PARKER'S PIECE is one of the chief parks of Cambridge and consists of about 24 acres of open grass land on the south-eastern side of the town. It is surrounded by public services and facilities including Parkside Police Station and Fire Station, the Parkside Swimming Pool and the Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre.
It formed part of the messuage called Michael-house Grange, passing from Michael-house to Trinity College, and was transferred to the town by the College in exchange for ground, called "Garret Hostel Close," lying at the back of the college, in 1613.
In the centre of Parker's Piece is a lamp post, believed to be the earliest electric lamp post in Cambridge. The words "Reality Checkpoint" have been etched onto it giving the lamp post an almost legendary status.
The name was coined in the early 1970s when it was painted on by some CCAT (now Anglia Ruskin University) students under the guidance of one of their teachers.
The following extract from the 1976-77 edition of the Varsity Handbook sheds some light (no pun intended) on the meaning of Reality Checkpoint:
"If you walk diagonally across Parker's Piece, from the University Arms Hotel towards the Mill Road/East Road roundabout, you'll pass a single lamp-post at the halfway point, on which the words "Reality Checkpoint" have been etched. Behind you are the colleges, the faculty buildings, and the big shops of the "historic centre". Ahead are the terraced streets off Mill Road and East Road, the small shops where you can buy about everything including a cut-price kitchen sink, and beyond are the housing estates of Romsey Town. There's a pub off Mill Road called the Midland Tavern: the beer is Tolly and it's keg. Try walking in there on a Saturday evening wearing a CAMRA T-shirt and moaning about pressurised beer. You can do it in the centre: you're a Cam U undergraduate, and you can be as eccentric, or arrogant, or just bloody rude, as you like, and it'll be passed of as normal student behaviour. It is normal student behaviour, after all. But you'll find that most people living in Cambridge don't give a damn about students, or if they do, they don't like them much. They might not actually tell you that in the Midland Tavern, but you'll get the message quickly enough. Hence reality checkpoint. So you know which side you're on."
Reality Checkpoint is also reputed to have been a place of pilgrimage where generations of Cambridge LSD trippers have paid homage.
Parker's Piece derives its name from Edward Parker, cook of the college, who had a lease of it.