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Big Island, Cambridge

History of Big Island

Little Island was named so by the Darwins after they moved into Newnham Grange in 1886. It was to distinguish this island from the ‘Big Island’ farther upstream. The only means of access to the islands had been by boat so professor Darwin asked permission to build bridges. For this he obtained a new lease of the islands from the Corporation for 25 years. This was built by Mr Saint for £12.10s.

A second bridge was built from Little Island to Big Island by Mr Saint for £7.10s.

M E Keynes in A House by the River, writes: Both bridge have served their purpose well for the last eighty years, though they had often to be repaired and even practically rebuilt on two or three occasions, but the original design was always copied in essentials.

The Darwins introduced Muscovy ducks to Cambridge in 1903 and these were kept on Big Island. M E Keynes wrote: For years after we introduced Muscovies to the Cam they were almost the only aquatic birds on the river. A couple of white Aylesbury ducks would appear occasionally in Newnham Millpool, or a pair of swans having escaped briefly, we supposed, from their captivity in the Wilderness might be seen swimming below St John’s College with on or two semi-tame mallard. (p143)


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