The name ‘Slingsby’ is familiar to any Cantabrigian over a certain age, as one of the city’s leading firms of builders in the 20th century – R Slingsby. This gravestone tells of three people: a couple, Reuben and Charlotte, both born about 1859, whose daughter, Doris, died in infancy.
Reuben Slingsby was born in Bradford, Yorkshire and his wife Charlotte in York. By 1881, Reuben was a carpenter, and he and his wife already had a daughter, Maud, aged 11 months, also born in Bradford – thus they must have arrived in Cambridge in 1880 or early 1881. For a short time, they were tenants at No 37 (the present No 30) Covent Garden, where they had a fellow-Bradfordian lodger, Hedwick Stephenson, also a carpenter.
The Slingsbys moved about three years later to Cross Street, and then established themselves at 31 Union Terrace, later renamed Mawson Road – all in the same group of streets and close to Mill Road Cemetery. By 1911, the couple had had 12 children of whom 11 were still living (Doris having died in 1897), 10 of them still at home. Maud (then 30) was a domestic servant, Charlotte (27) a dressmaker, Bertha (25) a bookbinder, Annie (23) a milliner, Reuben Leonard (21) and Frederick Nicholas (16) had followed their father into the building trade, Edna (19) worked in a silversmith’s shop, while Martha (13), Ralph Scott (10) and Horace Edgar (8) were still at school.
Reuben Leonard Slingsby funeral report
Starting the business
The firm of R Slingsby was established in 1901, with Mawson Road as its business address and its ‘builder’s workshop’ at 61 Perowne Street (on the cemetery side of Mill Road, at the near end of the street, next door to a blacksmith and wheelwright, now an overgrown site containing derelict sheds).
Ralph Scott Slingsby lived at No 7 Covent Garden from 1929 to 1936. In 1928, the firm moved its yard from Perowne Street, taking over some stables next to the Six Bells public house in Covent Garden as its builder’s yard (what is now Alium and Nicholas Ray Associates, Architects), and at some stage after 1930 moved its offices to that location, remodelling the old buildings. About 1948, it took over the site of Sennitt’s slaughterhouse, just beyond No 19 Covent Garden, as its storage yard; and when the cottages on the corner with Cross Street, Nos 17a and 19a, were demolished, its yard was extended to include the entire corner site. In the 1980s, the firm built itself a magnificent new main office on the latter site, proudly named Reuben House, but went out of business soon afterwards, and the office was acquired by Cambridge Econometrics.
Parish : St Paul
Other Slingsby graves
There are two other Slingsby graves in Mill Road Cemetery, one in the St Paul’s section recording the death of Horace Edgar on 28 October 1925 at age 23, and one in the Holy Trinity section recording the death of Maud (presumably unmarried) on 30 July 1946 at age 66.
By Ian Bent