Brilliant Barnwell!

Did you know …

There’s an awful lot to Barnwell and Abbey that you might not know! A good place to start is Barnwell Road Library, next to the Spar (opposite McDonalds). Not only do they have local knowledge, they also have computers to help you to get online. The staff at the Library are trained to help you explore the digital world, and there are many other activities on offer there, too!

Brilliant Barnwell Bits n Bobs

Did you know…

  • A Victorian sewage stinkpipe in Barnwell, Cambridge UKThe tall pipe with the decorated top (clue picture 1900) is a Victorian ‘stink pipe’ – an outlet pipe to allow gases to escape from the sewer below. There are at least 9 stink pipes to find within the area of the map. See if you can spot them while you are walking around!
  • Farrance House (picture 1959) is believed to have been built in the early part of the 20th century. The faded Homepride advertisement painted onto the side wall suggests that this building may once have been a bakery.
  • The lake behind the football stadium is an old clay quarry from the days when brick-making was carried out here. Archaeologists have found elephant bones, hippopotamus and rhino bones in the vicinity, with evidence that they were worked on by humans to make tools and weapons.
  • Barnwell Priory was established in the 12th century and grew to be one of theBarnwellPriorybiggest and most wealthy in Europe. It was ruined after Henry VIII ordered monasteries to be closed down; unlike the Cambridge city buildings which were turned into colleges instead.
  • Marshall Aerospace has a very interesting history – you can find out more about it here. The business began in 1909 as a service offering chauffeur-driven cars in Cambridge. In the First World War, engineers from Marshall’s helped to fix the engine of an airship which had come down in Jesus Green. Inspired by this, young Arthur Marshall studied engineering and learned to fly, then opened the Fen Ditton aerodrome where many new pilots were trained. This eventually became Cambridge Airport. The company went on to design, build and maintain aircraft for commercial clients and government, and produce motor vehicles including buses, lorries and police vans. The chauffeur company is still going, too!
Bug hotel in Barnwell Community Orchard

The Bug Hotel in the Community Orchard


  • The Community Orchard behind the Whitehill Road allotments (accessed from Whitehill Road) was set up in memory of Councillor Margaret Wright. It has a number of young fruit trees and an amazing ‘bug hotel’ built by volunteers from the Abbey and Barnwell area!
  • Abbey People holds events for nature lovers and volunteers. Find out more at
  • A ‘bug hotel’ is a great way to encourage garden ‘biodiversity’ – useful insects, plants and other creatures. Find out how to make one for your garden at .
  • Barnwell West Local Nature Reserve (accessed by a footpath off Galfrid Road and from Barnwell Road) provides a home alongside Coldham’s Brook for numerous birds including kingfishers and nightingales. Water voles have been spotted here too.
  • Barnwell East Nature Reserve (off Barnwell Road, south of Barnwell Drive) was close to becoming a new area of housing and football pitches but this was prevented in 1992 when it was declared a Local Nature Reserve. The area is a habitat for spawning frogs and toads in the spring, grass snakes, and wild flowers including orchids.
  • An alternative theory for the meaning of the name ‘Barnwell’ is that it comes from the Saxon word ‘Beorna’ meaning ‘warrior’ – so it is the warrior’s well.
  • Marshall Aerospace is named after David Marshall who began the company’s original motoring business in 1909. The airfield was originally known as ‘Fen Ditton Aerodrome’.
  • Whitehill Road is thus named because of the chalk exposed on nearby hillocks. The area around Coldham’s Common would once have been a source of chalk for the cement works.
  • Elfleda (as in Elfleda Road) was the 10th century Queen of Mercia (the middle part of England).
  • The Westering and The Homing are unusual names for streets built on the original site of Marshall’s airport. Were they the names of runways or beacons perhaps? (Let us know if you find out!)
  • In the 19th century the population of Barnwell grew from around 250 to over 28,000 residents. This led to a lot of overcrowding and excess sewage in the River Cam, which in turn led to disease.
  • Peverel Road and Close are named after the Peverel family of medieval times. Pain (or Pagan) Peverel was the Knight who built the original twelfth century Priory at Barnwell.
  • Jack Hobbs - Cricketer - The MasterCricketer Jack Hobbs (1882 to 1963) was born in Barnwell. He was known as ‘The Master’, and scored over 199 centuries during his career as a county and international batsman. (Where in London is the blue plaque showing where he lived? Can you find out? We’ll give you a prize if you contact us via the website with this information).
    Jack Hobbs, ‘The Master’ 1882-1963 (PD-US | PD-UK-Unknown)


  • Abbey Leisure ComplexBarnwell has its own swimming pool and sports complex  – the Abbey Leisure Complex – which also includes all weather facilities, a BMX track, outdoor paddling play area and numerous sports pitches and courts.
  • One theory for the name ‘Barnwell’ is that it comes from ‘Bairns Well’, because children used to play near to the Priory well.
  • The tradition of playing and entertainment in this area are what led to the establishment of England’s largest fair and market at Barnwell. ‘Stourbridge (or Sturbridge) Fair’ was renowned for centuries (from the 13th century until the late 18th century) across Europe as a centre of trade, feasting and entertainment. It was huge! It was also the fair upon which John Bunyan based ‘Vanity Fair’ in his book “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. For many years, Barnwell was known as ‘Bawdy Barnwell’ on account of the variety of pleasures which could be enjoyed here. The fair was last held in 1933.
  • Street names such as ‘Oyster Row’, ‘Mercer’s Row’ and ‘Garlic Row’ close to Stourbridge Common recall the days of the fair. Oysters are considered a delicacy today, but at one time were the common man’s food in England!
  • Heading towards Cambridge, the Museum of Technology is just a short walk or drive away. It’s the building with a tall chimney. The Museum is open every Sunday afternoon from Easter to October and there are lots of great things to see and do!
  • The chapel of the Leper Hospital of St Mary Magdalene is Barnwell’s oldest building and dates from the 12th century. Here, people suffering from leprosy were treated and isolated from the rest of the community. The chapel is a Grade 1 Listed Building.
  • The Old Maltings on Ditton Walk are now home to numerous offices and small business units, but were built in the Victorian times to process and store malted barley for making beer.
  • In the Middle Ages beer was drunk in preference to water in many parts of the world as the brewing process made it a cleaner source of fluids.
  • Barnwell Junction railway station was the first station on the Cambridge to Mildenhall railway. It’s called a junction because the Newport and Brandon railway merged here, but there was never a platform at the station for that line.
  • The three halts on the line to Mildenhall in Suffolk (20 miles away) (Worlington Golf Links, Exning Road and Fen Ditton) had no raised platforms at the station, so a special carriage was fitted with steps down to ground level, and passengers for these halts were asked to travel in this carriage.
  • One of the first ever ‘World Cycling Champions’, Ion Keith-Falconer, was a 19th century Cambridge scholar and evangelist, who helped Barnwell labourers and slum dwellers by opening a mission in one of the theatres in the village in 1875.