Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Cambridge YMCA - No Gym Until The 1980s...

My room at the Cambridge YMCA in Gonville Place in 1986. The Pye Tube Cube and the Now That's What I Call Music Pig are both indicative of the era.

I recently had an e-mail from Tracey:

You state that there was no gym at the Cambridge YMCA in Gonville Place in 1974 when it opened on its present site, but a recent article in the Cambridge News called 'It's Fun To Train At The YMCA Cambridge Gym' states that it opened in 1974."

The Cambridge News article is incorrect, Tracey. There was no gym at Queen Anne House in 1974. There was a sports room, providing activities like table tennis, but no gym. The original planners were concerned that the Queen Anne House complex would not duplicate the facilities of the sports hall (Kelsey Kerridge) next door which may have led to objections to the YMCA development from that establishment, and as there were severe financial restrictions (galloping inflation 1974 style!) and much less demand for gyms, it would have seemed an unwise investment anyway. The first proper gym studio at the Cambridge YMCA was the Gymcam in 1988. Incoming director Roger Hunt outlined his vision for turning existing office space into a gym in the Cambridge Evening News in February 1986. The 1988 Gymcam originally offered a range of weight training and other machines, but no free weights.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Cambridge YMCA - The Queen Anne House Sports Team, 1985...

Following our recent post about the Cambridge YMCA in Gonville Place as it was in 1985, a photograph of the 1985 sports team from that establishment has just come to light. We are informed that the divisional sports day that year took place at the Peterborough YMCA (Queen Anne House had no proper gym facilities until 1988), and that the photograph of the Queen Anne House team was taken at Peterborough. Were you part of the team?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Cambridge YMCA - Queen Anne House in 1985...

Here's the Cambridge YMCA in Gonville Place way back in 1985. Much has changed since those days. The front building pictured now has an extra two storeys and a gym, which is open to the public.

The Cambridge YMCA gained its first proper gym facility known as the Gymcam, in late 1988. Originally, there was just a sports room. The YMCA was anxious not to duplicate the facilities of the Kelsey Kerridge gym in 1974, which may have led to objections from that establishment, and as gyms were nowhere near as popular as today, a gym development at Queen Anne House was seen as an unwise investment. As it was, in that era of galloping inflation, the building was restricted - a storey being left off the front block due to financial difficulties.

 Much of the reception area decor at Queen Anne House dates back to the 1980s.  Cambridge YMCA moved to the Queen Anne House location in 1974, but the current reception desk dates from circa 1984. Originally, reception was a hatch in the wall on the right hand side as you entered the building, with two offices occupying the space where the current desk is. After the current desk was installed, there were two office spaces behind it with a connecting door, but these were knocked into one in the mid-to-late 1980s. The two glass sides to the desk were a much later addition, probably dating to the early 21st Century.

Monday, 5 July 2010

A New Tivoli For Chesterton Road...

A bull, a bear and a globe formed the logo for The Exchange in the late 1980s, the Tivoli building's return to the Cambridge limelight after years as a warehouse and a spell of being unoccupied.

From an advertising feature in the Cambridge Evening News, 1988:

There's no mistaking the inspiration behind The Exchange - Cambridge's new and ambitious bar and brasserie.

Quite apart from the name, there are plenty of hints in the menu which offers such delights as Opening Bids and the Big Bang while the cocktail list includes The Predator and USM (Unlisted Securities Market): the Stock Exchange cannot be far away...

An old name is about to return to Chesterton Road with the opening of a new public house: the Tivoli Cinema building has been used as a warehouse and several licenced entertainment venues since the cinema closed in 1956, and is now embarking on yet another new era as a public house - under its original name.

A spokesman for pub chain JD Wetherspoon, which is behind the initiative, and which also runs The Regal in St Andrew’s Street, said the new pub would have two floors and a large beer garden.

Local residents have voiced concerns, but here at Cambridge Back Chat we hope the new venture is a success and manages to slot happily into the district. It will be good to see the "Tivoli" name back in circulation in Cambridge, and the building again being cared for as a going concern.

The opening date for the Tivoli public house is 26 July. We'll certainly be popping in for a nice glass of lemonade!

The interior of The Tivoli in its heyday as a cinema (Cambridgeshire Collection). Note the ceiling decorations, which were "returned to their former glory" at the time of the building's revamp into The Exchange in 1988 (see below).

Read some more Cambridge Back Chat Tivoli information here.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Happy Christmas!

Click on the image for a closer look at Laurie & McConnal's Christmas 1922 goodies.

All good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Look out for more updates here in January and February when we delve into 1980s fashion in Cambridge and take a look at King Street in 1921.

Monday, 3 August 2009

1980s: Sara Payne - Down Your Street

Kimberley from Chesterton has written to say:

I remember reading (I thought) in the early 1980s a very popular series of articles in the Cambridge Evening News called "Down Your Street" by Sara Payne, which she turned into books. I really liked them, and would like to find them again. I thought 1980s, but a local historian's website states "1970s". I'm not very good at searching things out on the internet, in fact I'm not very good with computers full stop (my nephew is sending you this e-mail for me), so if you can help I'd be very grateful.

Hello, Kimberley. Thanks for getting in touch.

The first of Ms Payne's books, covering central Cambridge, was published in late 1983. The second, East Cambridge, followed in 1984.

This was not the Cambridge News's first foray into the history of Cambridge's streets - Erica Dimock wrote a similar series in the 1960s.

But yes, certainly Sara Payne's books were published in the 1980s, and I have several copies of individual Down Your Street newspaper articles here, also from the 1980s.

If you want more details, the Cambridgeshire Collection will have them. Remember, they are still based at Milton Road Library at present.

I was particularly interested in Down Your Street's visit to Campkin Road, which happened around 1983, as it tied in with some local history research I was doing at that time, and put me in touch with several useful contacts.

I may look into this further myself as thoughts of the series stirs some happy memories for me!

Thanks again for the e-mail.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

19th of August 1929 - The "Talkies" Arrive In Cambridge...

The first talking film (or "talkie") in Cambridge was shown at the Central Cinema, Hobson Street, on 19/8/1929.

"... and people said 'have you seen it yet? You must go and see it' - it was really exciting. And the actors had American accents - which seemed odd, because although Cambridge was pretty cosmopolitan, we were poor and didn't get to meet Americans in our daily rounds. I didn't mind because I was young and adaptable, but some older people found it difficult. There was quite a lot of talk about having films in the future with English accents! Nowadays we hear all sorts of accents and take it as natural, but the world seemed a much bigger place back then.

"I was excited to see the film and it was lovely... and now when I see a silent clip on the telly it seems strange, but really nostalgic...

"One of my favourite [silent] film stars was Tom Mix - he was a real adventurer, a real hero. Whatever happened to Tom Mix?!"

Mrs Hinchcliffe, May, 1987

I have been collecting material on Cambridge cinemas for some years and would like to organise a book on the subject. If anybody has any Cambridge picture house memories to share - perhaps you were employed at one of the cinemas, or have some interesting or amusing anecdotes to relate as a visitor to the "flicks" up to the 1950s - please drop me a line -

Thank you!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

1985: Stunning New 1980s Technology At The Garden House Hotel

The real 1984 was far more exciting than the Orwellian version.

The blurb...

Introducing Macintosh

In the olden days, before 1984, not very many people used computers - for a very good reason.

Not very many people knew how.

And not very many people wanted to learn.

After all, in those days it meant listening to your stomach growl in computer seminars. Falling asleep over computer manuals. And staying awake nights to memorize commands so complicated you'd have to be a computer to understand them.

Then, on a particularly bright day in California, some particularly bright engineers had a brilliant idea: since computers are so smart, wouldn't it make sense to teach computers about people, instead of teaching people about computers?

So it was that those very engineers worked long days and late nights - teaching tiny silicon chips all about people. How they make mistakes and change their minds. How they label their file folders and save old telephone numbers. How they labor for their livelihoods. And doodle in their spare time.

For the first time in recorded computer history, hardware engineers actually talked to software engineers in a moderate tone of voice. And both became united by a common goal to build the most powerful, most transportable, most flexible, most versatile computer not-very-much-money could buy.

And when the engineers were finally finished, they introduced us to a personal computer so personable it can practically shake hands.

And so easy to use, most people already know how.

They didn't call it the QZ190, or the Zpchip 5000.

They called it Macintosh.

The first commercially available computer mouse came with the Apple Mac!

From the "Cambridge Evening News", May, 1985 - the latest technology at the Garden House Hotel.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

1925: High Winds In Smash And Grab Raid At Mitcham's Corner

The original Mitcham's Corner c. 1940s - now the Two Seasons sports shop.

Extract from a Cambridge Chronicle & University Journal article, 11/2/1925.

Following a day of moderate winter temperature, a severe gale swept over most parts of England and Wales on Monday night. Cambridge experienced the full force of this. The wind at one time attained a velocity of between 60 and 70 miles an hour.

There had been fairly strong breezes during the day, and soon after 7 o’ clock the wind began to rise. It increased in force and by 8 0’ clock a hurricane was blowing. Trees were uprooted, shop windows were broken, and chimney pots, hoardings and slates crashed to earth. Cyclists were blown from their machines, and the hood of more than one motor car gave way before the force of the gale.


An electric sign outside Rycroft Rubber Company’s shop in Regent Street was blown away from its fastenings, with the result that it crashed into the window. The sign was smashed and one pane broken, whilst some mackintoshes were cut by the glass and others were blown into the street, but these articles were retrieved.
Standing at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Chesterton Road, Mr. C.N. Mitcham’s shop felt the full force of the gale. A curved window was smashed, apparently by the canvas awning being blown into it. Through the hole, hats, handkerchiefs, blouses, and other articles were whirled down the road…

Number 44 Chesterton Road in 1923

From the family album:

1923, and the scene is No. 44 Chesterton Road. Elizabeth Jones, my grandmother's aunt, and her eldest son, Harry, are pictured. Elizabeth and her husband, Albert Richardson Jones, with Harry's help, ran a decorating and hardware business. Albert went out painting and decorating whilst Elizabeth and Harry ran the hardware shop. At one time Albert had the contract to paint Victoria Avenue bridge and the railings by Midsummer Common and Jesus Green.

Details from the photograph reveal that the pillars of the bay window at No. 44 were decorated with a snake-like scroll announcing that Albert did painting, plumbing, glazing and paper hanging. The front room was given over to displays of wallpaper. A notice beside the front door announced 25% reductions and that there were over 200 patterns to select from.

Elizabeth is standing behind a coal scuttle and piles of enamelled basins and pans. On the table to the left are piles of scrubbing brushes and a carton of "New Pin" soap. Underneath, is a box of firewood.

A year or so later, the Jones family moved to George Street where Albert built a bay window on to the new family home.

How things change - No. 44 Chesterton Road in 2007. This branch of Cambridge Building Society opened in 1980. 

A view from the traffic island of No. 44 and the neighbouring premises.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

School For Arbury Children In The 1890s

The old St Andrew's School in High Street, Chesterton, photographed by Ted Mott, c. 1928.

My great-grandfather was born in 1886 at King's Hedges Farm on King's Hedges Road, and he grew up at the Manor Farm on Arbury Road - then known locally as Arbury "Meadow" Road.

Great-grandfather was one of eleven children. The following is an extract from a forthcoming book and looks at school for the Manor Farm children in the 1890s...

School for the Brett children was St Andrew’s in Chesterton. There was no provision for a midday school meal then, and the children had to walk home for it, ravenous, and plucking what they called “bread and cheese” from the hedgerows along the way.

In the winter months, the Manor Farm children were allowed to leave school ten minutes earlier than the others. This was so they could complete their journey home before it got dark. The children attended Sunday school at their mother’s place of worship, the Wesley Chapel.

Louisa always said that care had to be taken when walking up High Street, Chesterton, on the way to or from school. Many of the houses had front doors that opened directly on to the street, and some residents were none too fussy about how they disposed of teapot dregs - or worse! Louisa always stepped smartly away when a front door opened - just in case!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Memories - The Great Flood Of 1879 And The Great Gale Of 1987...

Jesus Locks footbridge and the River Cam, August 1879.

Fascinating reading to be found in the Cambridge Daily News of August and September 1934, with readers recalling early memories in a series of articles. The great flood of 1879 was recalled by one reader - or rather it wasn't.

The Cambridge Daily News recounted the events beginning late on the night of 2 August 1879, and dominating the 3rd:

The storm, which preceded the floods, broke after 11pm on Saturday night, and after a brief lull returned with the greatest violence, continuing until daybreak. "The lightning and thunder," one account states, "were awful in grandeur, and the downpour of rain and hail terrible... Trees were torn up, mills wrecked, cattle were killed in the fields and more died from drowning; farms were set on fire by the electric fluid and churches were striken." And now of the flood:

During the six hours in which the tempest prevailed, there fell in Cambridge three inches and one-tenth of rain, the equivalent to 310 tons per acre. The greatest damage to property appears to have taken place in the underground warehouses, several of the town's leading traders suffering severe losses in their stores. Hundreds of dwellings were flooded in the lower apartments, some to a depth of several feet, and in a few cases "houses were in hourly peril". Parker's Piece early in the morning was one vast lake, hardly a blade of grass being visible, and in two or three hours the river rose about eight feet. "The suburb of Newnham" was entirely cut off from communication with the town except by vehicle. The main stream was "travelling with a velocity that threatened destruction to the bridges," and its effects to the residents of Merton Hall, Merton Place, etc, was particularly severe. In Merton Place the water rose to such a height that the inhabitants had to take refuge in their bedrooms and many were the families that had no Sunday dinner.

On Midsummer Common the water rose to within 50 yards of Maids Causeway. Of the Cambridge traders, the principle sufferers were the drapers, Mr W Eaden Lilley, had the whole of an extensive basement flooded and damage to his goods are estimated at £2,000. Mr Robert Sayle's loss was stated to be not less and Mr WT Palmer had 1,168 pairs of boots and shoes of the value of £270 damaged. To quote again from the report: "All along the valleys of the Cam and Ouse, as well as in every village boasting a brook, similar scenes were visible. Roads were torn up, railways stopped in places, houses were inundated, farms flooded and stock and crop destroyed."

One correspondent to the Cambridge Daily News Early Memories strand wrote:

Sir, - When I was ten years of age I got up one Sunday morning - it was August 1879 - and went to work for a milkman by the name of Miller for one and sixpence a week. We started on our round a little after seven o'clock from South Street, East Road. I was sitting beside him in the cart, and when we turned into Parkside I remember him saying: "God bless my heart, soul and body; that's the first time I've ever seen Parker's Piece flooded."

I said: "What, has it been raining hard then, master?"

He looked at me, and said: "Why, you little thick head, you never mean to say you slept through all that. I thought the world was coming to an end."

I soon found out that it must have been bad, for people were pumping water out of basements all along the route, and when we got to Silver Street bridge we could see nothing but water, which was up to the horse's stomach. The height of the flood is carved in the side of King's College bridge.

When I got home I remember asking my mother about it, and she said: "I thought the end had come.

"I came in and looked at you boys, and you were sleeping sound and I would not wake you up."

There has been nothing like it since. -
Yours, etc,

R Bainbridge

This story reminds me of my own experiences during the Great Gale of 1987. I was living in a flat at 51c Victoria Road, my bedroom was actually in the roof of the building, which was - and is - one of the tallest in the vicinity. My bedroom window commanded a fine view across Cambridge, the envy of my friends.

During the week leading up to the gale, I had been suffering from a painful ear infection and sleep had been virtually impossible. On the night of the Great Gale, the course of antibiotics I'd been put on by my GP finally started to take effect and I slept soundly, almost completely free of pain. I woke up at one point simply because I was feeling thirsty.

Aware of sounds from outside, and in a sleep-induced haze, I went to my bedroom window and saw that several small trees in Grasmere Gardens were bending backwards to a very pronounced degree in the wind and I could hear gusts, bangs and rattling sounds. My brain was absolutely thick with sleep and I remember thinking: "It's rather windy," fetching myself a glass of water, having a drink, and then dropping back into oblivion.

The next day I awoke to tales of absolute chaos and devastation on the radio and television and found myself going quite pale with fright: had I not been so completely dead to the world after my several sleepless nights in the run-up to the gale, there is absolutely no way I would have spent the night in the roof of that tall building!