History of 1 Gwydir Street

See History of Gwydir Street and Buildings in Gwydir Street.

John Sivile, a greengrocer, lived in 1 Gwydir St in 1904 (see Spalding's Directory).

Augusta Markle (formerly Augusta Mabel Davis) emailed me in 2006:

I lived with my parents Edward and Alice Davis at Number 1 Gwydir Street from the Spring of 1941 to February 1946. I returned in 1979, and were amazed to see that it had been demolished.

In fact, the hosue had been demolished to put an electricity sub-station there. When this was no longer needed, a new house was built on the site, matching the style of the rest of Gwydir Street.

More memories from Augusta Markle:

My family moved to Cambridge from London in the spring of 1941. There were just the three of us, my Father Edward Davis, my Mother Mabel, and myself Augusta that everyone called Babs.

We lived at number 1 Gwydir Street right next door to the Prince of Wales on the corner of Norfolk Street and Gwydir.

Dad was a Tool and Dye Maker and the company that he worked for had decided to move from London to Cambridge and switch to doing essential war work.

We found the house at number one Gwydir Street quite unique. It was not built in the same style as the rest of the houses on the Street.

For one thing there was an alley between Number 1 and the Prince of Wales next door as well as an alley between number 3 and 1. We used that one for entering the back gate with our bikes. This made the house narrower than all the others.

The house was one room wide in front with the front door leading straight into the front parlour. Then another door led into the second room back which was our dining and sitting room combined.

There was a door in this room that opened onto the stairs that led to our upstairs of two bedrooms plus an attic room for storage.

From our dining/sitting room the house narrowed to a half room so therefore it was very small. Then the scullery was in back of that still only half the width of the house. The Loo was in back of the scullery but we had to go outside to get to it.

The house was finished in either concrete or stucco finish instead of bricks.

I was enrolled in the Cambridge Technical School across the Cemetery in back and within a bike ride from the house.

It was quite different from my other school as it was a Technical school and I had to choose a vocation to learn. So it was that I became a Dressmaker.

Joan Bush a friend I made at school and I would walk our bicycles through the cemetery in back coming home from school usually to my house, and quite often we larked about scaring one another in the usually deserted cemetery.

One day we larked around too long and found the gates at the other end locked. We were able to stand one of the bikes against the wall in back of number 1 and somehow climb over into the garden, helping each other drag the bikes up after us. I don't think we did that again.

A Mrs. Bennet lived next door at number 3 but we really didn't get to know her that well. Just occasionally we would see her in the back garden and would say hello over the wall.

The Poulter family lived at number five and as was mentioned before on the website there was a boy in the family named Johnny who was disabled and in a wheel chair.

By the year 1943 we knew the family quite well and my Dad would have Johnny over to our house. Then he would work with him to try and help him to walk. The two of them would work for an hour or so in the front room and I would sit and watch. If nothing else I think Johnny enjoyed the activity of trying and having something new to do.

Mrs. Dean lived at number seven and became good friends with my Mother Mabel. There was a family called Long across the street and also a Post Office (very small) combined with a newspaper etc shop owned by a Miss Flood. (Editor's note - This Post Office was in Gwydir Street, opposite the end of Norfolk Street. It was closed in the 1980's. It's now a closed-down shop.) I seem to remember that there were two Sisters named Flood but I am not sure of that.

My Mother made friends with all these ladies so it did not take too much time to feel at home on Gwydir Street

There was a small butcher shop on Norfolk Street if I remember correctly and people would line up early with their ration books to buy whatever the butcher was able to purchase. Usually there was still a line up when he had run out of meat and closed shop.

Of course there were air raids in Cambridge and my mother would throw my single mattress down the stairs. We would then put this inside the closet area which was under the narrow stair well. Not exactly an air raid shelter but we felt it did the trick.

Sometime before we arrived in Cambridge there had been a bomb that landed on Vicaridge Terrace around the corner off Norfolk Street I think. I believe it was quite close to St. Mathews church. The Vicar came around to visit us some time after our arrival and he told us all about it. Apparently he had been one of the first to arrive there and help.

The people I remember the best were Mr. and Mrs. Biggs who owned the dairy down the street on our side. I can't for the life of me remember the number of their house.

They had a son named Albert and at some point in 1942/1943 he and I became good friends. We went to classes offered at St. Mathews in Classical music and joined a dance class down town given by a company called Victor Sylvester.

Of course I remember the horse and cart that Mr. Biggs used to deliver milk around the area. I also remember going down to the dairy with a small jug to get the ration of milk allowed us. Mrs. Biggs (her name was Ella) would lift up the brass lid of the huge milk urn sitting on her counter and ladle in our portion of the milk. We had a small square net that we put over the top to stop flies and bugs from getting in. It had beads sewn all round the edge to weight it down.

I still wonder to this day how we kept the milk cold so that it didn't go sour. We had no refrigerator, only a stone floor in the small room between the sitting room and scullery. We stood the milk there to keep cold during the summer.

At one point Mr. Biggs must have purchased a black van to transport the heavy metal cans used to fetch the milk from the farm. Albert would drive the van to the farm to take back the empty cans and pick up the full ones.

We also used "The Bath House" down at the other end of Gwydir Street. It was very convenient for everyone living in the area. I didn't particularly like it, I found the stone floor cold on the feet and lots of times the water was too cool. I enjoyed it much better when I used our tin bath in front of the fire.

The one thing so distinct on Gwydir Street was the smell from Dales when they brewed their hops. I just couldn't stand that smell and still remember it today. At least it only happened every few days or so.

I wonder if anyone remembers a Gypsy named Jack who lived down past Milford Street road on the other side of the street. He would come to our house and help my Father when he started raising rabbits for meat and chickens for eggs in the back garden.

Jack also had a different house than the rest. To get to Jacks house you had to walk through a yard into the back where he kept a pony if I remember correctly.

There was a Hall on the corner of Mill Road and Gwydir street. I think it was called Beaconsfield Hall. (Editor's note - The Beaconsfield Conservative Club was on the corner of Gwydir Street and Milford Street. It was demolished in 1984.) There would be dances there on occasion, particularly one that I remember well as it was a competition for the best costume worn.

I eventually left Gwydir Street in February of 1946. My parents left there as well in June of 1947.

I visited Cambridge in 1979 and as was mentioned previously I was quite shocked to see the house demolished. The house that was built on the site however is much more in keeping with the style of the street.

Main index - Buildings and houses in Gwydir Street.