Central Cambridge’s townscape in the 1970s

Some publications by Cambridge City Council that I’ve scanned for you to see.

But first, a big

Thank you

to those of you who have contributed towards the expense of purchasing these old documents from various sources (mainly ‘electronic-bay’, Abe-books’, and G-David in Cambridge) which I’ve spent much of the past few weeks scanning and uploading to the Internet Archive – you can view for free the growing digital library of mine here. I’m still under the watchful eye of cardiac rehabilitation so can’t really go anywhere or undertake the long-planned digitisation of the back copies of the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History’s annual bulletins in the Cambridgeshire Collection.

For those of you willing and able to support me (mindful of these tough economic times on everyone), please see https://ko-fi.com/antonycarpen

I’ve been told on reasonably good authority that digitising these historical documents helps save a significant amount of time for people working in a variety of institutions. That said, the copyright for the publications produced by public sector bodies remains with the publishing institution, and it is their call should they wish for me to take these down – mindful of any legal obligations they may have on things such as the Reuse of Public Sector Information Regulations & the Open Government Licence for Public Sector Information Scheme. (Generally if I’m asked to take something down by someone in authority, I do it no questions asked).

A time of huge change in our city

This is from the Cambridge Townscape of 1971 – a document that provides a snapshot or three of what our city was like around half a century ago.

Above – one of the photographs and section-dividers from the Cambridge Townscape 1971

I think they managed to select one of the few bits of old housing that is still standing over half a century later – see G-Maps here. Many of the buildings – in particular round the back of the old Addenbrooke’s, have since been demolished.

There are a large number of colour plates

Above – The Guildhall and Market Square are clearly visible. I’ve included the key from the document below to indicate what each building type refers to – indicating what planners thought at the time the intrinsic value of each building was.

Interestingly the large assembly hall behind the Guildhall is a “Feature Building” while the 1930s era front is only a ‘Substantial Building’ – although both are now listed buildings.

Town vs Gown in a map

This map tells a thousand words.

Cambridge Townscape Map 1971
Cambridge Townscape Map 1971

Ideally the River Cam would be flowing blue through the map rather than the non-distinct white, but you can see how the old town represented by the commercial core is completely surrounded by the college and university buildings/land holdings. Until the 1800s, that was pretty much as far as Cambridge extended. The population at the start of the 19th Century was only 9,000. Beyond Parker’s Piece was countryside. So the centuries-long clashes between town and gown (see Rowland Parker in 1983 here) happened in a much smaller geographical space than we might think.

In the 1800s it was along roads like East Road, Newmarket Road, Huntingdon Road, Mill Road, and Hills Road that a more industrialised working class arose, living in the houses that we are more familiar with today – and ones that often sell at prices the first inhabitants could only have dreamed of. Note how quickly (in an historical context) the fortunes of a city can change. In 1966 large parts of Cambridge were crumbling – see my earlier blogpost here. Forty years later in 2006 it was very much the opposite – it was boom time Cambridge. Despite working in a regional government office in the civil service off Brooklands Avenue, I was strangely oblivious to all of the plans and proposals that were happening. Looking back, a very large part of this was due to no institution making any real effort to engage with my generation as children (1980s) and teenagers (1990s) in our civic history. I was oblivious to it all – and can understand why so many subsequent generations that have followed might be of a similar feeling.

Post War Cambridge is no longer the recent past – and the years following the Millennium is now contemporary history

Hence why I think it’s important that we as a city (and the institutions within it) start properly recording people’s memories of what life was like in those times – before we forget. Mindful that the changes in local newspaper reporting and the shrinking of that entire industry might make the jobs of future historians that much harder.

Food for thought?

Supporting my future research on the story of Cambridge the town

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in the history of Cambridge the town and the people who made our modern city, please support my research in bringing their records of achievement to wider audiences. Click here if you would like to make a donation or take out a small subscription to support my ongoing work.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s