Mill Road History Project

If you’re following me on Twitter, you may have seen me mention the grant that the Mill Road History Project has now received from the Heritage Lottery Fund – following a long application process and a tense wait for news, it was announced earlier this week that the project would be receiving a grant of £99,248!

Steering Group April 2013

The Mill Road History Project began life around two years ago when a group of residents were looking into the history of Mill Road Cemetery. They wanted to leave a permanent record that would be available for future generations and their work inspired them to look into the history of other parts of Mill Road too. The project is now part of Mill Road Bridges and aims to record the memories and stories of people who live and work locally, as well as those who have memories of the area from previous years. The project will examine some of Mill Road’s significant buildings – such as Sally Ann’s and the former Mill Road Library (now Bharat Bhavan) – and the funding will be used for creating a dedicated interactive community website, hosting events and publicity for the project as well as training people to use the archives, undertake oral histories and take photographs.

The project will be officially launched later in the year. Lucy Walker, acting chair of the Project Steering Group, said: “We are thrilled to have been awarded this funding and will be asking everyone to come forward with their memories and photographs. This is a great opportunity to get involved, learn a new skill and help the project come alive“.
If you would like to get involved with the project, or have memories or photos that you’d like to share then you can email millroadhistoryproject@gmail.com.

I think the project is a fantastic idea and I will be looking through my photos to see if I have any that might be useful – I have lived around Mill Road since the 1990’s and have seen a lot of changes in that relatively short time (and I’m also well known amongst friends for always having a camera with me and taking a lot of photos!) so I suspect I may have a few… .

The Mill

As May is Local & Community History Month and this coming weekend is National Mills Weekend, I figured it was about time I learnt more about the mill that gave our road its name…

With my local mill knowledge somewhat lacking (all I knew was that there used to be one somewhere in the Covent Garden area) I thought the best person to ask would be well-known local historian and Romsey resident, Allan Brigham. Allan, a member of the Mill Road History Project, was able to tell me that the mill stood roughly where the Salvation Army shop, Sally Ann’s, now is; and that it was owned by a Mr Humphrey, a local miller/baker, in the 1820’s. In 1830 the mill was one of just a couple of buildings that stood in what is now the Mill Road area, though the arrival of the railway in 1845 eventually resulted in a lot of housing being built to accomodate the railway workers and growing population. Some of the historical records I have found say that the introduction of the railway led to in an increase in local flour-milling – suggesting the mill could have closed quite some time later – though another account says that the windmill wasn’t used after its sails were blown off in 1840.

Parkers Piece and surrounding area, 1842The picture above, courtesy of Allan, shows Cambridge University students playing cricket in 1842, and you can see the Mill in the distant background (it looks as though the sails might not be attached, but it’s difficult to tell). It is the only image I have seen of it, though the Mill Road Cemetery website has an image of Bakers 1830 map – which shows the site of the mill amongst the fields – and I am reliably informed that there are also other maps dating from between 1811 and 1832 available at the county archive. The mill gave its name to Mill Road and also Mill Street – which runs parallel to Mill Road on the southern side and is joined to it by Covent Garden and Mawson Road.

As well as the mill, the site of Sally Ann’s was home to Cambridge’s first supermarket (Fine Fare) which opened in the 1960’s; and home to Cambridge’s first purpose-built cinema (The Playhouse), which opened a hundred years ago. Although the cinema closed in 1956, you can still see the coin marks, names and initials that were carved on the wall by queing cinema-goers – I am not sure if this was seen as vandalism or graffiti at the time, but I think it’s a great visual example of local history and I hope it’s preserved for many years to come.

The Playhouse CinemaAlthough there is no longer a mill here in the Mill Road area, there are still a few in the county and many of them – including Impington Mill, Bourn Mill and Hinxton Watermill – are opening their doors to the public this weekend for National Mills Weekend (the nearest mill I am aware of is Chesterton Mill on Frenchs Road – although it’s not technically a mill anymore as it was converted into office space in 1986, its flour-milling business having closed in 1955). There will also be a history exhibition at Sally Ann’s on Mill Road, from 13th – 25th May, with information and photographs about the history of the Salvation Army building; and I will be going along to see if I can find out any more information about the mill.

I’ll be blogging again about Local & Community HIstory month during May (including more information about the recent history project grant funding!). But for now, it’s time to explore…

11th & 12th May, National Mills Weekend:
Impington Mill open Saturday and Sunday 10am-4pm;
Bourn Mill open Sunday 2-4pm; Hinxton Watermill open Sunday 2.30-5.30pm; 
13th – 25th May, History Exhibition:
Sally Ann’s, 44a Mill Road CB1 2AS
Open 9.30-4.45pm Monday to Friday and 10am-12.45pm on Saturdays.

Food for thought…

With the recent horsemeat scandal and a number of other stories in the press casting doubt on where our food comes from and what it actually is, it’s not surprising that a number of people are now considering vegetarian and even vegan diets as the way forward. Some of my friends have been doing this for a while, but the longest serving vegetarian/vegan I know has to be my friend Joan Court – who became vegetarian as a teenager some 77 years ago, and is also a confirmed vegan.

Global FruitLocal author Joan explains that the United Nations have said a global shift towards a meat-free and dairy-free diet is necessary if we want to be able to eat sustainably in the future and reduce the impact of climate change; and a look at some of the UN figures that have been published in recent times also suggest that over a third of the food produced globally goes to waste – which sounds bad enough in itself, but even more worrying when you consider that food production accounts for 70% of our freshwater consumption, 80% of deforestation and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Joan CourtMahatma Gandhi – who Joan worked alongside in the 1940’s – suggested that vegan diets are beneficial for our own health:
It is very significant that some of the most thoughtful and cultured men are partisans of a pure vegetable diet
…and vegetarian and particularly vegan diets are, of course, kinder to animals – something Joan is all too keenly aware of. After moving to Cambridge in the late 1970’s to study social anthropology, she co-founded Animal Rights Cambridge – the longest serving animal rights group in the UK. They hold regular monthly meetings in the Mill Road area and have been involved in a number of local and national animal welfare campaigns – from persuading the Michelin starred Midsummer House restaurant to remove foie gras from its menu, to campaigning against live animal exports.

Animals BetrayedJoan’s latest book, Animals Betrayed, features interviews with a number of animal rights activists across the UK. It gives an insight into many of the issues faced by those campaigning for animal welfare and also sheds some light on why some of them first chose to become vegetarian/vegan. Some of those interviewed also talk about animal consciousness – a topic that has been the subject of much research and debate in recent years, including at the 2012 University of Cambridge conference ‘Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals‘.

Joan will be signing copies of her book at the RSPCA Bookshop on Mill Road on Saturday – 30th March – between 2 and 5pm. If you can’t make Saturday but would still like a copy of the book (published by Selene Press and priced £12.50) it’s available via Amazon or by phoning (01223) 311828. Joan will be happy to talk about a host of animal welfare issues on Saturday, so it’s a great opportunity to find out more …and she might even share her tips on the best Mill Road places to do a vegan food shop!

Book signing: ‘Animals Betrayed’ by Joan Court 
Saturday 30th March, 2-5pm – at the RSPCA Bookshop, 188 Mill Road CB1 3LP

Thank you

There's something about Mill RoadEarlier this week I spotted that this blog has had over seven thousand visits which is brilliant; and I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read any of my articles and posts. As you may know, there’s also a Twitter account associated with this blog and there are now over 500 followers on it – by the way, if you aren’t signed up to Twitter you can still see my tweets though you do need to sign up if you want to respond to any of them; and there is of course also a Facebook page.

Mill Road is such a great area to live and shop in, and this blog is my way of celebrating that and making sure that people know about lots of the wonderful things we have going on locally. I recently asked for people’s suggestions for blog posts, tweets and the forthcoming website – thank you to all those that have responded. The website content is just about ready and I am now just working through the technical side of things, so the website will be launched at some point in March (I’ll give a date nearer the time).

As you may know, books have been quite a theme for me recently and I’ve met with a number of the authors we have living locally to gather info for my articles (more book posts coming soon, I promise!). This got me thinking that we should actually have a book about Mill Road and I have spent quite a bit of time looking into this – it would be great to celebrate our lovely neighbourhood and all the things we have to offer, including our projects, independent traders and the people who make the area what it is. I will be putting a proper call out for information and contributions soon, but in the mean time if you have any suggestions then do let me know – you can email theressomethingaboutmillroad@hotmail.co.uk.

A big thank you to all of you who have taken an interest in things Mill Road!

Local Plan for Mill Road

RomseyCambridge City Council are currently consulting on sites within the Local Plan area and asking all residents to make any comments they want to by Monday (18th February). The specific document that refers to sites (both available and future ones) within Cambridge is the Local Plan: Issues & Options 2 – Part 2 document. If you’ve already had a look, you’ll see that there are various sites in the Mill Road area that are under discussion. These include the Travis Perkins site on Devonshire Road (p 43), the Ridgeons site on Cromwell Road (p 49), 315-349 Mill Road (p 67) and the Mill Road Council Depot (p 45).

For the Mill Road area I would like to see some more green space, we have a particular lack of it in Petersfield and some of the sites could be used in whole or part to achieve this as well as have some usable community space. We also have a shortage of realistically affordable housing in the area and I think with the right design and considerations we need to look at residential developments on some of these sites. We have the opportunity to shape the future of the area and make sure that whatever happens to these sites fits with what the community wants and needs.

Argyle Street Housing Co-operativeMany of you will know my fondness for co-operatives and the role that I have played at Argyle Street Housing Co-operative (ASH Co-op) over the years. ASH Co-op is proposing that a fully mutual housing co-operative be built on the Mill Road Depot site and I think this could be really great for the area. It would provide affordable, sustainable housing (for people of all ages) which would be run by its residents and be community led. I see from the Local Plan document that there are potential issues with the site, such as access, cycling provision and a lack of green space in the area – I think a housing housing co-operative on the Depot site would be able to address all these issues and provide space that the whole Mill Road community could share. Having lived at ASH for some years, I know the many benefits that co-operative living can bring – such as having a real say in your housing, being part of a friendly community (I know all 90 of my neighbours here at ASH!), training to help run the co-op (which is also very useful in employment terms), experience of managing projects and equipping people with tools they can use to play an active and participative role in the wider community. For more information about what is being proposed, please visit the ASH Co-op website. Also here is a link to an article in the Cambridge News last year, that gives an insight into co-operative living.

If you want to comment on the housing co-operative idea or indeed any part of the Local Plan, please visit the consultation page on the City Council’s website. It explains how you can respond online or complete a form to deliver by hand. However you respond, make sure you do it by the deadline – 5pm on Monday!

Award-winning Mill Road

There have been a few winners in the Mill Road area already this month and so I thought I’d give them a well-deserved mention…

Cambridge Wine MerchantsCambridge Wine Merchants
Independent Drinks Retailer of the Year
(Drinks Retailing Awards)

Run by friends Peter and Hal who met here in the City, Cambridge Wine Merchants opened its first shop on Mill Road itself back in 1993. They now have seven branches (mostly in and around Cambridge, though one is in Salisbury) and host masterclasses as well as tasting events and training courses. Although I have bought wine from their shop on Mill Road, I have to admit that most of my visits have been when I have been looking for small presents – the shop has a huge selection of weird and wonderful miniature spirits and liqueurs (not to mention beers!), many of which I haven’t seen anywhere else! The Drinks Retailing Awards were held earlier this months in London and Cambridge Wine Merchants scooped the Best Independent Drinks Retailer award – for the third time!

Cambridge Women's Resources CentreCambridge Women’s Resources Centre
Finalist
(Cash For The Community campaign)

Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre is based on Hooper Street and provides resources and opportunities for women, including training, networking, friendship and one-to-one support. They also have an on-site creche for users of the centre and are open to all women in the community. The centre was recently chosen as one of 25 local community groups who will share a £10,000 pot of grant funding via the Cash For The Community campaign (other groups who will share the pot include Headway, formerly of Mill Road). The campaign was set up by the Cambridge Building Society and Cambridge News, and the amount each group receives will depend on how many tokens readers of the Cambridge News collect and submit for their chosen group before 8th March.

Hot NumbersHot Numbers
Best Independent Coffee Shop
(Discovering Cambridge Awards)

Hot Numbers opened as a coffee shop almost two years ago, but has quickly grown its repertoire and now hosts various music nights, gigs and art events – for example on Thursday night Hot Numbers will be playing host to acoustic guitar and bluegrass with Kate Vowles, and next Tuesday sees the fortnightly Dr Doodleys Drink & Draw meet up. The shop also recently merged with Williams Art next door and is now a coffee shop and art gallery all in one. The Discovering Cambridge Awards were set up last month by local MP Julian Huppert and are aimed at celebrating the independent shops and businesses we have here in Cambridge, with a winner being chosen in a different category each month. Hot Numbers were voted Best Coffee Shop, winning the very first award in the competition (an over all winner for 2013 will be chosen at the Mill Road Winter Fair in December).

The Sea TreeThe Sea Tree
One of three local winners
(Local Business Accelerators competition)

The Sea Tree opened on Mill Road nearly five years ago and is now well known locally for its wide selection of fish (and of course chips) to eat in or take away – though what may be less well known is that you can buy fresh fish and seafood to cook at home (I have a particular liking for their fresh King scallops!). The Sea Tree is one of three winners that have been chosen in the Local Business Accelerators competition for the Cambridge area (the other two being Cambridge Van Man and Whey Forward Industries) and will receive a free advertising campaign in the Cambridge News and mentoring from local business leaders, as well as the chance to scoop the top prize in the national competition later in the year (which includes a £10,000 advertising campaign, a years membership of the CBI and mentoring from Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden).

There's something about Mill RoadThere’s something about Mill Road
Winner of 50 copies of ‘Mission: Explore Food’
(The Geography Collective book competition)

Well, I couldn’t really write this article without giving myself at least a mention could I (!). The Geography Collective have written a book called Mission: Explore Food, which has lots of tasks and missions for children to do and teaches them (and indeed adults!) about the food cycle. They recently decided to give away fifty copies (worth £1,000) to a library in the UK and entrants had to write a blog post all about the book and which library service they would give them to. I didn’t let the fact that we don’t actually have a library service around Mill Road put me off applying (!) and it seems the Geography Collective thought that this made the Mill Road area a particularly deserving winner. I was thrilled to win the books for our area and will be distributing them amongst my chosen list of twenty local groups who I think would particularly benefit from receiving them – this includes Romsey Community Garden, Romsey Mill, Friends of Mill Road Cemetery, Argyle Street Housing Co-operative Kids Group, the RSPCA Bookshop and Ridgefield Primary School, as well as lots of other organisations doing good things in our community. You can read my winning blog post here.

More local winners?
You can collect and submit tokens on behalf of Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre (or whichever of the 25 groups you want to support) in the Cash For the Community campaign, tokens are printed in the Cambridge News every day until 1st March and must be received by 8th March. Also, the category for this months Discovering Cambridge competition is music and bookshops – so don’t forget to let Julian Huppert know what your favourite local independent in this category is by the end of the month.

It’s great to live in an area that has so many fantastic community groups and independent shops and businesses. Well done to all the recent winners! If you’re aware of any others I’ve missed then do let me know.

On a mission…

Mission: Explore FoodI blogged a couple of weeks ago about the ‘Mission: Explore Food‘ book that was illustrated (and co-authored) by Cambridge’s Tom Morgan-Jones and written by The Geography Collective. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a family/children’s book with lots of food ‘missions’ for children to create and activities to help them understand the life cycle of food (everything from sowing and growing it through to eating, digestion and recycling).

I have spotted that the lovely chaps and chapesses at The Geography Collective are very generously giving away a set of 50 ‘Mission: Explore Food’ books (which works out to £1,000 worth of books!) to a library service somewhere in the UK. This is brilliant and I would dearly love the books to wing their way to the Mill Road area (and hereby nominate Mill Road). Some of you may have spotted a potential glitch to this plan, which is that there is actually no longer a library on Mill Road (it was sadly shut down in the late 1990’s), but I think this makes it even more important that we ensure children (and everyone) have access to books – this is just the kind of thing that could help children enjoy books and bring them together in the community with others and help families meet each other.

Example missions

Given that there is no library on or near Mill Road, I would give the books to local primary schools (for which Mill Road area residents fall in to the catchment area), children’s activity groups and other groups that primarily benefit children/families. There could be all sorts of benefits to children, families and the wider community, for example:

  • The missions would be fun to explore for both adults and children.
  • It would help children and youngsters get involved in their local community.
  • Children would have their own project/s that they could work on/organise themselves.
  • Some of the missions/projects could be turned into community events.
  • Children and their families may want to visit local food producers and shops to ask questions, which would be really great (especially as there’s quite a local foodie theme going on at the moment).
  • The books are well illustrated and show children that books don’t have to just be about reading on your own, they can also be about action and fun.
  • Some of the missions could be specifically relevant locally – for example, there’s a local idea to set up a farmers market and one of the missions involves visiting a farmers market.
  • Children (and adults!) will get to learn a lot about the food cycle, which will help them make informed choices.

Mission: Explore Food

There are others that exist locally, but having done some research into this I feel the following Mill Road area groups/organisations would particularly benefit from sharing the books:

  • Argyle Street Housing Co-operative Kids Group
  • Cambridge & Ely Child Contact Centre
  • Coram Adopt Anglia
  • Friends of Mill Road Cemetery
  • George Pateman Court Community Centre
  • Little Bookworms Club (at Ross Street Community Centre)
  • Queen Emma Primary School
  • Morley Memorial School
  • Ridgefield Primary School
  • Romsey Community Garden
  • Romsey Mill
  • St Matthews Primary School
  • St Pauls Primary School
  • St Philips C of E Primary School
  • St Albans Primary School
  • 13th Cambridge Scouts
  • TJ Kids
  • Woodcraft Folk

I would also give a copy to the RSPCA Bookshop on Mill Road – their shop is quite a hub of activity (you can even get a cuppa there whilst browsing the books!) and having a copy of the ‘Mission: Explore Food’ book in the shop would mean people could pop in and read a bit before going on a mission around Mill Road – making it accessible to many more people (I guess this sounds a bit like a library really!). I would also give a copy to Centre 33 – not technically in the Mill Road area, but less than 500 metres walk and they do some really impressive work in providing support and activities for children who are carers to family members.

‘Mission: Explore Food’ is available as an E-book and this is currently free! You can download it via iBooks or Amazon until 31st January;  and if you want to see a quick preview of the book here’s a link to a video from The Geography Collective.

Mission: Explore FoodI’m hoping that the Geography Collective guys read this and see that our lack of library around Mill Road means these books would actually be of particular benefit to our community (though in the event that they are strict about it specifically being a library service that receives the books then I would nominate Cambridgeshire Library service). Fingers crossed!