From the Scales Hotel to the Portland Arms

From the Scales Hotel to the Portland Arms was no distance at all because they were one and the same! The Scales Hotel was an old inn, at 129, Chesterton Road, on the corner of Victoria Road and on a junction where Milton Road and Victoria Avenue also converged.

A photograph from The Cambridge Collection, of the Scales Hotel, looking up Victoria Road.

My grandfather Reuben took over the Scales Hotel in about 1924; it was a very old and shambling building and it was renovated to become the Portland Arms Hotel. In order to keep the license, the pub had to continue to serve while the renovations were taking place; the family moved into one half and the other half was pulled down and rebuilt. The family moved into the new half and the remaining old part was also demolished and the new building was completed.

For many years before the Rowell family had held the license of the Scales Hotel; in 1911 Michael Rowell, farmer and publican was living there. He was widowed but with him and working for him were his sons and daughters, Harry and Jack aged thirty and twenty-six, and daughters Florence and Margaret aged twenty-eight and twenty-three. The children had six other siblings, and a further three children had died.

Along Milton Road, just beyond the pub was the Thurlbourns, a dairyman and his family; Cambridge was still a rural city in those days as is shown by their neighbours, the Gawthrops being basket-makers. Next door, at 110 Milton Road, was a miller’s assistant, Zachariah Holmes and his family; his son, also Zachariah was a Sergeant at Mace a ceremonial position with the town council.

At 100, Milton Road were the elderly Isons and two doors along from them was the Christmas family, Lucy Christmas a charwoman and four of her six children.

Ten years previously, Michael Rowell’s wife Caroline was still alive and helping him run the pub and bring up their children, Benyon, Daisy and Florence, Jack, Maud, and William. Also living at the hotel was Michael’s brother and the couple’s granddaughter Dorris. It’s interesting for me to see that their neighbour on Victoria Road is a baker, because when I was a child and I think until recently there was still a baker’s next to the pub. Other neighbours were a boot maker, a boat-builder, a clerk, a milliner and a bricklayer.

In 1891 the Rowells had a houseful; he was described as a licensed victualler and as well as his wife and children, Michael had his mother-in-law eighty-three year old Elizabeth Barnsley, his brother in-law, a niece a boarder and a servant. His children who had left home by the next survey were Michael, Harry and Charles.

In 1881 there were no Rowells at the Scales Hotel; the landlord was George Scales… yes the son of the brewing family after whom the hotel was named.

Michael Rowell was a publican, but at the Bleeding Heart pub on Chesterton High Street, not that far away. His family then consisted of Minnie, Maude, Michael, Charlie and Harry. He had been there for ten years; in 1871, as usual he had a houseful his oldest son George Edward, then little Minnie and baby Maude. He also had his mother living with him (she was born in Devon) his brother and his niece. Michael had started work as a shoemaker with his father, also Michael, who was also a publican of the Queen Victoria in Chesterton. It was as common then as it is now for people to have more than one job to support their family! Michael senior had a big family to support, as well as his wife Sarah, he had his daughters, Susan, Rebecca Martha and Emma and young Charles. He had been a shoemaker and publican for over twenty years, in 1851, there he and the family were, but with older sons William and Edward, Mary and Sarah, and he younger children, and ten years earlier in 1841, he was there in back street, Chesterton.

I seem to have deviated from the Scales Hotel to the Rowell family, but since they were connected with the pub for such a long time, and had been in the trade for even longer, I think it is justified!

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