IronWorks in Cambridge

Helen Weinstein is thrilled to be appointed as the Community Historian for the IronWorks project in Cambridge. This is an important heritage site which is called the IronWorks because it was once a Victorian foundry, important to the development of Cambridge, which was called the Eagle Foundry and moved from Cambridge market place soon after the railway came to Cambridge in 1845 in order to take commercial advantage of the railway, shifting from using the River Cam and wagons for transporting their iron production, to mostly using the railways.  In the 20th century the Eagle Foundry site became the Council Depot, and it is now going to be developed for housing, including 50% council housing, very welcome to the needs of Cambrdge, and will host a new community centre for Petersfield.   Helen's role will be to work with the local community for place finding activities, so that we can together find out the details of the development of the area as a place of residences and work, a place of printing presses and timber yards, brick works and dairies, schools and shops, a huge expansion from the previous fields of Barnwell, which all happened rapidly after the railway station opened.  Helen will also work closely with the Artist in Residence, Hilary Cox Condron to collaborate together on community art activities and artworks.  Helen is also thrilled to be researching and guiding the artworks for the Artists who will be producing permanent artworks inspired by the heritage of the site - namely Jo Chapman who works in Iron; Rodney Harris and Valda who work in brick; Tom Pearman who works as a graphic artist in tiles and glass, amongst other materials.



Helen is an expert in ‘place finding’ and has a broad range of experience of creative place shaping artworks made for media, museums, galleries, schools, colleges, communities. 

Helen has long had an interest in how the IronWorks site was transformed in the Victorian era from rural fields by the coming of the railways to Cambridge in 1845.  The former Depot was first developed as the Eagle Foundry within months of the opening of Cambridge Railway Station. It was a noisy site with workshops making fixings for the railways from shovels to tracks, railings to steam pumps, and even a train locomotive, the Eagle Engine!

For the IronWorks development, Helen Weinstein therefore brings a wealth of expertise for the wider community to engage in the historical research to find out who lived and worked in the area by  doing detective work to connect original maps and photographs, the census and trade directories, newspaper archives and adverts. In the first instance, Helen’s research into the heritage of the area, from industrial architecture to domestic decoration, will help inform and inspire the Artists and the surrounding community to learn together about how the area used to be, to help shape how it may look and feel and be experienced in the future.

Collaborating closely with Hilary Cox Condron, Helen will not only be undertaking new research, but offering participatory sessions with the local community, so that we together co-create tours and blue-plaques and exhibitions - telling the stories of the people who inhabited the streets and buildings - in and around the former Mill Road Depot. The journey of discovery is already being embraced with excitement by the local residents, and Helen looks forward to sharing the story-telling and using this experience of historical place finding in the past and present community to help welcome those newly moving into the IronWorks development.

Helen’s previous public participatory projects have explicitly used digital technology to not only create and grow an audience but for the technology to deliver a deeper engagement with co-creation in the community using interactive and participatory practices.  Helen is presently piloting a variety of Artistic genres and Digital approaches for a project she is directing  called ‘Creating My Cambridge’, produced to inspire a deeper connectivity, appreciating people and celebrating unique places.  You can find out more and explore Cambridge histories, poetry, songs, photography, films, with resources freely available here:


Helen is Director of Historyworks based in Cambridge, thus bringing her knowledge of working across a range of media and public history to engage audiences and encourage participation in the IronWorks artworks and development of the site. Looking to establish a sense of place through a participatory community project for the IronWorks to produce co-created maps and tours, exhibitions and films that enable audiences to explore where they live and engage in creative place shaping and importantly to leave a legacy for future residents and users of the community centre. 

  • Neighbourhood Gathering

    Neighbourhood Gathering in July hosted at Calverley's Brewery on Hooper Street

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  • Cambs Collection Research

    Helen Weinstein has conducted research looking at the materials in the Cambridgeshire Collection, located on the top floor of the library located in Cambridge city ...

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  • ArtWorks in Schools

    Helen Weinstein delivered a very enjoyable set of workshops engaging students with the history of the area and the IronWorks site in particular, for which the students used the historical inspiration to co-create their own artworks. For this school engagement, Helen liasised with teachers at the local primary school about how best to engage the Year 5 students and Helen also produced all the topics for the workshop for which the students were introduced to the artist in residence at Ironworks, Hilary Cox Condron. To commence each workshop the students were asked to be contributing to a community art mural that would be showcased on the hoardings along Hooper Street.To this end, Helen, who had already earlier in the year met the Year 5s to work on the Victorian history of Cambridge, used their knowledge about the coming of the Railway as a starting point before showing the students in each workshop the particular context of the Iron Foundry and Coprolite Mill.  We talked about the kind of skilled workers needed to work at such an industrial facility, and looked at the impact on the neighbourhood, of what was recently agricultural land of the eastern fields sold off for residential building plots.  Looking at typical Victorian housing, and the 5 plots for local Victorian schools, and the evidence for local businesses in Sturton Town, such as the Dairy on Sleaford Street and the Bakery on Sturton Street and the breweries on Gwydir Street and New Street.     The young people were intensely interested in looking at maps and pictures, identifying places that they walk past in their daily commutes to school and to the shops and to town, recognizing iconic Victorian buildings such as the Workhouse at Ditchburn Place on Mill Road, the Infectious Diseases Hosptial, the Bath House, and the Free Library.  It was wonderful to see their enthusiasm for engaging with local history and their team-work to recreate buildings such as the foundry and the workhouse.     There were some students who illustrated imaginary shops based on descriptions Helen gave in the census, such as Henry Cable the Baker at Sturton Street, or the Headly gravestone in the Mill Road Cemetery.  Others made very close drawings to mirror pictures of the items produced by the Headly Iron Foundry, such as the Eagle Engine and the Bridge at Coe Fen.  It will be great to see these pictures on the history themed hoardings on Hooper Street, which we hope will be there to share with the entire neighbourhood by the time school starts in September! 

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  • History at Mill Road Summer Fest

    HISTORY HAPPENING ON MILL ROAD, 21st July 2019 It was great to partner organizations for the History Happening, where we all volunteered with the express purpose of bringing out local residents to use Mill Road with a programme of special events during the summer closure of the Bridge to say that Mill Road is OPEN.  It really worked because we had a non- stop stream of people coming to explore the activities including the fantastic ‘museum on a bike’ from the David Parr House, the tours around the Mill Road Cemetery, the Victorian tea & also Victorian dress-up at the Bath House. Helen Weinstein, Director of HistoryWorks says” At Historyworks we were very happy to partner with the Mill Road History Society to help local residents find out more about the area 100 years ago with photography exhibitions and show people how to look up the history of their house using a variety of sources.   The most we found living in one terrace house in 1901 included 2 parents in their late 30s, 7 children, and 2 lodgers, so 11 in total! In the week before-hand Historyworks held workshops for children from St Matthew’s Primary to learn about the Victorian businesses in the area running from Mill Road to East Road and bounded by the Railway and Coldham’s Lane, known as ‘Sturton Town’.  They did great pictures of shoemakers and bakeries and dressmakers and and laundresses all based on the 1891 census. Families and teachers then came to visit the History Happening to find out who lived in their specific home one hundred years ago, and it was a huge success with a non-stop flow of visitors to our history ‘shop’ to see the photos too showcased in the window on Mill Road’s Cantab Millenium, repurposed as a history exhibition space! One of my top experiences was helping a family find out more about their relatives who lived on Gwydir Street in the Victorian period onwards, as they have their Granny’s sewing sampler from 1872.  We found out that their Granny Sophia is listed on the 1901 census as having the occupation of ‘first class waiting room attendant’ at the nearby Cambridge Railway station.  The resident said ‘It was brilliant to have a personal trip down memory lane to the time of my Granny Sophia, especially to see photos in the exhibit showing local pubs and bakeries I remember from Sturton Street. On the 1901 census you can see that Sophia had four children called Ruby, Walter, Ruth and the youngest called Claude. Since the event, I’ve shared family documents with Historyworks to show to the local schools, including an important letter Sophia received from the war office in 1919 to say that Claude had been shot and wounded, not killed.  Helen Weinstein of Historyworks said ‘ It was so rewarding to share photographs and official documents with the local residents and give them the first steps to find family homes on old maps, use trade directories, land value registers and of course the census, to find out the names and ages and occupations in a house. It was a brilliant experience even though we had people coming through the door in numbers all day long for our ‘history surgery’ once we’ve recovered our energy, I’m sure alongside Mill Road History Society, we all hope to host a ‘look up’ event again for the local community to enjoy.

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  • IronWorks Website

    IronWorks has recently launched a website which is in development where upcoming events are listed here: Please also see the page allocated to Helen ...

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IronWorks in Cambridge


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