Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Mile Of English Road

Two or three times a week I walk from Trumpington to Grantchester (or vice versa) and entertain myself by thinking about the history of the places I pass, both their proper, formal history and the informal, personal stories that each place evokes. Gradually this has taken shape as a projected blog-post, though it would be a very long one. But here goes with the first few hundred yards!

We'll start at the Grantchester end, not actually at my mother's house (for she's the reason for my frequent visits) but at the road-junction known to locals as the Rose And Crown turning. The pub which stands there now is called "The Rupert Brooke" after the poet who lost his life in the First World War. I suppose the change of name - in the 70s, I think - was to attract the tourists, but locals viewed the change of identity with disdain and carried on calling it the Rose, or if they were feeling witty, "The Bear" - from Rupert Bear, of course. It wasn't always a T-junction either; it was once a crossroads with a road running through what is now the pub car park. The course of the track can be seen in the meadow beyond. When I was a schoolboy there was an archaeological dig which unearthed Roman artefacts in that meadow proving the antiquity of the site. It's what you might expect - Grantchester - Granta Castra - Latin for the camp on the River Granta.

Next to the pub is a house with a huge front window which rather gives the game away - it was once one of several shops in the village. Now sadly there are none. The eagle-eyed may see several little windows reflected in the glass. These are part of Wright's Row, a much-loved and much-photographed group of cottages.

Unfortunately it's rare to see the Row nowadays without cars parked in front. As you can see the cottages in the row are of different styles and different ages. The Cambridge Cottage Improvement Society took them over in 1938 as a result of the generosity of the gloriously named Jimmy Nutter, once the miller of the village. There were formerly eight cottages but the Society reorganised them into five dwellings. Even so they are not particularly spacious abodes. You might just make out one of the former doorsteps in the middle of the picture. A child with excessive energy and imagination might run along knocking on all the doors and then hide in the bushes to see the fun. Not me, of course.

After Vicarage Drive stands a small thatched building known as The Reading Room. It was where the village youth club used to meet and one of our projects was to redecorate the inside of the room for the village. I can tell you that painting around those tiny diamond-shaped panes of glass is not a task for those without patience. Although it was known as The Reading Room I don't think it was used much for that purpose, though it did contain a couple of bookcases. It was used, as it still is, as an annex to the Village Hall, which stands behind it, and was used for small groups to hold meetings. It was originally built as the village school, in 1830, and was said to be so successful that it once had 100 pupils, many coming from neighbouring villages which had no schools. Goodness knows how they all fitted in to the tiny building. As you can see it's connected to the house next door which was the schoolmaster's house.

And opposite stands the Victorian school building, now a private house. My brother attended for a short while but I was already at grammar school when we moved into the village.

Well, we don't seem to have travelled very far at all. Another day perhaps.

Take care.


  1. What great fun to see the village this way. Maybe I should try the same idea for around Roundtop

  2. Yes please John - I am really enjoying this. All that is missing is the honey for tea.

  3. John, you are indeed fortunate, not only to have such for photos and blog fodder, but to have spent your childhood in such a place. Tell us more! Jim

  4. I cannot wait for the next walk, John. You're showing parts of England that I'll only be able to see through your eyes. Thank you!

  5. This is a treat, John. It looks like we are taking a walk in a village occupied by real people, not one trampled by tourists. Tell us more.

  6. Ditto above John, am enjoying the "Englishness' of the trip, so very different from Perth. Looking forward to next installment!

  7. The school does look rather small for 100 students. Hmmm. Maybe they took turns getting an education.

  8. Glad you enjoyed our little stroll. You're probably right about the children taking turns; they would have all had to help with farming tasks as well as being educated. Plenty of tourists in summer, Jack, many with accents you'd recognise!


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