer window; and a rectangular south block of one window bay built c1900. The east elevation is composed of red brick laid in English bond, with red plain tiles hung to the first and attic storeys over the front door. The main entrance to Elmside is by way of a timber door at the centre of the east elevation, with two raised and fielded panels under a plain overlight of three panes. The door is framed under a flat canopy supported on two square timber piloti, which may have been added at a later date. At first floor level, above the door, is a three-light casement to the first floor and a two-light casement to the attic storey, all framed by hung tiles. To the right of the door is a three-light casement window, and to the left but set back from the door, a five-light casement window illuminates the interior stair hall. To the left of this is an elaborate Venetian style window, having a segmental-headed casement window with a fluted keystone, set within a fixed-paned window, and surmounted by a small pediment. This particular style of window encourages an attribution to Prior, as a similar example may be seen at his addition to the Red House at Harrow (1883-4). On the first floor above the Venetian window is a three-light casement window, and an attic dormer with two casement windows above again.

The garden (west) elevation, is also composed of red brick, with red clay tiles hung to the first floor of the southern section, splaying over the ground floor windows and supported by carved brackets with pendant ball finials. The second floor gable of the garden elevation is half-timbered. The ground floor is nearly continuously-glazed over a red brick plinth, having the original Venetian style windows, comprising segmental-headed casement windows with fluted keystones, set within multi-paned fixed windows. The first floor features four bays of three-light casement windows and one two-light casement window, with a two-light casement window in the apex of the attic gable. A half-glazed door leads from the kitchen to the garden, and stands under a roofed canopy supported by two square-plan timber piloti.

The north elevation to Herschel Road has a casement window to the service stairs, a two-light casement window at first floor level, and two two-light casement windows to the attic storey of the mansard roof.

A single storey extension was added to the south c1900, having an oculus window and four four-pane windows (one infilled) to the west gable. The extension has a three-light casement window to both the east and south elevations, featuring hand-painted glass to the upper panels. Another single-storey extension was added to the south in the late C20, this is excluded from the listing as it does not contribute to the special interest of the principal buildings.

INTERIOR: the interior of Elmside was adapted for use as student accommodation c1970, and consequently does not retain many interior features. Within the entrance hall the original stairs survive, curving elegantly to meet the first floor landing, and are well lit by windows on the east elevation. On the ground floor the newel post is extended to ceiling height and doubles as a pier of an arch, displaying finely carved fluting. To the south of the entrance hall, a bedroom contains original bookshelves and cupboards, and may have originally been in use as a library. To the west of the entrance hall, partitions have been inserted to create dorm rooms and as a result two fireplaces, which would have served the grandest rooms, are now located on the east walls of a narrow late C20 corridor. One fireplace is of plain carved limestone, and the other is a painted carved fireplace with fluted brackets and pilasters. On the first floor, the landing opens to a corridor, off which are bedrooms to the west and north. The first floor corridor contains some arched openings, one with an oval borrowed light, and timber cupboards, alluding to former interior decoration. The service stairs in the north block has been replaced in the late C20, and allows access from the ground floor to the first and attic storeys. The attic storey accommodates a self-contained apartment, with a lobby, double bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room (no permission to access at time of survey).

The single-storey extension to the south of the house was built c1900, and has recently been adapted for use as a reading room, forming part of the Ashby Library. Colloquially known as the ‘Magic Room’, Rouse Ball’s interest in magic and mathematics can clearly be observed in the painted windows which depict mathematical puzzles, coats of arms and symbols of the occult.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: To the east to Grange Road are attractively carved timber gates and gate posts. A red brick screen wall bounds the site to the north to Herschel Road, and features a segmental-headed gate opening and timber-battened door. The screen wall continues around the corner of Grange Road to meet the house, and contains a raised segmental-headed opening, which would have given access to the service areas of the house in the late C19. The remainder of the site is bounded by modern timber boarding. A range of late-C20 and early-C21 university buildings associated with Clare Hall to the west of 49 Grange Road are excluded from the listing.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Bradley, Simon, Pevsner, Nikolaus, The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire, (2014)
Rawle, T, Cambridge Architecture, (1993), 61
Valinksky, David (Author), An Architect Speaks: the words and buildings of Edward Schroder Prior, (2014), 26-27
Guillebaud, Philomena, 'Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, XCVI, pp. 193-210' in West Cambridge 1870-1914: building the bicycle suburb, , Vol. XCVI, (2007), pp. 193-210
'Prior, Edward Schroeder' in A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, 2000 , accessed from http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O1-PriorEdwardSchroeder.html
West Cambridge Conservation Area Appraisal, May 2011, accessed from https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/sites/www.cambridge.gov.uk/files/docs/west-cambridge-conservation-area-appraisal.pdf


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 04 Feb 2007
Reference: IOE01/16262/18
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr A. Gude. Source Historic England Archive
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