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ARBURY IS WHERE WE LIVE! Part 1

The highly distinctive 'Arbury Is Where We Live!' book cover - etched on many people's memories across Arbury.

Back down the time tunnel we go, back, back, to 1981: The Rubik's Cube was Toy of the Year for the second year running, the illegal CB radio craze went OTT - and legalisation came in November, Charles and Diana married, riots raged in some inner city areas in England, and Arbury Is Where We Live! was published.

This book was the result of a project involving all the Arbury primary schools - Arbury, St Laurence's, the Grove and King's Hedges. The project was called Arbury 1980 - and was a study of the area's history - going back to the Iron Age.

The children wrote interesting prose about - and accounts of - Iron Age and Roman times, life at the old Manor and Hall Farms, the building of the estate and the establishment of the Arbury Community Centre and Arbury Adventure Playground, and finally about their lives in the Arbury of 1980.

Older people came into the schools to tell pupils about the days when the area was farmland, or the estate was just being built, and this information was transcribed by teachers for posterity.

A map view of the Arbury district from 1900, with earlier details inserted. Note that Arbury Road connects the Ely/Milton Road with the Histon/Cambridge Road as it did until the late 1970s. King's Hedges Road, originally a dead end, leading to the fifty eight acre farm called King's Hedge/King's Hedges, can be seen here. King's Hedges itself is north of the present guided busway - and is now the site of, among other things, Cambridge Regional College. It is straddled by the A14, and part of it is still open ground.

An Arbury 1980 exhibition was held at the Manor School on Arbury Road, featuring the pupils' work (including some lovely models of iron age housing!), transcripts and photographs.

The project culminated in 1981 with the publication of Arbury Is Where We Live!

Readers from Stretten Avenue, Darwin Drive, Akeman Street, Garden Walk and Histon Road, etc, will need to know that the book centred on the original Arbury Estate, not Cambridge City Council electoral wards or arbitrary re-namings of areas by the Council since the original estate of North and South Arbury was built.

One of us lived in Darwin Drive for years and another was born in Stretten Avenue - both have fond memories of living there - but the area was not built as Arbury - it was originally New Chesterton ('North Chesterton Ward'/'Castle Ward') and has no historical connections to Arbury. The presence of Chesterton School on the doorstep and Chesterton Mill within speaks volumes.

The original Arbury estate, dating to before the original Arbury Ward which covered it, had - and still has - its own vibe, an Arbury history, and is a highly recognisable and well known area, even after many years of being derided and divided. 

Therefore the original Arbury Estate is our focus.

That being said, we have much material from New Chesterton/Old Chesterton - its history is every bit as fascinating as Arbury - and we hope to start a blog about the area at some point. 

Anyway, it's high time this was on line.

These posts are dedicated to the memory of Sallie Purkis, historian, who believed in Arbury as a place worthy of note and encouraged a greater sense of community with the Arbury 1980 project and this book. She was also a great help to me - endlessly informative, enthusiastic and encouraging - when I did further research during the 1980s for my Cambridge Weekly News articles The Bretts - An Arbury Story of Farming Folk. I'm very glad I knew her.

Just click on any of the Arbury Is Where! images for a large view.

Arbury people who contributed to the book... is your name there?

Sallie Purkis's introduction to the book - a description of the Arbury Estate and the Arbury 1980 project which led to the book.

Ancient Arbury... prose and descriptions from Arbury area school children centred on iron age life in the area at Arbury Camp Farm. Arbury Camp Farm was originally on Arbury Road, but, after the major expansion and redirection of King's Hedges Road in the late 1970s for the Cambridge Northern Bypass/A14, was on the new and redirected stretch of King's Hedges Road. The King's Hedges name was imported into the Arbury Meadows by means of council planners, a school, a highway and electoral wards in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Historically, King's Hedges was a small farm, north of the guided busway. The name is believed to have originated from a hedged hunting warren on the site in the days of the Royal Manor of Chesterton. The hedges were used to trap and kill animals for 'sport'. The hedged hunting warren belonged to the king, the hedges were a visible landmark, hence 'King's Hedges'. To primary school children in the 1980s, it must have seemed that the imported 'King's Hedges' name had always been part of the Arbury district - the fact that part of Arbury Road had been renamed 'King's Hedges Road' in the late 1970s added to the confusion - Arbury Camp Farm was suddenly on a new road called King's Hedges Road in an area that was not historically King's Hedges - and a hedged hunting warren was chosen by council planners for highlighting rather than an iron age settlement!

Mapping the Arbury district in 1900. Note the position of the original King's Hedges and Arbury Camp Farm. The railway line is now the guided busway.

New arrivals... The Romans move into Arbury.

Archaeology in Arbury... Roman coffins discovered as the estate is being built. 

Arbury finds... the Romans were amazing. That jug still looks a very modern piece of work!

Moving on again - into rural Arbury in recent centuries. The bottom right photograph is of the Manor Farmhouse in Campkin Road. The Manor Farm Drive formed the basis of the Arbury Road end of Campkin Road, and I could take you to the spot where the house stood today. We are looking towards Arbury Road here. Over the hedge to the right were the farm's 'Stable Field', 'Arbury Field' and a field simply called 'Arbury' (all listed on the farm's 1909 sale documents). Arbury Road was known locally as Arbury 'Meadow' Road for years - and I think this may be due to the presence, fronting the road to the north, of the old farm's 'Arbury' and 'Arbury Field'. As previously noted, there was also a time that most of the land north of Arbury Road, up to the railway tracks, the original King's Hedges farm track, and Milton Road, was known as Arbury or Harborough Meadows, 'West Arbury/Harborough Furlong', 'North Arbury/Harborough Furlong' and 'West Arbury/Harborough Corner'. Harborough was a variation on the Arbury name (scroll back up for map).

The next instalment is here.


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