Thursday, 20 March 2008

1928: "... Ask The Conductor To Put You Down At Mitcham's Corner..."

A delightful local newspaper advertisement from 1928.

Fifty years on...

Mitcham's closed down in December 1977 and is seen here, still bearing the final "Sale" stickers in its windows, in early 1978.

Christmas Past...

First prize in the Mitcham's Christmas 1927 competition (a boys' cycle) went to Miss E Hobson of 16, Humberstone Road.

1960: An Accident At Mitcham's Corner

Cambridge Daily News, April 6, 1960:


An articulated lorry carrying 10 tons of paper cartons for a frozen food firm overturned at Mitcham's Corner at dawn today. The load was catapulted through three plate-glass windows of Mitcham's shop, but the lorry driver was unhurt...

It [the lorry] overturned when negotiating the corner and tipped on its side on the pavement.

The manager of Mitcham's, Mr Edward Pull, who lives in a flat above the shop, told a 'Cambridge Daily News' reporter: "I was awakened by a terrific crash. I thought the whole shop had fallen down.

"It was exactly 5.30 when it happened. I put on a dressing gown and dashed down into the shop. Two of the three windows that went were recently put in and on display were carpets and soft furnishings.

"We don't know how much damage was caused or how much it will cost to repair because we don't know yet whether there is any structural damage."

The original Mitcham's Corner in 1959, the year before the accident.

Above and below: a busy day at the original Mitcham's Corner in the 1930s.

The original Mitcham's Corner in 2007.

1925 - A Windy Day At Mitcham's Corner...

The original Mitcham's Corner c. 1940s - now the Two Seasons sports shop.

Extract from a Cambridge Chronicle & University Journal article, 11/2/1925.


Following a day of moderate winter temperature, a severe gale swept over most parts of England and Wales on Monday night. Cambridge experienced the full force of this. The wind at one time attained a velocity of between 60 and 70 miles an hour.

There had been fairly strong breezes during the day, and soon after 7 o’ clock the wind began to rise. It increased in force and by 8 0’ clock a hurricane was blowing. Trees were uprooted, shop windows were broken, and chimney pots, hoardings and slates crashed to earth. Cyclists were blown from their machines, and the hood of more than one motor car gave way before the force of the gale.


An electric sign outside Rycroft Rubber Company’s shop in Regent Street was blown away from its fastenings, with the result that it crashed into the window. The sign was smashed and one pane broken, whilst some mackintoshes were cut by the glass and others were blown into the street, but these articles were retrieved.

Standing at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Chesterton Road, Mr. C.N. Mitcham’s shop felt the full force of the gale. A curved window was smashed, apparently by the canvas awning being blown into it. Through the hole, hats, handkerchiefs, blouses, and other articles were whirled down the road…

Monday, 17 March 2008

A Brief History Of Mitcham's Corner

The original Mitcham's Corner c. 1940s...
Photograph by Charles Mitcham, copy supplied by Norah Wolfe

The original Mitcham's Corner today.

The Two Seasons Sports Shop occupies the original Mitcham's Corner premises at 34, Chesterton Road. The shop was built in 1909 in the garden of "Bridge House", the Mitcham family home. The idea came from Charles Mitcham's father, James, who ran a butcher's shop in Victoria Avenue. Charles began his Chesterton Drapery Stores in the new premises.

The business expanded over the years, occupying the ground floor of Bridge House and several premises in Victoria Avenue.

Mitcham's Modern Men's Store traded for some years in the 1930s and 40s at 24c Chesterton Road.

For many years, a sign proclaiming "MITCHAM'S CORNER" was slung above the corner premises at 34, Chesterton Road. As time went on, the original junction was dubbed the "Mitcham's Corner roundabout", "Mitcham's roundabout", "Mitcham's Corner junction" or simply "Mitcham's Corner" by motorists, and the names were then applied by many to the 1967 gyratory traffic system, which incorporated Croftholme Lane into the scheme of things.

The name was often seen in print as "Mitchams Corner" (note missing apostrophe), following a change in the lettering style of Mitcham's newspaper advertisements in the 1930s. This has influenced the names of several bus stops near the Corner today - "Mitchams Corner", and the two recently re-named stops - "Mitchams towards city centre" and "Mitchams outbound".

A recent study - The Mitchams Corner Area Strategic Planning and Development Brief draft, produced by Faber Maunsell of Bristol and Andrew Martin Associates of Chelmsford for Cambridge City Council also drops the apostrophe, and suggests that the site of the original Corner premises are a major development opportunity.

Their significance as the original Mitcham's Corner are not alluded to, although the study attaches great importance to the name throughout.

The authors conclude that the original Mitcham's Chesterton Drapery Stores building is "a relatively weak feature on such an important junction".

To return to the more distant history of the Corner, Charles Mitcham sold his Chesterton Drapery Stores in 1944 to Dupont Brothers of London, but the shop continued to trade as Mitcham's until its closure in December 1977.

I recall, as recently as the early 1990s, arranging to meet friends at the original Mitcham's Corner - it was quite a landmark years after the shop had closed. Many local people still remember the original Mitcham's Corner fondly...

"A lot of us didn't have cars in those days and there weren't all those traffic islands like there is now. Mitcham's Corner was Mitcham's Corner to me - it was where the shop was. We're talking late '30s... before the war. I used to meet my husband-to-be there when we were courting. My mother didn't approve of him, she had very strict ideas, so I'd meet him on Mitcham's Corner because he couldn't come to our house. He was always there waiting for me. When we announced our engagement, Mum was disgusted at first but she and Bob got on like a house on fire after that. So, Mitcham's Corner, the real Mitcham's Corner, is a bit romantic to me!"

Mrs E Wright, June 2005

"You'd get over to Mitcham's Corner when they had a sale, because they had lovely bargains. The things you'd buy there, coats, dresses, material, would last a long time. It wasn't like now - things fall apart a year or so after you buy them. In those days things were made to last, and they had to last because we didn't have a lot of money to fork out. Mitcham's was lovely, it was our shop - all the people that lived in that bit of Chesterton. We were lucky to have such a lovely shop on the doorstep."

Mrs V Williams, July 2005

The history of Mitcham's and its Corner can be found in my Cambridge Town Histories volumes When Mitcham's had a Corner (which includes Norah Wolfe's memories of Charles Mitcham) and More from Mitcham's Corner.