History of 64 Gwydir Street

See History of Gwydir Street and Buildings in Gwydir Street.

Herbert Johnson Watson, grocer lived in Gwydir St in 1879 (see Kelly's Directory). There is no house number given. But he was living in 64 Gwydir St in 1883 (see Kelly's Directory).

In the 1881, there is a record for 62/64. See house number 62

Alfred Mathold, dairyman, lived here in 1892 (see Kelly's Directory).

Charles Brown, hardware stores, lived here in 1904 (see Spalding's Directory).In 1913, the directory says C. and Sons Brown, oil and hardware merchants, (see Spalding's Directory) and in 1916 it is C. & Sons Brown, hardware men. (see Kelly's Directory).

Charles Brown was also next door, at number 62, and Robert Brown, oil and hardware merchant, lived at number 32 in 1913.

There are photographs and information about the Browns in number 62.

Memory from Hazel Harpur:

Moving to 64 Gwydir Street in 1955 (with my mother, father, older sister and younger brother) initially seemed very confined and dreary as I had spent the first eight years of my life living in the countryside (in Northern Ireland), on a farm, with the freedom of a large garden, an orchard and open fields all around. No. 64 was a shop (with living accommodation) selling groceries, such as “loose” bacon that had to sliced with a sharp hand operated machine, and cheese that had to be cut with a wire. As well as groceries we sold cigarettes, tobacco, confectionery and much more. (My parents had also run a shop in Ireland as well as the farm). I very quickly started to serve in the shop to help my mother who was the main shop keeper as my father also went out to work. Serving in the shop was a great way to meet all the neighbours and there were many names I still remember: Sanderson, Newman, Gent, Suggitt, Reeve, Featherstone, Lewis(58), Hayden (47), Mason, Phillips (63) Senko, Overhill, Woszniak and many more. Teenager, Leslie Lewis, fancied himself as a singer and gave renditions of rock’n‘roll songs accompanying himself on the skiffle board or on a make shift bass (which we children loved to hear). I made friends with Joy Suggitt. a girl of about my own age and we became life long friends. My sister, Anna too became lifelong friends with a girl of her own age, Dierdre Dean who lived at no. 7 with her grandma and great aunt while her mother worked in America (and returned later). Brother Roy became friends with John Smythe at number 3 (and we girls were friends with his sister, Angela).

When we first arrived, next door (number 62) didn’t exist. It was a bombed site (from a bomb blast which mainly demolished houses (and the Methodist church) in Sturton Street in WW2). My brother, Roy who is two years younger than me, and I would rummage through the bricks and rubble in the hope of finding some treasure. Other evidence of WW2 was a large S on the building,Beaconsfield, on the corner of Gwydir and Milford Street, (which no longer exists and the site is now a block of flats). The S was for shelter, I believe. Later on, when the 62 site was developed as commercial premises (initially fruit importers) on more than one occasion, Roy and I found very large spiders which had come in on the banana boxes and had made their way into our courtyard. Businesses there were A.A. Whitehead, Portages, and later, paint distributers Porch, before the site was redeveloped into four town houses. Mrs. Gent was a beautiful young lady from South Africa. I think her husband, Peter, was in the navy and that’s how they met. They had young children as did Mrs. Featherstone, and Mrs. Hayden (Dee, who was a great friend of my mothers).

Another neighbour who frequented our shop we only knew her as “the cat lady”. She purchased tins of Kit-e-Kat, cat food, which she fed to the stray cats around Cambridge. She lived somewhere on the even side in the 50s.

I was good at wire cutting cheese to the weight the customer wanted and I was told “a good guesser never marries” (and I never did)!

Even back then (1955) the street had a diverse population - neighbours from Italy, Poland, and elsewhere, and us from Northern Ireland as well as a student population not only Cambridge University but also from CCAT (Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology) “the tech”, later called Anglia Polytechnic, then Anglia Polytechnic University and now Anglia Ruskin University. In those days (1955) the street lighting was gas lamps, which were quite dim and walking all the way down from either end of the street to number. 64 seemed endless (and a bit frightening for a young girl returning home from piano lessons or girl guides) in the eerie gas light. Often times, especially in winter when all the houses had coal fires burning, the atmosphere was unpleasant and “snoggy” - not only from the house chimneys, but also from the fumes coming from the gas works and and the steam billowing from the pumping station (now the museum of technology) both located near the river and at that time, considered to be an undesirable area (but now, like Gwydir Street, a bijou area). Very few people had a car in those days and the street was devoid of traffic in the early days. Few houses had a bathroom and most had an outside toilet. There were public baths at the top of Gwydir Street and we would have a bath once a week! The 4d or 6d cost included a small towel and a small bar of carbolic soap. (Years later when the baths ceased to exist, saunas were installed, which was fantastic, sadly no longer).

Dales Brewery was opposite the baths and walking, on the way to St. Paul’s school with my friend Diana Thurston (14 Edward Street). we often had to wait while large oak barrels were rolled out of the brewery across the pavement to be loaded onto trucks. There was a lollipop man at the top of Gwydir Street who helped us cross Mill Road. Diana’s aunt owned a fish shop in St. Matthew’s Street and kept live eels in a white enamel basin.

Soon after we moved to GS my brother Charles was born in 1957. My mother welcomed my help before and after school to mind the shop. (Our convenience store was open all hours from early in the morning until late at night and even when it was closed, neighbours would come and knock the back door. My parents were always obliging including allowing people to use our coin operated telephone. There were at least four pubs, four or five little shops similar to ours and a post office in the street at that time but that was only until the first supermarket opened up. Fine Fare and was located where the Coop is on Mill Road the site that was previously Sally Anne’s. The small shops couldn’t compete with the Fine Fare as they could sell food for less than the small shops could buy it from the wholesalers. One by one the little shops all closed.

When Charles was four (1961) we moved to number 59 which is a large house with a large garden which 64 didn’t have (which meant that as a teenager I had a room to myself. Ou shop was still in business at that time. I didn’t live at 59 for long as I left home at 17 to work in Germany, Eastern Europe, London, and Bermuda). Even though I was living in London at the time, in 1969 (during the height of the hippy era) I opened the up the shop again which was called Mahabuba (Beloved) (locally known as ”the far out shop” (way out). (I’d got some inspiration for the clothing I wanted to sell from a couple of shops I myself frequented to buy fashionable clothes - Forbidden Fruit in Portobello Road in London where I lived and Biba in Kensington. (My mother and sister were roped in to help). In addition to clothing, mostly imported from India and Pakistan (such as kaftans with embroidery and mirror work) and British Carnaby Street era clothes such a velvet trousers for men and women, I also sold crafts - jewellery, ceramics, hand blown glass, sculptures and déshabillé (designed by students at the Royal College of Art in London where I worked, plus sandals and pots from Greece, posters, candles, joss sticks, in fact, anything “far out” - while music blasted from the shop! - Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd (we knew members of the band as these were local Cambridge boys). Not long ago I met a woman of my own age who told me that she had bought velvet trousers from Mahabuba and had recently sold them on eBay.

In 1974 when my parents put number 64 on the market, I offered £100 more than the highest bidder and bought it for £6,900. It’s been let out as residential accommodation ever since (proving to have been a very good investment).

Jill Eitrem owned no. 52 for many years up until recently, which was also let out.

No 59 was relinquished in 1997 following the death of my mother, Anna Dorothy, my father, Charles Mervyn, having died ten years prior.

Some photos - click for larger version:

64 Gwydir Ste 64 Gwydir Ste 64 Gwydir Ste 64 Gwydir Ste

From Capturing Cambridge:


1881: (62 & 64)
Herbert John Watson, grocer
See 62 Gwydir Street

1889: CDN 14.11.1889
Advert from Cambridge Daily News 14.11.1889

Alfred J Phillips, head, 26, dairyman, b Essex
Elizabeth, wife, 30, b Essex
Herbert H S, son, 11 mos, b Cambridge
Mary Reading, servant, 18, b London
Ernest Turner, 18, assistant dairyman, b Essex

1892: Alfred Mathold (Kellys)

1901: See 62 Gwydir Street

On the 5th September 1902 the Cambridge Daily News reported on how Cambridge celebrated the Coronation of King Edward VII. In particular they described the "Old People’s Tent", which contained "a large number of people who were present at the Cambridge festivites on the occasion of the late Queen’s Coronation". The article then went on to list the names, ages and addresses of the old people who were present. This list includes "Mr. Samuel Stevenson, 64 Gwydir Street (72)".

1904: Charles Brown (Spaldings)

Charles Brown, 50, oil and color man, b Cambridge
Clara, 40, b Colchester
William, 14, porter in oil and color shop, b Cambridge

C Brown and sons, oil and hardware merchants

CDN 22.12.1916
: Mr R C Brown oil and hardware and Italian warehouseman, 64, Gwydir Street, applied for exemption of Charles Christopher Brown, married, two children of Market Street Fordham, his manager on the ground of indispensability. The man also applied on his own behalf on the ground s of national importance and domestic hardship. exemption on both claims was refused.

Main index - Buildings and houses in Gwydir Street.