Mayor Eva Hartree had to face down a protest outside her house when Cambridge Borough Council voted to build a new bus terminal for the town.
Some of you may have seen the news story on proposals from Stagecoach to double the size of Drummer Street Bus Station. Nearly a century ago, when proposals were first put to build a new bus terminal and car park at drummer street, two-thousand people protested at the proposed site – and several hundred of whom marched onto the Mayor’s house – Eva Hartree’s residence off Trumpington Road.
The Cambridge Independent of 14 August 1925 via the Cambridgeshire Collection reads as follows:
“The protest meeting against the taking of a part of Christ’s Pieces for parking motor vehicles attracted a crowd of over 2,000 people to Drummer Street last Tuesday evening.
“After a resolution of protest had been passed unanimously and amidst enthusiastic applause, the crowd voiced a desire to take it to the Mayor that night. This was no sooner said than done. Speeches had been delivered from a four wheeled waggon, from which the horse had been taken, and so carried away were the people by a sense of injustice that the shafts were quickly manned and the waggon containing councillors and others who had spoken, were dragged at a good pace to the Mayor’s home in Newton-Road.”
Which is quite something – I can’t recall an incident in modern times where a crowd of people in Cambridge has rocked up to the house of the Mayor of Cambridge. That said, in those days the Mayor had a much more prominent role in the business of the borough council than today. Furthermore, the Mayor was automatically the chair of the bench of magistrates at the police court – as magistrates courts were called then. What the councillors and protesters demanded was a cessation of the work.
Mayor Eva Hartree had to face down the huge protest that with no notice appeared at her house.
Eva Hartree in the robes and regalia of the Mayor of Cambridge, 1924/25.
Mayor Hartree’s account of what happened is as below.
“A deputation came to her house, pulled in a dray. They[the councillors] allowed themselves to be pulled all the way to Newton Road. (Hear, hear.) She was quite pleased to receive them, they were courteous, and she hoped she was the same. (Hear hear.) During the deputation’s call there was a suggestion made that the men might strike. She said afterwards that the leader of the deputation and the Chairman of the Commons Committee that if there was any intimidation or any inducement held out to the men to strike, she would hold the members of the deputation personally responsible. (Hear, hear.)”
The deputation’s demands, and Mayor Hartree’s reply
Essentially the councillors and the crowd were asking the Mayor to do something that she did not have the legal powers to do – order the works on Christ’s Pieces to stop.
At the council meeting that followed, Councillor Porter tried to move a motion to cancel the works completely, but Mayor Hartree said the motion he had tabled and had given notice on was for the postponement only. Hence that’s what he had to talk about.
A few councillors mentioned Butt Green on Midsummer Common (image via here) as a possible site for a new bus terminal and also as a waiting point for private vehicles too.
Remember that this was before the time of the Grafton Centre, and pre-dated the creation of New Square as a car park – one that was later turned back into a green following the construction of the Grafton Centre’s multi-storey car park.
As well as objecting to the concept of building a car park and bus terminal on Christ’s Pieces, other objections such as financial costs, to procedural objections, to the main beneficiary being a private bus company (the Ortona Bus Company) were also tabled. After three hours of debate, a roll-call vote was called on whether to suspend the works on Drummer Street.
As you can see, the councillors voted against the motion and we got Drummer Street Bus Station. Note the threat from someone that if Drummer Street got built, there would be no further women mayors. Which turned out to be nonsense as seven years later, one of the councillors who voted against the motion with Mayor Hartree, Mrs Florence Ada Keynes, went on to become Cambridge’s second woman mayor.