Another find by Mike Petty MBE
It’s easy to take for granted the pedestrianisation of the main retail precincts of Cambridge, but until the late 20th Century, it was possible to drive straight through the town centre, and catch a bus in Market Square and on King’s Parade. During the long and intense debates on the future of the historic & retail centre, the man appointed to come up with the solutions, city architect Gordon Logie, made a call for the pedestrianisation of the town centre in a speech to Trade Unionists. Formed in 1912, the Cambridge & District Trades Council is still going today.
I’ve transcribed the original article below:
“Mr Gordon Logie, the Cambridge City Architect, spoke last night to the Cambridge And District Trades Council about his desire to see the central area of Cambridge used for pedestrians only.
“He said traffic conditions were “frightful” in the city centre, especially on Saturday afternoons. “Why everybody does not get killed, I don’t know,” he added.
“Mr Logie said he would like to see eventually a new city hall and central library and to replace some out of date shops in the area in an attempt to make the whole centre more pleasant.
“It will be impossible for everyone to drive into the centre in the future. I am afraid most people will have to walk in from the outer fringe car parks or travel by shuttle service public transport”Gordon Logie, Cambridge News, January 1964
“Other aims on the future redevelopment of Cambridge were:
- to try and preserve many houses in the Maids Causeway – New Square area – “They comprise one of the most attractive areas of old Cambridge;”
- to redevelop the New Town area along “Exciting lines”
- to rebuild part of the Fitzroy Street and Burleigh Street area – “It is looking very down at heel at the moment,” changes when the spine relief road programme get underway during the next few years, including the banning of Magdalene Bridge to motorised traffic
“Mr Logie said he was against high densities. He thought it would be possible to keep most of the central area population where it was, after rebuilding.
“The City Architect said he, the planners and the developers were waiting to see what the minister decided on the Lion Yard area. Then re-development could get under way. Questions included one about the possibility of removing the Cambridge Market from in front of the Guildhall and replacing it with a civic garden. He thought this would be very difficult to implement. Whatever the future of the Market Square, he considered it should remain an open space.
“You just cannot have a solid mass of buildings. I think a great number of villagers would not bother to come to Cambridge to shop if the traditional market was not there, despite the fact that one or two of you think it serves no better purpose than to sell flowers, fruit, and vegetables.Gordon Logie, Cambridge News, January 1964
“So, what did we get?”
It goes to show that the changes – good or bad – did not happen automatically. Someone had to make the case for them, and overcome the opposition to those changes. There are many parallels with the many transport schemes being talked about in our present age.
Of his aims, it’s hard to say that the New Town area of Cambridge between Hills Road and Trumpington Road is ‘exciting’. But if you look at an aerial view of that part of town today, the city council delivered on its proposal to redevelop the area that was previously a slum
The New Town area of Cambridge from G-Maps here. You can read more about the detailed history of this part of town in Cambridge New Town – A Victorian Microcosm by Peter Bryan and Nick Wise in the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Proceedings 2005. (You can also join the society here).
The Fitzroy and Burleigh Street areas – The Kite – is a history project in itself. I bought a very rare copy of the proposals to renovate and regenerate the area by Kite Community Action from 1976, which I’ve digitised here. It’s an incredible document that stands the test of time – and shows that the people of The Kite were ultimately proved right. Older properties in that part of town are highly sought after while the proprietors of The Grafton Centre – the project which displaced them in the early 1980s, are now trying to adjust their offer in the face of an imploding retail scene crushed by lockdown and competition from The Internet.
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