Arthur (b. 31st August 1906 – d. 28th June 2000) was the son of Arthur Conder who owned the general store in the high street (since demolished to make way for the northern entrance into Willow Crescent). When he was 83 he wrote this account of his life in Milton which was passed on to us by his grandson Jonathan Conder.
I arrived in Milton just after the First World War with my parents, together with my brothers and sisters, to take over the General Stores. At that time the High Street was from Landbeach Road to the Village Chapel. Beyond that it became Cambridge Road, from then on it was just fields except the Sewage Farm Cottages, Trinity Farm and just one other house where a well know fish merchant lived on the corner of Green End by the name of Mr Sennet. Beyond that there were no houses until you reached Chesterton Hall Crescent; that was on the left hand side of Milton Road. On the right hand side there were one or two houses until you reached Arbury Road. A Mr Banks had a shop on the corner, which was later taken over by a Mr Cherry and called Cherry’s Corner. The reason I mention this is because it was the nearest provision and grocery shop to our little shop in the High Street. Ours was a General Shop selling provisions, grocery, haberdashery, hardware, paraffin and candles, also lamp glass and wicks. The store was in the High Street opposite Milton Hall. Fruit would be delivered on Thursdays by a Mr Whitehead from Cambridge on his was to Ely Market, where he had a stall, with his horse drawn cart. He would deliver his fruit either on the way to Ely or on his way back. We also had the bakery. My father (Arthur Conder Senior moved to Milton from Balsham) would make the dough in the evening then it would be left overnight to rise. He would be up at six in the morning and worked twelve hours a day, weighing and cutting the dough into portions ready for baking. He also delivered the bread, myself helping to pull the handcart, specially built for the purpose for it had two shelves inside with a rail on top for the baskets. At the weekends we would keep the oven warm ready for cooking the Sunday dinners for the village people.
Other businesses were Mrs Todd’s sweet shop, which is now a cake shop, and Jack Starling’s Cycle Shop. He also built them. Alfred Neech who had a little lean-to shop for antiques and anything else that was saleable. He also sold petrol in two gallon cans at that time, in case a car should come by. We only had two car owners – Cannon Evans of the Rectory and Mr Brown of Edmonds Nursery. Milton Hall was occupied by a gentleman named William Redfern J.P. D.L. who owned a horse and carriage. His coachman was Mr Driver who lived at the South Lodge and kept the coach highly polished. Mr Redfern was at that time the manager and director of the New Theatre in Cambridge. As boys we would wait for him to come at about five o’clock and run behind the coach. The Hall at that time was kept immaculate. In the spring each side of the drive was filled with daffodils and the fields at the back of the Hall were full of mushrooms. When Mr Redfern left it became empty for some time until new tenants arrived. They were Countess Wilton and Major Bullteel Handicarer who was a horse-racing man at Newmarket. After they left it became empty until the Second World War when the Air Force moved in.
Now back to my young days flying our kites in Cherry Close. It was a lovely old meadow – it had a small pond where we used to fish for tiddlers and watch the Kingfisher which arrived every year in the spring. From the end of May it was time for swimming down at Baitsbite. The summer seemed to last until September. During those months we took advantage of making Friday evenings our bath night, by taking our carbolic soap and having a good wash down. We would leave the soap in the willow trees for the next Friday.
The high street in the 20s before the old Waggon & Horses burned down
Back to the village which had four Public Houses within a hundred yards of the village centre. First the old Waggon and Horses, which was kept by old George Coulson, then came the Lion and Lamb run by Mrs Gristwood, the White Horse (The White Horse pub was later held by Mr William James Clarke whose daughter, Evelyn Maud Clarke, Arthur would marry at the parish church in Milton on 7th September 1931) by Mr Constable which had a full size billiard table which we played for six old pence for half an hour. Last but not least was the Jolly Brewers with its own brewery run by Mr Essex. It was called Essex Brewery. He had a special wagon for delivering just two large barrels. He would deliver once or twice a week. I remember when it was closed down and sold to Sion Brewery at Newmarket Road, I went with my father to view the articles and he decided to buy a chair, but they must have had certain amount of strong beer for the visiting customers. My father asked me to collect the chair he had bid for it and turned out to be a butter churn!
The village was made up of dairy farmers and small holders who formed a co-op run by Mrs Wilson and Mr Honey in the Red House next to the White Horse pub where they bought their seeds, cattle food, corn etc. One thing I remember were the number of cows, everyone seemed to keep them. The dairy farmers with large herds were the Goodings who had a lovely old English farmhouse in Fen Road which was pulled down, but they still sold milk. I suppose Susan Gooding was the milkmaid who delivered it with her milk float to Cambridge. Then Mr Wilson of Rectory Farm, also Mr Pearson of Fen Road and Mr Symond Easy of Butt Lane whose daughter delivered milk to Histon. Although we had no path or pavements, it was a busy time for Mr Barney Ship and Mr Coulson who kept the High Street very clean after all the cows going to and from the grazing pastures.
We had no Post Office as such, just a letter box in Mr Garner’s house (before it became a police house) who was our postman at that time. The Post Office at our shop was brought about by the extra houses being built by the Council and private owners in Cambridge Road, also bungalows in Fen Road. My eldest sister was the Postmistress and I became part time Postman delivering to the centre of the village, Landbeach Road, High Street, Baitsbite Lock and Fen Road. If Mr Garner was sick, I had to do Cambridge Road which included some cottages in Kings Hedges Lane and Mere Way. The other luxury that came with the Post Office was the telephone. Our number was Waterbeach 31. It wasn’t automatic as it is now and we had to turn a little handle before you picked up the receiver. It was a blessing in some respects. If we ran out of something or other we could ring up the wholesalers in Cambridge who would put the item on the train which meant it had to be collected from Waterbeach Station as we had no bus services. Everything was delivered by carrier cart; even the paraffin was delivered by horse drawn tank and manhandled in five gallon cans like large milk jugs which had to be carried quite a distance from the road to our long tank. Oil lamps were the only lighting as there was no electric, gas or water. Our little shop was the brightest at night because we had two double wick lamps.
The other enterprising business was Edmonds Nurseries who grew tomatoes for seed. At picking time the staff would be busy removing the seeds and the rest of the tomato, the fleshy parts, would be given to the workers or anyone who wanted some. Next came the Walklings who had several acres of glass and supplied tomatoes to shops in Cambridge and elsewhere. Another enterprising lady was Mrs Gooding who tried several ideas before producing a very successful laundry business which was run entirely by her three daughters and son.
Now back to the winter months when we had several weeks of frost we would skate on the frozen beds of the Sewage Farm. A Mrs Pearson taught me to skate. I still have my skates, but I’m past that now. At night we would skate by moonlight.
I must finish my little story about Milton in my youth which was a very happy one amongst a close knit community built up by the hardworking people of the village, not by Tesco’s and the Science Park, but by hardworking smallholders and dairy farmers who had to work long hours. When Woolworth and Marks and Spencer opened in Cambridge, it took young people out of Milton to work in the Town, which it was in those days. Now history is repeating itself with Tesco and the Grafton Centre.
One thing I would like to see revived is Milton Feast which was held on the second week of May on the village green, when all the village people invited their friends from the neighbouring villages for Feast Sunday which was a very busy day for my father – all the extra dinners to roast in the bakery oven, the Yorkshire Puddings would be brought along in basins to be added to the roast chickens, legs of pork, beef etc. At that time, we had no Village Hall and any entertainment was held at the school.
I remember when the pond was filled in to improve the corner. Behind the pond was Willow House. Mr Woodman who lived in Willow House decided to move his entrance from the left of the pond to the right side, which caused quite an uproar. Local councillors tried to force him to use the original gate, but he stood his ground. The councillors put a seat in front of his new entrance to prevent him from using it, so the postman and visitors had to climb over it. It made very interesting news in the Cambridge Papers and there was a cartoon showing the postman climbing over it. Opposite the pond was the village blacksmith Mr Butcher.
We had no football or cricket pitch but we had a good football team who played in a field at the back of Milton Hall, which at the time wasn’t too good for cricket because cows grazed on the pitch so you can imagine they polished the ball on their trousers, not to get a polish on, but to get the cow pats off!
The largest employer of people was Chivers Factory who employed a lot of people from Milton and surrounding villages and to get to Histon you had to cycle. I remember one girl from the Fen Road who used to walk to the factory from the village. For the moment I can’t remember her name….and another lady who used to walk from Landbeach to Cambridge. I think she must have been bedmaker at one of the colleges, because in the summer she would pass our shop at about 6 o’clock in the morning in a long black dress and white apron. Now at 83 years of age I must finish my youth at Milton which were the happiest days of my life.