Long-serving public servant Colin Rosenstiel passed away earlier today.
Click on the tweet above to see the tributes from across the political spectrum.
The last piece of advice he gave to me was not to stand for election in 2018 shortly after I was discharged from hospital following my heart problems that led me to spend Christmas at Addebrooke’s. The relatively recent Twitter exchange reminds us all of how important it is to get local history down in a recordable format – especially somewhere like Cambridge.
At the time I was lobbying for the Rail Haverhill Campaign, I stumbled across a bid by some residents in Haverhill and Newmarket to become part of Cambridgeshire in the 1970s.
It’s little things like the above that Colin often added to, broadening and deepening our knowledge of decisions taken that might seem like ancient history to those of us from younger generations. Yet he was one of the few people active in local democracy right up until his death who was around at the time of the controversial redevelopments of the Lion Yard and of The Kite, now both shopping centres but both of which in the view of some of us could and perhaps should have been preserved and renovated to provide independent retailing districts that match York and Brighton.
A front row seat watching the decline of the once powerful Cambridge Conservative Party
In the late 1960s, the Tories took control of Cambridge City Council – for one of the last times in their history.
The graph from Colin’s website here shows the last time the Conservatives had a majority on Cambridge City Council. They went into the 1980 city council elections not knowing that they were experiencing their last time in office at The Guildhall to date. This previous blogpost shows just how huge they were. Colin saw from his seat in the council chamber the collapse of the Conservatives, the rise of New Labour, the rise of the Liberal Democrats, followed by their rapid decline in the Coalition years.
Market Ward Councillors spanning four decades
Colin and his wife, Joye Rosenstiel – the latter a former Mayor of Cambridge, were repeatedly elected by the electors of Market Ward, Cambridge, as this chart shows. Joye stood down in the mid-2000s, Colin contesting following elections up until 2014, when he lost the Liberal Democrat nomination following a conviction. He would never stand for election again. He did however, live long enough to see the South Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats finally gain power from the Conservatives in South Cambridgeshire – which they did last week. His last retweet on Twitter was this:
The story behind Queen Edith’s Ward, South Cambridge
The proposal for the name of the ward, according to Colin, came from himself.
When local resident Jeremy Lander investigated the full history of Queen Edith, it turned out that there was more than one – as Chris Rand explains here. One Edith was Edward the Confessor’s Queen, and the other was the commonlaw wife of King Harold II – Edith Swanneck. It was the latter who was a local landowner later dispossessed by the invading Normans who forced the locals to build a big mound on Castle Hill. (Presumably it was just called ‘Castle’ where the Roman Fort was, until they were forced to build the artificial ‘hill’ in top of it?) In terms of road names, Wulfstan Way, Gunhild Way, Godwin Way…can you detect a theme?
Cambridge University Railway Club
Colin was a longstanding member of the CURC – and was this year’s visits secretary. Hence he was one of the most historically informed people on railways in the city, having seen the decline of the old Oxford-Cambridge rail link.
Cambridge Cycling Campaign
One of the last times I saw Colin was at one of the cycling campaign’s meetings. In recent times it was clear that his health was declining, yet he still made the effort to attend public meetings, even though his capacity to take an active part was inevitably affected.
One of the most sobering comments I heard Colin make – and I can’t recall the context to the conversation itself, was how he lost many family members in the Holocaust.
It’s all the more striking when you hear people talking about their family members and families who are hit hard by such violence over an extended period of time. And when I look at various parts of the world today and cross-reference them with the post-war years after both the First and Second World Wars, I wonder if we ever learnt those lessons.
One of Colin’s heroes was Cambridge’s first woman mayor, Cllr Eva Hartree – who was also Jewish. Eva set up the first municipal reception in the UK for refugees fleeing the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s.
Colin is spot on with the above. If not a road, then can we rename the new community centre at Clay Farm?
Interestingly, earlier on I was in the Cambridgeshire Collection and managed to unearth the obituary of Eva Hartree from the Cambridge News of September 1947. Note the obituary kindly mentions her home address – which I hope will have a blue plaque up in due course.
Thank you Colin for your help and advice on all things local history, and thank you for your decades of work shaping our city.
A democracy activist to the end: Via outgoing Cambridge Mayor George Pippas, the late Colin Rosenstiel (left-centre in the wheelchair) on the evening of 03 May 2018 at the election count in the large hall of the Cambridge Guildhall. Liberal Democrat Anthony Martinelli defeated the incumbent candidate, Labour councillor Dan Ratcliffe, who himself had defeated Colin Rosenstiel in the 2014 city council elections in Market Ward.