Skip to main content

'The Arbury' - The Memories of Mr Cardinal: Part 5

Manor Nurseries, Arbury Road, Cambridge, in the late 1950s. 

The fifth part of Mr Gordon Cardinal's memories of old Arbury, written in 1983 for the Arbury Archive. 

Young Gordon has begun work for his aunt's brother, Ernest Sale, at the Manor Nurseries on Arbury Road...

'The Arbury'

Part 5

By Gordon Cardinal

Mr Eaton would be away from the nursery doing garden contracts except for the rough weather at winter times. Then he would come back to the nursery and spend his time making garden seats and rustic arches, etc.

From Charlie Eaton I learned the art of creating a garden. From Sidney Arbor I learned the knowledge of propagation and from both Sidney and Ernie Sale the art of floral work.

Mr Sidney Arbor at work at the Manor Nurseries in the 1950s.

Manor Nurseries tried to be self supporting. The perimeter was planted with various evergreen trees and shrubs, which were used in floral work. Most of the basic flowers used were grown on the nursery. On Fridays, any surplus flowers and plants were made up to a load and sent to Winship's Produce Auction Mart that was held in King Street.

I must add at this point that Ernie Sale started his working life as a confectioner and baker but he suffered from the 'gas' used in the 1914-18 war and was advised to take up outdoor work, so he became a nurseryman - a leading florist and nurseryman of Cambridge.

As a florist, he was gifted. His office was decorated with the numerous awards he had won at shows. I must describe the office for you: it was a glass fronted shed built on the end of the first greenhouse. The workbench was littered with the tools of the floral trade, wreath wire, black edged wreath cards. etc, etc, ashtrays - always an unending supply of cigarettes, and in his little box under the bench would be a bottle of spirit for a drop for any of his many friends who called for a chat.

The phone was of the type that was fixed to the wall. When it rang, you unhooked the earpiece and held it to your ear. No electric light then. We worked by lantern light.

Every gardener had his own secret ways of growing things.

One of the Manor Nurseries liquid manure feeds for our plants was made up as follows: first, I would go to the cow paddocks (Manor School now) [North Cambridge Academy] and collect fresh cow dung in a cloth sack. This would be hung in a tub of water. Then I would go to Mr Turner's pig sties and collect the pure liquid as it ran from the sties. This would be poured into the tub too. To that would be added a shovelful of dried animal blood. Then, as if to 'flavour' the whole mixture, a bag of old chimney soot would be flung in the tub.

After a week the mixture was ready to add to the watering can for watering the plants. The strength of the mixture could be judged by the smell!!

The plants on the land would be hand watered with the mixture added. The buckets were carried on a 'yoke' - a smooth piece of wood that went across the shoulders, a semi-circle cut out to fit behind the neck. On each end of the yoke was a chain, on which the buckets would be hooked. As you walked along, you held it steady with both hands holding the cross bar holding the buckets.

Floral decorations took place most weeks throughout the year.

The Lion Hotel in Petty Cury was decorated Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year. Work was also done at all the cinemas, the New Theatre, and most of the dance halls in Cambridge. Two of the largest jobs were the Dorothy Ballroom and the Guildhall. The college May Balls were also a great time for floral decorations, and the nursery was in great demand. 

Not many days went by when we didn't have funeral wreaths to make. I recall, on one of these very sad occasions, when an aged and devoted husband had died. Two wreaths were ordered from Manor Nurseries - and two wreaths we sent - with ladies' names and words of endearment on them! I had to make an explanation to the poor widow about that! Such mistakes were very rare, but they did happen.

Another job for funerals then was to 'line out' a grave. That would mean decorating the corners and sides of the grave right down so the grave would be decorated with flowers. Wire netting would be lowered into the graves and fixed to the sides. Into the wire, evergreen would be threaded, then the flowers arranged amongst the evergreen, making the grave look very nice. It wasn't a nice job on a wet day.

Saturdays were always the happy days. If you were lucky you could be finished work around 1:00PM. Also, it was always the day for weddings.

The main order then was always a 'full shower' bouquet for the bride. As the bride held the flowers in front of her, the bouquet was arranged to start just below her chin and trail to within twelve inches from the ground.

Head dresses would be made for the bridesmaids as well as little bouquets for them to hold. 

I was always sure of a 'tip' when the flowers were delivered to the bride's home, and often a drink was offered as well - but I was never caught drunk in charge of a delivery cycle (known as a trade bike)!

Another 'extra' we could earn was at 'posh' weddings - when we would be asked to attend the church and make sure the flowers looked nice, ready for the family photographs. I would be paid at least two shillings and sixpence (twelve and a half pence) or even five shillings (twenty five pence), and, if lucky, would receive an invitation to come to the reception for a drink.

Just after the Second War ended, Ernest Sale decided to brighten up the entrance to the Manor Nurseries. He already had two large boards up, one facing towards Histon Road, the other up the Arbury Road facing the opposite way. As they needed a good overhaul, he employed Swainlands of Broad Street, Cambridge, to do the work.

They were a real work of art. Ernest Sale's name was large and clear at one side. On the board facing Cambridge was a picture of a little girl looking at a Christmas tree, on the other board was a bouquet of red roses.

I remember a lot of people coming down Arbury Road just to watch Swainlands at work on the boards.

We built two brick entrance columns either side of the nursery drive.

As we were building them, Ernie Sale heard that the entrance to the old Central Cinema was bring modernised. He managed to get the two wrought iron lamp standards from there. These were placed on top of the columns.

As materials were still scarce after the War, we wanted something to help out our supply of cement, to fill the middle of the columns. We decided to clear out all the old beer and spirit bottles we could find and broke them up and mixed them in.

In 1983, Gordon Cardinal directed a couple of Arbury Archivists to the site of Manor Nurseries and recommended they take a stick and tap around in the hedgerow near Nicholson Way - as, he said, the bases to the nursery entrance columns were there. Sure enough, the archivists found them. As with the other remnants of the once rural community that existed in Arbury, it was a striking reminder of the huge change that had taken place in a very short period of time.

The sixth and final part of Mr Cardinal's 'The Arbury' is here - work begins on St Kilda Avenue, the 'Great Ring Road' threatens huge change, and Gordon decides to move on.

Prints of many of the photographs featured on this blog can be purchased from the Cambridgeshire Collection, Cambridge Central Library. This is an essential resource for all Cambridge history researchers. We recommend you make it one of your first stops when embarking on any Cambridgeshire local history project.


Popular posts from this blog

What Did The Romans Ever Do for Arbury? Jim Smith

Our trusty old Arbury map showing location details before the Manor Farm was established. The red line, inserted by Jim Smith, indicates the course of the Roman road - Akeman Street or the Mere Way. The land north of Arbury Road was the Arbury or Harborough Meadows, Arbury/Harborough furlongs and Arbury Camp, King's Hedges was in its original position, north of the railway (now guided busway) and Arbury Road ran from the Ely/Milton Road to the Histon/Cambridge Road - as it did until the late 1970s. Introduction - by the Arbury Archivists Jim Smith is a local history researcher and a good friend of the Arbury Cambridge Blog. He has been researching Roman finds in the historic Arbury area and has written this article for us. We are most grateful! He follows the adventures of those who scraped away centuries of soil to reveal ancient findings beneath.  Of course, as always, we deal with historic Arbury here, not council planners' estates or electoral wards, which are both prone to

Exploring The REAL King's Hedges...

The Cambridge and St Ives Branch railway line is now the Guided Busway. Where was King's Hedges historically? How did the name come about? Why is the majority of King's Hedges Road no more historic than late 1970s - and nothing to do with the course of the original road? What have council planners of the 1960s and 1970s and the needs of motorists got to do with the King's Hedges presence in the historic Arbury district? All will be revealed... We're going to leave Arbury briefly and go to King's Hedges. No, not King's Hedges Ward - that area is, in reality, one of the most Arbury of Arbury areas in Cambridge historically, but the REAL King's Hedges. North of the Guided Busway. You see, the land north of Arbury Road is the site of the Arbury Camp, the Arbury/Harborough (a variation on the Arbury name) Meadows and the Arbury fields of Manor Farm.  It has absolutely nothing to do with King's Hedges at all. And King's Hedges was never a district. Land no

Main Streets of Arbury: Campkin Road - Part 1

Left: work begins on Campkin Road in 1961. Numbers 1 and 2 Manor Farm Cottages have been demolished, but the intention is to preserve the old trees lining the old Manor Farm Drive. Right: a similar view in more modern times, with the Arbury Town Park and Campkin Road. In 1982, Campkin Road was described as the 'Hauptstrasse of North Arbury' by local journalist Sara Payne. Ms Payne's local history articles in the Cambridge Weekly News were hugely popular and, for each one, Ms Payne visited a street in Cambridge and talked to the residents, collecting their memories for publication and producing a fascinating series of 'Then and Now' style articles. 'Cambridge Weekly News', 1982. Down Your Street followed in the footsteps of a similar series in the local press in the early 1960s - by Erica Dimmock - and both now make fascinating reading. We're starting our look at Campkin Road with material from the 'Arbury 1980' project and accounts from locals

Manor School Memories Part 1

The Manor School on Arbury Road was one of the main focuses of life for North and South Arbury for decades. With its evening classes and youth centre, and various community activities - like the annual Christmas party for the elderly and the annual school play in the 1980s ( Annie Get Your Gun and Dracula Spectacular spring to mind) - the Manor opened as separate boys' and girls' schools in 1959 (the girls had to share the boys' buildings at first as their own were still under construction). The school later became co-ed.      An aerial view of t he Manor Schools - Boys' and Girls', around 1960, with a section of Arbury Road and Arbury Court. Note Arbury Court was yet to gain its library and large supermarket building, and Campkin Road was still the Manor Farm Drive. The side of the Manor School 'new block', built in the early 1970s, the tower block and boys' gym beyond. The school was built in the Park Meadow of the old Manor Farm - which is how the &

Arbury Court - Part Of The 'Centre' Of The Original Arbury Estate...

A view across Arbury Court, looking towards Arbury Road, in 1976. Arbury Court is part of the 'centre' of the original Arbury Estate in Cambridge. The Court, with its pub, supermarket, hardware store and post office, chip shop, newsagent, TV shop, greengrocer, hairdresser, chemist, supermarket and branch library, is part of the 'hub' of the estate. The historic Arbury district. The Arbury or Harborough (the names were variations on each other and interchangeable) Meadows covered most of the land north of Arbury Road. The road ran from Milton Road to the Histon/Cambridge Road until the late 1970s. The Manor Farm was formed in the years following the 1840 Chesterton Enclosures. Orchard Park (originally Arbury Park and, before that, Arbury Camp Farm) features the outline of part of the Arbury prehistoric settlement at Ring Fort Road. We've inserted the sites of Arbury Court, the Guided Busway and Campkin Road. Arbury Road marks the boundary of North and South Arbury, a

Arbury Archaeology and History: Part 1

Imagine an iron age settlement. It is surrounded by a circular earthwork. People live here. There are houses, and pens for animals within the enclosure. Until recent years, it was not believed to be a fort. The settlement is larger than some, but believed to be very much the equivalent of what we now call a village - the earthwork simply to defend it from wolves and animal thieves. The earthwork is filled with water, and reeds and rushes grow there. Despite the naming of the Arbury earthwork as 'Ring Fort Road' in the Arbury Camp Farm Arbury/Orchard Park development, the original height of the earthwork and its enclosed area were not believed to indicate that Arbury was a fort (compare to Wandlebury), and the findings of archaeologists from Cambridge and London from the early 1960s to 1970 discounted the notion. Comment from Arbury Camp, Cambridge, A Preliminary Report on Excavations - by John Alexander and David Trump, 1970: The excavations therefore tend to confirm earlier s

Arbury Snippets Part 4: Arbury Terrace, Arbury Hedges, 19th Century Pugilists, Hunting & Escaped Prisoners At The Real King's Hedges And Suspects On The Arbury Meadows...

We've superimposed the old Arbury Meadows, Furlongs and Corner onto a 1900 map. Remember, the Manor Farm, which covered most of North Arbury (or the Council's inappropriately named 'King's Hedges Ward'), did not exist before the 1840s. Our 1900 map also features the details from the 1840 enclosures map. The names Arbury and Harborough were variations on each other and interchangeable. Whilst the 1840 enclosures map used the 'Harborough' form, an 1839 newspaper article (featured) used the 'Arbury' form. During the late 1800s, the 'Harborough' form all but disappeared. The Arbury name is derived from the Old English for 'earthwork', the earthwork surrounding the iron age settlement at Arbury Camp Farm (now Orchard Park, originally Arbury Park). The earthwork, or at least part of it, was a landscape feature for around 2000 years, and the part of the outline seen on this map is incorporated into the design of Ring Fort Road. Arbury was. f

Ask Arbury: The Roman Villa in Arbury

     E-mail to Arbury Cambridge blog: Was a Roman villa found at King's Hedges? I recently saw an outside display in North Arbury/King's Hedges Ward called 'The Roman Landscape in King's Hedges' which claims there was one. And is King's Hedges Road Roman?  We've seen that display. Electoral wards are not historic areas and local historians really do need to be mindful of that fact. The answer to your question regarding the Roman villa and King's Hedges Road is no. The Roman villa was found on the site of King's Hedges School, which is not part of the historic King's Hedges acres. Historically, King's Hedges was simply a named property, a farm, of fifty eight acres, and is now north of the guided busway. It was never a district. King's Hedges School is dearly loved by many of us and we treasure it, but those in the know accept it's not actually in any historically meaningful King's Hedges district, and the site had nothing to do w

What Arbury Means To You...

We thought it would be good to invite comments (or emails - from readers about what Arbury means to you. Of course, many have already made their views plain on here, but we like the idea of a dedicated blog post. Please be aware that we are referring to the original Arbury area here, the area between Gilbert Road and King's Hedges Road, not modern electoral wards/misnamed apparently 'separate' housing estates. From 'Arbury is Where We Live!' (1981): Community action has always been important in Arbury. The first Arbury community groups were formed with the building of South Arbury in the 1950s, and North Arbury has seen many fantastic community efforts - resulting in the likes of the Arbury Adventure Playground, Arbury Carnival, Arbury Community Centre and the Arbury Town Park. So, what does Arbury mean to YOU? How long have you lived here? Are you interested in Arbury history? What do you like about Arbury? What do you dislike? What mak

Manor School Memories - Part 2

Lads from the Manor Boys' School in 1960. D. Claton, M. Farrow, R. Mitchell, C. Peck, I. Skeels, R. Potter and G. Paine are present. Do any readers remember who is who? School's back in - Manor School/Community College on Arbury Road that is (now North Cambridge Academy). Here is the second part of our series on Manor Memories - Part 1 is here . Pupils' foreign holiday, 1960: the first Manor girls to go on a joint foreign holiday with Manor boys: G. Anderson, J. Barnes, C. Blackwell, H. Brown, S. Budd, L. Carter, A. Clarke, L. Doggett, C. Doughty, P. Drake, S. Hardy, E. Harradine, B. Kaspar, D. Miller, J. Parker, L. Phillips, J. Reeves, J. Spencer, J. Symonds, with headmistress Mrs Firman. Note the Manor Schools' caretaker's house can be seen in the background, and the trees of the old Manor Farm orchard. October 1960, and here is a view of the Manor Boys' and Girls' schools from the car park at the Snow Cat public house (now the Cambridge Gurdwara). A view