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1986: Mrs Wiles Remembers Old Arbury And Chesterton - Part 5

The Manor Boys' School nearing completion in 1959. At this point, some of the Manor Farm buildings remained.

Part Five of Mrs Wiles's 1986 recollections of life in Old Arbury and Chesterton: From The Manor School in the 1970s To Christ's Pieces in the 1920s...

'I've only been to the Manor School once. It was a fete a few years back, with my friend, Mrs Royston. Well, it was a lovely day and I was telling Mrs Royston about the Manor Farm and Gran and Grandad and everything, and we were looking at that big tall block and wondering what the view was like from the top. We met one of the teachers, I think it was the headmaster, and he was lovely, we were chatting to him, just ordinary, about it all. He was very interested. He asked if we'd like to see the view from the top and we said, "Oh, yes, please!" and he got the caretaker and we went in.

'Now, wasn't that nice of him?

'It was better inside than out because there were a lot of windows and lots of light, and we climbed right to the top and went into a lovely big classroom and looked out and we were looking over South Arbury, with Arbury Court looking like toytown and those Kingsway Flats in the distance and then, right out in the distance, you could see the Cambridge college buildings - and it was beautiful.

A 'feet on the ground' view of Arbury Court in 2022.

'I thought about the day all those years ago when me and Gran had planned the school and the shops and the church. I tried to see [cousin] Reg's house [in Leys Avenue] but you couldn't make it out, of course. That way was just a bunch of trees and chimneys.

'Then we went into another classroom and we were looking out over North Arbury towards Milton and Histon and I could see where Gran and Grandad's house had been, and the big old trees from the farm days. I was trying to make out Histon and Impington churches, but I couldn't see them, of course. Too many trees.

'Then we went into another classroom and we were looking down Arbury Road, with the Arbury housing estates either side, up to Arbury Camp Farm. This was before that horrible motorway and it was a fine view. It was summer and the trees were beautiful and it all looked lovely.

'Then we got a view out to Old Chesterton from a last window and I could see St Andrew's Church spire.

'I think the council named a lot of the roads in Arbury after councillors or college people. I don't know who Nicholson is, and don't know why they named Montrose Close that. That was the old Arbury Field and it's just.... strange. And why they named the school "King's Hedges" because that's not King's Hedges at all - that's ridiculous. Mum was born at King's Hedges, it's on her birth certificate, and it's not there at all. But they do make some muddles, the council. My uncle always said: "It gives them something to do!"

'I said to the teacher that he ought to take some snapshots of the views from the top of that block and sell them as postcards for the school fund. I thought they would sell. He laughed and said that was a good idea. I don't know if he ever did, but it was lovely all the same!'

Aerial view of the Manor Boys' and Girls' Schools in 1960, with the Manor Farm 'Drive', shortly to become Campkin Road.

Returning to the theme of her youth on another occasion, Mrs Wiles told me about her regular jaunts to the bandstand on Christ's Pieces with her cousin Grace in the 1920s.

'We’d go down to Christ’s Pieces on a Sunday. There was a bandstand there and they often used to have a band there then. We’d walk round and round it, the boys one way, girls the other, all parading our finery.

'One day, Grace and I were at the bandstand,' Mrs Wiles chuckled. 'Grace had seen two young chaps she liked, we knew them slightly already, and she was hoping we might pair-up for a chat and a stroll round. But they weren’t paying us any attention at all…

'Round and round the bandstand we went, then Grace said, “I’m going to pretend to faint!”

'Well, as you might imagine, I was taken aback: “Why ever would you do that?!” I said. Then they’ll notice us,” Grace said. I remember - oh dear, it still makes me laugh even now - her brushing the back of her hand across her brow and fluttering her eyelashes. “Oh dear, I do feel bad, oh dear…” and she what we called "swooned elegantly" to the ground. I was so embarrassed!

'Well, all of a sudden this big, burly old policeman was there, and he picked Grace up and plonked her down on a bench. A bit of a crowd gathered, and I remember Grace fluttering her eyes open like she was coming out of her faint.

'Well, the policeman said, “Are you all right, Miss?” and Grace said something like, “Oh yes, I’m fine, thank you - I just fainted. It must be the heat.” Then he said, “Will you be all right getting home?” and poor Grace, she was looking a bit pink as you can imagine, just said: “Yes, my cousin’s with me.” And then he asked for our names and addresses and wrote them in his notebook!

'Grace was very quiet on the way home, and that wasn't like her. Well, I didn't like to say anything. When we got near Victoria Avenue Bridge, the two boys she liked passed us on on their bikes, and one of them called, a bit mocking, "I see you got over your faint then!" Grace went as red as a beetroot. I felt sorry for her, I mean we were just in our early teens, silly as can be, and our heads were full of romantic nonsense like "swooning elegantly to the ground", but it was still hard not to laugh!'

Part 6 of Mrs Wiles's memories is here.

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