Cambridgeshire County Council confirmed how little support our county archives are getting from them. How do we change this?

Tabling a public question to Cambridgeshire councillors

See here on county council meetings.

We recognise that the archives service is effectively operating at a statutory minimum

…said Cllr Mathew Shuter for Cambridgeshire County Council.

Note the question from Cambridge historian Dr Sean Lang of Anglia Ruskin University a year ago.

Cllr Roger Hickford responds to Dr Lang for the Friends of Cambridge Central Library

I’ve found myself on the committee of the Friends of Cambridge Central Library (Please ‘like’ our Facebook page here!) because we run the risk of losing the legacy of libraries and civic centres started by one of Cambridge’s most unsung heroes, John Pink, who started the Library Service from scratch in the 1850s shortly after Parliament gave local councils powers to establish a library service. Mr Pink would be Cambridge’s chief librarian for the next half century. It would be another 60 years before someone really went through to sort out 110 years of history – Mike Petty – who is now trying to bring Cambridgeshire history into the internet age. Easier said than done – one of Cambridgeshire’s big historical groups only started using email in 2011.

A hidden treasure trove of local and civic history

Some of you will be familiar with my Lost Cambridge blog where I write about some of the finds I’ve made on all things Cambridge town and civic history. My take being that lots has been written about Cambridge University, its colleges and its splendid chaps in oil paintings. But little has been written about the history of the town in a comprehensive manner. My take is that the exciting stories and events are there – they were written about in the newspapers at the time. (Just don’t believe the claims in the adverts for health-related products!) In particular, journalists turned up to major meetings and court cases, and wrote verbatim who said what – heckles included! Some of the pieces read as deadpan comedy.

There are also essential pieces of information with which to hold current decision makers to account:


A proposed network of segregated cycleways proposed in the 1960s envisaging Cambridge in 2011. From the Cambridgeshire Collection


Unbuilt redeveloped Lion Yard from the 1960s – with large and small music/concert halls


Cambridge Heroes Maud Darwin and Florence Ada Keynes (Former, later Lady Darwin and latter, later Mayor of Cambridge) calling on women to step forward as candidates for local government following Parliament’s lifting of the ban.

010506 Boer War Camb Volunteers

The return of Cambridge volunteers from the Boer War in 1901

010629 Central Library

The old library where Jamie’s Italian now is.

My take is that we as a city need to get better about how we tell and re-tell our shared stories. In particular this goes for dramatising past civic events. One day perhaps we’ll have an archive of civic stories dramatised for theatre and schools so that children grow up with the stories of our city. But there’s still a long way to go to get to that point. The first thing we need to do is to secure the future of our libraries and our archives.

So if you haven’t let your county councillor know how important our libraries and archives are, please email them – (you only need your postcode).




Original source – A dragon’s best friend

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