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Arbury - 1970s Archive - 1: The Hump, The Seats, The Hills And The Block...

Photo captioned 'South Arbury homes' from the 'Cambridge Evening News', 1972 - Kingsway Flats, Carlton Way. In more recent years, great kebabs have been sold here. In 1972, I'd never even heard of one!

We lived in Cunningham Close on South Arbury, and it surprises a lot of people to hear that, although it was the early 1970s, some people were buying their council houses. Before the 1980s, council houses were sold - it depended on individual councils. In the '80s it simply became a right for all.

We didn't buy ours - only a few people in the road were doing that. Quite a lot of people, when they bought their house, would put on a new front door - hard wood, latticed, with a few panes of bullseye glass for a Victorian look perhaps, and might put up a Victorian style lamp by their door.

It wasn't that people were desperate to be 'retro' as we call it nowadays - but Victorian style looked 'nice' and 'posh'.

Anyway, every decade has its retro. We had quite a lot back in the '70s - the '50s revival, Upstairs, Downstairs, and lots more.

I said we lived 'on' South Arbury at the beginning of this post. Why? Well, we didn't refer to living 'in Arbury'. We lived on the Arbury Estate - which was - and, logically, still is - a large area of housing between Carlton Way and King's Hedges Road. We would say we lived 'on the Arbury'. Some people still say that.

There was a lady called Mrs Pettit next door to us in Cunningham Close, and she had spaniels - used to breed them. She was lovely, always had a kind word for us kids. And there was a lady called Doreen next-door-but-one from us who was an agent for a mail order catalogue. That's how a lot of people made purchases in those days - paying a small amount every week. My mother would often ask Doreen to 'bring the catalogue round'.

We shopped at Arbury Court, at Bishop's supermarket, and at what we pronounced 'Yarrer's' (Yarrow's) grocer's and butcher's in Carlton Way, and bought Black Jacks and Fruit Salads at what we pronounced 'Stopsiz' (David Stops, newsagent) next door.

Bishop's matchbox. We bought a lot of sandwich paste there, as well as the rest of the main shop. Paste was very 'in' - because it was cheap. Even today, a paste sandwich whisks my mind back to South Arbury - Cunningham Close or Rutland Close - circa 1973. I can see the dreadful post-60s wallpaper and shiver at the memory of no central heating.

We used to watch a lot of telly - The Tomorrow People, Follyfoot, Josie and the Pussycats, Doctor Who and so on, but we also went out to play a lot. There was the Arbury Town Park in Campkin Road (nothing there, but OK for a run about), the Arbury Court Rec, St Alban's Rec on St Alban's Road, Arbury Adventure Playground in Nun's Way on North Arbury, or we could play on the hills near the Kingsway Flats - and there were a couple of other favoured locations. I had family living in Rutland Close, Verulam Way, Brackley Close and Carlton Way, and my 'best mate' lived in Walker Court, so it was really all home to me.

Dora was upset at Follyfoot.

Photo captioned 'North Arbury homes' from the 'Cambridge Evening News', 1972. Flats on Nicholson Way.

There used to be a group of us kids who would kind of drift together on summer evenings at the Kingsway block near Rutland Close and chant rhymes (often quite saucy ones - it wasn't that much of an innocent time!) and play with klackers (a craze which swept in from abroad in the early '70s). There was a boy called Barry from Verulam Way who could make his klackers clack furiously, underhand, overhand... 

Fascinating to watch. 

Somebody else threw a pair over a high telephone wire near the corner of Metcalfe Road - and they hung there for years. They were still there in the early 1980s. Mishandled, they hurt your knuckles. Stupid things really, but we had no computers or mobile phones, of course.

Most of our parents weren't even on a landline. I read somewhere that over 50% of the UK population had no landline until the 1980s - and I can believe it. It always seemed 'posh' to me when somebody had a phone - or a colour telly. One of my aunts got both in the early '70s. We weren't envious, of course. Or so we said.

BBC1 in colour in black and white. It always was at my house.

The Kingsway 'block' near Rutland Close. This is where we kids used to gather. 'Let's go to the block' was an oft-heard phrase in that area.

When we were at junior school in the early-to-mid 1970s, the main kids' landmarks in the immediate neighbourhood near Cunningham Close and my cousin's house in Rutland Close were 'The Block', 'The Hills' (the Kingsway hills), 'The Hump' and 'The Seats'. 

They were our main play areas and very important landmarks to us.

The hump and the seats were an area on Verulam Way, fronting the Kingsway hills. The seats were let into a wall and behind the wall was the hump - a mound of soil which made a great bike 'stunt' ride. The hump was edged by silver birch trees - and they are still there, but the seats and hump were all bricked in in the early 21st Century.

Fond memories... The Hump on Verulam Way.

There were also some very creepy (we thought) garages at the Kingsway, by Carlton Way. Very dark. They were pulled down and the area grassed in the early 21st Century, but, around thirty years before, we liked to peer in the entrance and shout 'hellooo' to try and make echoes.

Coming soon: Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?


  1. I got on the Arbury bus in town the other day and the driver called out to those outside the bus: 'The Arbury!' I had to smile!


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