Charles Humfrey, baptised in Great St Andrew’s church, was given the same name as his father, a carpenter and builder. Charles jnr was sent to London to learn more of architecture from James Wyatt, and had some of his designs exhibited there.
Humfrey returned to Cambridge to take up his father’s business. He was fortunate to live at the time when the growth in population nationally meant more housing was required. In Cambridge, this and other changes led to the Enclosure Acts of 1802 and 1811 – the large open fields on other side of Cambridge, hitherto owned and occupied in narrow strips, were re-allocated and consolidated so that owners could use their fields as they wished, and not in co-operation with other strip owners. Those whose new holdings were close to the town now had the choice of agriculture or housing development.

Humfrey led the way, with the development of Doll’s Close, a small field beside the Newmarket road, just beyond the existing houses. His comprehensive scheme was to combine a row of substantial houses beside the road, with views of the common and the river, with more modest terraces to the sides and behind. Curtain walls linked the ranges into a tasteful whole, with a passage through one side to provide a back entrance to the gardens and yards. Most of this scheme survives today, on Maids Causeway, Fair Street, Short Street and Willow Walk. When built, Willow Walk also enjoyed open views in front, but subsequent building of New Squre cut these off.

He designed many other houses and terraces in and outside Cambridge, mostly in Cambridge white brick and in the restrained but dignified style of the early nineteenth century. Many survive today, in Tennis Court Road, Parkside and elsewhere, and influenced the lesser developers of that era. With William Wilkins (Blue Plaque in Lensfield Road), Humfrey significantly shaped the style and appearance of Cambridge in that era.

Humfrey’s own home, Clarendon House, occupied the area between the present Parker Street and Orchard Street. It was a fine house with extensive gardens of valuable fruit trees as well as lawns and borders. The servants’ houses in Orchard Street were built with first floor windows at the back, so that they could not look over his garden wall. This street survives as one of the prettiest in Cambridge.

Humfrey’s political interests were with the reformers of the day, and he became the second Mayor of Cambridge, after the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 cleaned up the previous corrupt administration. He also filled other public offices, and was very active in the social life of the town and University.

His financial affairs did not do well however, and despite his further useful housing projects across the town, he went bankrupt. His goods and house had to be sold in 1846, and he retired to Islington where he died in 1848.