Enid Porter – curator of the Cambridge & County Folk Museum


On discovering a series of her historical columns in the Cambridgeshire Collection.

This video from the Fens Museums is a nice background.

And this is local historian Mike Petty MBE who worked with her.

…who I met in the said building here.


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Life Magazine

Think of ‘Country Life’ magazine but just for our neck of the woods. A bygone age when society was struggling to come to terms with a whole host of post war changes, including the impact of the 1960s. The earliest magazines in the Cambridgeshire Collection in the Cambridge Central Library date from 1968. I’ve been browsing through the first three years (it goes all the way into the mid-1990s so I have a long way to go!) and it touches on a whole host of local history and local democracy subjects.

Enid Porter’s columns.

The subjects I’ve uncovered dating from between 1968-1970 include:

  • Crime and punishment in Cambridgeshire
  • Old Cambridge theatres
  • History of midsummer fair
  • The problem of the vagrant
  • Before Sainsbury’s came
  • St Andrew’s Street remembered
  • The river trade of old Cambridgeshire
  • Cambridge Market Place
  • The YMCA in Cambridge
  • The Cambridgeshire College of Arts, Technology & Science
  • The Railway Comes to Cambridge
  • Bridge Street, Cambridge remembered
  • Petty Cury remembered
  • The Cambridge Festival
  • The Guildhall, Cambridge
  • Castle End, Cambridge
  • Green Street, Cambridge

All of these are between 1968-1970. Porter died in 1976 so I think there are a few more to uncover. Contemporary political issues come up as well – the massive reorganisation of schools in the 1960s when the county got rid of its grammar schools and converted to secondary moderns was one. The burden of taxation and the growth of bureaucracy was another – in particular with universal benefits for all.

The hardest thing to get my head around is the infrastructure of the state – it was noticeably different to what we have today. Before the 1970s you could get local council scholarships to go to local private schools such as The Perse. Only reading a history of the latter did I find out the big debate they had over whether to go fully independent or go into the state system in full. They chose the former as did many others. 20 years earlier it was similar with the setting up of the NHS.

460412 Addenbrookes NHS Threat.jpg

The new NHS – a threat to Addenbrooke’s Hospital?

Enid Porter the author

She wrote a few books (See here) just as Florence Ada Keynes did – their paths crossed in the setting up of the Folk Museum in the 1930s and 1940s. What strikes me is how her book writing was on subject very different to what she was writing about in her columns. Yet in the December 1970 edition of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Life, I spotted a letter from a lady called Barbara Gill of 5 Redfearn Close, Cambridge. She wrote to the magazine editor saying how she had enjoyed Enid Porter’s columns, and asked if she was going to write a book about the history of Cambridge the town. In the end I don’t think she got round to writing that book. But with so many local history columns written, I’m sure there is an opportunity to collate those old columns and republish them in a small publication at a future date.

Another thing on my ‘to do’ list!


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