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An Industrial History of Mill Road and its Environs

Friday, 19 July , 7:00 pm 9:00 pm

Doors open (18:45)

Talk (19:00 – 20:00): Beyond the idyllic lawns, chapels and dining halls of the Colleges, Cambridge (to the surprise of many today) has always been a hub of industrial activity. Prior to the first industrial revolution, windmills, iron foundries, breweries, paper mills and other ancillary forms of proto-industrial production were present in the area. With the coming of the railway in 1845, this hotbed was greatly diversified to include scientific instrument manufacturing, advanced ironworking, coprolite mining and processing, cement production and brickmaking. In the second half of the nineteenth century, a significant portion of Cambridge’s industrial activity shifted east from central Cambridge toward Mill Road. This shift saw the emergence of a diverse range of local industries, from the heavy manufacturers of the Headly and Cam Foundries to smaller-scale domestic laundering and smithing. In this talk, we explore how industrialization shaped the physical and social landscape of this distinct area of Cambridge which, as the late Allan Brigham put it, was “closer in spirit to a mining community than to the traditional university market town of which it was a part”.

Refreshment break and questions (20:00 – 20:15)

Workshop (20:15 – 21:00): In the second half of the session, we move from the industrial past of Mill Road to the present day. In this 45 minute workshop, I open up the floor to the audience and invite you to discuss whether the industrial past of Mill Road creates or upholds a sense of place or community today. It is intended that this workshop will be recorded for use in Kieran’s PhD research. If you do not wish to be recorded, please let Kieran know before the session begins. 

Kieran Gleave is a second-year PhD student at the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge and is a Trustee at the Cambridge Museum of Technology. His research explores how the ‘everyday’ traces of the industrial past inspire what it means to belong to a community from the Mill Road area.

This talk and workshop is free and is open to everyone. Doors open at 6:45pm, the talk will start at 7pm, fully accessible venue.