History of Gwydir Street, Cambridge (UK)

I would be interested in any more memories. Contact me at jo.edkins@gwydir.demon.co.uk.

GeneralReferences to Gwydir St
in directories
Brief history of Gwydir Street (below)
History of Mill Road end of Gwydir Street (below)
Jubilees, coronations and celebrations
House names
People's memories - there are also memories in the individual house histories
Summary of directories - I suggest that you look up names here
1879
1883
1892
1904
1913
1916

History of individual houses

House numbers:

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 15 - 17 - 17a - 19 - 21 - 22 - 23/25 - 24 - 26 - 27 - 28 - 29 - 31 - 32 - 33 - 34 - 35 - 36 - 37 - 38 - 39 - 40 - 41 - 42 - 43 - 44 - 45 - 46 - 47 - 48 - 49 - 50 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59 - 60 - 61 - 62 - 63 - 64 - 65 - 66 - 67 - 68 - 69 - 70 - 71 - 72 - 73 - 74 - 75 - 76 - 77 - 78 - 79 - 80 - 81 - 82 - 83 - 84 - 85 - 86 - 87 - 88 - 89 - 90 - 91 - 92 - 93 - 94 - 95 - 96 - 97 - 98 - 99 - 100 - 101 - 102 - 103 - 104 - 105 - 106 - 107 - 108 - 109 - 110 - 111 - 112 - 113 - 114 - 115 - 116 - 117 - 118 - 119 - 120 - 121 - 122 - 123 - 124 - 125 - 126 - 127 - 128 - 129 - 130 - 131 - 132 - 133 - 134 - 135 - 136 - 137 - 138 - 138a - 139 - 140 - 140a - 141 - 142 - 144 - 144a - 145 - 146 - 147 - 148 - 149 - 150 - 151 - 152 - 153 - 154 - 155 - 156 - 157 - 158 - 159 - 160 - 161 - 162 - 163 - 164 - 166 - 167 - 168 - 169 - 170 - 171 - 172 - 173 - 174 - 175 - 176 - 177 - 178 - 179 - 180 - 180 - 181 - 182 - 183 - 184 - 185 - 186 - 188 - 190 - 192


Non-domestic buildings: Beaconsfield Club (now Beaconsfield House) - Alexandra Arms (22) - the former Gwydir Arms (45) -
Cambridge Blue (85) (the former Dewdrop Inn) - the former Brewers Arms (103) - Dales Brewery - Bath House

Old Photographs  businesses: butcher - horse and cart - more horses and carts - businesses in 1963
people from: no. 60 - no. 74 - no. 116 - no. 154
other: air raid shelter - Kinema - jubilees, coronations and celebrations



Brief history of Gwydir Street

This history explains where some of our street names come from. See if you can spot them! The area was originally part of the estates of Barnwell Priory.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, the lands came into private hands - the Wendy family of Haslingfield (1553 - 1655) and the Butler family (1656-1759). The Butlers sold them to Thomas Panton, chief groom or equerry to King George II (note the Panton Arms in New Town). All this time, the area was farmland.

Thomas Panton's son, 'Polite' Tommy Panton, succeeded in 1806 in having Parliament pass the Barnwell Enclosures Act, which paved the way for the development of the area. He died without direct heirs, and the land passed to his niece, Baroness Gwydir, daughter of the Duchess of Ancaster. Her son sold off much of the Barnwell land, including the Gwydir Street area which was sold to the Rev Dr James Geldart in 1809.

The coming of the railway in 1845 signalled the transformation of the whole area from quiet country to bustling town. On 19 December 1867, the Rev Richard John Geldart (?son of James) sold some of the land to Joseph Sturton, a wholesale chemist of Fitzroy Street.

Date on house The land was then parcelled up into plots. A builder would buy a plot of land, build a few houses on it and sell them. As you walk down Gwydir Street, you can see the different building styles every few houses. This gives the area its slightly crooked charm, as opposed to terraced housing in the northern England, where the whole street was built at once, by the same builder. Some of the Gwydir Street houses have dates on them, such as 1869, 1870, 1875, 1876, 1879 and 1883.

The houses were sold to landlords, who rented them out. The unplanned and virtually overnight erection of countless dwellings brought with it many disadvantages. Overcrowding and primitive water supply and sewage disposal led to the spread of disease. A typhoid epidemic of 1888 was traced back to an inhabitant of Sturton Street and the area was a haven for villains. The degenerate nature of the area at that time resulted in a host of voluntary agencies being set up, ranging from co-operatives to temperance societies. The appropriate authorities also decided that the church of St Andrew the Less was too distant and too small to provide the necessary Christian influence in the area. Accordingly, St Matthews Church was built in 1866 and St Barnabas Church on Mill Road in 1880.

Educational facilities were provided by the Old Schools Trust and the church. From 1870 onward, a variety of Sunday schools and day schools in Norfolk Street, Sturton Street and York Street catered for the needs of children of all ages in the community. The primary source of education for adults of the area was the Mill Road Free Library which was opened in 1897, its previous site having been on East Road. Today, most of the schools and the library no longer exist, or are used for some other purpose, but we still have Brunswick Nursery, St Matthews Primary School and Anglia Ruskin University, serving not only this area, but far beyond.

Dales Brewery The population of West Barnwell (as our area was called) in 1871 was 6,585. Those who lived in the area were, on the whole, employed in unskilled or labouring work for the colleges, railway or building trade. Girls usually went into service. Many were unable to find work at all. A limited survey of 1906 suggested that unemployment in the St Matthews area accounted for 20% of the figure for the whole of Cambridge.

By the late 1880s the transformation from open field to town was virtually complete, in that the majority of the area was built up and densely populated. As the area developed, so did the facilities, an adequate system of water supply and main drainage coming into existence at the start of the twentieth century.

The population fell throughout the twentieth century. In 1911 it was 5,732, and by 1961 it had fallen to 4,165. In the mid twentieth century, the area was considered for 'slum clearance', for redevelopment and road plans. This never happened. In 1976 the GIA (General Improvement Area) was launched, giving grants to people to improve their houses.

Recent history includes the bollards in Gwydir Street and Hooper Street which stopped the local roads being used as a short cut by traffic, the redevelopment of the Bath House, Dales Brewery and the Pye site to provide places for small businesses and local groups, and a certain amount of new residential building. The area is no longer considered a slum!

History of Mill Road end of Gwydir Street including Dales Brewery

The section of Gwydir Street from Hooper Street to Mill Road wasn’t developed until the 1870s because there was a proposal to build a spur from the Railway Station to Clarendon Street. Once this was rejected, the plots of housing land went on sale and were bought by developers, some as multiple plots such as Lorne Terrace and Gothic Terrace while others were bought individually. The plots were all a little wider than previously developed. Some of these individual plots were built a little taller with increased specifications and details obviously in an attempt to make this section of the street even more up-market and profitable. 175 for example has a double-sized front window and curved windows in the front bedroom and its first occupant in 1881 was Mr James Burton, a 46 year old blind man who lived there with his wife and two domestic servants. However within ten years, it became clear that the western side of Gwydir Street was regarded as much less desirable than the east, possibly because of the presence of the Workhouse at the end of the garden. In 1891 No 175 was occupied by William Beasley, a 75 year old Bricklayer, his wife and five grown up children who are listed as a traveller, 2 painters and a stay-maker – no domestic servants then and I wonder where they all slept! It is estimated that rents on the west side of the street were between £8-25 per year but on the east £8 was the maximum. No 184 Gothic House, on the east side of the road, is the largest of the houses near Mill Road and has always remained up-market.

Fronting onto Mill Road on the east side of the road was a large imposing house owned by a doctor that was demolished in 1927 for the Bath House allowing many occupants of Gwydir and the surrounding streets their first access to hot, personal-use-only baths. The Bath House was still in operation into the 1970s.

In 1874 the Brewery at the top of Gwydir Street was owned by Pitson & Newman and passed to Percy Dyball and in 1880 John Pamplin took it over, no one seemed to be able to make a go of it and in 1889 it was closed and used as stabling. Finally in 1902 Frederick Dale moved his brewery from behind the British Queen on Histon Road into the premises that still bear his name. Dales expanded rapidly following the award in 1911 of the best beer at the Brewers International Exhibition. A seven-foot replica of the trophy stood on the roof until the 1960s. In 1912 buildings were expanded and several houses were bought: 181, 179 (neither of which survive) 177 and 175 to house employees and to acquire their gardens to build onto. The water required for brewing was taken from a bore hole (180ft deep into the lower green sand, very pure) and still exists in the garden of 177. Half of the garden of 175 became a brick-built bottle store and was finally re-acquired back as a garden in 2000. Dales also bought Nos. 188,190 and 192 as well as the orchard in what is now the Gwydir Street car park which was used first as stabling for the delivery horses and drays and more recently vans and lorries. The concrete plinths near the side of No. 192 are where the petrol pumps stood.

By 1946 there had been some modernisation to many of the houses. Many had a bath and geyser fitted in the third bedroom upstairs but toilets were still outside in a shed. Cooking was mostly done on a range with only a cold water tap in the kitchen and fireplaces were still in everyday use, coal was the common fuel, central heating still being many years away as were fitted carpets. Flooring was lino covered with rugs and the houses were so cold that during the winter, water froze in the glass beside the bed. Washing was done with the help of a gas boiler and tub but since brewing day was also Monday, beware the smell when hanging out the washing!

Sold to Whitbread in 1955, brewing ceased in 1958 and the site was used as a depot and stores. By the 1960s Gwydir Street was still an unfashionable area, housing was cheap and many properties were rented. Whitbread closed the site in 1966 and sold the site to the Council who used empty houses to re-house many people from the Kite which had become very run-down as its future was undecided. When the Arbury Estate was opened in the 1970s many council tenants were re-housed there and more properties on Gwydir Street became available for sale. The Brewery buildings were let to several different organisations including a foreign language school. In 1982 after a vociferous debate it was decided that these buildings were not suitable for housing development and the current arrangement of antique shops, offices and stores was developed.


Timeline of Mill Road

This is from a leaflet by the "Capturing Mill Road" project - see website.

Timeline of Mill Road, Cambridge


If you want to investigate any ancestors who lived in Gwydir Street, these might help your research.