The journey from Cambridge Station into town


Trying to solve a problem that Cambridge has had ever since Cambridge University decided that having the railway station away from the town centre would be a good idea.

This was a problem created in the early-mid 19thC and just goes to show that with big infrastructure, if you get things wrong the problems and symptoms will stick around for many generations to come.

It didn’t have to be that way – as Reginald B Fellows showed in his book above, there were many other possible sites for a railway station (before the town expanded) that could have been used. My favourite one was the proposal that opened onto Parker’s Piece, where the Kelsey Kerridge Sports Centre now is.

So we got the one at the end of Station Road instead. The history of the railway station has been written extensively here by Darren Kitson – well worth a read for anyone who wants a historical context of the issues around the railway station today.

The walk from the railway station down station road to the town centre down Hills Road & Regent Street has never been the nicest. Ditto the cycle ride. In the past I’ve always taken a back route by bike. So on 25 November 2017 a number of local organisations got together to come up with ideas on how to improve things. Following a history talk that I gave to a local history group on the Women who made modern Cambridge, I turned up to film the presentations from the participants.

Hobson’s Choice – an alternative route for tourists, starting at the railway station and finishing up outside King’s College Chapel on King’s Parade.

The playlist of videos from all of the participants is here. With several of the participants being postgraduate students from abroad, or people who had only recently moved to Cambridge, their insights into what was missed by us locals was particularly interesting.

171126 Bland Hills Road Hack Cambridge

From Team Atkins <<– Click on the link to see the full video.

The above screenshot is damning of the architecture of the past half-century or so. Not least because of the buildings that have been demolished over that time period.


The old Wesleyan Church – demolished to make way for an anonymous office block – along with the House of Commons Pub next to it. Courtesy, Museum of Cambridge Archive


The beautiful Rattee and Kett workshop on the corner of Station Road. The demolition of this for Kett House in my view is an architectural crime against our civic history. Photo from the Cambridge Evening News Archive.

“Isn’t the easiest way to improve the walk into town to widen the pavements?”

It isn’t as straight forward as that – for a start which way do you widen the pavements? Narrow the road or buy up land/buildings to make way for a wider pavement? My take is that there are parts of Hills Road where the pavement can be widened through buying up land on the east side of the road. But some of the buildings – including the old Globe Pub (now a tapas bar) open out directly onto a narrow pavement. Making the pavement wider would involve either the demolition, or the major alteration of such buildings in order to create an overhang – not the most pleasing of solutions by any-means.

The winners are in the video below

In terms of implementation of any of the ideas, I note that walking has hardly been mentioned as a means of reducing congestion in Cambridge – noting that the ‘wayfinding’ theme was aimed at promoting solutions to encourage walking. See also Smarter Cambridge Transport on a Cambridge Walking Map here.

Cambridge’s problems are predominantly to do with public administration – and the structure of it.


The above is from Smarter Cambridge Transport, and shortly after this was published I wrote a blogpost about why the structure of local councils in and around Cambridge means that the city cannot have nice things. Since then, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough has committed to a review of the structure of local government, which if I recall correctly reports back by the end of 2017 or in early 2018. Until local government is restructured and we get a legally and financially competent municipal council  that is also properly accountable to its citizens, everything else will be touching at the edges.


Local history in song – Mill Road Winter Fair 2017

Every year I make a video medley for it. Last year’s one is below:


On Sunday I went along to the rehearsal for a performance of Rhythm, Rhyme and Railways – all about the history of the coming of the railways to Cambridge. They will be giving a performance at the Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday 02 December at 11am at St Philip’s Church by the Co-op near Coleridge Road, Romsey Town. (Sometimes known as the People’s Republic of Romsey given the strong left-wing views of past councillors and activists. It even has t-shirts.)

The rehearsal was a bit of a workout for those of us not physically fit, as well as being a challenge for those of us that cannot sing while doing choreographed dance moved that involve thinking at the same time. (I.e. Me). The project is a combination of work by HistoryWorksTV and Stagecoach Performing Arts in Cambridge.

The women who made modern Cambridge

Some of you will be familiar with my research on this – I gave another talk on this trying to join up more of the dots between the women who transformed our city from the late Victorian era up until the Second World War. The audience, all of them alumni from one of Cambridge’s colleges described the presentation as “enthralling” and “compelling”. If your local group would like to commission a presentation on what these heroes of Cambridge did, email me – antonycarpen[at]gmail[dot]com.


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