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1986: Mrs Wiles Remembers Old Arbury and Chesterton - Part 7

The final part of Mrs Muriel Wiles's memories of life in Old Arbury and Chesterton - added to the Arbury Archive in 1986.

'Gran went downhill quite slowly and then seemed to die quite suddenly. She faded away... quite gently, really. We were all really upset. Grace was a lot more outgoing than me, always cheerful, always laughing and talking to people, I liked to keep in the background, but she was really upset by Gran passing away. She insisted on buying her own wreath. I think we'd just started earning then. Mum said I should go in with her and Dad for our wreath, which I was happy to do.

'Looking back it sort of... well... marked the end of my childhood. Well, that sounds a bit fanciful, but you know what I mean,' said Mrs Wiles. 'Things had been unsettled since Gran got ill and the family left Manor Farm. 

'When Gran died it was a bit like one chapter coming to an end - all those happy days at Arbury ending sadly - then the whole thing about work and being "grown-up".

Account of Amelia Brett's funeral from the 'Cambridge Daily News', September, 1924. Floral tributes were received from, amongst others, the Bretts' old neighbours at Manor Farm - Mrs Challis (spelled 'Challice' by the 'CDN'), her daughter, Mrs Wright, and the Sale family.

'Grandad was not a man to say much - he was too busy working most of the time! But he was never the same after Gran died. I always remember them, at Manor Farm in the evening, sitting in their chairs, either side of the range. There was always a lovely atmosphere. You don't think much about that sort of thing when you're young, grown-ups are just together, but I realised afterwards how devoted they were.

'Meanwhile, Aunt May kept getting worse. In the end, they used to lift her and bring her down to lay on the settee so she wasn't stuck upstairs too much. She hung on for a long time. I think it was a merciful release for her in the end.'

Meanwhile, Mrs Wiles was finding her feet in the world of work:

'We used to get "stood off" at Pye's regularly. Two weeks on, two weeks off, that sort of thing. We'd get other work to fill in. I was enjoying working there.

'I remember once I got this temporary job at Mitcham's, which was a beautiful big draper's shop in those days. Well, I couldn't get on there at all. One or two of the girls were... well... a bit snooty and all that dashing about! It wasn't me at all!

Mrs Wiles worked at Pye's until her retirement.

Richard Brett, on a visit to his daughter and granddaughter in Springfield Terrace, in the mid-1920s.

'When they started building South Arbury I took a few strolls up there with Mum,' said Mrs Wiles. 'First there were some houses, then Arbury School, then the shops and pub. Things got built at different times. And there were no Kingsway Flats for years. They were put up later on.

'When they started on North Arbury, we weren't sad or anything. We were used to changes in Cambridge - my mother had seen an awful lot since she was a girl and I'd seen a fair few. We knew we'd always have our memories. And North Arbury was built strangely as well. It kind of flew up the right hand side of Campkin Road from Arbury Road, then seemed to pause! They built Nicholson Way and all that some years later, and it was even longer before they built the Arbury Community Centre.

'Campkin Road made us laugh. You see, poor Aunt Maud had been "up before the beak" as they called it when she was a young woman for riding her bicycle without a lamp, and the magistrate was Mr Campkin!

'It did seem funny! My parents joked about the time Auntie was "up before the beak" as they called it, and it being Mr Campkin - and when the old farm drive was renamed for Arbury Estate, there was a lot of laughter!

Miss Alice Maud Brett always used her second name. 'She was called Alice, but everybody always called her "Maud" - since she was a kiddie,' said Mrs Wiles.

'People were always getting pulled up for little things like that then. It was all very "safety first" then, which was good really - better than nowadays!

'Aunt Maud had died before the Drive became Campkin Road. She died of a stroke. But she was such a lovely person, always laughing, and I'm sure she'd have laughed at Campkin Road!

Miss Alice Brett - 'up before the beak'! - 1914. 

'And now it's all built up and they have the Arbury Adventure Playground for the kiddies to let off steam and yet it all used to be open land and we'd play in the watercourse, and climb trees, slide down haystacks and all sorts!

'Even though Gran and I planned the school, shops and church in our funny way all those years ago, we never dreamt what Arbury was to become! I must say the Arbury Carnival is a lovely idea, with all those floats and dressing up and bringing people together.

'When I go there, it's hard to picture the old days, it's all so different, but then I'll see one of the old trees and I say to myself, "Yes, it's Arbury all right- where Gran and Grandad used to live and where I got the creeps about Roman ghosts and where me and Grace climbed the old trees in the farm Drive and Grandad had his piggery and where we use to pinch the boiled potatoes!"

'Some of the modern buildings are downright ugly to my mind, and you get hooligans about - although I've never seen any there myself. You get them anywhere these days. But Arbury's still got a nice feel to it.'

Mrs Muriel Wiles, 1986.


  1. These first hand accounts of old Arbury are priceless. I love reading them. I've been thinking about the people in these recollections as I make my daily rounds in Arbury a lot. Recording and saving these memories has done us all a great service. Thanks so much!


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