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'The Arbury' - The Memories of Mr Cardinal: Part 4

Manor Nurseries staff c. mid-1940s - Gordon Cardinal, centre.

Mr Cardinal's memories of Arbury in the 1930s and '40s continue. He was a charming man with an amazing memory. He worked tirelessly to record his memories for the Arbury Archive in the early 1980s, inspired by Arbury Is We Live! His memories paint a wonderful picture of Arbury seventy+ years ago..

The Arbury

By Gordon Cardinal

Part 4

Along with the autumn came 'Sugar Beet' time. The beet would be ploughed out, and the beet would then have to be pulled out and knocked together, to clean off the soil, then thrown in a neat row down the field. That was 'Beet Knocking' - worth up to 1/- a day for a boy (5p).

The men would follow on with a 'beet hook' to chop off the tops of the beet. The 'hook' was like an old sickle blade - cut down with the tip turned up at an angle - that was used to lift the beet off the ground, catch it with the free hand, and cut off the top. A good man could do that in one action, without loss of limb.

When the Beet Lorry came to take the sugar beet to the Ely factory, it would be hand loaded into the lorry with a beet fork. The fork tines would have ball ends so as not to stick into the beet.

Autumn also saw the making of potato clamps. The crop would be lifted and carted to the headland of the field, the carts would tip them in a long heap, and this would be covered by a thick layer of straw; then earth would be put on the straw, all by hand. Every few yards at the top ridge of the 'clamps' a chimney was made that consisted of an armful of straw pushed down into the base of the clamp. The idea was to let the air in.

Mangels or 'mangel wurzels' were stored in the same way. They were used during the winter months for cattle feed. The mangels would be put into a hand-worked cutter. It had a hopper on one side, into which you put the mangels. As you turned the handle, the blades would cut them up and they would fall out at the bottom. They would then be mixed with bran or rolled oats and some chaff. The mixing fork was similar to the beet fork except that the tines were joined together at the ends so, as you mixed, the mixture would fall through the fork as well as being turned.


By going to the fields of Arbury, I came to know most of the people. Ernest Sale lived in the first cottage on the left in the Manor Farm 'Drive', and next door was Mr Downham. 

On the right was the Manor Farm orchard, which was rented by Ernie Sale, then the Manor Farm cottage where my aunt, Mrs Cardinal, and my cousins lived. Next door was the big Manor Farmhouse, always called the 'Manor House' by us. Colonel Bennett lived there. He was County Land Agent.

Next to the Manor was Mr Skinner's house and farmyard, then the 'Rick Yard'. Next to that were two cottages, the last of the Manor Farm cottages. Mr Baker lived in one, and it was either Mrs Wright or Mrs Challis next door.

A cart track which went off round the back of Mr Baker's cottage ended up at a private roadway belonging to the University Field Laboratories Department, which in turn led into Milton Road.

Along that track Mr Baker had his stable, sheds and small holding, as did Mr Turner and Mr Brett. My aunt's business also had a small holding there as well.

Opposite Mr Baker's cottage ran another cart track. At the side, to start with, was Mr Turner, who had pig sties as well as his holding. Further down the track, my aunt had the chicken sheds and land on the right, part of which was 'Boy's Pit'. At this point, a track led off back to Arbury Road. Mr Lumb had the small holding there. I cannot remember the name of the man who had the neat orchard next to that, but at the end came Mr Reeve and his stable and small holding and so on to Arbury Road.

Going back to the point of turning right at the chicken sheds, if you carried on along that cart track it turned left again, heading out to Arbury Road. Mr Cottage and Mr Wilson had smallholdings down there and then that track in turn led out to Arbury Road.

Looking across the Manor Farm fields in the 1950s. We've marked in all items of interest. This was before the massive redirection and expansion of King's Hedges Road for the A45/A14 motorway in the late 1970s. Much of King's Hedges Road didn't exist when this photograph was taken, and some fields bordered the railway tracks (guided busway). Work began on North Arbury in the late 1950s. The first of the new buildings was the Manor School, which opened in 1959.

Map of the Arbury district, c. 1900


Every year, a Gentleman of the Road (tramp) by the name of George would come and make his winter home in some sheds on the Manor Farm land (land between Mr Reeve and Mr Wilson) along the Arbury Road. He was a harmless old chap and always seemed to get a meal from someone. When the winter weather got really rough, someone would come and make him go into the Chesterton Workhouse ('Spike' being the slang name for workhouse) in Union Lane (now Chesterton Hospital).

When the weather was fit for him to come out, he would be seen striding down the middle of Arbury Road (looking nice and clean), shouting and telling everyone how they had made him have a bath at the workhouse.

As the summer came, so he would be off - where no one knew. He once told me he had been from one end of England to the other. Perhaps he had. I hope so.


Mr Ernest Sale, in the front garden of his home at No 1, Manor Farm Cottages, Arbury Road. His cottage stood in what is now the middle of the road at Campkin Road's junction with Arbury Road. The Manor Farm's white gate, leading out into Arbury Road, can be glimpsed to the right of the photograph.

As mentioned before, my interests always wandered from Father and the Milk Round. One fateful year, as Christmas drew near, Mr Sale offered me two shillings (10p) if I would go and help him on Saturday mornings and up to Christmas Day at his Manor Nurseries on Arbury Road. My job would be delivering pot plants, Christmas trees, holly wreaths, etc.

I didn't worry about being known as an 'errand boy'. Two shillings (10p) was twice as much as Father could pay me.

That first Saturday morning (7.30am to 10am) I had been given two shillings and sixpence (twelve and a half pence) in tips alone (at last I was rich!).

And so it was I came to work for Mr Sale when I left school. He was always known to me as 'Uncle Ern'. He was brother to Mrs Fred Cardinal, my aunt, who lived at the farm.

The nursery staff was then made up as follows: Mr Sidney Arbor, the nursery foreman, Mr Charles Eaton, who was journeyman gardener (that side of gardening is now known as landscape) and myself as 'the boy'. During the summer season there would be several other part-time staff taken on as work was done.

Part five of Mr Cardinal's 'The Arbury' is here.

Prints of many of the photographs featured on this blog can be purchased from the Cambridgeshire Collection, Cambridge Central Library.


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