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1986/1987/1988: Mrs Hinchcliffe's Old Arbury, Chesterton And Vicarage Terrace Memories - Part 4

The fourth part of Mrs Grace Hinchcliffe's memories, contributed to the Arbury Archive in the mid-to-late 1980s. Mrs Hinchcliffe (1910-1998) was Andy's grandmother. She had a marvellous memory and her recollections of Old Arbury and Chesterton life - and her maternal grandparents' home in Vicarage Terrace - always held Andy spell-bound.

'I remember going over to Arbury one day, and it was just starting to rain when I set out from Milton Road. Just spitting. When I got to Manor Farm, I went to see Grandma and I was sitting in her big old kitchen and she was making a pie and I was watching her, cutting up the meat and rolling out the pastry, and the old wind started blowing outside and the rain was coming down real fast and pattering on the window and the window frames were rattling... old sash windows they were... and it was really gloomy in there, but cosy. 

'I was chattering away to Grandma and she was chattering away to me and it was lovely. I was thinking the other day about those days - there was no popping out to Arbury Court or Yarrow's for a Fray Bentos or frozen pie. Everything was made from scratch. And life was slower - and... calmer. It was nice.

'There was a pump in Grandma's kitchen sink... big old brown stone sink... She had to keep a pail of water standing by because you had to pour water into the top of the pump to get it going. They called it "water fetching water".

The Bretts' house at Manor Farm from the Park Meadow, later the site of the Manor School/Community College.

'The men working out on the fields always had great big dinners. And they always ate the lot. Grandad Brett was a thin man, but he always enjoyed his big dinner. I remember me, Reg and Muriel watching him cutting down the corn on his land near the watercourse one evening. He went through it like a dose of salts, though he wasn't young. He used up a lot of energy on the farm so it wasn't surprising he enjoyed his big dinners!

'Just beyond Grandad's pig sties was the stack yard, where the threshing machine came after the harvest - in modern Arbury that would be just before you get to the Grove School. All the haystacks stood there and the wheat and whatnot would be thrashed out by the machine, which was a modern wonder. I never went to watch because there would be lots of rats running out of the stacks at threshing time! I never saw a rat at Manor Farm, they kept out of the way, I think they knew they weren't popular somehow, but I saw rabbits, hares, lots of them, and I saw a fox once.

'I was a kiddie and had just turned out of Arbury Road into the Manor Drive and there was a fox stood there, in the middle of the Drive, a little way down, just looking at me. It really struck me how small it was - at first I thought it was a cat with a very bushy tail. It looked delicate and really cuddly - the sort of thing you wanted to make a fuss of and cuddle.

'We looked at each other and I said something like: "Go away, Mr Fox, and don't come here again!" - I knew they weren't liked because they tried to get at the chickens and things. They caused a lot of trouble for farms. I didn't really want him to go, but I didn't want him going after Grandma's chickens either, so I said that and he stood there and then walked off into the orchard, as calm as you like. I wondered if I should've told Grandad, but I didn't hear of any fox causing problems in Arbury in the weeks following, so I think he must've taken my advice!'

Mrs Hinchcliffe recalled many old sayings, one she particularly associated with rural Arbury.

'One of the old Arbury sayings was: "I don't care if the cow calves or breaks its neck!" Well, if a cow was in calf there was always a lot of fuss and bother. It was a big thing. The saying was never said about any particular cow you understand. It meant that whoever said it was really fed up. It was a bit like saying, "I don't care if the world ends!"'

Looking down the Manor Farm Drive (now Campkin Road) towards Arbury Road, late 1950s.

The importance of being 'in the fashion' crept into Mrs Hinchcliffe's life at an early age.

'I was only about seven or eight, but I longed for a bobbed hairdo. One day Mum was feeling pretty rough and she gave me a pound note - a lot of money in them days - and said: "Off you go and get your hair cut. Look after that money - and bring the change back!"

'Well, Mum obviously didn't have much change in the house, and to be trusted with all that money! Haircuts didn't cost anywhere near that so it shows how rough she was feeling and how much she wanted a break from my nagging about getting my hair cut. I'd never carried a pound note before. And to go and get my hair cut on my own was a new experience and I knew I wanted a bob - which was the height of the new fashion.

'Mum wouldn't've let me if she'd come along.

'Well, I swaggered over to this little place in Victoria Avenue, swaggered in, and there, for sixpence, I got my bob. Well, if you could call it that! I don't think the barber in that shop had much idea about bobs. I came out looking really strange - my hair cut high up over my ears - and soon developed a nasty case of barber's rash!

'I looked a real sight. My mum had a fit! The other kiddies at Milton Road School took the mickey, and Miss Davis, the headmistress, wept when she saw the state of me. I'd had a lovely natural curl before, and it never came back after that bob. What a stupid girl I was!'

Mrs Hinchcliffe had seen many fashions come and go, and some return! One of her granddaughters was very surprised when, on a visit to her grandmother while proudly sporting a pair of the 'brand new' trendy platform shoes in the 1970s, Mrs Hinchcliffe told her that she had worn them as a young woman in the 1940s: 'The higher the better!'

'Young people nowadays [1987] think we didn't have fashions in my day, but of course we did. I remember going over to Arbury to see Grandma Brett with [cousin] Muriel one day when we were kiddies. We were both wearing new, shorter length dresses, and Grandma wrinkled her nose a bit and said: "Let those hems down a little!" Well, of course, in the name of fashion, we said, "Oh no, no, Grandma!" and she smiled and called us "Little Polly Short Skirts"!

"One of my aunts was once so upset at one of Grandma Brett's old fashioned hats she threw it on the fire! I'd never've done such a thing, of course. My mum wouldn't have stood for it. But older people could be embarrassing with the things they wore.

'Now, I thought the world of Aunt Lou, was always spending nights at Springfield Terrace with Muriel, and Aunt Lou was... well, like a second mother to me. But I used to dread being seen out with her. She always wore this quaint old shawl for going about in.

'Aunt Lou and her shawl... I still shudder to think of it!'

While Mrs Hinchcliffe's paternal grandparents lived at the Manor Farm on Arbury Road, her maternal grandparents lived in Vicarage Terrace, near East Road in Cambridge. She talked of the contrasts:

'Arbury was lovely then. It was all fields and orchards right up to Histon Road. The men would be out working, including Dad and Grandad, and calling to each other and helping each other out when needed.

Our trusty old Arbury map from 1900. Badger has been adding to the detail and making things a little clearer. Note the view from the Manor Farm buildings across the fields to Arbury Camp and Histon Road, with no roads in between!

'And then Mum's parents lived in Vicarage Terrace, which was right in town. Grandma and Grandad Prevett were very different from Grandma and Grandad Brett. Grandma and Grandad Brett were real country people, lived in the country all their lives, Grandma and Grandad Prevett were town people.

'Vicarage Terrace was a nice little street. It was old houses, with the front doors opening onto the pavement, like Coronation Street. The terrace was bombed in the Second World War - terrible, terrible time - several of the houses were destroyed and people killed. 

'Grandad and Grandma had both died by then, but my aunt lived in their house with her family when the terrace was bombed - and that house survived. It wasn't pulled down till years later. It was No 21. Of course, all this was years in the future from the time I'm talking about. When I was a kiddie, if somebody had predicted the bomb, it would've seemed like a ridiculous horror story.

'Grandad had a wooden sign over his front door: "Professor of Arts and Crafts". He wasn't an academic, of course! He was a Punch & Judy professor - that's what they were called, and a bookbinder. He did a lot of work for the Leys School with his bookbinding.

Andrew and Susan Prevett at home at No 21, Vicarage Terrace - with Kitchener the cat, c. 1920

'The front door opened into the front room, no hall. Ours was the same in Milton Road and so was Muriel's in Springfield Terrace. Grandad's bookbinding press was in the front room at Vicarage Terrace. Then you'd go through to the back and that was the kitchen, with the range, big table in the middle of the room, and armchairs. And then there was the scullery.

'For Punch & Judy, Grandad and Grandma used to make all the puppets together. Grandad was well known in Cambridge and the villages round about as "Professor Prevett". He even used to come to the New Chesterton Institute in Holland Street and put on shows there.

'Cambridge Daily News', 20/1/1915: The Gasworks childrens' show, featuring Professor Prevett.

'Grandma and Grandad Brett had eleven children, Grandma and Grandad Prevett, thirteen. Real big families in them days.

'I used to love going to Vicarage Terrace and would often take [cousin] Muriel with me. I remember once we went in and Grandma said: "What do you think to my new wallpaper?" Well, she had so many photographs and pictures up on her walls, we hadn't even noticed! She did laugh!'

Mrs Hinchcliffe recalled performing an impromptu street entertainment as a child - in front of an appreciative audience.

'Dear me! I remember dancing to a barrel organ near Vicarage Terrace once in a lovely new pink dress. Two old ladies applauded and called me "Little Miss Pink"! I dropped them a nice curtsy!'

Part 5 is here.


  1. I live in Arbury in Perse Way and I can report that we still get occasional foxes here. I opened my back curtains a couple of years back and there was a fox standing looking at me on my patio. Just like the one in the article, it looked at me for a minute, then walked calmly off! I saw it a couple of times after.


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