The Mill Road area was transformed during the 19th century from open fields to the heavily built-up townscape we know today.
When Mill Road Cemetery was first laid out, it was surrounded by green fields on every side. Over the next 40 years, urban development left the cemetery as the sole green space around.
Today, the cemetery is tucked between the shops and houses of Mill Road, Gwydir Street and Norfolk Street, its main entrance along a narrow avenue of lime trees bordering Mackenzie Road. But in 1847 when the land was acquired, the area around was agricultural, with green fields, nurseries and arable pastures stretching as far as the eye could see. The main buildings nearby were the Town Gaol (on the current Queen Anne Terrace Car Park site opposite Parker’s Piece), a mill (in Mill Street) and the Union Workhouse on Mill Road itself (now Ditchburn Place).
In 1845, the Great Eastern Railway was constructed across Mill Road, and two decades later intense development started in the area. Roads were laid out and houses built for the railway workers and their families who came to live there, and the area was rapidly transformed into the built-up townscape we know today. You can trace the urban development of the area over this period from the maps shown on this page.
1830: Baker’s Map of the University and Town of Cambridge shows the area as predominantly agricultural, with enclosed fields. The cemetery site is marked as the University Cricket Ground (before it moved to its current site at Fenners), a claim which other contemporary sources do not support. The chapel of ease shown as Barnwell New Church was erected in 1828 and probably demolished by 1846.
1863: the Lowry map of Cambridge shows the paths of the cemetery laid out, with the mortuary chapel in the centre. The railway has been built but most of the area is still agricultural, with little urban development.
1888 Ordnance Survey map
1888: the Ordnance Survey map shows substantial urban development in the area over the past 25 years. A dense network of streets and houses have been built on three sides of the cemetery. You can also see the detailed tree planting within the cemetery.
1975 Ordnance Survey map
1975: on the Ordnance Survey map of 1975 (not shown here), the open area west of the cemetery was Cambridge College of Arts and Technology (now known as Anglia Ruskin University). The mortuary chapel was demolished as unsafe in 1954.