Cambridge: the Growth of the City

At the end of the eighteenth century Cambridge was suffering a significative diminuish of the population. We can notice this by looking at the statistics provided. Meanwhile in 1674 the population exceeded 9000, by 1728 Cambridge’s population was under 8000. There were many reasons that could explain this sudden fall in population. One of them was the problem of overcrowding, and the repercussions that overcrowding causes.

Possible consequences of this factor could have been: poor hygenical conditions (lack of clean water for everyone, or excessive amounts of sewage which were hard to get rid of), lack of employment places for everyone, and also very high prices on the property market. This latter problem is strictly related with the expansion issue in Cambridge, which we will explore further on. Another factor which contributed to the fall in population towards the beginning of 1700, was the attraction that cities in the north exercised: this was the period of time in which the Industrial Revolution was fluorishing.

In cities such as Manchester or Leeds ( typical northern cities), there was great possibility for employment, in the newly born industries. We will now analyze in more detail the expansion issue in Cambridge. The city of Cambridge was expanding at a very fast rate, but the space available for settlement was running short. The need for expansion claimed by the University, restricted the residential areas to delimiting and unpleasent territories. Cambridge was surrounded by land liable to flood, which was the main factor that stopped the centre of town and the residential areas from expanding.

Cambridge was also surrounded by open fields, which seemed to be the only possible area in which the town could expand. These open fields, and areas surrounding the town, were mainly owned by the rich. This left the poor with the worst areas, both for settlement and agricolture. This unfair situation was overcome with the aid of the Enclosure acts, which were put in practice in 1802. This movement entitled every land owner to a fair amount of land. For this goal to be made possible, the available land had to be divided into small strips which could be equally shared between everyone.

By 1811 with the Enclosure award, the land surrounding Cambridge had finally been completely redistributed. Now that everyone had the same amount of land, the profit coming from the land would have been fairly regular, and there wouldn’t be so much (disnivel) between the rich owners and the poor owners. The arrival of the Enclosure award had in a way slowed down the the fast rate at which the population was diminuishing.

* The city of Cambridge had been various Ecclesiastical Parishes spread around throughout the town. Generally each area had its own Parish. During the century going from 1801 to 1901 we notice a fast rise in the population of certain Parishes, and especially the Parish of St. Andrew The Less, which was allocated in the Barnwell area (1 mile away from the city centre). The Enclosure Award in 1811, generally incremented the population of every Parish. The population gradually grew in certain Parishes, and although St. Andrew The Less had always seemed to grow at a faster rate than everother Parish, it wasn’t only until 1845 and the following years that its population enourmously grew to reach a final peak of 27860 people.

We will analyze further the reasons of such importance of the Railway, including an explanation of the ubication of this new medium of transport. For now we will only mention the where the people that populated the Parish came from. They were mainly traders, that had previously been using as a medium of trade the river and moved to the Barnwell area to make use of this new revolutionary transport which could have benefitted their business, and students and labourers from other towns that decided to move to Cambridge.

The railway was faster and therefore a better value for money. As we notice from our statistics and our graph, St. Andrew The Less wasn’t the only Parish in which we encountered a rise in population. Other Parishes that were situated near the river side, encountered a substantial rise in population. Not as dramatic as the one in the Parish of St. Andrew The Less, but significantly larger than the ones in Parishes ubicated in other parts of the town. An example could be the Parish of St. Andrew The Great.

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