The Present Village (1920 - 1970)

The last 50 years have seen the end of Great Shelford as a real village. It has become physically, and one suspects psychologically, part of Cambridge. The ubiquitous motor-car has put the centre of Cambridge little more than 10 minutes away and the packed trains from Shelford Station have given place to the Cambridge Road race track. The population of 1534 in 1921 has rocketed up to over 4,000 and to house these people more and more of the village and its environs has been developed for housing. In the 1920s and 30s houses crept gradually along the Cambridge Road to meet those coming south from Trumpington until a continuous ribbon was achieved. This did not take place all at once and indeed is not quite completed today. It was a slow process: which in fact started soon after 1900 but only a few houses existed by 1920. Thereafter the road was gradually developed as more and more land was sold off. For example in 1922 a John Maris sold a large block of land on the west side of the Cambridge Road opposite the Scotsdale Nursery which had been allotted to an ancestor of his in 1835. Within a few years houses were erected there. Similarly in 1931 the Trustees of the Parish Charities sold off another block of land on the east side of the road opposite the cemetery which had also been allotted to them in 1835. It was divided into 12 building plots and within a short time it was all built upon. During the same period housing was extended along Hinton Way in the haphazard fashion typical of the pre-planning era. Small cul-de-sacs of development such as Stone Hill Road, West Field Road and Shelford Park were started and infilling of empty sites within the village continued. This kind of development is not perhaps the most attractive feature of the English landscape but it is not without its interest. For example the Cambridge Road has as fine a collection of fashionable and not so fashionable domestic architecture from 1900 to 1970 as one can see anywhere in this country. One can find here yellow brick houses of the early 20th century, very similar houses of the 1920s in the same style; semi-detached houses with pebble dash, bow windows and mock-tudor adornments of the 1930s; bungalows of timber framing or brick, with low pitched asbestos roofs and wooden verandahs of the same period; rather gaunt red-brick houses, owing something if little to Georgian ideas, of the late 40s and early 50s and more trendy designs of the last few years.

Since the war planning control has been exercised to prevent further ribbon development and building has been largely concentrated in small estates in and around the village. The existing estates have been filled up and new ones have appeared. Infilling the remaining gaps in the old village has gone on and amongst these the disappearance of the garden of Browning House, the last remnant of the old High Green, under fashionable bungalows is the most marked.

So the old Shelford has gone. For better or worse it has been pulled into mid-20th century suburbia. But not all the past has disappeared. For those who are interested in the history of the landscape and who use their eyes the past is still there to be appreciated and understood.

Page last updated October 29th 2009

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