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Little Shelford local history society

Chairman  -  Ray Saich  01223 842737

Treasurer  -  Robin Fox 01223 842936
Committee - Sue Fox, Diana Haines, Penny Saich, Michael Smith, Sarah Penn, David Martin 

David Martin Little Shelford's best kept secrets - Local History Society presentation Feb 12 2020

Little Shelford historian David Jones spoke to the Little Shelford local History Society on Nov 8 2022 about the Court of King James and its links to Little Shelford

Ten villagers from history who made Little Shelford great

Little Shelford local history society talk by David Martin February 15 2023.
Recording of the the first half of the history lecture
Recording of the second half of the history lecture (starts at 30 minutes in)



Here is a moving picture of Little Shelford's first historian, Fanny Wale
Script of the lecture on "Ten villagers from history who made Little Shelford great"


Tonight I am going to range from Winston Churchill to the first man on the moon,

the American founding fathers to Wallace and Gromit. And what do they have in common? Links to Little Shelford, that’s what.


I’m going to give each person five minutes each. So hold on tight.


Let’s start with Arthur Dunn. I love this Dunn’s story. If one person in the village merits a blue plaque, it would be Arthur. He was one of the last amateurs to captain the England football team.


Arthur Dunn captained England, gaining four caps and scoring two goals. His also played in two FA Cup finals, becoming a byword for sportsmanship and was widely regarded as perhaps the best player of his generation.


His father John was a mathematics professor at Cambridge University. Arthur's parents lived at both Kirby Lodge and Low Brooms in Little Shelford High Street. 


In 1893, while living at Kirby Lodge, he tutored Lawrence Johnston who later designed the famous gardens at Hidcot. More on him later.


Fast, skilful and a reputedly fierce tackler, Arthur played in two FA Cup Finals for his team, the Old Etonians. In March 1882, they defeated professional club Blackburn Rovers 1-0 in front of 6,500 spectators at Kennington Oval. Dunn was said to have practically won the tie with a lovely through ball from which his team-mate WJ Anderson coolly slotted home the winner.


A year later in 1883, Arthur’s team lost 2-1 at the same venue to tough working-class side Blackburn Olympic in a game dubbed "the Aristocrats versus the Artisans".


Unfortunately, Dunn went off with a knee injury early in the second half, an incident that many believed cost his side the cup. With no substitutes allowed in those days the Old Etonians had to play on with 10 men before falling to a goal in extra time.


Four weeks prior to this last FA Cup disappointment, Arthur Dunn had been selected for England for the first time, scoring twice in a 7-0 thrashing of Ireland at Liverpool Cricket Ground.


His second cap then came in February 1884 when England again outclassed the Irish with an 8-1 victory over in Belfast in the first ever Home International tournament.


His next two caps came in 1892. He was recalled to the England team as captain for the Home International match against Wales in Wrexham. Now playing at right-back he helped keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory. On 2 April he was then selected once more as England beat Scotland 4-1 at Ibrox Park, Glasgow.

He is buried at All Saints Church in Little Shelford. His grave is currently marked with a simple stone cross.



Now our first person this evening who features on the village sign. He is probably the cleverest man I will talk about tonight. Probably.


James Meade was "one of the greatest economists of his generation" according to his obituary in The Independent. James, who lived at 40 High Street, in Little Shelford, was an economist and winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences with the Swedish economist Bertil Ohlin for their "Pathbreaking contribution to the theory of international trade and international capital movements."

James Meade became a member of the Economic Section of the War Cabinet Secretariat in England until 1947 rising to the post of Director in 1946. Meade used the section to solve everyday economic problems ranging from the rationing system to the pricing policy of nationalized companies.


After working in the League of Nations and the Cabinet Office, he was the leading economist of the early years of Attlee's government, before taking professorships at the LSE (1947–57) and Cambridge University (1957–67).


James was best known for two economic books.


The second book, “Trade and Welfare” deals with conditions under which free trade makes a country better off and conditions under which it does not. Meade concluded that, contrary to previous beliefs, although the ideal would be to eliminate all trade barriers, if for some reason this was not feasible, then adding a carefully chosen dose of protectionism could improve the nation’s economic well-being. 


James was so well known that when he died, his obituary appeared in the New York Times.


Incidentally, James presented the enclosures map in the snooker room to the village. There’s a picture of the presentation on the website.


If there was a prize for the best connected person I will speak about tonight, it is Richard Marsh. Richard (pictured with Edward VII) trained horses for two kings, Edward VII and George V. He is buried in the graveyard at All Saint's Church in Little Shelford although he lived in Great Shelford.

After his promising career as a jockey was ended by his weight, Marsh set up as a trainer in 1874. He made his base at Egerton House in Newmarket.

Owners of the horses at Egerton House included the Duke of Hamilton and also Spencer Compton Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire but Richard was then offered the opportunity to train the horses of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and eight of the King’s horses arrived in 1893.

Two of the most famous horses to be trained at Egerton were the Prince's Persimmon, which won the Derby in 1896, and Diamond Jubilee, the triple crown winner of 1900. 

In a training career of 50 years, Marsh trained the winners of 12 British Classic Races.


He was then trainer to King George V for a while but with less success before retiring from his position at Egerton in 1924. 

His retirement was marked by the King making him a Member of the Royal Victorian Order. On retirement he and his wife, Grace, retired to Great Shelford and lived at Abberley House on Granhams Road (since demolished and replaced by the Abberley Wood development). Richard Marsh wrote an autobiography in retirement, called “A Trainer to Two Kings”.


His funeral in 1933 was held in St Mary’s Church in Great Shelford, but he was buried at All Saints. The reasons for this isn’t entirely clear but this would indicate that he and his wife worshipped at All Saints, and St Mary’s was used because of the large number of attendees at his funeral, including a representative of King George.

Now for the most artistic person on tonight’s list. Lawrence Johnston was an influential garden designer and plantsman who created the world famous gardens at Hidcote in the Cotswolds.


He was born in Paris in 1871 to American parents and spent his early life in France before moving to New York. But one theme of Johnston’s life was his love for Little Shelford – he lived here on at least four different occasions.


Lawrence studied in Little Shelford from 1893 to 1894 before and after he was a student in Cambridge. This included studying at Kirby Lodge in the High Street with John and Arthur Dunn before going to Trinity College in Cambridge.


He returned to Little Shelford between 1902 and 1907 when he created a rockery at Woodville Lodge at 4, Newton Road in the village.


Lawrence created the gardens at Hidcote after his mother Gertrude Winthrop bought the 300-acre estate.


He then spent a further year living in Little Shelford according to the book Hidcote, the Garden and Lawrence Johnston by Graham S. Pearson (flash book) before he headed off to Northumberland to prepare for a career in agriculture.


In 1900 he became a British citizen and sailed off to South Africa to serve in the Boer war. His rose to the rank of Major in his army career. 


He then returned to live in Little Shelford in 1922 before later moving back to Hidcote.




If there is a boy’s own hero in the pack this evening, it has to be Edward Maitland.

Edward Maitland was on the first east/west airship flight across the Atlantic in 1919,  weeks after the first transatlantic aeroplane flight. 


Maitland can be seen at the window of the airship Airship R34.


R34 had never been intended as a passenger carrier and extra accommodation was arranged by slinging hammocks in the keel walkway. A plate was allegedly welded to an engine exhaust pipe to allow the preparation of hot food.

R34 left Britain on 2 July 1919 and arrived at Mineola, Long Island, United States, on 6 July after a flight of 108 hours with virtually no fuel left. Footage still exists of the R34 landing in the United States.  


But that is only part of Edward’s story. He was a real daredevil.


Air Commodore Edward Maitland, was born in Little Shelford in 1880.


Edward took up ballooning in 1908. In November 1908, he flew in a balloon named the Mammoth from Crystal Palace in England to Meeki Derevi in Russia. The distance of 1,117 miles was covered in 36 hours.


From 1909 Maitland was attached to the Balloon School at Farnborough Airfield.

I am now about to tell you what the Times at the time called “One of the most daring sensational feats during the war.” I think it’s the best story of this evening.


Balloons were used by both sides in the first world war. There was a British military project about how a balloonist could safely get out of a balloon at height.


In 1914, there was a debate about how someone could jump safely 14,000 feet from an airship using a parachute. It was something that had never been done before from such a height.


Step forward Edward Maitland. “I will make the jump myself as there is only one person I have the right to ask,” said Maitland.


And jump he did, in a descent that lasted 15 minutes.


In 1914, when the Army airships were transferred to the Navy, Maitland transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service.

In April 1918, with the merger of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, Maitland transferred to the Royal Air Force. He was subsequently promoted to Air Commodore.

On 1921 Maitland was killed when the R38 airship on which he was a passenger suffered structural failure and broke up over the River Humber. He was buried in Hull. Thanks for the diligent research by David Jones.

Now for the Now for the bravest person on tonight’s list. Air Commodore James Coward was shot down in a dogfight over the village


While he was living in Little Shelford, he lived at King's Farm in the High Street. 


James was shot down in a dogfight over south Cambridgeshire when he lost a leg.


James, who had seen action over Dunkirk, was one of the more senior pilots on No.19 Squadron flying from Duxford.


Early on the morning of August 31, 1940, nine fighters were scrambled to intercept an incoming raid at around 7.30am, and James was leading his section at 22,000ft when they identified a formation of Dornier bombers escorted by a force of 60 fighters.


James dived on the bombers but his cannons jammed as he opened fire. As he pulled away, he felt a dull thud on his left leg and looked down to see his foot almost severed.


The controls of his Spitfire were damaged and he was forced to bail out. James decided to free-fall to a lower height but could not stand the pain as his foot twisted in the slipstream. He was also losing a great deal of blood, so he pulled the ripcord.


Fearing that he would bleed to death in the long descent, he took off his helmet and used the long radio lead to tie a tourniquet to arrest the bleeding. His spitfire crashed at Little Shelford.


“My wife was told about it by the milkman,” James recounted later. “Fortunately, the service doctor called in and told her I was all right and she arrived at the hospital before I recovered from the anaesthetic after the amputation."


He went on to spend 18 months on the personal staff of Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Chequers.


What a man.





Now for the person who had the most out-of-this-world impact while he was alive. Tom Bacon developed the fuel cell for the Apollo 11 moon rocket at his home at Westfield in Little Shelford. He is why there is a rocket on the village sign.


On a visit to the United States, President Nixon put his arm around Tom’s shoulders and said, "Without you Tom, we wouldn't have gotten to the moon.”  How cool is that?


After the successful lunar landing of Apollo 11 in July 1969, Tom and his wife Barbara met astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins at a reception at 10 Downing Street.


Fuel cells were first demonstrated by Sir William Grove in 1839 but his invention laid dormant for over 100 years until it was revived by Tom Bacon.


Dr Francis ‘Tom’ Bacon OBE, developed the first practical hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell which produces electricity electrochemically with no emissions except water.


I want to share an anecdote with you. (Cameron house story from Christmas in the 1950s.)


The fuel cells provided heating, lighting and communications for the astronauts as well as water for humidification and drinking water.  


The fuel cells performed flawlessly during all the Apollo flights.  After the Apollo Missions, Tom’s fuel cells continued to be used in all the Space Shuttles.




Now for the quirkiest person to feature on the list this evening. And while the local link is a bit thin, I think the story merits its inclusion.


Arthur Melbourne Cooper was a British photographer and early filmmaker best known for his pioneering work in stop-motion animation.


He ran a cinema in Albans.


The 1939 census shows he was then living in Newton Road, Little Shelford.


  • Arthur produced over 300 films between 1896 and 1915, of which over 30 were animated. These include Dreams of Toyland, Dolly’s Toys, as well as Matches: An Appeal.

  • Initially it was believed they were created in 1914.

  • However, research has now dated the films to 1899 making three of Cooper’s films the first animated films in the world to be shown in public.


Move over Wallace and Gromit.


Now for the most notable person on tonight’s top ten. You might never have heard of him. You might not have realised he came from Little Shelford. But his inclusion on the village history website attracts the highest amount of visitors of all the people featured on there.


Thomas Blossom was one of the founding fathers of America. He is the closest you could get to being American royalty.


Thomas and Anne Blossom were among the first Puritan settlers in New England.


Most historians believe Thomas was born in Little Shelford around 1580 and lived in Great Shelford and Stapleford before moving to America.


Thomas Blossom married Anne Elsdon on November 10, 1605, at St. Clement Church, Cambridge and had six children. 

Thomas Blossom emigrated to Leiden in Holland around 1609. In 1620, he was part of the original Pilgrim Fathers emigrating to America for greater religious freedom. You will have heard of the Mayflower. Thomas and Anne were on the accompanying ship, the Spedewell which started to sink 300 miles off Lands End.


Thomas Blossom and his family sailed from Gravesend in March 1629 aboard the Mayflower (not the original ship) and arrived in Salem on March 15, 1629. They were brought to Plymouth by boat and lived there where Thomas was believed to be a Deacon or Elder until he died of the “infectious feaver” of 1632/3.

His American descendants include former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.


Stapleford claimed Thomas Blossom when some research in the USA was published in the Stapleford Messenger and the Daily Telegraph around a decade ago. But research shows that Thomas lived in Stapleford and Great Shelford and was almost certainly born in Little Shelford.


There is a lot of information online about Thomas Blossom – I urge you to read more about him when you go home, he is a fascinating chap.





Now for the person I most admire on this list. We would be lost without her work at the start of the 20th century. Last, but not least, Fanny Wale who was Little Shelford's first historian. She was the last member of the family with the Wale surname to live in Little Shelford when she died in 1936.


She wrote and illustrated a book called A Record of Shelford Parva  between 1908 and 1919.


The book mentions former England football captain Arthur Dunn, famous garden designer Lawrence Johnstone and war hero Sid Dockerill who all had strong connections with Little Shelford. (Maybe Sid should have been included in tonight’s list.)


Fanny typed every page as well as creating the beautiful drawings in it.


It is a significant local history document.


There was only ever one copy of the book, which is now held by the Cambridge Archive.


However, the book was republished in 2012 with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund following work by me and the Little Shelford Local History Society.


Almost all of tonight’s presentation wouldn’t have been possible without Fanny and her brilliant history book. I for one am proud to walk in her footsteps.


History talk part 1
00:00 / 30:06
History talk part 2
00:00 / 1:00:17
History pres
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Old photos from every street in Little Shelford
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Little Shelford history secret #14
Finally one of my favourite pictures on the website.
All Saints Church and Camping Close in 1850
All this and more at
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