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.

Christmas on a budget…

It’s been a difficult year for many and if you’re on a tight budget you’ll be looking to make whatever savings you can over Christmas. Here are my top Mill Road tips if you’re watching the pennies and are yet to get organised…

TreeDECORATIONS: Sally Ann’s charity shop have Christmas decorations from as little as 10p for a 3-metre long coloured hanging decoration, and it’s also possible to make a small tree very cheaply – fold a piece of A4 card or paper into a cone shape and staple in place, then wrap a length of tinsel around the tree and secure at the top by poking the end of the tinsel through the cone opening. The bottom end can be stapled in place.

FOOD: If you’re not too fussed on whether or not you eat a traditional turkey, you can get a lovely decent sized chicken (serves 4+) for just £4.20 at the Co-operative supermarket (open today until 5pm) though they are often reduced towards the end of the day if they’re about to pass their best before date – so you may be able to get one for as little as £1.50. It’s also worth noting that with most people plumping for turkey, there’s a good chance the chickens may be overlooked. For vegetables go to Hilary’s Greengrocers (opposite the Co-operative) where you should be able to get a good selection of potatoes and other vegetables all for less than £2. As for gravy, I often make my own anyway by simply combining salt, pepper and a few mixed herbs with a little water and the juices from the meat. I have heard that the Salvation Army Day Centre (just next to St Barnabas Church) is doing Christmas dinner on Tuesday and they are open to all and also need volunteers. I don’t know opening/serving times but contact them/pop in to find out.

Pot PouriPRESENTS: The Co-operative have various different chocolate boxes and shortbread gifts for just £1, including after dinner mints. They also do chocolate selection boxes for £2. Kailash has some lovely scented candles and decorative gifts (many coming in at under £1) and they also sell socks – a fail-safe and ‘traditional’ Christmas present! For fruit stocking fillers, try Al-Amin or Hilary’s for clementines/oranges. Arjuna have some gifts ‘reduced to clear’ (see ground level shelf just inside the door, on the left).

Cuddly toysThe Arthur Rank charity shop has cuddly toys and lots of other festive gifts. There’s also the Oxfam charity shop at the town end of Mill Road (open today) – there’s usually all sorts of goodies available and I have picked up some lovely drinking glasses there in the past. In the spirit of ‘new beginnings’ you could opt to give seeds as presents – Cutlacks (open today) have a lovely selection of packet seeds and each has growing instructions on the back. Cutlacks also do all sorts of kooky and colourful kitchen gifts, such as garlic graters, jam jars and mugs. The RSPCA Bookshop (open today and also Monday until midday) has some great books and they are organised into sections so you can easily find books on a common theme – my top tip is the science-fiction section!

Whatever you do, hope you have a lovely Christmas!