Researching Cambridge Streets & Houses in the Cambridgeshire Collection

The first stage in tracing the history of your street is to take a walk around the area to see what you can discover. Do any of the houses have dates on them; are they all of the same date, or are some older than others; are they of the same type, or are some bigger or smaller? Are there any buildings other than houses that may have their own history?

Cambridge has seen expansion at different periods.

Before 1800 development was mainly in the historic centre but with a cluster of streets off Newmarket Road – the ‘Barnwell’ area. The Royal Commission on Historic Monuments (RCHM) report on the City of Cambridge surveys many of these older and more important buildings.


Enclosure led to land that was formerly fields being made available for housing. Some was allocated to individuals who built quickly and cheaply; some was allocated to colleges who built better houses, over a longer period. The Collection has copies of some of the Enclosure maps but the originals are housed in the County Record Office, Shire Hall. The Barnwell lands allocated to Gonville and Caius College are described in their Biographical Register, volume 4. Development also occurred in the New Town area as the University bought up and redeveloped town centre properties


Expansion continued down Mill Road with the creation of Romsey Town and Sturton Town; building spread towards the station and across the railway line. The Newnham area expanded and good-quality houses were built for University dons off Trumpington Road. North of the river housing grew up in the De Freville Estate & spread along Chesterton Road and Victoria Road areas – New Chesterton.


The boundaries of the town of Cambridge were expanded in 1912 and again in 1934 to take in more land in the Chesterton, Cherry Hinton and Trumpington areas. This period saw tremendous housing expansion during the inter-war period especially along the Milton Road, Coleridge Road, Cherry Hinton Road and Hills Road areas. For an impression of the extent of Cambridge in 1920 see the Ordnance Survey Town Map.


Massive development in the Arbury/King’s Hedges, Cherry Hinton and Trumpington suburbs.

There are various resources in the Cambridgeshire Collection which enable you to investigate the story of your house or street in Cambridge.


Cambridge is divided into various areas - eg "Barnwell", "Romsey", "Chesterton", "New Town" etc. There may be books about the general area of the city in which your street is located. Check the Cambridgeshire Collection BOOK CATALOGUE under the name of the district. Sara Payne’s ‘Down Your Street’ books cover the City centre and the Barnwell area between Mill Road and Newmarket Road. There may also be books about buildings such as churches within the street. Check the BOOK CATALOGUE & NEWS INDEX under the name of the building - eg "ST PHILLIPS CHURCH"

Researching your Street & House


The most complete story of a house will be the original deeds. If these still survive they may be with the owner, Building Society or Solicitor. If these can be located they may provide the answer to your project.

Street names

Look at the name of the street: was it named after an event eg ‘Coronation Street’, if so when was that? Was it named after a person; if so who was he - perhaps the man who built it, perhaps a member of a college that owned the land. Check the book on Cambridge Street Names by Gray & Stubbings (c.48) & the Cambridgeshire Collection Street Names Index cards

Has anybody researched the street already?

Newspaper cuttings files have been compiled for many Cambridge roads; they may include two series of ‘Down Your Street’ articles, one by Erica Dimock in the 1960s, another by Sara Payne & Dan Jackson in the 1970s. There is a map showing the streets for which there are cuttings files at the staff desk.

Books and articles on specific streets have been published in various magazines; check the Cambridgeshire Collection BOOK CATALOGUE classified sequence & the News Index under the heading c.44.6. NB: this section of the book catalogue is only available on the computers in the Collection. Otherwise you can try a name search in the ‘General Keywords’ section of the catalogue


Spalding’s & Kelly’s street directories were published from the 1860s to the 1970s. They will list all the buildings at the period they were published and help identify churches, institutes etc in the area that can be researched separately. There is a selection on the library shelves, but others are available from the desk. The 1904 Directory has also been published on the Cambridge Explorer CD-Rom together with extensive indexes

By checking through street directories you may be able to ascertain when the street and your own house first appear.

Street directories also list the occupants of the houses and tell you what jobs they did.

Registers of Electors may list more occupants from the 1940s and continue after the Directories have finished. There are also older Burgess Lists that may enable you to narrow down when a known individual was in the area. Poll Books up to the 1860s will list residents within an area and tell you how they voted. This checking can be quite time consuming.

Census Enumerators Returns

The Cambridgeshire Collection has a copy of the various enumerators returns of the census. These provide a detailed record of everybody resident in the house at the date they were compiled. You can also move from house to house to build up a picture of those living in the street. Check the Spalding’s Directory to find the name of the householder at the appropriate date, then search for that name on the Census

Who were they

Once you have a list of occupants these can be checked in the "BIOGRAPHY INDEX" which might include obituaries or other notes on individuals. The Collection also has an extensive index of photographic portraits taken by various photographers at the studios in Post Office Terrace and of pictures taken by Ramsey and Muspratt. Ask staff for these indexes


Pictures of the street will be listed in the "ILLUSTRATIONS CATALOGUE" under class number "B" followed by the first letters of its name - eg "B.Stu." for Sturton Street. The card index often includes a small copy of the picture. It may also refer you to other collections of pictures, including those taken by Harold Culpan in the 1960s. Be sure to make a note of these and ask the staff for assistance.

Although part of the Illustrations catalogue is available on the Library’s website it does not include a classified subject search, has no small pictures, and does not always give all the information you need to request pictures.

Fill in the pink "ILLUSTRATIONS REQUEST FORM" quoting class number, accession number and any annotations eg "B.Stu.K0. 17676" & hand form to staff.

The Cambridge Antiquarian Society has deposited its photographic record in the Collection. There is a separate card index arranged by place. Cambridge pictures are subdivided into categories with IX being the number for the section dealing with streets.

Pictures can be Xeroxed or copied photographically. Scanning facilities are also available.


The first published map of Cambridge was in 1574 and the Collection has copies of virtually every Cambridge map from that date to this. Amongst the most useful are the 1830 Baker map of Cambridge and the Monson map of 1859 which will mark all the houses at that date. There are other maps at regular intervals, a selection of which are kept at the staff desk.

The most detailed maps are larger scale Ordnance Survey sheets, especially the 1886 survey that is extremely detailed and clearly shows the shape of buildings. It can be compared with the 1970s 50 inch-to-the-mile maps to show what has changed.

Ordnance survey maps are also available on the 25" scales for 1901, 1927, 1950 and 1970s whilst more recent surveys are available on computer.

These maps will also identify churches, factories etc which you can follow up individually.

Ask staff for the maps you need; they will make copies on request

Sale particulars

The Cambridgeshire Collection has a large file of auction and estate agents sale particulars covering most streets in Cambridge. They are listed in the "SALES CATALOGUE" index. Complete a "BOOK REQUEST FORM" listing whatever is shown on the top line of the entry - eg "CAMBRIDGE. Sturton Street., no.6" together with the date or class number shown - eg "27.3.1988" or "c.06". A map showing the streets for which sales particulars are held is available from the desk.


The Collection has deeds for various properties that were acquired by the City Council. They are listed in the "DEEDS INDEX". A map showing the streets for which deeds are held is available from the desk.

The County Record Office at Shire Hall has other collections of deeds


M.J. Petty MBE, MA, ALA, 13a Reads Street, Stretham, Ely, Cambs. CB6 3JT
phone 01353 648106 E-mail
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