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1986/1987/1988: Mrs Hinchcliffe's Old Arbury, Chesterton And Vicarage Terrace Memories - Part 1

More material from the Arbury Archive. Mrs Grace Hinchcliffe was the cousin of Mrs Muriel Wiles, whose memories have already featured in our archive series. Mrs Hinchcliffe's paternal grandparents, Richard and Amelia Brett, lived at the Manor Farm on Arbury Road. Her maternal grandparents, Andrew and Susan Prevett, in Vicarage Terrace. Mrs Hinchcliffe lived with her parents, Henry and Lydia Brett, in Milton Road. Andy had many conversations with Mrs Hinchcliffe, who was his grandmother, for the Arbury Archive in the 1980s. She was a year younger than Mrs Wiles, and although they grew up in the same era, they were very different personalities. Their contrasting attitudes and observations make for fascinating reading. As always, the emphasis here is on Arbury, but Andy has included material on Chesterton and Vicarage Terrace, which are of wider interest to Cambridge readers.

'When I was a kiddie Arbury was two farms, Hall and Manor Farm. Hall Farm was where Carlton Way is now, South Arbury, and Manor Farm was North Arbury. Beside Manor Farm was a farm called Arbury Camp Farm. Arbury Camp was how the area got its name. That was the site of an ancient, well, I suppose you might call it village, that was older than anything else round here by far, even Old Chesterton.

'Well, I knew of it and Arbury Camp Farm, up the end of Arbury Meadow Road by Histon Road. I knew there had been archaeologists there because my dad told me and I knew it was very old and I thought it had ancient tents. You know, it was an ancient campsite. Well, I ask you, daft, wasn't I? I asked my Dad what they made the tents out of in those days and he said, "I don't know - wolf skins, I should think!" He was having me on - he knew it'd been a village really!

'When I was a kiddie, my parents and grandparents and aunties and uncles talked about it a lot.

'Beside Arbury Camp Farm were two big Manor Farm fields called "Arbury" and "Arbury Field" and there were lots of rumours going about the area about it all being haunted by ancient people. There was a lot of talk about Romans. I never saw anything myself.

'We used to say things about the "Old Arbury ghosts" and give each other the creeps. I think kiddies like giving each other the creeps! I think as long as they know they're safe, it gives them a thrill. "I saw an Old Arbury ghost when I went out to the privy last night," somebody would say, and we'd all be agog!

'And then there was "Boy's Pit", which was a field up by the watercourse that ran across Manor Farm. Some poor boy had drowned in there years and years ago. That was creepy, but a lot more real than the "Old Arbury ghosts" and I felt very sorry for him. We never knew who he was.

'Manor School was named after Manor Farm, of course.

'Arbury Road was longer until a few years ago, it met Histon Road. Then they built a big new road going to that ugly new motorway and attached it to the old King's Hedges Road, which used to be a cart track, a dead end, running in the other direction. That came out of Chesterton, crossed the rail tracks northwards, and then stopped at King's Hedges, which was near Impington and Milton. My dad was born at King's Hedges. It wasn't an area - it was originally the name of a little farm. Of course, nowadays they have King's Hedges School and all that in North Arbury, but that's not King's Hedges really.

Arbury map from the early 1900s.

'Dad was born in a tiny little cottage at King's Hedges. There were two stood up there, semi-detached, but the year he was born Grandma and Grandad Brett moved across to the Manor Farm in Arbury and they got quite a big detached house. Grandad was horse keeper at the farm and the house was a reward for that I suppose.

'It was just off the drive and if you went there, you'd see Grandad's goats grazing on the bit of ground beside the drive, and then the house, with a little front garden, and a window either side of the front door. I used to wonder about that house. It was right next to the "big house" at the farm where the tenant farmers had lived in the old days, and it always looked to me as if there were bricked-up windows upstairs on the front of Grandad's house. I wonder if they were bricked up to stop them overlooking the garden of the big house next door, because the gentry wouldn't want their workers gawping at them while they were relaxing outside.

The Bretts' house as seen from the garden of the 'big house' after a fall of snow in the 1930s. Bricked up upper floor windows?

'There was no gas and electricity at Manor Farm. Grandad and Grandma used to have a pump in the sink to get cold water up and oil lamps at night. Grandma used to do the washing in a big old copper. The toilet was outside, a lot were in them days. We always called them 'privvies'. The one at Grandad and Grandma Brett's house had no windows, so you'd take a lamp in or fumble about to find the seats. There was a low one for us kiddies and a higher ones for the grown-ups. It was all kept very clean, and poor old Grandad had the job of emptying it!

'There were the University Field Labs. They'd been built on part of Manor Farm, towards Milton Road, and I remember a boy saying he'd got in there and seen a dead tramp, laid out. I doubt he had really, but it was a good story. Of course, we had all that trouble about the old anthrax field near Milton Road recently, so goodness knows what they got up to there.

'On the other side of Arbury Road was the Leys Laundry. Arbury Road was mostly out in the country then. We called it "Arbury Meadow Road", but it was just Arbury Road really - it was Arbury Road on maps.

'Manor Farm was all smallholdings in my young day and my dad farmed one. Mr Camps had quite a lot of ground there, he used to be my grandad's boss, and he was often the first person you saw if you went to Manor Farm on a nice day. There were two cottages at the top of the farm drive by Arbury Road. Mr and Mrs Sale lived in the first one. Their son, Ernie, became very well known in Cambridge because he rented part of Manor Farm after the First War and started up Manor Nurseries.'

Mr David Camps and his family lived next door to the Sale family at No 2, Manor Farm Cottages. 

'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. He had a short beard. He always wore a stalker hat and talked very loud. I think he was a bit deaf. He was a nice man and we liked him, but I was a bit scared of him when I was little because he'd given me a proper telling off when I'd picked some fruit from his garden without asking once! And quite right too!

'Some of the men at Manor Farm used to shoot at clouds during long, dry spells to try and make it rain! 

'Dad had been very ill with diphtheria when he was a kiddie. He'd been in Old Addenbrooke's for over a year, and he had a tube in his throat that he had to take out and wash. He never spoke properly, just sort of whispered. I think his illness, he'd nearly died, made him take life as it came. He was very gentle, and he always said, "Come day, go day, God send Sunday." That was Dad's old saying.

1890: Henry (known as Harry) Brett with an Old Addenbrooke's nurse. The photo was inscribed 'To Mrs Brett, from her boy's friend,' and taken by Ralph Lord, a well known local photographer, of Market Street, Cambridge. Henry's sister, Louisa, later reported that Henry was a great favourite of the Addenbrooke's nurses, and had the nickname 'Matron's Pet'!

'Another thing Dad always said was, "I never borrow, and I never lend." He didn't, either. But if anybody was in trouble, he'd be the first to give. He was very kind and always cared about people. Nobody ever had a bad word to say about him.

'My mum used to say, "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!" - meaning we'd all done wrong in our time, and wagging a finger at others solved nothing.

'I was the apple of Dad's eye, a real Daddy's girl, I could do no wrong in his eyes, but Mum was very strict. She wouldn't take any nonsense. They were lovely parents.

'Mum came to Manor Farm as a young woman to work for Mr and Mrs Pepper in the big house. She ended up taking on cooking duties for them, and that was quite a feather in her cap because she'd always wanted to be a cook. But it wasn't a big grand position like Mrs Bridges in Upstairs, Downstairs. There wasn't a great big staff there or anything.

'Mrs Pepper gave Mum the name "Annie", because Lydia was a bit of a grand name for a servant in them days. It was quite a common practice. Mum didn't mind. She always spoke her mind, and she liked the Peppers. They were very good to her. When I was born, they bought me a beautiful Christening robe.

'One of their children was called Dickie and he was quite a sickly child, very pale and thin. Mum thought a lot of him.

'Well, Mum met the people next door, the Bretts, and she soon became great friends with Lou, my Aunt Lou, and had two suitors, Dad and Uncle Charlie. Uncle Charlie courted her first. When the Manor was sold to the County Council, the Peppers moved to a farm at Little Abington and Mum went with them and so did Uncle Charlie, as farm foreman. But by then Dad was courting Mum and she chose him. She liked Uncle Charlie, he was great fun, the life and soul of the party, but she liked Dad's quiet, steady ways the best.

'Dad used to cycle from Arbury to Little Abington to see her.

Henry and Lydia Brett, 1924.

'After they got married, they moved into a house in Corona Road and that's where I was born. I was born with yellow jaundice and pretty sickly at first, but that soon passed. When I was small, we moved into a little house at 106, Milton Road. I don't remember living in Corona Road.

'Dad was still working his smallholding at Manor Farm. He did that til he died. He built a conservatory onto the back of our house, and put a sink in it - because there wasn't one before...'

Part 2 is here...


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