The Beginnings of a Modern Suburb (1900 - 1920)

For a few years after 1900 the village continued to develop its high class residential character with the further building of large houses. These were mainly single dwellings on old sites within the village. One such was Homeleigh in High Street, a typical large Edwardian house in mock Tudor style. Another was Browning House on High Green, then called The Chestnuts, a huge imposing residence with a gardener's cottage and coach house in the corner of the garden adjoining Tunwell's Lane. The latter incidentally was yet another example of building on the former High Green. On a much larger scale was an attempt to develop a new high class residential estate south of Tunwell's Lane, the present Woodlands Road. The land there was sold for building as early as 1890 by Peter Grain, at the same time as he sold The Grange. It included not only the present Woodlands Road, but also part of the present recreation ground. The original plan was to have a loop road extending from the London Road south of Southernwood and back to Woollard's Lane. The scheme was not apparently successful and only half the road was laid out. Even then it was some years before houses were built there and ultimately only about half a dozen plots were taken when the land was again sold in 1905. The houses on these were built around 1906 and are all large imposing Edwardian residences. One, Westwood, is dated 1906. Two of the others on the south side of the road are of interest in that they are designed and placed to face their long gardens extending to the river and they present rather unattractive facades to Woodlands Road itself. The rest of the estate was not built up and it is only very recently that the area has been completely developed.

Another group of houses erected at this time were the group of seven, six semi-detached and one detached, houses on the corner of Station Road and Tunwell's Lane. They were built as a speculative venture some time just before 1905. They are not in the same class as their near-contemporaries in Woodland's Road from the point of view of size and status but with their grey bricks, iron canopies and neat elevations they are amongst the prettiest modern houses in the village. Elsewhere single houses were built on individual plots as and when these became available. One such is West Croft next to the post office, yet another example of building on the old High Green allotments.

However all these upper middle class residential houses were swamped by the mass of smaller houses which were also being built at this time either singly, semi-detached or in terraces. Shelford was becoming a popular place to live for an entirely new class of people. The population of the village shot up from 1085 in 1901 to 1534 by 1921. Large numbers of new people were moving into the village. By 1912 the telephone had reached the village and the first garage had arrived. The railway still provided the main access to Cambridge and it was now used more than it had ever been. The new people required new services and even more people moved in to supply them. The houses which were erected for these newcomers are still mostly with us, and though they are not the most attractive in the village, they make up a large part of the total picture we have today. They are all very similar in grey or yellow-white brick with bay windows and "decorated" with mass produced and somewhat crude door and window heads, columns with foliated capitals and crenellated parapets. Most of these were built on land which up to now had remained empty. Much of the north side of Woollard's Lane is of this type of building. Some have date stones on them to tell us clearly when they were built.

The east end of Woollard's Lane opposite the village hall was sold off in 1904 by Caius College and subdivided into 13 plots for building. The land was gradually built up over the next 10 or 15 years. The one remaining gap between the two original Saxon villages, at the north end of High Street, was also built up at this time, the new houses being actually erected on the old High Green. Two long terraces were constructed soon after 1900 and the present bank, originally a detached house, is dated 1905. When the rope factory was again sold in 1902, the land fronting the London Road was divided into building plots and offered for development. Within a few years it received the present long terrace of houses. Other similar houses were built along Hinton Way and the Coppice Avenue estate there started to be developed around 1910. As early as 1889 land along the Cambridge Road was divided into small plots ready for building development and sold off, but the first houses did not appear there until after 1900.

By 1920 the medieval village had almost vanished under the rising tide of population but it still retained its separate identity. However the end was at hand and the 1920s and 30s saw it drawn inevitably into the suburban sprawl of Cambridge.

Page last updated October 29th 2009

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