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Ask Arbury: Why Is King's Hedges Ward Really Arbury?

A question from Tina:

Where was King's Hedges originally and how does it differ from King's Hedges Ward? And please can you tell me what is all this about King's Hedges Ward really being Arbury?

Hi, Tina! Thanks for getting in touch. We think the maps above and below will explain the fake King's Hedges and its position on the Arbury map. It was a tiny farm of fifty eight acres and now the City and County Council's electoral ward has swept over historic Arbury land - and the original North Arbury Estate, and parts of East Chesterton.

The same 1900 map as featured at the top of the article, but with pre-Manor Farm field names. The 1840 Chesterton Enclosures map uses the 'Harborough' version of the name, but a newspaper from 1839 references the 'Arbury Meadows', showing that both names were current and interchangeable. The fields at Manor Farm which referenced the earthwork were simply called 'Arbury' and 'Arbury Field'.

We deal with the original Arbury Estate here - with North Arbury's King's Hedges sub-district up near the original King's Hedges Road (before the road's massive expansion and redirection in the late 1970s, lopping off the end of the original Arbury Road). The King's Hedges Estate component, dreamt up by council planners, was always poorly defined because it wasn't actually in King's Hedges and Kings Hedges, the original acres, were still unbuilt on. Many local residents knew them well. They are now largely occupied by the Cambridge Regional College, the motorway, and open land. The Council's King's Hedges project was poorly defined as the (historically non-King's Hedges) 'King's Hedges School' and 'King's Hedges Church Centre' were close to the North Arbury Post Office and North Arbury Chapel in Cameron Road, the Arbury Adventure Playground in Nun's Way and the Arbury Community House in Lawrence Way.

The prehistoric earthwork was referenced throughout the centuries north of Arbury Road, and before the establishment of the Manor Farm the land was known as the Arbury or Harborough Meadows (Harborough was a variation on the Arbury name, the names co-existed and were interchangeable), with 'North Arbury/Harborough Furlong' up by the farm track that was the original King's Hedges Road, and 'West Arbury/Harborough Corner and 'Arbury/Harborough Furlong' up by the Ely (later Milton) Road.

In the 1960s and '70s, Council planners were apparently obsessed with the King's Hedges name. Why? It stems from a much more recent era of history than prehistoric Arbury, has hunting connotations, and was north of the guided busway - a farm of fifty-eight acres. 

North Arbury was where a lot of the original Arbury community spirit blossomed, it was part of the original Arbury electoral ward, and gave us the Arbury Adventure Playground, the Arbury Community house, Arbury Community Centre, Arbury Town Park, North Arbury Post Office and the North Arbury Chapel. Of course, we can't forget Arbury Kebab! Most of these things were achieved with great effort, campaigning and fund raising from the North Arbury community. And North Arbury is historically correct. We are talking about the meadows by a prehistoric earthwork here - something which pre-dated Chesterton!

Who pays for the likes of a poorly researched outdoor plaque which has appeared on the estate - proclaiming the glories of the 'King's Hedges Landscape in Roman Times' - and the Roman villa unearthed on the site of King's Hedges School? Once more, the area was not King's Hedges - it was the Arbury/Harborough Meadows near Arbury Camp, and neither King's Hedges School or the Roman villa have anything to do with the historic King's Hedges acres. Historic references should be historic, not based on modern school names, Council planners' whims, 1970s road extensions and Council electoral wards - otherwise they are simply misinformation.

'Cambridge Evening News', 1969: the Roman villa and much earlier finds in a North Arbury barley field. The road on the site of the villa is named Northfield Avenue.

The other bone of contention with King's Hedges is that the most likely origin of the name is a hedged hunting warren, designed to trap animals so that they could be killed for 'sport' in the days of the old Royal Manor of Chesterton. This does not appeal to us as an area name, particularly as the warren was not even south of the Guided Busway. The old Arbury name, with its prehistoric links to a human habitation, is something we relish.

We have always been fascinated by local history, a passion inflamed by Arbury Is Where We Live! in 1981, and we think it absurd to throw local history under the bus and send locals searching for the 'King's Hedges' in the hedgerow on Arbury Road - which has absolutely nothing to do with them.

We'd like to encourage other people in the historic Arbury district to study local history - we think its good for the community, but they need historical facts, not concocted-for-Council's-convenience electoral wards, strangely named 'estates', road expansions and redirections.

You can read more on this subject in our articles here and here.


  1. I remember Janet Jones, one of our County Councillors years back. She was always saying things like 'Arbury will rally to fight!' when it came to issues like the proposed closure of Manor School, because she knew people were invested in the Arbury name. But she was fully aware of the planned ward break ups in the '70s and '80s and slid in 'King's Hedges' for less passionate speeches. When the new County Council King's Hedges Ward was formed out of the northern part of the Arbury Estate in the mid-1980s, she said: 'I'm so used to saying "Arbury - my people!" Now I'll just have to get used to saying "King's Hedges - my people!" She had no idea at all - yet at the time of Arbury Is Where We Live she was all over the Arbury name. I didn't really like her - although I was and still am a fanatical Labour supporter.

  2. On the subject of King's Hedges, I think it's just the council getting hopelessly mixed up between areas and named properties - for that's all King's Hedges was. It was named after a brutal piece of medieval history - a hunting warren composed of hedges. If I'd named a small farm built on the site of a teapot pottery 'Teapots', would the council then have named the land already named after the prehistoric site adjacent, 'Tea Pots' and put a road called 'Tea Pots' through it? Most of King's Hedges Road (the 1970s bit), King's Hedges School, Church Centre, recreation ground and ward/estate are all in the ancient Arbury Meadows - and KH as a name has unpleasant associations.


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