Allan Brigham (1951–2020) was a British road sweeper, historian, and tour guide. His historical writing includes Bringing It All Back Home (2006), a report published by the Chartered Institute of Housing, lamenting the decline of the Romsey neighbourhood of Cambridge, and his many contributions as a founder member of the Mill Road History Project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2013. His honours include a Tidy Britain Group Silver Broom award and an honorary degree from the University of Cambridge.
Brigham was born in 1951, in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, the son of Michael Brigham, an accountant, and his wife, Helen Hine, a physiotherapist. He was educated at the Leys School, Cambridge. He then studied history and politics at University of Sheffield, graduating in 1973. At Sheffield he was taught by political theorist Bernard Crick and was a contemporary of politician David Blunkett.
Brigham moved to Cambridge in 1974 but could only get a job as a road sweeper. “Roadsweeping was the only job I could get when I moved here. It was meant to be a temporary job but I have just continued doing it. I had planned to be a teacher.” He joined the GMB union. For a time he lived in a “virtual squat”, a house sublet by computer pioneer Christopher Curry, co-founder of Acorn Computers. He became a Blue Badge tourist guide, and devoted his energies to inspiring the locals of Cambridge about their city, from his personal perspective.
In 1995, Brigham led a campaign that attempted to preserve the public right of way through the Lion Yard shopping centre, and avoid closing the precinct at night.
The “Town NOT Gown” Tours were walking tours around different parts of Cambridge. His website included the quotation: “What an eye opener! We have seen so many things we never noticed before. We can truly say that Allan brought our city to life for us with his knowledge and his enthusiasm. A great guide!” His brother wrote: “Allan was a great communicator and listener, and for him debate and discussion were vital. He used his guided tours to discuss wider issues.”
Brigham was a trustee and Chair of the Friends of the Museum of Cambridge for 30 years. He was a founding member of the Mill Road History Society. He was a Senior Member of Wolfson College, Cambridge.
In 2016, Brigham criticized the use of Section 106 funds acquired by Cambridge City Council from property developers: “The city council has rolled over to developers and taken commuted payments for open spaces elsewhere, not on the site which is being developed. This is leading to over-development on some parks and is failing to provide new open spaces in areas of greatest need around new developments in the inner city. We would ask why the council is not trying for the very best, rather than appearing to accept commuted payments so often. Its actions appear to be frequently contradicting its own aspirations.”
In 2017, Brigham was quoted in a Guardian report about the CB1 development near Cambridge railway station. Condemning the work of architect Richard Rogers, Brigham said, “We were all taken in by the name Richard Rogers, but now it seems they were just using his name as a fig leaf. This was a chance to make a gateway to the city that we could all be proud of. But they’ve blown it.”
Writing in 2018 in regret at the closure of the Mill Road Depot, where he had first found work as a street sweeper, he was relieved “to see council housing being built, not more student flats”.