Skip to main content

Arbury Archaeology And History - Part 2

As promised, we continue our look at ancient Arbury history by featuring original documents from archaeologists of 1964-1970. The first document, by David Trump and Ray Farrar, is a preliminary report on excavations at Arbury Road from 1964-67. 

What has always been fascinating about the history of the Arbury is the various 'layers' of occupation, from the iron age onwards. This was used as the basis for 'Arbury 1980' and the Arbury Is Where We Live! book in 1981 - with primary school children beginning in the modern day with a study of how the original (then modern day) Arbury Estate functioned, and moving back in time to the old farms, and the Roman and Iron Age eras.

The earthwork surrounding the iron age settlement later had Roman buildings in the fields adjacent, including a villa, and, of course, we come up to the Chesterton Enclosure and the farms of the 1800s and 1900s.

The area of the Arbury Road excavations. Note the route of the original Arbury Road, past the iron age earthwork, and the position of King's Hedges - which was a clearly defined plot of fifty eight acres, and nothing to do with the area by the earthwork at all. It was actually the name of a small farm at this point in the early 1900s. The history of King's Hedges is believed to date back to a royal hedged hunting warren. Its bizarre extended reach into historic Arbury dates only to the 1960s and 1970s, via Cambridge City Council planners. The Council's 'King's Hedges' was already in place by the time of 'Arbury Is Where We Live!' in 1981, which didn't delve into its history, but simply incorporated it as part of historic Arbury.

Just to state once more, any displays like the one pictured below are inaccurate. King's Hedges was a small, strictly defined area with its own history, now north of the guided busway. If you look at the map above, you will see how misleading references to 'King's Hedges' are as an historical entity in the location of the electoral ward/estate north of Arbury Road. The modern King's Hedges Ward in the Arbury district was not historically King's Hedges at all. The fields were previously the Arbury/Harborough Meadows.

Displays like these are pure misinformation - as we reveal in 'The Truth'. Roman villas were found at Milton and in the fields by the Arbury earthwork, but not in any area historically called King's Hedges. All local historians must be aware that local council planners may have rather muddled their local area, and unless you consider the 1960s and 1970s to be ancient history, and favour hugely redirected and extended roads linking to motorways as area definers, it is better to rely on original maps and documents dating back further.

To sum up (sorry we have to repeat this ad nauseum - but, to misquote Lewis Carroll, "if it was King's Hedges, it would be, if it was King's Hedges it should be, but as it wasn't it ain't - that's logic!"): King's Hedges is a purely modern concoction in the Arbury scheme of things, referring to a (not very aptly named) housing estate (also known as North Arbury), an electoral ward, and a late 1970s vastly redirected and expanded road. At the time of the excavations, King's Hedges Road (originally a dead-end farm drift, but envisaged as a major road by the local council from at least the 1930s onwards) was still in its original position - leading to the original King's Hedges site, and having nothing to do with the area by Arbury Camp. King's Hedges had no historical presence in the area of the late 1960s King's Hedges School, or the late 1970s stretch of King's Hedges Road. 

The archaeologists, of course, refer simply to Arbury Road.

So, back to the 1960s - and the archaeologists were looking at Roman crop marks, ditches, and gullies...

Arbury Road - crop marks and sites, 1965-7. Right click on image, click on 'open link in new tab', then click on enlarge for a clear view - do this with each of the pages below.

Click on image for larger version, follow instructions above.

Entering the highly specialised world of the archaeologist can be fascinating - even for lay people like us! 

'A few shards (one certainly of the 4th Century) occurred in the upper fillings, together with a few oyster shells, fragments of animal bone (occasionally burnt), nails, etc...'

From 'Arbury Is Where We Live!' - 1981. A visit from Dr David Trump.

Part three will follow. Future documents cover the Roman villa found near Arbury Camp, and the iron age earthwork and enclosure at Arbury Camp itself.


Popular posts from this blog

Main Streets of Arbury: Campkin Road - Part 1

Left: work begins on Campkin Road in 1961. Numbers 1 and 2 Manor Farm Cottages have been demolished, but the intention is to preserve the old trees lining the old Manor Farm Drive. Right: a similar view in more modern times, with the Arbury Town Park and Campkin Road. In 1982, Campkin Road was described as the 'Hauptstrasse of North Arbury' by local journalist Sara Payne. Ms Payne's   Down Your Street  local history articles in the   Cambridge Weekly News   were hugely popular and, for each one, Ms Payne visited a street in Cambridge and talked to the residents, collecting their memories for publication and producing a fascinating series of 'Then and Now' style articles. Down Your Street  followed in the footsteps of a similar series in the local press in the early 1960s - by Erica Dimmock - and both now make fascinating reading. We're starting our look at Campkin Road with material from the 'Arbury 1980' project and accounts from locals contributed to t

What Did The Romans Ever Do for Arbury? Jim Smith

Our trusty old Arbury map showing location details before the Manor Farm was established. The red line, inserted by Jim Smith, indicates the course of the Roman road - Akeman Street or the Mere Way. The land north of Arbury Road was the Arbury or Harborough Meadows, Arbury/Harborough furlongs and Arbury Camp, King's Hedges was in its original position, north of the railway (now guided busway) and Arbury Road ran from the Ely/Milton Road to the Histon/Cambridge Road - as it did until the late 1970s. Introduction - by the Arbury Archivists Jim Smith is a local history researcher and a good friend of the Arbury Cambridge Blog. He has been researching Roman finds in the historic Arbury area and has written this article for us. We are most grateful! He follows the adventures of those who scraped away centuries of soil to reveal ancient findings beneath.  Of course, as always, we deal with historic Arbury here, not council planners' estates or electoral wards, which are both prone to

Exploring The REAL King's Hedges...

The Cambridge and St Ives Branch railway line is now the Guided Busway. Where was King's Hedges historically? How did the name come about? Why is the majority of King's Hedges Road no more historic than late 1970s - and nothing to do with the course of the original road? What have council planners of the 1960s and 1970s and the needs of motorists got to do with the King's Hedges presence in the historic Arbury district? All will be revealed... We're going to leave Arbury briefly and go to King's Hedges. No, not King's Hedges Ward - that area is, in reality, one of the most Arbury of Arbury areas in Cambridge historically, but the REAL King's Hedges. North of the Guided Busway. You see, the land north of Arbury Road is the site of the Arbury Camp, the Arbury/Harborough (a variation on the Arbury name) Meadows and the Arbury fields of Manor Farm.  It has absolutely nothing to do with King's Hedges at all. And King's Hedges was never a district. Land no