Over the years, I have recorded the memories of many relatives, friends and acquaintances for various local history projects. Some of them, including both of the ladies whose recollections are featured in this article, much-loved relatives of mine, are no longer with us. But their stories remain a source of fascination and delight.
Muriel Wiles, née Ashman, a cousin of my maternal grandmother, was born in Newmarket in 1909. When she was seven, her parents brought her to live in Cambridge. Her mother was a local woman. The Ashmans lived briefly on Milton Road, before moving into Springfield Terrace. Muriel told me:
“I preferred the house in Milton Road and Mum and Dad wanted a bit more space and a bit more garden, so the Terrace was only going to be temporary. We talked about it like that for years.”
And then Muriel chuckled. She was speaking in 1986 and was still living there!
My grandmother recalled visiting Muriel's house as a child in the 1910s and early 1920s:
“We’d often play in Muriel’s back garden. It was long and narrow. Aunt Lou [Muriel's mother] would bring us out half a bloater each for lunch. We’d sit on the ground, leaning against the privy wall, and wolf it down. Aunt Lou always gave us a nice big jug of lemonade to wash it down with!”
"When Gilbert Road was being built, my mother and I used to walk down there, planning which house we'd have. 'Look at this one, it's beautiful!' I'd say, and Mum would say: 'Oh, it is, but look at this one over here - it's perfect!' It was all make-believe of course - just a bit of fun. We could never have afforded a house there!"
Muriel's father, Walter Ashman, installed a new front door at their home. It was actually a discarded sturdy interior door he'd acquired whilst doing some work at Springfield, the large (and now demolished) house next to Springfield Terrace.
Walter died in the mid-1950s, but the front door was still keeping out the elements when I visited Springfield Terrace this month (January, 2007).
“Grace and I scratched our initials into the privy wall, and into the wall of the passageway leading into Springfield Terrace!” Muriel smiled.
"I remember high winds causing mischief in Arbury 'Meadow' Road, as we then called it; it plucked the hats from the heads of the young ladies as they cycled home from Chivers’. The next day, the road was dotted with hats and hat pins!"
Information to be included in Grace & Co, a forthcoming book.