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Arbury Snippets Part 3: Mr Camps, The 1917 Arbury Road Sale of Swedes and Kohl Rabi, and Information Gathering...

A crop of mangolds, swedes and kohl rabi was up for sale at the Manor Farm in Arbury Road in 1917. But how do we know it was Manor Farm - the 'Cambridge Daily News' advertisement simply mentions 'Arbury Road'? The sale was 'by direction of Mr David Camps'. Who was Mr Camps? Where did he live? Many modern Arbury inhabitants may be surprised to learn that they drive over the spot every day!

Andy set himself the goal of subjecting the local newspaper archive at the wonderful Cambridgeshire Collection to a microscopic survey many years ago, and collecting any information he found relating to Arbury. The era he selected was 1880 to 1935. These 'snippets' have been tucked away in the Arbury Archive folders until now.

The Archivists have used four main tools in researching Arbury history: 

Oral history: interviewing various people in the 1980s and beyond and recording their Arbury memories by pen, as a series of quotes. Trying to relay what the person actually uttered on to paper was very important. Andy experimented with using a cassette recorder, but discovered that most of his interviewees became rather stilted and nervous with the knowledge that their voices were being recorded. 

Written submissions: people writing their recollections of the Arbury district and submitting them to the archive. We have twelve of these, dating from 1982 to 1989.

Photographs: The 'Arbury Is Where Live!' project and the Arbury Archive have collected a very large number of photographs of the district, many of which have been submitted to the Cambridgeshire Collection. The photographs reveal details of people and places which add immeasurably to the experience of studying local history.

Documents (maps, street directories, sales particulars, census returns, parish records, old letters, wills, travel records, birth, marriage and death certificates and academic documentation): Self explanatory. Our academic documentation contains a large amount of archaeological information from the Arbury Road excavations in the 1960s and in 1970, submitted to the Archive recently.

The newspaper archive: this tended, of course, to focus on outstanding events, local social gatherings, mishaps, births, marriages, deaths, crimes and sales.

Fusing the sources together often provides a fascinating and much fuller picture than any one source possibly can. The sale of vegetables at Arbury Road in 1917, for instance, 'by direction of Mr David Camps', becomes far more interesting with the added census return knowledge that Mr Camps lived at No 2, Manor Farm Cottages, and the knowledge revealed through old council documents that he was a smallholder. Memories of three people contributing to the Archive in the 1980s informed us that he employed 'several men'. The memories of Mrs Grace Hinchcliffe (1910-1998) who recalled in 1986 that: 'Mr Camps was an elderly gentleman. He liked to sit just inside the gateway at Manor Farm by Arbury Road and watch the world go by,' add a more personal dimension.

And maps and aerial photographs reveal he lived in what is now the middle of Campkin Road, by the Arbury Road junction.

So, yet another dimension is added.

The 1921 census reveals that Mr Camps was seventy nine, his wife, Sarah Ellen, forty four, and his two daughters, Kathleen Esther and Mary Madeline, ten and six.

Herbert Claude Skinner, his twenty three year old nephew, was living with Mr Camps, and also employed by him.

Mr Skinner? Our other sources reveal his further links to the area which could not be guessed by the census return. 

We featured a postcard from a gentleman called Claude to Miss Lily Brett, who lived in the Foreman's/Horsekeeper's house at Manor Farm, posted during the First World War. Brett family members supplied the information that this gentleman's surname was Skinner many years ago. Mr Skinner favoured his middle name, Claude, over his first name, Herbert, and was David Camps's nephew. We can also state, via our oral and written history contributions, that Mr Skinner later lived in the house occupied by the Brett family.

Gazing at the junction of Arbury Road and Campkin Road now, it may be hard to picture the cottages and Mr Camps sitting by the gate.

But it was once so.

The knowledge you now have is so much more than the Cambridge Daily News listed sale of vegetables at Arbury Road in 1917, 'by direction of Mr David Camps'.

Studying the newspaper archive gives us many items of information that would otherwise be lost. Further Arbury Snippets features will focus on those Andy has discovered - from stolen cabbages to poaching, from local concerts to weddings.

Stay tuned.


  1. This is fascinating - Mr Camps is a very distant figure in time but becomes quite picturable when the different sources of information are connected.


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