Here you will find the complete article by Chris Gifford 'Cherry Hinton 1946 Onwards' - if you haven't done so already, I would encourage you to take a brief look at the introduction page about the memory books and this accompanying article first - which you can do by clicking the link here: Cherry Hinton Memory Books - Introduction
There are three books altogether and this one separately written article - you can find the links to the other books and this article by visiting the Cherry Hinton Memory Books Introduction page, mentioned above, or by searching the index (Categories) on the righthand side of this page or by using the search box on the right.
Cherry Hinton 1946 Onwards Chris Gifford 5.6.12
Chris Gifford Cherry Hinton Memories
“Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin!”
This we heard as infants in the school hall. A short story on the wireless in early afternoon, and afterwards, we had to lay on rush mats to try and sleep.
I remember that we had “Music” once a week. A low cupboard running down along one side wall, stored all of the instruments. We boys wanted to get hold of a drum. But as I sat near the opposite wall, all I ever had was the triangle – such a disappointment. So begineth the course for my life.
After one Christmas Party in the Hall, we came out to find that it had snowed. We began to make slides, but I had crepe soled sandals which would not slip. So, I made sure that I had leather soled shoes on the following day.
Near the entrance to the Playing Field was a small brick kiln, which seemed to be smouldering for days and blackened Pots etc eventually came out.
The Sports Days were exciting. We all had roped off areas for each class along the far side of the Playing Field. At one Sports Day, Susan Thompson and her friend were short of a third person. A teacher asked me to join in. The girls were a couple of years older than me, but they were ‘girls’, and I was confident that I would keep up with them. After about 20yards I realised that I couldn’t, and half-way along, they pulled me off my feet. So that I went head-long onto a white line. I returned to my class, looking, and feeling, a right Charlie.
I think that we all enjoyed “Tig-Ball”, when one was hit with a tennis ball, one joined the “catchers”, until there was only one person left.
Football was our passion. Putting a sleeveless jumper under one’s football shirt to keep warm. Having your mother’s women magazines down your socks as shinpads. Having football boots on already, before one caught the 131 Bus into town. The terrific racket stamping up the stairs to the top deck. Dangerous leather studs with protruding nails. Cutting three or four parallel cuts down one’s leg. Or in my case cutting mums mags to shreds.
I have always enjoyed dancing. Ballroom, Barn dancing, German dancing, I liked it all. And I put that down to the lady who used to come and teach us Country Dancing every week. I used to like dancing with a pretty girl with lovely red hair, freckles, and plaits down to her waist. I used to hold the door, as everybody came into the classroom. Quickly whisper to her, “Can I be your partner?” She always said “Yes”. You see that I never had trouble with girls under 12, and over 70. It was the bit in-between that caused me trouble!
At our recent Cherry Hinton Reunion at a Fulbourn Pub. I kept saying to ladies, “I’m looking for my Country Dancing partner. Was it you?”. Plenty of giggles, until I asked a rather younger young lady. A look of contempt came over her, and she said, “You had better ask my older sisters!” Boom! Boom!
It was clever of our Headmaster to play some classical music at morning Assembly. I liked “The Hall of Mountain King” best. He used to ask us questions. One was, “What is a weed?” And of course, we all gave various plants as the answer. But he said, “Anything in the wrong place. So, a potato could be a weed, or if one dropped a couple of lettuce seeds in the wrong place – they would be weeds.” I have remembered that answer for over sixty years, but the question has never turned up! So, if we have another C. Hinton Reunion, will somebody please ask me the question. Stop me dreaming about that answer!
I remember that the teacher asked us to bring a potato to school, as we were going to cut them in half, and make potato prints. Modern ideas even in those days. The following day, I walked to school with another boy, and as we reached the Tin Hut, we remembered – no potatoes. I used to help my dad with planting potatoes, so I knew that they wouldn’t be too deep. Somebody had a vegetable patch between the railway line path and the playground boundary. I told my friend to keep an eye out. Took a stick, ran over to the potatoes, and quickly dug two out. Of course, all afternoon, I was waiting for the headmaster to come into our class, but nothing happened.
Another time, the headmaster asked me to take a bundle of old letters to the Vicarage. The stamp on the top of the letters was Queen Victoria. Many of us collected stamps in those days. I kept looking at that stamp, and I gave into temptation, and ripped the corner off that envelope. (Even in later life, I was prone to give in to temptation – not stealing, unless it was a cherry). Then I thought, I’m going to get “told off” for taking one stamp, I might as well have more. I worried about it at the time, but nothing happened.
I remember a Vicarage Fete, and they had a painting competition at 6 pence per entry. I did a vase of flowers. A blue vase with some red crosses on it. John and Peter Hedge and their mother were going to the fete. I tagged on with them. The winning entries were pinned up on display boards. There was my painting, but with a girl’s name on it. I told Mrs Hedge, and she went over to tell them the mistake. When the prizes were given out, I was given two fairy cakes worth 6 pence. Disappointed Tunbridge Wells! I never went in for anymore painting competitions.
“Turf” cigarettes had printed cards onto the packaging. So, as we walked to and from school, little Eagle Eyes were on the lookout for old ‘Turf’ packets. Brian and Tony Tabor, as they lived at the Chequers Pub, suddenly cornered the market. They came to school with packets full of Turf cigarette cards. The dear boys had emptied out all of the Turf cigarettes and taken the packets. After which, customers were given their cigarettes in small paper bags.
Then dad had some pigs down the end of the garden and took some farming magazines. So, when our teacher asked us to look out for pictures of farmyard animals. Tony arrived for school with a whole pile of magazines and gave them out. But there were only a few pairs of scissors, and I became tired of waiting, so ripped out the various pictures. Pasted them in my book, job done. But the teacher was not impressed. This was while in the Tin Hut.
The teachers had a chart on the wall to record Tables. One had to say the table and then answer some questions, i.e. what is 7 x 3? 9 x 3? Etc etc. Success meant a star against your name. I struggled to get 2 stars, while some children had 5 or 6 stars.
I had forgotten that we had poetry and we had to write out the poems into our books. The neatest one got a prize. We boys discussed the prize as we walked home and decided that it must be a penknife! I won the prize, and it was a book of children’s poetry by R.L. Stephenson! Deep depression as we walked home. A poetry book of all things. Some weeks later in Assembly, the Headmaster asked a question to which the answer was R.L. Stephenson. Nobody knew the answer. He said, “I’m surprised that Chris Gifford didn’t know the answer, after winning that book of poetry by R.L. Stephenson”. Of course, I went as red as a beetroot, having not even opened the book. Last year at the Trumpington car boot, I brought a copy, thinking that I would actually read it after 60 years. But I mislaid it somewhere in my house. Sorry! Mr Stevenson.
We were writing with the simple nib pens and had to keep dipping the pens into the ink. When we came out of school one afternoon, a man was sitting outside the Tin Hut with a board of colourful fountain pens. They had wooden bodies. He said that if we brought him a bag of old clothes, we could get a pen. I ran home and got a bag of clothes. My mother being in Town. But he said that these weren’t enough, so I had to run home again, grab my dad’s old pullover and an old jacket, run back again. This time I was given a pen. The next morning in class a lot of us were writing with our bright, new pens.
Tony Tabor and I were good friends. By the time we were in the top class, bikes were beginning to become available. I was scared to sit on the saddle at first, so sat on the back mud guard. Spent hours going up and down the lane beside our old house, which led to the Stevens wood-yard and black barn. I was always after wood off-cuts and saw-dust. I took my bike to the Rec. Whilst there, I tried to sit on the seat, as the grass gave a softer landing, if I fell off. Once in the saddle proper I could ride to school.
Tony was also riding to school. One day we were racing each other home. Neck and neck, we peddled furiously. Suddenly we caught up with an old man going slowly. I was on the inside and I realised that if I braked to go around the outside of the old man, I would lose the race. I saw that there was just enough space for me to over-take on the inside as Tony on the out-side. We flashed past, and we could hear the shouting and swearing fading into the distance, as we arrived home. A draw!
There were a whole bunch of children who lived in Mill End Close, opposite to the Recreation Ground (Rec). We met on the Rec and soon had a game of football in progress. Anybody who turned up – played. 15 a side, 20 a side, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that the kid who owned the football turned up. Otherwise, we picked sides to play hide and seek (offs).
Initially, there was only a swing on the Rec. If one was on the swing, and a Tiger Moth flew up from Marshalls, it made a strange noise with one’s ears. Near the swings stood a circular stand of plum bushes, but with a hollow space in the middle. Somebody suggested going around the circle without touching the ground. Some promenade tree roots in some gaps helped this along. Next suggestion was tig, without touching the ground. Exciting stuff, but usually somebody went home with a dirty handkerchief tied around a leg wound.
There were bushes up the sides of the Rec and a line of mature trees across the end. More testing to our climbing skills. One day, Tony Tabor and I rode to the end of the Rec and decided to cut a track through the big trees. So, we spent a happy time with a spade and saw making our dirt track. Making a half circle with short branches on the Rec itself. We began the races beside the big trees, around the half-circle, and then to the trees. Any over-taking had to be done on the half-circle. We used to let other kids use our bikes to race. Plenty of fun, until it was another race between Tony and myself. Just before we went into the trees, Tony’s pedal went into my front wheel, and whipped out several spokes in a split second. My poor father used to spend a long day repairing cars at a garage along Cherry Hinton Road (Cambridgeshire Motors), cycle home, and find more work with our bicycles.
We made bows and arrows. Took then onto the Rec to see who could shoot the furthest. One boy had a large box kite, which went absolutely miles into the air. We spent many happy hours trying to make kites out of old newspapers, bamboo strips, glue, paint and string. We had to run at 50 miles an hour just to get those kites up in the air a bit.
Catapults were another obsession. As we wondered about, we always kept a good eye out for suitable wooden forks in a “Y’ shape.
I found a red car wheel innertube in my dad’s garage. “Borrowed” my mum’s scissors and cut off strips for catapults. I think that nearly every kid in the area, turned up for a pair of red rubber strips.
At the end of the Rec was usually a corn field, and we enjoyed making tracks and hiding places in it. Until the farmer sent the local Copper to tell us off.
I remember lovely summer evenings when we were all having great fun and our mother coming to the Rec to call us Gifford three in for bed. Looking at the older kids, who were allowed to stay out.
There are photos of my father as part of the Chequers Darts Team, in cricket whites in the Cherry Hinton Team, and he was in the Football Team. After he married, he didn’t have the time for any of it – which is sad.
Our place of joy was the Spinney. A wild place of small hills and a deep hollow, thick with bushes and some mature trees. To have such a place at one end of the village, opposite the “Robin Hood” pub was brilliant.
We used to gather on the Rec. Divide into two teams. One side would dash up to the Spinney to hide, while the other side counted up to 500 (nothing wrong with our village education!). Whoever was caught had to join the Seekers, until only one or two were left. Not being able to find them, sometimes we called out “We are going home!” and all troop out of the entrance. But then creep around the edges, waiting for movement. Then all poured in to give chase. My middle brother Dave (Todd) was extremely cunning at hiding. Once he sat in the middle of a creeper covered bush right beside a footpath. Another time, he climbed a tree and lay on an Ivy-covered branch, going over a footpath. So, we all passed by, underneath him. I once sat under a bush, only to be entertained by a little mouse fussing about.
In summer, we used to ride our bikes down the hollow. In winter, we went down on our home-made sledges.
There was a tall plant, which when old and dried out, made beautiful spears. The hard root had a long sharp point. We used to stand on a hill. Put the index finger on the end and hold the spear between the thumb and middle finger. Lift the spear up with the other hand, and throw. So, we all lined up on a hill. One, two, three, throw, and a whole shower of spears flew off. Most of us had wellies on. Once when I bent forward to collect my spear, another spear hit my wellie. It went through the top of my wellie, grazed my calf, and made a hole in the opposite side. Everybody was very impressed by the effectiveness of the spears. It was not until many years later, that I realised that the little rascal John Hedge, had deliberately thrown his spear at me!
If there were only two of us and we had catapults, we would hide behind two thick tree trunks, about 60-70 yards apart. Then fire lumps of chalk at each other. Chalk was slow in flight and easy to see. So, we didn’t get hit. But if one of us found a marble in our pockets, we called out a warning because one couldn’t see a marble in flight, and it was very accurate. We hid behind the tree trunk, as the marble thudded into it.
If any of us had any money, we bought a bottle of pop, and a batch of bread rolls from the bakers, near the Robin Hood. Then go into the Spinney to divide them out.
Opposite the Unicorn Pub in C.H. High Street, was a footpath between the houses. It led into the end of the Bakeries very long garden. We chose to walk up this path, because it went past various fruit trees. Especially a heavily loaded Victoria Plumb tree, right beside the path. So, on our way back with our loafs of bread, we would pinch several plumbs. (Still my favourite). But the baker used to wait outside the Robin Hood, for our father to cycle home, we got warned to leave the fruit alone. The smell of that Bakery was gorgeous. Those rolls had a special taste, not like the bland white bread of today.
Being the eldest son, our father used to put me on his bike, and cycle to the top of Cherry Hinton Road, to the Cattle Market. He used to buy cheese roll, which had thick slabs of cheddar. Several years ago, I went to the Bury St. Edmunds Cattle Market, and brought some cheese rolls and it was the same taste. I was delighted.
Opposite the Robin Hood was the spring, and one could see the water bubbling up, a pile of fine grit moving about. There was an island with mature trees. We put down branches to make a bridge. We got onto the island but several of us had wet feet. The water became deeper, and it was covered in thick weed. But there was a clear patch, and a large Pike could often be seen sun-bathing. One day a group of bigger boys from the Church End of the village, arrived with home-made spears to get the Pike. They were all standing in the water, which had gone muddy, shouting at each other and stabbing the water. It’s a wonder none of them were injured. They all cycled off, but I think, without the Pike, which must have swam downstream to find a new home.
At the other end of the spring was a high black metal fence. But we could get our feet between the uprights and walk over to the other side. There was a large meadow, and the stream went on to Cherry Hinton Hall. At the time the Hall was in private hands. The back of the Hall was an overgrown jungle. So, we could follow the stream along and into this brilliant place. If we made too much noise, there was always the possibility of being chased by one of the gardeners. I remember one sunny day, and we were following a track through the jungle. I climbed onto a thick fallen tree trunk and was just about to jump down, when in a patch of sunlight lay two grass snakes. I yelled “Snakes”, and we all ran off in panic. Us little boys had never seen snakes before and were easily scared.
There was another set of black metal fencing at the other side of the C. H. Hall, which we could easily climb around and come out at the Brook and allotments. So, we could return home along Mill End Lane.
We spent hours and hours down at the Brook, catching sticklebacks. Most of them were 3 spine but occasionally we caught a black 10 spine fish. Usually, it was my brother Dave who caught the 10 spine fish, as he went down the stream of the Wooden Bridge, and just used his hands to catch fish. Further down-stream, where it was too deep to paddle, we had some thread and a cane, tied on a small nut for a weight and a small worm. The bigger sticklebacks would take in the end of the worm, and we would gently pull them out. Sometimes they dropped off but in the Brook.
We lived in the “Red House”, which was a pair of old red brick semi’s, belonging to the Church. We were on the High Street, opposite the Chequers, and the Thatched Cottage. It was only a one room up and one down. Very dark inside, and dark twisting stairs. We had gas lights and had to go “over the yard” to an old wooden hut privy. Dad had a large shed next door, where he had a vice, tools, and car parts, as he was a mechanic by trade. By watching him in his shed, we learnt about the various tools and how to use them. We used to make our own trolleys, fishing rods, and sledges etc. Although we left his tools all over the place, I think dad was quite proud of our efforts.
One day, Billy Taylor and I were looking around in dads shed. Billy picked up a strange box with a plunger on top. Pressed the plunger and it made a horrible noise. It was a horn from an old 1920’s Taxi. Beside the Thatched Cottage, on the other side of the road, was a large meadow going down to Fishers Lane. The farmer kept a mixture of white bull, cows, and a couple of horses, all in together. We sat on top of the wooden rails and took it in turn to press the plunger. Weerrker! Weerrker! Weerrker!
The animals began to run I a group around the meadow. Weerrker! Weerrker! Weerrker! More and more noise. Faster and faster went the animals, until it was like a wild west stampede. They were thundering around. While at the Fishers Lane end, the white bull disappeared right through the hedge. We ran into the middle of the road and looking anxiously to see what would happen. Suddenly, the white bull appeared, coming straight down the middle of the road towards us. We immediately ran for my dad’s shed, and looked out from the doorway, as the bull went past.
We stood in the middle of the road again and watched the bull going up towards the Robin Hood. Sometime later, back came the bull with a man on a bike guiding him home. Back in the shed again. A lot of excitement and we got away with it completely.
The next house along was a big house made out of chalk/clunch, most probably from the Spinney. There was a long barn at right angles to the house, and a tall pole, which could have been a wireless Ham Radio. Every evening a little owl sat on top of that pole and screeched.
Beside the chalk house was a footpath going to Mill End Lane, and so was our short-cut to the Brook. One side of the footpath were trees and bushes, and on the otherside a large meadow with a tall pear tree and a carthorse. The pears were small, red/yellow and sweet. The ripe ones dropped onto the grass, and we would go over the fence, run out to the tree, picking up as many as we could, stuffing them down our shirts. But the carthorse didn’t like us in his meadow, and always chased us out.
So, some of us lads went to the Mill End Lane end of the meadow, The horse gave chase, as we others went in for the pears. As soon as he saw us at the tree, he came charging up. But we already had our fruit.
For us boys, the best place in the world was Woolworths. They sold what we wanted. Foreign stamps, balsa wood gliders, marbles, and fishing kit. Brilliant.
Brian and Johnny Richardson lived on Coldhams Lane, and they had the Cement Works pit beside them. A real source of adventure. Their father took them on bikes right to the end of Coldhams Lane, over Newmarket Road, past the Gas Works and to the River Cam. So instead of sticklebacks, they were catching Gudgeon, Roach, and Perch. Huge monsters in comparison. They told us lads at school and got us all excited.
Woolworths sold a beginner’s kit of line, float, weight and hook on a card. Dad got a piece of 1” square board, knocked in some staples, and nailed on a cotton reel, so I could wind on the line, and fix the hook to the staple. Dad found an empty paint tin, and a piece of white bread. Ready.
From the Chequers, I cycled up to Coldhams Lane and met Brian and Johnny. That first time seemed a long cycle ride. Too much anticipation I suppose. Soon we were beside the river, and I watched what they were doing. Put my float up to fish close to the bottom. Gudgen shoal on the bottom and bite freely. So, it’s only a couple of minutes before one of us has a bite and swings in a sturdy fish. We only had to fish 3” or 4” from the bank, so it was easy fishing. Time goes by quickly when you are having fun. We gradually moved upstream until we came to the Jesus Green Weir, and that became our favourite place. Fishing became one of our main hobbies. We three Gifford brothers always took our rods in the car, whenever dad took us out. Even coming back from a Hunstanton seaside trip, the rods were with us. Halfway back home he always stopped at an isolated pub right beside the river (A10). We caught some lovely silver bream, another new species for us. Dad always came along with glasses of pop and crisps. We didn’t mind how long our parents were chatting in the pub, and it was always disappointing to have to stop fishing.
Brian Richardson became a very accomplished fisherman. After about 50 years I was able to obtain his phone number and we are going to meet up and have a go at fishing again. And of course, it will give us a chance to chat about our childhoods.
There was no T.V. when we were young. The Victoria Cinema on the Market Square used to run Sat morning films for us children. The “minors” had a membership card, and sometimes checked the cards at our back of the cinema entrance, beside the Holy Trinity Church. The Mark’s & Spencer shop is now on the site. My friend Billy Taylor had forgotten his card at that morning’s check-up. I went through, and then sneaked my card to Billy behind the back of the checkers. They made us sing songs first of all. The words were put up on screen, and a white ball bounced along the words. Quite boring, unless it was the Woody Woodpecker song, and we could make a lot of noise.
The films begum with cartoons, then a serial of a cowboy, detective, or later a space film. One could see the cotton holding up the spaceship and smoke just puffed out of rockets. The serial always ended at a critical point. Was the hero going to survive a tomahawk blow, or a gun shot? How was he going to get out of this tricky situation? Then we had a full-length film, and we loved Tarzan of the Apes, or Cowboys & Indians. After the cinema, we looked around the Markey Square. Our dad used to mend the car of a market trader who used to sell broken biscuits. We used to say hello to him, and he would say “Hello, the Gifford Boys”, and give us a bag of mixed biscuit pieces. Then to Woolworths to spend our 6 pence pocket money. Before catching the 131 Bus back to Cherry Hinton.
A group of bigger boys were discussing the Treasure Island film about Pirates etc. I ran home and asked my mother whether I could go with them, and she said yes, which surprised me. It was a very exciting film. Especially when the boy had climbed into the near empty apple barrel and he over-heard Long John Silver’s plan. A Pirate was just about to stab into the barrel for an apple, when land was sighted. Again, when a pirate had chased the boy up to the Crow’s nest, and the boy had to shoot him.
Recently, I have been able to obtain a copy of that film and enjoyed watching it once again.
On the corner of Mill End Close and the High Street was a Grocers shop. In those days, nothing was packed. So the staff had to cut, pour and pack every item. Consequently, there were very long queues in the shop. I was only about four years old, and my mother used to give me a list and money. The shop was always crowded to the door. All I could see were legs. I used to worm my way to the counter and could just hold up the list above it. Which attracted attention and I was soon served. I remember one woman saying loudly “why is he the last in but the first to get served?”
I think that we lived in a golden age for childhood, and we all had a very happy and exciting time.
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I thought that I would share with you this history of Cherry Hinton Hall, which I have been working on, for some years on and off, this latest version, given below, is based the one that I placed in the appendix of the Cherry Hinton Hall Management Plan, which I wrote for Cambridge City Council in 2019. It was used as part of the application for a Green Flag for Cherry Hinton Hall, which was a successful application with a Green Flag being awarded for the park (I will place a separate blog post about this on here shortly).
I am the official historian for Cherry Hinton Hall and grew up just down the road from "the Hall" as many of us called it. I went to the playgroup in the Hall building and to the clinic, again within the Hall building, for my childhood jabs. I also spent many hours playing on the park, at the duck ponds and within the grounds.
I am writing a book about the site which will give the full history, in more detail, and I will let you know when this will be available (I've been saying this for years, I know!).
For now, here is a pretty decent length overview for you to have a look at.
Cherry Hinton Hall is a former Victorian country house and grounds. It was built, and the grounds laid out, in the late 1830’s by John Okes, a Cambridge surgeon, as his family home. Previous to the site being developed for this use, the area it was to be built upon, was part of the medieval open field system of the village of Cherry Hinton. There are very few surviving maps of this area before 1806. We can see the pre-Enclosure map and the Parliamentary Enclosure maps of 1806. These both show the dramatic transition from the medieval open field system, upon which, the village agricultural system used to function, to the changes to agriculture and the landscape, brought about by the Parliamentary Enclosure Acts. Through which process, the opportunity was provided to wealthy investors to purchase large parcels of land, which in this case, resulted in the land for the site of Cherry Hinton Hall to be acquired. From the time the Hall and Park were constructed and laid out, the site has remained relatively intact with its transition from a Victorian, family country home to its present form, as a multifunctioning, well managed public park.
The pre-Enclosure map shows that the area in which Cherry Hinton Hall was to be built, was within one of the 6 remaining open fields of the parish, these fields formed the medieval, agricultural, open field system of the village of Cherry Hinton. The site lay within the field, to the south west of the village, called ‘Bridge Field’ and through that field, the Hinton Brook flowed from the south-eastern side of the site. From the pre-Enclosure map, we can also see that there was a building called ‘Pecks Homestead’, which would have stood just south-west of where the present-day Hall building now stands. Within the ‘lake’ area by the waterways, at the north west of the site, there once stood several other buildings, which at the time of Enclosure, were in the occupation of Robert Rickards, who was the common herdsman of the village. These buildings are thought to be that of much older buildings, likely watermills and their associated dwellings, which have stood on the site since at least the 13th century.
 Cherry Hinton Hall 2004 Historical Research & Excavation Report, Bullivant & Clarke 2004
The 1806 Pre-Enclosure map of Bridge Field, Cherry Hinton. Showing the area that was to become the site for Cherry Hinton Hall & its parks and gardens. The red dot, added, shows where the future building of the Hall would stand. The blue lines show the water course and what was to become the ‘lake’ area of Cherry Hinton Hall.
We can also see the waterways of the site from the pre-Enclosure map above. The square, water-enclosed island in the south west corner, may have been a medieval, moated manor site and is currently thought (M. Bullivant) to have been the site of Netherhall Manor, which was one of the 4 known but now gone, manors of Cherry Hinton.
 Cherry Hinton Hall 2004 Historical Research & Excavation Report, Bullivant & Clarke 2004
The Hinton Brook, which runs through the site, was an important tributary of the River Cam, where it joined its destination at Stourbridge Common in Cambridge. The Brook broke forth as a series of fresh water springs at the north-west base of the Gog Magog Hills and formed a spring pool, known locally as Spring Head (also known as Giant’s Grave). The Spring Head was no doubt a major factor in the siting of the village. From the Spring Head, the chalk lined, fresh water brook, flowed in a north-westerly direction, where it entered Bridge Field, to be manipulated for early industrial purpose, before flowing on north-westerly to eventually join the River Cam.
Cherry Hinton Spring Head (aka Giants Grave) c.1910
Once the Parliamentary Enclosure had taken place, in 1806 in Cherry Hinton, much of the land ownership and use changed dramatically. The old, large, open fields and those systems of agriculture were gone. The land was divided up and sold into smaller parcels and new owners took over. Robert Rickards, the common herdsman living in Bridge Field, for example, was given notice to quit the property and land in 1814 and had to leave his home. These changes ultimately led to the purchasing of the land in Bridge Field and surrounding parcels of land by Mr John Okes, who planned and executed the building of Cherry Hinton Hall and the layout of its grounds. This new development work included clearing the old buildings that stood within the lake area of the site and once occupied by Robert Rickards and clearing the site of Pecks Homestead, all in preparation for the building of the Hall and park design, which began in 1831.
The 1806 Enclosure map of Cherry Hinton, showing what was Bridge Field.
John Okes had returned from the army in India and joined his father, Thomas Verny Okes, a well-known surgeon, at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, to work as a surgeon at the hospital himself. At this time Addenbrooke’s Hospital was on the Trumpington Road site, within the town of Cambridge. Cherry Hinton Hall was completed by 1839 and John Okes had laid out his ‘miniature park and gardens’ around the Hall building. The site was just 3 miles from the Cambridge town and the Old Addenbrooke’s Hospital. It provided a perfect family home for John, his wife Mary and their children, an escape from the busy town, which lay just within the bounds of the countryside.
Plan of Cherry Hinton Hall c.1960 , shows the various additions (shown in light tone) to the original form (shown in heavy tone). The additions include the billiard room to the north-west side and various minor additions to the rear. You will see that there was once a staircase added, within the main entrance porch, which is no longer there today.
Cherry Hinton Hall was built in the Gothic Revival style. It was placed centrally within the grounds. Built in Gault brick with stone dressing, with stone and slate covered roofs. The chimneystacks have separate octagonal shafts with oversailing brick capping. The glazing was lead-traced lozenge-shaped panes. The coach-house and stables were built just to the north west of the main building and the small Lodge was built in the same style as the house, to the south-west of the main Hall building, by the entrance gates and entrance to the driveway. The Lodge originally had its own length of garden, which ran to the eastern side of the property. The park and gardens were laid out with meadow and pasture, along with formal garden areas at the very front of the building, a kitchen garden to the rear of the property and features such as the orchard that lay within the lake area upon the place where Robert Rickards had once lived.
John Okes had the water course, flowing through his land, enlarged at one point to make an small ornamental lake and stocked the stream with trout and had a pike pond made. He also spent a considerable amount of money in planting the grounds. He had four weirs built along the watercourse to help control the water and a special deal was agreed with Cambridge University and Town Waterworks Company (CUTWC), of which John Okes’ brother Richard Okes was a Director, to supply a specific gallonage of water to the lake and stream at Cherry Hinton Hall, as the CUTWC had also acquired land in Cherry Hinton, specifically bought to begin taking advantage of the natural spring water that flowed out the chalk hills just to the south-east. This eventually resulted in the action of building reservoirs on top of Lime Kiln Hill, close by Cherry Hinton Hall and would have a drastic effect on the flow of water into the site, so specific plans were made and the design and control of the waterway running through the hall was managed in order to please both parties.
Front-piece of the Cambridge University and Town Waterworks Act 1871.
Cambridge University and Town Waterworks Company waterworks map.
The lake area of Cherry Hinton Hall (the duck pond and early paddling area) showing the Hinton Brook flowing through towards us, and showing one of the four weirs that John Okes had built during the Victorian period.
The planting of the varied selection of important trees adds to the historical value of the park. A combination of natural countrified meadows and paddocks with a mixture of formal gardens. From the sale particulars of the site in 1870, it can be seen that the grounds included a loose avenue from the gate lodge to the Hall, with the driveway forming a turning area on the Hall’s south side, outside of the front door entrance. Other parkland features included a kitchen garden, lawn and flower parterres, shrubberies and a fernery, two orchards, ornamental pleasure grounds, park-like paddocks, stream and fish pond, fine lawn, beautifully timbered and belted by fine plantations all set within about 35 acres.
John Okes died in 1870 and Cherry Hinton Hall and grounds were placed on the market for sale. The layout of the site, as he had intended it, can be seen from the sale map and particulars of the site. The sweeping driveway which ran from the south west of the site and curved round to the north east to meet at the front door of the hall was laid out when the grounds were planned, and remains, in its original position to this day.
Cherry Hinton Hall sale map, 1870. This map shows the detail of the grounds and features therein.
The sale advert for Cherry Hinton Hall 1870.
Following the death of John Okes, the site was sold to Cambridge University and Town Waterworks Company (CUTWC) for the sum of £5000, who went on rent the property and its grounds to private tenants. Cherry Hinton Hall remained in private occupation for around the next 60 years. During this time various people lived at the Hall.
The first tenant after the death of John Okes was Charles Balls. Charles Balls had started out life working as a shoemaker and then went on to become a Mayor of Cambridge and later a Director of The Cambridge University & Town Waterworks Company. He, his wife and four of his daughters lived at the Hall. His wife Eliza died in 1876 and Charles and his daughters remained at the Hall until 1888, when they moved back into Cambridge Town Centre.
Charles Balls (1810-1892) Read more here:
The O.S map of 1886 shows the park with its water ways, planting, buildings and curved driveway. At this time, the Lodge can be seen with its plot of garden running to the east of the Lodge building.
Robert Moffatt, a General manager of a bank in Cambridge, and his family lived at the Hall for a few years until Major Richard Thomas Lyons, a retired military surgeon, took over the tenancy for another couple of years until c.1900. Cherry Hinton Hall was then unoccupied for a short while until 1902 when Sir William Phene Neal and his wife moved in.
Sir William Phene Neal and his wife, Lady Eleanor Vise c.1902
Sir William Phene Neal who lived with his wife, Lady Eleanor Vise, at Cherry Hinton Hall, created the Cherry Hinton Hall Dairy Farm within the grounds. He went on to become the Lord Mayor of London in 1930 and local stories tell of remembering him being driven in a beautiful horse drawn carriage down the drive, from the park grounds and onwards to Cambridge train station, where he would travel to and from London. Last occupier of the Hall before its sale in the 1930’s was Lt. Col. Brocklehurst Phillips O.B.E.
Cherry Hinton Hall in 1910, showing the drive return and front garden planting.
Ownership remained with The CUTWC and as such the Cambridge University Trinity Estates to which CUTWC was held, until 1937 when Cambridge City Council purchased the whole site, Hall and grounds and the site remains in their ownership today. This particular period was one where nationally the move to acquire and ornament public open spaces was prevalent. Cambridge City Council purchased the Hall and the grounds in May 1937, for £13000.00, and it remains in their ownership today. In November 1937, a conveyance document with covenant was drawn up which laid out the conditions of the purchase. The covenant stated that the site “shall be reserved as a public open space under the Cambridge and District Planning Scheme”.
Original Deed of covenant, 1937 and Below: The transcription of this section
Some of the parkland was lost in the sale of the site to Cambridge City Council. A large portion, to the west of the site, was sold off to a Mr Ridgeon (now a well-known Cambridge building firm, Rigeons) and subsequently houses were built along this strip, along with the creation of a new road called Walpole Road.
Cherry Hinton Hall c.1930 OS map, showing the planning position for Walpole Road, across the western side of the grounds. Note the Lodge garden is gone by this date and the driveway finishes at the Hall in a circular sweep.
For the first couple of years in the Councils ownership Cherry Hinton Hall becomes a Youth Hostel. With the outbreak of WWII, the Hall was used a fire depot and a training centre. It then became a home for young evacuees from London.
After Second World War Cherry Hinton Hall was used as an orphanage and by 1944 the Hall was host to a nursery school from 1944-1988.
The Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Cambridge, originally published by HMSO in 1959 contains the following entry for the Hall:
“Cherry Hinton Hall, nearly 3⁄4 m. S.W. of the parish church, of two storeys with cellars, has gault brick walls with stone dressings and slate-covered roofs. It was built for John Okes and the title to the property begins with the purchase of plots of land in 1834 (University Library, Map Room: sale advertisement, 1870). Scratched on the roof-lead is the date 1839, to which the house would approximate on stylistic grounds. Late in the same century a billiard room was added on the W. Since 1948 it has been converted into a day-nursery and clinic involving alterations and additions inside and out. The coach-house and stabling standing nearby to the N.W. have been drastically remodelled to provide living-quarters. The Lodge some 210 yds. to the S.W. is contemporary with the house.
Cherry Hinton Hall is a large and rather bald building of the first half of the 19th century in the late Tudor style. The elevations generally have moulded strings at first-floor sill and eaves levels, tall parapet- walls carried up in gablets with moulded copings and apex-finials and stone-mullioned windows of one, two and three square-headed lights with labels; the ground-floor windows are transomed. The S. front is asymmetrical on plan and in height, the porch and the E. part being slightly higher than the rest westward. The doorway has continuously moulded jambs and four-centred head. The rectangular bay-window towards the W. end is an early addition. On the N. side is a four-light transomed window lighting the original staircase; to the kitchen is another of five lights on the W. side. The lights in several windows have been cut down for doorways and french-windows, others retain the original glazing of lozenge-shaped quarries. The chimneystacks have separate octagonal shafts with oversailing brick cappings.
Inside, the staircase in the entrance-hall is a modern insertion involving the blocking of the four- centred archways in the N. and W. walls. The principal rooms have doorways with architraves and six-panel doors all with roll-mouldings; another period allusion is the heavy moulding of the plaster cornices. The E. part of the house retains two original fireplace surrounds of gray polished stone, with moulded jambs and four- centred arches, sunk spandrels and moulded shelves; they are flanked, one by pilaster-like responds with roll-moulded angles and moulded caps, the other by octagonal projections with trefoil-headed sunk panels in the faces. The main staircase has close moulded strings, grip handrails, square panelled newels and pierced strap work balustrading of gilded woodwork. The back staircase has cut strings, a turned newel and slender square balusters.
The Lodge, of one storey, with gault brick walls with stone dressings and tile-covered roofs, of uniform character with the house, has been much enlarged. It has large gables, and a smaller gable to the porch, all with moulded stone copings rising from corbelled kneelers. The windows have stone mullions and the tall chimney-stacks octagonal shafts.”
The grounds of the Hall were opened up to the general public as a public park in 1960. The Lodge building was rented out to a park steward who was responsible for opening and closing the gates and other duties (the park ceased to have a steward by the 1990’s and the lodge building continues to be rented out privately by the City Council.) Before long, there was the addition of a car park to the south west corner of the site, just inside of the front gates, along with the addition of a public convenience. This public park development of the site included providing a healthily stocked duck pond and a bird sanctuary to the eastern area of the site within the waterways. The paddocks at the north-west of the site were turned into a games field and the site began to take shape in its new role for the pleasure of the public. This development also, in turn, enabled protection and preservation of the wide variety of mature parkland trees and features.
Within the Hall building the children’s nursey continued, and there was a health clinic and offices from the 1960’s until the 1980’s.
In 1965 the first Cambridge Folk Festival was held, set within the grounds of Cherry Hinton Hall. The Folk Festival has been held annually, at the site, at the start of August, ever since and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014. It has grown to become one of the premier music events in Europe and one of the longest running and most famous folk festivals in the world. As a result, Cherry Hinton Hall is known world-wide and loved by many thousands of people, who over the years have attended the site.
By the mid 1970’s a paddling area was provided within the Hinton Brook, just north of the duck pond and a play area, with playpark equipment, was in use to the west of the site, where the playpark area has remained since.
c. 1979, Playpark equipment in the Hall grounds, close to where the present-day playpark is now situated. The photographs show a see-saw, a roundabout and a climbing frame. You can also see a bench, showing that public park furniture was being provided by this time (©M.Bullivant)
During this time Cambridge City Council continued to use the Hall building for office space and the rear of building was used for the City Council’s storage and horticultural use, for which they built glasshouses and a developed a nursey/propagation centre to provide bedding plants for council planning schemes.
c.1995 - The council propagation centre and planting nursey (now demolished) at back in the Hall building, which would have once been the site of the Victorian kitchen garden. (©M.Bullivant)
By the 1980’s the site was in full use as a public park and had developed a reputation of a lovely place to visit. There were regular outdoor performances by brass bands and families used the site for picnics. Cherry Hinton Hall became a firm favourite with dog walkers and duck feeders across the city and beyond. By 1988 the Hall building was then rented by the council to Eastern Arts, an arts development company, who additionally provided some art for the grounds of the Hall for the public to enjoy. There was also a fenced-off special bird sanctuary, to the east of the site, on the island beyond the lake and more wildfowl were introduced to the site.
c. 1984, Playpark equipment in the Hall grounds, close to where the present-day playpark is now situated. The photographs show a new roundabout and ‘rocking’ horses. (©M.Bullivant)
In 1987, a refreshment kiosk was opened on the west side of the building, this was only in service for a short time.
Aerial Photograph of Cherry Hinton Hall 1987 showing the site. (Courtesy of Cambridge University Committee for Aerial Photography).
During the 1990’s the playpark was further refurbished, with distinct toddler play areas and older children areas. A major new paddling pool area was constructed, which consists of two pools, one for general use and one for toddlers.
The newly built paddling pool, c.1995 with playpark in the background. (© M.Bullivant)
This wall was one of two original entrance walls, either side of the front door to the Hall building. This western wall, shown, was removed in the late 1990’s to make adaptions, in the form of a sloped pathway, so that the hall was wheelchair accessible, as previously, at the front of the entrance walls, were several steps. (© M.Bullivant)
In the 2000’s, tennis courts were added to the site, just immediate north to the playpark area and exercise equipment was also added. The bird sanctuary had closed by this time and some tree art was made from trees that had been retired. Further play area improvements were made with the addition of an accessible, disabled play equipment.
When I first started my research into the history of the Hall, back in 1998, I was amazed to learn that the buildings were not even grade listed. So I set about finding out how one goes about such a thing and I was successful in getting the Hall and buildings listed. If I can do it, so can you - always have a check if you think a building should be listed and now a days you can do the whole process online. I know it can be a mixed bag in some respects because of restrictions that then get placed on a building but I really did think it worth getting the Hall listed, to protect it for us all as it is a public park and we locals love it.
Cherry Hinton Hall is a Grade II listed building and was added to the Statutory List on 19 September 2002, along with the Lodge, gate piers and the gates at the drive entrance. The list description is provided below:
“667/0/10138 Cherry Hinton Hall 19-SEP-02 Grade II
Small country house, now training centre. 1839. For John Okes. Gault brick with stone dressings and parapeted slate roofs. Ornamental brick stacks, some with multiple flues. Tudor style with coped gables with finials. 2 storeys, attic and cellar. Entrance front is a 6-window range in all at first floor of 2-light casements with hood-moulds (single-light 2nd from left). To centre right is a projecting gable with a panelled door with Tudor-arched surround and casements to side walls and over. On the front to both sides of this projection are 2-light stone mullion and transom windows, one to right and two to left, some with leaded lights. On far left a gabled projection with large square bay to ground floor. Two gabled ranges further to left, one single-storey, the other 2- storey. Front to right has 2- and 3-light casements over taller similar mullion and transom windows with a canted bay to right. Rear has various wings and C20 extensions. A large leaded mullion and transom window lights the main staircase. INTERIOR. Entrance hall has arched screen and carved stone fireplace. Staircase hall has open well staircase with pierced fretwork balustrade. Other reception rooms have similar stone and marble fireplaces. Simpler fireplaces on first floor. Cornices and panelled reveals in some rooms. Service stairs with stick balustrade. Service wings have mainly C20 character. Cherry Hinton Hall is a well-detailed house of the period which retains many exterior and interior features. It forms a group with The Lodge and gate piers and gates at the drive entrance.”
In 2004 I ran a community archaeological investigation. A 'dig' around a small area of the site was carried out, within the lake are in order to establish the whereabouts of a lost medieval watermill site. The work was designed to include participation from the children of one of the local secondary schools and the end result was 2 different interpretation boards for the park along with public information leaflets, a better understanding of some of the archaeological history of the site and the discovery of one of the original medieval mill stones, who now makes an unusual seating feature by the Hinton Brook and information board. The site, as a whole, remains rich in archaeological remains and potential for future excavation and investigation.
I will do a separate blog post on here about this - 'The Lost Watermills of Cherry Hinton"
Photographs from the 2004 excavations at the Cherry Hinton Hall, Lost Watermills Excavation. Top Left: Children getting hands-on experience. Top Right: Capping stones of an old culvert discovered. Middle Left: View inside the culvert, which proved to be from the medieval watermill workings. Middle Right: A Victorian metal fruit tree tag, from John Okes’ orchards.
Bottom left, unveiling of the new information board by the lakes, about the findings and the lost watermills of Cherry Hinton. Bottom right, the new board by the lakes and the original medieval mill stone that I found on site during the project, now placed as a seat for all to enjoy. (© M.Bullivant)
After the departure of Eastern Arts, the Hall building has been leased to The Cambridge International School, since 2008, who remain the tenant of the building today. The school have just completed a major redesign and refurbishment of the main Hall buildings, at their own expense, including the building of a new all-purpose Hall, named The Okes Hall, at the rear of the main Hall. The Council continues to use an enclosed area to the rear of the main Hall building for storage and other council use, including a service area for when the annual Cambridge Folk Festival takes place.
With the design of the Master Plan for Cherry Hinton Hall in 2009 by Cambridge City Council and its subsequent implementation over the last 9 years, along with the formation of The Friends of Cherry Hinton Hall in 2009, it is clear that people still care and are passionate about this special place and that whilst utilising the site, it should be preserved and protected.
Here is a link to The Friends of Cherry Hinton Hall
In the 21st century, the park remains an important amenity for visitors, students, and local residents, being an important green space between Cambridge town and Cherry Hinton, giving the village of Cherry Hinton some much needed distinction and preventing it being swallowed up to become an indistinct suburb of Cambridge City, whilst at the same time being within easy reach of the City and Cambridge Train station. The park is also in close proximity to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, a major employer in Cambridge providing, not just green relief for the staff, but also the visitors to the hospital. In addition, the Cambridge Silicon Valley and technology park is only a few minutes’ walk away from the park, the site proving a popular lunchtime space for its workers. The proximity of several schools to the site means that the grounds are put to good use for educational purposes and the site remains an important tool, for positive development of future generations.
So, there you go, that hopefully gives you a good general feel for the main points in the growth and development of the site and a bit more about its history. I have no-end to add to this which I have already written down, from much more detail about John Okes, who built the Hall and his family, to more in-depth details of happenings at the Hall and grounds over the years, including many written memories from many people, old photographs and voice recordings. I will bring you all these in due course :)
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Spring Head is the natural spring pool that breaks forth at the base of the Gog Magog Hills. It was one of the original reasons for the siting of the village of Cherry Hinton and is still, today, the village pond. Spring Head is also known locally as Giant's Grave and there are still superstitions about the site, which are closely connected to the tales of giants once living in the area and on the Gog Magog Hills. Spring Head feeds the Hinton Brook which flows on through Cherry Hinton and Cambridge to join with the river Cam.
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This is the blog page for my articles, memories and archives relating to the archaeology and local history of Cherry Hinton, a village to the southeast of Cambridge UK. The area covered is the old Parish of Cherry Hinton which today includes the Ward of Queen Edith's.
The Categories below are really the Index of what is on the Cambridgeshire History Pages. Each is a clickable link which will take you to an article or blog which contains that word or subject