Gordon Logie, the city architect (we don’t have them anymore) came up with six options.
Following the Holford Wright report of 1950 which plotted out the future of post-war Cambridge – and digitised by the city council (part 1 here, and part 2 here), town officials and councillors had to get into the messy business of deciding which bits they wanted and which bits they didn’t.
This was a time when it was possible to flatten parts of towns and cities in order to make them suitable for redevelopment. Today – in part due to heritage concerns and massive increases in land prices, comprehensive redevelopment is a less common concept than in the past.
Growing the shopping area – and building a new one east of the centre
That was basically the plan. Before WWII much of St Andrew’s Street had been demolished and rebuilt – the buildings housing Waterstones, and the Sussex Street redevelopments being suitably grand examples of interwar architecture which personally I quite like. The Victorians also did more than their fare share of rebuilding too – not always popular it has to be said. Petty Cury was rebuilt in the 1870s, 100 years before the monstrosity that is currently there was built.
Christ’s Pieces under threat
In 1925 everything kicked off over the proposals for Drummer Street Bus Station. But the council forced it through.
“Give ’em a bit a bowlin’ & croquet to get over it!”
Which reminds me – what happened to our croquet lawn?!? Oh well, it could have been worse. Much worse.
Mr Logie didn’t get away with the above – not least because the residents of Parker Street and Emmanuel Road amongst other places strongly objected to their homes being demolished.
Building on the Kite – the start of a 20 year saga that smashed the once mighty Cambridge Conservative Party
Mr Logie may not have known it at the time, but his desire to comprehensively redevelop that part of the town had a catastrophic effect on the fortunes of the Cambridge Conservative Party. The late Colin Rosenstiel gave his account here. The previously solidly Conservative wards of Market and Petersfield (shown in Colin & Keith’s chart here) were lost to the Liberals and Labour by 1980. They would never return.
Mr Logie’s criteria for building
The Cambridge News ran a feature in July 1966 at a time when everyone was distracted by the World Cup.
Did Mr Logie’s requirements get met with the Grafton Centre?
The six options.
It’s like I need some background music for this from an old TV gameshow…
“One for Parklife lovers which leaves Christ’s Pieces intact, but leaves little left of old Parker Street!”
This didn’t get built – Parker Street and houses are still there.
“Now this concrete monster flattens everything between Parker Street and Newmarket Road – but who needs nice old Georgian squares like New Square (which is actually very old anyway) anyway!?!?”
This one didn’t get built either because ****Ha ha ha ha**** No.
“This little concrete monster covers the old New Square which is old anyway in lovely modern concrete – our back up plan to show we’ve listened and conceded to protesters when they reject the big monster”
They didn’t get this one either because locals decided they wanted to keep New Square.
“Look at all that lovely green stuff on Christ’s Pieces that you can build on for very little money as there are no inconvenient slums and people in the way!”
As in 1925, locals decided they quite liked the trees and green space. The trees and green space are still there.
“This compromise solution takes out only one small side of the old New Square that is really old, but we’re having those slums at the back!”
New Square is still there and still old, and the former slum properties have since been renovated and are now sold at over half a million a time.
This is the closest to what we actually got in the Grafton Centre that was opened in the 1980s – but at huge cost to the community because for years the area was hit by planning blight as planners, land owners and councillors fought local communities, activists and more councillors over the future of the area.
Two huge civic institutions in Cambridge would not survive the redevelopment of The Kite in anything like recognisable forms. The first mentioned earlier was the Cambridge Conservative Party – a shadow of its former self today. The second was the Cambridge and District Co-operative Society which moved out of its Burleigh Street HQ (where Primark now is) in an ill-advised move to the Beehive Centre where it lost money hand-over-fist before being bought out/rescued by the National Co-op. The decline of each of those institutions are Ph.D theses waiting to be researched and written by any new career historians out there.
Images above are all from the Cambridge News in the Cambridgeshire Collection – please given them your support
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