Capturing Cambridge
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Nora Wooster

339 Cherry Hinton Road, Brooklyn House

History of 339 Cherry Hinton Road

1881:

Carter C Willson [sic], banker’s clerk

Sarah E, 30,

Newport G.,

Elizabeth B.,

William J.,

Nora E.,

Mary Ann Duce, governess, 22, born Gt Shelford

Bertha Porter, servant, cook, born unknown

Ellen Webb, servant, nurse, born Cambridge

………………………….

1891: (Brooklyn)

Carter Childerly Wilson [sic], 42, banker’s clerk banks,

Newport Granger Wilson, son, 14, born Cambridge

Beatrice Elizabeth Wilson, 13, born Cambridge

William Thomas, son, 11, born Trumpington

Norah Emily, daughter, 10, born Cherry Hinton

Norah Sibella S Johnson, governess, 20, born Bucks.

Emily Mary Nicholls, servant, 20, housemaid, born Cambs.

Susan Barton, servant, 23, cook, born Cambs.

………………………..

1901: (property unnamed)

Carter C Willson, bank cashier

Sarah E

Norah E, 20, born Cherryhinton

Eliza H Manning, servant, 17, cook, born Herts

Edith M Humphrey, servant, 15, housemaid, born Essex

………………………..

1911: (Brooklyn)

Carter Childerley Willson, 62, banker’s clerk, born Cambs.

Sarah Elizabeth, 60, (married 36 years, 6 children, 2 died), born Cambs.

Gertrude Freeman, servant, 26, parlour maid, born Cambs.

Lizzie May Huckle, servant, 19, born Cambridge

……………………….

1916:

Carter Childerley Willson

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The first resident at this address according to the 1881 UK census was Carter Willson, bank clerk. It is shown as a large detached house in the 1927 OS map. Carter Willson was resident until 1925. The Cambridge Directory mistakenly names the house Brooklands.

It was later the home of the Wooster family who founded Crystal Structure Ltd, scientific consultants and instrument makers. This company’s main works moved to Bottisham and its managing director was Mrs Nora Wooster, wife of crystallographer W.A.Wooster.

The firms early experiments with quartz led to several new developments including stabilizing wireless sets in aircraft. In the 1980s the site was redeveloped with a large block of retirement flats called Brooklyn.

Their daughter, Anna Wooster, studied ballet in Leningrad.

Next to this site were once two large houses which replaced two others that were damaged by bombs in the Second World War. Local residents remember that the bombs had fallen on the same day that a column of tanks had moved onto the ground of Cherry Hinton Hall making them suspicious that the enemy had been tipped off.

Sources: Cambridge News (Cambridgeshire Collection), UK census

My thanks to R Lyon who has pointed me in the direction of further information about the Wooster family provided by Roy E Starkey who has given permission for his research to be used here. His book, Crystal Mountains, Minerals of the Cairngorms (pub 2014), contains an intriguing account of the Woosters’ research, especially during WWII.

Peter Wooster

William Alfred (Peter to his friends) Wooster (1903-1984) had been appointed lecturer in the Department of Mineralogy at Cambridge University in 1935. Nora Anna Wooster (1905-2000) had trained in crystallography at Cambridge and had met her husband here. When WWII broke out the couple were keen to assist the war effort but the head of the Department of Mineralogy would not permit wives to undertake technical work.

So the couple decided to set up a consulting laboratory in their large house, Brooklyn, in Cherry Hinton Road. Arising from contacts with the General Electric Company in Wembley, they began to investigate the mineral quartz. This had become an essential part of RAF radio equipment in the 1940s, controlling the frequencies at which radio transmitters and receivers operated. However there were technical problems which caused the crystals to deteriorate and fail; the only source of good crystals was Brazil and transport was hazardous in war time.

In addition to working on these two issues, the Woosters travelled extensively in the UK looking for homegrown sources of high quality quartz crystals, in particular in the Cairngorms. There was renewed demand for these crystals since they were used in making ASDIC transducers for detecting German submarines.

Conducting their research at their home, Brooklyn, was not without risk. Warned by General Electric of the risk of explosion in a certain process, they moved their laboratory into a couple of concrete bunkers. This was just as well, since a weeks later, one of the bunkers exploded with a huge noise and covered the garden with a layer of fluffy asbestos fibres.

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