Sunday 20 October 2019

Mary Burgess - Local History Talk

On the 16th of October we held our AGM and October event at Cambridge Central Library hosted by Mary Burgess of the Cambridgeshire Collection. After refreshments and the necessary business, Mary took us down East Road in photographs and maps, showing how the area has changed dramatically in the last 60 years. As three generation of her family had studied at the former technical college, now Anglia Ruskin University, her illustrations were brough further to life with the anecdotes she had heard about the various pubs and shops which once filled the area.

The controversial demolition of much of the area known as the Kite, to develop the Grafton Centre in the 1980s alrered East Road Significantly, but more recently Anglia Ruskin has been behind major changes, with offices and ever increasing amounts of student accomodation replacing older buildings. All the audience, whether new to Cambridge or long standing residents, found the pictures of what used to be thre fascinating. There were far more small business, industries and pubs, in the area in the past, serving a greater permanent population. The resources of the Cambridgshire Collection, both photographic and print, especially old newspapers, are a fascinating source of interesting and amusing information about the places we take for granted and walk past today.

As well as the talk, based on her recently published book, we had a display of material relating to library history in Cambridge, including records of the Cambridge Library Group from the 1960s. It was interesting to see some familiar names in the attendance book, many of whom were known to people, some of whom are still members fifty years on. I hadn't realised the group had started that early. The pohotographs of the first branch of the public library, on East Road, caused considerable amusement, as it was basically a windowless shed, but served as a reading room from 1875 until closing in 1955.

Thank you to Sarah Preston for this write up.