Little Shelford historical memories

1880 & before

 

Continuing our journey forwards in your Time Machine, here are some first-hand impressions, stories and anecdotes “by an old resident”, Mr Pat Long of Newton Road, of

LITTLE SHELFORD FROM 1923 ONWARDS

In sixty-two years residence I have of course seen many changes in this charming, friendly village (a population census of 1924, trusting to memory, gave the total of 498; it is now slightly in excess of 1000, thus having doubled). New housing estates have arisen and not a few derelict cottages demolished, piped water, mains drainage, gas, street lamps, electricity, raised pavements, all these beneficial things we now take for granted were not existent then – “beneficial” is the operative word. What a shambles of inhabited buildings there was around the “Prince Regent” area. Picturesque? Yes, but certainly nothing else. In fact it has been slow but steady progress all the time and the certainty is CONTINUITY.

Agriculture is still the dominant feature. In 1923 it was absolute, the farmers at that time being Joseph Fordham (Jack’s father), William Meadows, and the Litchfield brothers, Frank and Reuben, who also ran a thriving milk round, a coal business, and, in addition, owned a gravel pit, long ago filled in; part of Courtyards estate now replaces it. Horse drawn ploughs and self binders, stackyards full of well thatched ricks; an acre a day was the accepted standard for the ploughman with his two horses and single plough – nowadays it’s nearer fifty for the multi-furrow pulling crawler-tractor. Wages then were around thirty shillings a week. We are incomparably much BETTER OFF today.

Characters? Little Shelford then had its fair share of them, some of them surviving until quite recently. Who could ever forget BILLY WISBEY, a wiry little man whose every speech was interspersed at about every half dozen words with the very mild expletive “bleedun”; TEDDY MOORE, landlord of “The Plough” for forty years, renowned and remembered for his “I’ll heap it up next time owd partner”, if a customer complained of his pint mug being a little short of full; and dear old  VICTOR DICKERSON, that highly skilled man in the now forgotten crafts of hurdle making and thatching? I write with authority on the latter, for did I not act as his labourer in at least two very busy harvest periods just prior to World War 2? “Boonch”, he would call out when ready to lay another strip, and up the ladder went me with another “boonch” of half a dozen “YELLUMS”. Who knows what a “YELLUM” is today?

But to deviate from nostalgia to one or two examples of that lovely type of unrehearsed humour – humour only to the true villager. Mr Bert Moore, for many years captain of the village cricket club, met Rupert Rogers a few hours prior to the start of an important cup match. Rupert enjoyed a strong reputation for his cricket knowledge, quite unmatched by his ability with bat and ball. Says Rupert. “Get your spinners out Bertie; that wicket is made for them.” Says Bertie, “Well, if you can tell me who they are I’ll certainly put ’em on.”

Incidentally, the cricket club must be just about the oldest in the whole of this administrative County. Trusting to memory again and hoping I have got the date near the mark, it was formed around 1878. And we must not forget the splendid football team this village once enjoyed. Believe it or not they once won a cup final in a junior Cambridge league. Mr Horace Marsh, now living in Garden Fields, was one of the players. He will remember that thrilling final when Little Shelford licked Teversham  2 – 1. Not so long ago there hung in “The Plough” two handsome shields the cricket club won in competitive matches, bearing also the players’ names. I wonder “where they are now”?

World War 2 and the memories it evokes! That crack cavalry regiment the 17th/21st Lancers, being transformed into an armoured unit, were deposited on the recreation ground and other open spaces. The officers made the “Prince Regent” more or less their secondary headquarters, the real one being “The Lodge”. The landlord of “The Prince” at that time was George Townsend who never seemed short of a bottle of scotch whilst the Lancers were with us. Along with many others I wondered if one of their officers, Captain BUCHANAN, was in any way influencing the supply of a commodity in Little Shelford that was almost unobtainable elsewhere. The Lancers left many of us with very happy memories.

During the same period, old Arthur Scott, a London evacuee, was in occupation of “The Plough”. Long after closing time one night in 1942 I was one of a little card party there when three taps rattled on the window. We all looked at each other and winked. We all knew who it was and what would happen next. Scott bawled out, “You’ll find it in the usual place.”

No sooner spoken when up jumps George Baker, the “Kings Farm” gardener, with this observation, “Not tonight he won’t! Here’s yer twelve and a tanner!” – that being the price of a bottle of scotch in those days (62 ½ p today). We all knew who was the intended recipient but prudence forbids disclosure. The reader must guess.

Finally, I am not one of the very small minority of “oldies” resentful of new faces, new ideas. Things must progress and that spells change. We are now blessed with a well balanced, progressive community that will ensure continuance of our long established qualities described in my opening paragraph – FRIENDLY, CHARMING. Comparative “newcomers” have indeed been the very essence of kindness to me in many respects, and not only to me. This sketchy record reflects but a fragment of life here as it has unfolded over a long period of time. It has been pretty to watch, pleasant to put on record.

Transcribed from the original magazine by Avril Pedley.

 

CHURCH STREET, SHELFORD PARVA  1881

From an article published in the village magazine around 1990 transcribed by Avril Pedley

Taking our walk down Church Street starting at the Church we can see today what our village would have looked like a hundred years ago. There were many more spaces in between houses with many fields, orchards and gardens. “Church House” is divided from the Churchyard by a high brick wall that replaced the thick privet hedge of former times. A Dr. Oakes lived here with a family; he was the father of the Provost of King’s College, who lived to extreme old age. The Provost had two golden-haired daughters who drove about in a magnificent yellow coach.

Next, past the grass field and orchard, comes Providence Place”, so named by a Herb doctor who once lived there. It consists of two cottages sideways on to the street; Charles Jennings bought it eventually. “Primrose Villa”, now “Corner Beeches”, where Edward Godfrey had his wheelwright’s yard, was built by John Riches after he had bought the land from the Willis family.

“Rose Cottage” (No 17) originally built by Wybro the carpenter, was subsequently burnt down and re-built by Thomas Austin to make a home for Charles Gee. It had a large garden well stocked with fruit trees by the second Mrs. Gee. Mr. Gee built a stable and a loft at the end of the garden, and put a porch over the door. The Chequers Ale House next door was burnt down at the same time, and re-built by Thomas Austin who then put up a new sign. Since this time it has been called the “Chequers” Public House. Henry Mansfield managed it for many years. But after his death the licence was taken away because there was insufficient custom. Where the “Long House” now stands there were originally two cottages with a garden between them, and two smaller thatched cottages as well, sideways onto the road. These were black-tarred and fronted on to the yard of the Checkers. End on to the road was a quite narrow garden. Mrs. Payne lived in this cottage and next door there lived a Mr. and Mrs. Wibdy. This ‘nice old gurl’ as she was called, had a tea stall on her doorstep; she was always most attractively dressed in a white muslin mob cap with a black ribbon round her head, together with a print dress and checked apron. There was a well of good water in the little garden in front of her house.

There were three similar cottages on the other side of the ale house, one occupied by a shoemaker, the next by a man Johnson who kept donkeys which were stabled in the big barn over the road. It is said that one of these donkeys bit him, so he always had his face bandaged. The last cottage was lived in by Viels whose door was below the level of the road. Also behind the Checkers, Mrs. William Gall’s mother, Mrs. Northfield, lived in a small cottage where she had a school for children and an oven for baking bread.

The next house we come to would be an attractive house thatched and with gable ends standing on the edge of the footpath, the rest of the building at right angles to the gable standing back from the road with a narrow garden. This garden is full of Lilies of the Valley and various trees overhang the house. Low black slat fencing divides these gardens from the road.

THE ROPE WALK

In line with the gable is the entrance to Gall’s yard which is paved with cobble stones and has many outhouses where ropes and sacks are stored, for the Galls are rope-makers. The rope-walk runs parallel with the main street and next to ploughed fields belonging to Manor Farm. William Gall used to make asphalt & disinfecting fluids as well; he built a very tall chimney for this purpose, but the smoke and the odours created caused such distress to the whole parish that he subsequently had to set up business in Stapleford, leaving just the rope-walk business in Shelford in his brother’s charge.

Cayuga Cottage (No 3) was built by Edward Whybro the carpenter who was the first person to live in it. His yard was behind the cottage, and the entrance was under a wooden building which touched the black barn of the “Prince Regent” Public House.

 THE ANNUAL VILLAGE FEAST

The “Prince Regent” was owned by Messrs Phillips at this time & run by Edward Walker, and later William Odell. This would seem to have been a popular Ale House, and most of the festivities connected with the annual village feast were held around the “Prince Regent”, booths being set up on either side of Church Street. These feasts were the remains of very large fairs which were held all over the country before the railways came. At these fairs village people bought most of their clothes and the household necessities for the whole year. Everyone attended & there was dancing in the public houses in the evening, and some sort of theatrical performance was in evidence.

THE SQUARE HOUSE

On the opposite side of the road next to the row of cottages where William Wisbey lived and worked, stood “Benoni” or “Ingleside” – “The Square House” – which was built by a Mr. King. It was a square block of white bricks with a slate roof, with two stories of good, square rooms. It has always been a cold, dark house as all its best rooms face North, and the square garden at the back is full of tall trees and lilacs; therefore very little sun penetrates the house. Only the kitchen faces South! The garden is fenced off from Camping Close on the South side, and on the West by a high wall from William Wisbey’s yard. The kitchen garden is opposite the house across Church Street between Caguga Cottage and the Gall’s house. The Finches lived here for many years.

Next to “Ingleside” stood the cottage which housed the P. Office (No 6) which had a thatched roof. The Post Mistress was the daughter of John Everitt the Sexton – a Mrs. Alice Wisbey. John Everitt had also been the postman at the time when letters were collected and delivered four times a day. The Post Office was also a General Store and Grocer’s shop.

Next to the General Store and P.O. were some old barns which were used for stabling. The carts which were pulled from these stables carried the stones that were used to surface THE ROADS. In 1881 “Cintra Lodge” was owned by Mr. and Mrs. George Dawson. His widow later sold it to Mr. Whitechurch.

THE THREE HORSE SHOES

Where No 16 now stands The Three Horse Shoes Public House stood on slightly raised ground, run at this time by David Wedd. The tenants never did very well there as there were five other pubs in the village, all competing for custom. Once, at a feast time, roundabouts were lodged in the garden of the Three Horseshoes and as grown-ups and children whirled around on the wooden horses and ostriches of the roundabout, violently loud music kept the neighbours awake! Wooden stalls at which sweet and coconuts were sold stood near the garden wall dividing the property from Cintra Lodge. At the back was a large yard with stables and shed which were separated from Camping Close by a low wooden fence. Next to the road and touching the fence of Cintra Lodge was a small, one-storey building used variously by a butcher, a sculptor and a bicycle-maker.

Fern Cottage (No. 24) was probably occupied by a Mrs. and Miss Waltham at this time. The long garden is enclosed behind brick walling on the road side and a high paling on the Camping Close side. A good stable built of tarred wood with a tiled roof stands under a group of Elm trees in the Camping Close.

GREGORY CLOSE

 Where Gregory Close now stands, anciently called Angel Close, was the beginning of the fields opposite the Church. This had been the site of a Mausoleum where members of the Wale family were buried until 1845 when all the coffins were moved to the North side of the Church, for the protection of the bodies against body-snatchers!

IN RETROSPECT

One can see that life in our village in 1881 was very different from what it is to-day. The pace was slower. Large houses had more space around them, while cottagers often lived cheek by jowl with their neighbours, where little cottages were squeezed in behind road-fronting property, and clustered round cobbled yards. Unmade roads would contain pot holes and cavities. Very different from the reasonably smooth tarmac of today. Horse-drawn carts & carriages provided the main means of transport, hence the large number of barns and stabling facilities.

The population was a little over 500 (to-day rather less than 900). Life was certainly harder for most of the inhabitants one hundred years ago, but life seemed colourful and lively. There would have been more people moving about the village during the day attending to their tasks on the spot instead of working away from the village as is frequently the case today.

Barbara Andrews

 

This account of the preparations for the M11 coming to Little Shelford was written by John Altham, the then Chairman of the Parish Council, in 1982.
 

THE M11 STORY by John Altham


It was in 1971 that we first heard a rumour that a Motorway was being thought of to run along the west side of the village when Jack Fordham told the Parish Council that some men had been taking borings on his farmland. Later we were informed officially and the boss of the Eastern Road Construction Unit, an offshoot of the Ministry, came to address an open meeting in the Village Hall. Immediately group of us was formed to fight the proposal and I was elected to lead this group.

Here I should mention what the purpose of this road was to be. First, it was intended to carry traffic from the North of Cambridge to the East side of London which at that time travelled down the old route through Bishops Stortford. Second, it would take the traffic out of Cambridge where it was passing down the Backs of the Colleges, and therefore it would act as a Cambridge Byepass.

In addition to this motorway it was planned to make a huge interchange West of Girton College so that traffic going East towards the East Coast ports would pass north of Cambridge or, if it needed to, could divert South down the M11. This interchange was to be a kind of four cross roads to cater for traffic wanting to go anywhere. It was to cater for local traffic as well as through traffic - all to be kept out of Cambridge.

As all these proposals would affect many villages in the “Cam Valley” and grab much farm land and cause much noise and disturbance near to it, opposition arose from literally ‘all along the line’ affected.

The Cambridge Preservation Society, who was interested in the surrounds as well as in the City itself, took charge of this opposition and called in Sir Colin Buchanan’s firm to oppose the road of their behalf, with each village contributing money towards his fees.

Following the growth of this opposition the Minister ordered a Public Enquiry to be held, as is usual in such cases. We all then set to to prepare our case, which job fell on me for our village.

Realising that the purpose of the new motorway to bypass Cambridge was clearly right the CPS agreed with Sir Colin Buchanan to propose an alternative route. Many were looked at, particularly a route to the East of Cambridge instead of to the West, but eventually it was decided to put forward a plan that the route should be further West and that the Royston to Huntingdon road should be developed (the A14). This was put forward at the Inquiry.

I now come to the Inquiry itself in 1972, a mammoth affair which lasted some six months and was held mostly in the County Council offices on Castle Hill. This was convenient for lunches at the Castle pub where the beer was good and many of us ate the landlady’s home-made shepherd’s pie at 17p a portion-or was it 17d - I forget). What sticks out in my mind firstly was the incredible fairness and patience of the Inspector of who conducted the Inquiry, Major General Edge, a retired Sapper. I think respect for the army and its products must have risen to new heights as a result. The number of witnesses was legion, and included many Q.C.s, quite private folk, an undergraduate appearing on his own to protect Madingley Wood, a young farmer’s wife appearing for her husband who was one of the very best witnesses as she spoke straight from the shoulder plain English. There were lawyers representing the Colleges whose land would be affected, and a very senior Q.C. representing the Radio Telescope’s interests who sat with the Director, Sir Martin Ryale (later to be the Astronomer Royal). Lastly, yours truly representing our little village - small fry compared to Cambridge.

Due to the way local government is organised the City of Cambridge were pro the Ministry’s plan, but the County Council were anti. And the Radio Telescope was anti because of the possible radiated electrical interferences which traffic might cause. Sir Martin Ryall made strong play of the possible use in the far future of the simple radar installations in lorries (particularly for use in fog for spacing out traffic, and that the frequencies which would be [used] were just those likely to interfere with the dishes which seek out signals from the stars. I well remember a highly technical argument in the ‘court’ between his QC and an expert physicist from the National Physical Laboratory brought in by the Ministry. Poor Major General Edge was writing notes (as he did all the time) about this. Sappers are highly trained, but not, I think, in the intricacies of Radar propagation. But he kept calm!

All kinds of details were discussed during those long months; where was the gravel to come from for the concrete, how former X get from one field to another across the motorway (answer -many little bridges had to be included); how much noise would be generated, which led to long discussions about decibels which few people understood; how much could tree planting stop noise (answer; admitted by the Ministry, it could not at all), and so on! At one stage of weeks were spent arguing about expected traffic figures, a key issue. Lawyers went home at night to do their homework trying to sort out their arguments for the next day on this subject, which at the best of times is only forecasting, which, almost by definition, is guesswork, and everyone guessed differently, according to which case they were presenting.

By 4 p.m. each Friday one went home with imaginary lorries buzzing in one’s ears from all directions; the possible threat of a Motorway Service Area at the foot of Maggots Mount (I fought hard against this threat); pictures of great holes in the ground all around the village where gravel had been extracted (we lie on gravel here). The lake of the Whittlesford road resulted from gravel extraction, and is now quite a bird sanctuary instead of a turnip field! And finally, in my case, blame being laid on me for my failure to stop this monster. (This did not happen!)

But at the end of it all, and many months later, the inspector came down in favour of the route proposed by the Ministry. Ah well, I thought, what will be our loss will anyway be Cambridge’s gain, and so it has turned out. We have the noise, but the Backs are now clear of lorries.

For me the Inquiry was a priceless experience of working of our Democracy. There was a raw, young, but earnest, undergraduate fighting Whitehall and being given a hearing; likewise a young farmer’s wife all on her own. There were eminent lawyers doing battle ‘in the ring’, and following their clients’ instructions to the letter, whatever their own doubts of the merits of the case, and some were very weak cases! There was money being paid out in many thousands of pounds per day simply to maintain the great democratic principles we believe it. Sometimes I found myself chuckling inside at some of the absurdity of it all but wholeheartedly approving every minute. Why do I say absurdity? Because I soon came to believe that we could not win because the ministry’s case was too strong. But we HAD to fight them stop


John Altham Ivy Cottage

March 1982


 

 

Living at Shelford Hall

"I have been asked to write down some of my father’s memories of growing up at the Hall in Little Shelford, to coincide with the 90th anniversary of its destruction by fire in February, 1929. 

 

My father, John Altham, (pictured on the left in the photo when he was Chairman of the Parish Council) was born in 1909 and lived first in Cowes, where his father was a naval officer. His beloved sister Psyche was born in 1912. Unfortunately their parents became estranged and with their mother, Fiorella, they came to live at the Lodge midway through the First World War. They were invited by Isa Eaden, John and Psyche’s great aunt, who lived at the Hall with her husband Jack Eaden, a solicitor and partner of Eaden Spearing and Raynes in Cambridge. 

 

Even before they moved to the Hall the grounds and garden delighted the children. “We had the free run of the lovely garden surrounding the Hall where Aunt Isa and Uncle Jack lived. The mysterious grandeur of the Hall with its servants, its houses, the old mulberry tree, strawberry beds, peaches on the wall, the apple loft, pigs in their pens, chickens running around the stable yard, the big dog kennel with Bess, the shooting black retriever, always so excited to be talked to, the orchard running down to the river - and THE RIVER - the greatest excitement of all!” 

 

There were horses kept in the stables, hunters for Jack Eaden and others for the pony and trap (a duckboard). Harry Want was one of the grooms and became one of my father’s oldest friends. William (Billy) Wisbey was another groom and gardener and he and John would aim at the two bells on the roof of the Hall with their airguns - with only limited success! “

 

The kitchen garden was a thrill too. Walled in, it had everything, including two strange pits about four feet square and two feet deep, with wooden covers over them, as a spare water supply for hand watering cans. These were inhabited by enormous toads, quite frightening for children! The green houses, full of exotic plants for the house, were heated by coke boilers and enormous iron pipes running under the staging, and they smelled as only green houses fully furnished can smell - quite delicious.” 

 

To come back to the river! John and Psyche were allowed to take the punt out on the river on their own, sometimes going out all day, going up past the Manor House into the open fields towards Hauxton, or up towards the Mill, where they would swim in the Weir. Swimming and diving in the Weir was considered safe as the water was clear - unlike the Perch Hole which was deep and murky. (Now marked “Deep water”.) They would fish in the river “which abounded with wild life, with birds, butterflies, rabbits, moorhens and very special - the kingfishers. (A word about the punt. It was made by the local builder, Mr Walker, father of the Walker Brothers who went on to build so much in Little Shelford.) 

 

In 1923 Jack Eaden died and Aunt Isa invited John, Psyche and Fiorella to live with her in the Hall to keep her company. 

 

When Jack died, Isa enjoyed a busy social life (he had been rather austere). There were tennis parties, an annual cricket match against the village XI, an annual pageant, where one year my father and his sister were dressed as miniature green flies! Psyche, a talented dancer, would dance for dinner guests on the lawn “in the lights of Uncle Barry Willis’s car!” 

 

This idyllic life came to an end in 1929 when the Hall was tragically burnt down. Isa and the family were in Cambridge at the time, living in Brookside where they spent the winters - the Hall being too costly to keep warm. The Hall was rented to some cousins. Legend has it that some sticks which had been left to dry in front of a stove caught fire. Because of a thick fog the fire engines couldn’t arrive in time to save the house.

 

I believe that my father’s great affection for the village stemmed from the marvellous years spent first at the Lodge and then at the Hall. In his mémoires he writes more intimately and in more detail of his life there, but I hope that this account will offer a glimpse of what it was like for a small boy and his beloved sister to grow up in such a wonderful and privileged world - which he always appreciated as such, being endlessly thankful to Aunt Isa for all she gave him and his family."

 

Jane Lagesse

February 2019

 

John Altham also wrote some of his own memories of the Hall in 1982.

 

"The war (World War One) is now over and my uncle died, so we are now living at the Hall with my aunt. We have our own nursery down a long passage which frightens us in the dark, especially when the candle blows out.

 

"I have a big toy cupboard full of Meccano, trains, my butterfly boxes and books.

 

"We go to the river often where we have a large punt t the perch hole."

 

"Mr Albert Thorogood has also come back (from the War) and he is Chauffeur and gardener. Mr Wisbey is also gardener. Also in the stable yard are Mr Whitfield and Mr Harry Want who look after some hunters which belong to Mr and Mrs Pares Wilson who have come to live at the Manor House.

 

"In the house we have cook and Lena and Celia living in and more help for the visitors in the summer. When the grown ups go out we often play hide and seek with the maids in the house or the garden. The house is very long and has lots of hiding  places. Lena is young and loves playing - - she giggles all the time. Celia is older and very stern. When there is a dinner party she comes in and runs the men out of the dining room to stop them drinking too much port"

 

These are John Altham's recollections of the blaze in a note written in 1982 (he grew up in the Hall but was not living there at the time of the Fire).

 

"Some cousins borrowed the hall for the winter when we were living in my aunt's house in Cambridge.

 

"They had a butler who left sticks to dry in the pantry one night and in the middle of that foggy night, the house caught fire and the Cambridge fire engine could not find the house until it was fully alight.

 

"Then they had no water until they laid pipes to the river. Alas only a little furniture and some pictures were saved by Mr Thorogood (the Chauffeur and gardener) and many others who were alerted, and who worked all night among the smoke and flames. Nothing was saved from the nurseries, sadly for my sister and me.

 

"The house was mortgaged so could not be rebuilt but an addition was built onto the front of the Lodge; thus the Lodge became once again the family home, because it had been half pulled down when the hall was built."

Little Shelford New Hall was destroyed by fire on February 24 1929.

 

The fire, believed to have originated in the pantry, gutted the entire building. The roof caved in and there was little chance to retrieve any of the contents. 

 

There were nine people in the Hall at the time of the fire according to press reports. None of them were believed to be injured. The Cambridge Chronicle suggests they were Captain and Mrs Gordon Dill and their children, Mme Carne, who was the Governess, the butler and the maid.

 

Mrs Eaden was also said to be living there at the time of the blaze although the Hall was part-owned at the time by Fanny Wale.

 

Remains of the building can still be seen from Whittlesford Road and the Little Shelford Recreation Ground.

 

This is how the Cambridge News reported the fire:

 "A disastrous fire occurred at the Hall, Little Shelford in the early hours of Sunday with the result that the building was almost completely gutted. It was discovered by Mme Carne, the governess who, with the butler and the maid, were immediately above the fire. Captain and Mrs Gordon Dill removed their children to safety in The Lodge. While waiting for the fire brigade which was delayed due to the thick fog, the occupants attempted to subdue the outbreak, then confined to the pantry, with buckets of water. But the heat melted a lead pipe and the cistern emptied so water had to be fetched from a cottage about 30 yards away. The building is 71 years old, being erected in the grounds of the Old Hall which was pulled down in 1858." 

 

Some childhood memories of Little Shelford and its Church in the early years of the 20th century by John Altham

              

I have often been asked if I would write about the village as I remember it as a child living here during the First World War and afterwards, and the Parish Council approved a suggestion that I should give this talk today at the annual meeting. As I will be talking about the church the Rector proposes (if he does not disapprove of what I say!) to publish my talk in his magazine (in 1989).

I thought that the best way to try and interest you would be to ask you to imagine a small boy walking you round the village and telling you what I know about it and some of its people, and about the church.

Let us start in about 1916 in the old Lodge which is my home. I live there with my mother and my younger sister, and we have a French nursery governess called Ninette. My father is away fighting the war at sea as a young officer in the Navy.

We love our old house, but it is hard work for my mother running it. In the winter she lights a Valor Paraffin stove every morning and the coal kitchen range. When we have to have a bath we lay out on the floor a hip bath which is filled with hot water from kettles in the kitchen, and my sister and I share the water one after the other. We have another paraffin lamp for light and candles to go to bed with. My mother and Ninette wash clothes on the kitchen range and iron them with irons heated on the range. We have a dark and very smelly lavatory with a bucket, known as an earth closet. All our water comes from a well at the back of the house and it has to be pumped by hand. Mr William Wisbey, whom we call Billy, who works for my great Aunt Isa and Uncle Jack who live in the Hall, comes to pump the water and empty the closet bucket somewhere in the garden.

One problem my mother has is getting me to King’s College School every day. One summer I went by pony and trap each way. Another time I bicycled to my cousin’s house, Florence Prest, in Great Shelford, left my bike there, took a train to Cambridge, a bus to the town, had a boiled egg and scone at the Copper Kettle, and then walked through King’s College to West Road to be at school by 9 am. I returned the same way. But my mother decided that this would not do in the winter, as I used to get tired, particularly as we were always hungry due to food rationing, so we moved to a flat in Cambridge until I got into King’s Chapel Choir, when I was a boarder. We were in a flat over Bowes and Bowes book shop on Armistice Day, 11th November 1918, and we sat in the window watching the great bonfire in the Market Place which some undergraduates were feeding with punts from the river boat yards. We children do not understand the war. All we know is we hate the Kaiser and the German army and that it is the war that makes us hungry.

Now come with me round the Village, starting up the ‘back lane’, which goes to Whittlesford and eventually to London. It says London 50, Cambridge 5 on the old milestone by the thatched cottage. The milestone is there because this used to be the old coach route to London from Cambridge. I think the old man and his wife who live in the cottage are called Jackson and I was told he brought up 13 children in the cottage. Next we come to Ivy Cottage where Bill and Ivy Ecclestone live. Their parents rent it from my aunt Isa. Bill and I fish together and he makes models of the Royal Flying Corps aeroplanes, Camels and Sopwith Pups, all out of old match boxes. They look exciting – I would love to fly one one day.

Next we come to a gate into the old field behind the Hall, where my uncle’s hunters graze and a pony for my aunt’s pony trap or for the buckboard – like the trap only with four wheels. The middle of the field is chained off round the cricket pitch where the village cricket club play most Saturdays in the summer. The next field along the back lane is the cowslip field (now Courtyards). It is also covered with rabbits who run out from the Plantations behind, where my uncle shoots pheasants. Next down the road we come to old Mr. Walker’s carpenter’s shop, where he works with his son Percy. He sometimes comes to mend things at our house and he mends my toy railways. He mended the spring on my engine. Then we come to the Terrace where there are a lot of old thatched cottages and opposite them are some allotments. After the Terrace there are only the woods on the left and cows grazing on the right. Round the corner we come to Westfield House where some people called Platt-Higgins live. Then more thatched cottages and then Mr Fordham’s farm with a lovely smelly farm yard full of cows, carts, ploughs and horses to pull them. I go to watch them ploughing the land up towards Whittlesford and after the harvest my sister and I go climbing up the hay stacks and sliding down them. We get caught sometimes and shouted at. The hay stacks smell lovely.

Now we pass the Plough public house, but I am not allowed in there. Then we come to my Aunt Milly’s house called Low Brooms where we sometimes go to play her pianola which has rolls of paper with holes in them and you pump pedals for air to make it work. Her husband called Colonel Tim Wood is very old and deaf. He has an ear trumpet which he called the ‘damned thing’. He has enormous jigsaw puzzles to keep him busy. He often tips me five shillings so we go there often! My cousin Hermione Cartwright and her daughter Betty often stay there. Hermione was married from Ivy Cottage years ago. Betty is our age and a great friend. She comes to play with us. Down the road is King’s Farm which my aunt lets to Colonel Thornton. My aunt used to live there before she moved with my uncle to the Hall, and my mother and her family used to stay at King’s Farm a lot before I was born. Next door is Miss Nellie Litchfield’s house where I slept as a new born baby when we came to visit, to show me off. The Hall was full of summer visitors so my nurse and I stayed with Nellie, who is one of the Litchfield family who run the farm opposite her house. They bring milk to us when my uncle’s cows don’t produce enough. She has a brother called Rubin who is known as Ru. Then there is Mr Butler’s bakery. They make lovely bread for everyone in the village. Now we pass the end of the Camping Close where cows graze and we come to Mr Wisbeys thatched cottage on the corner. He has a very old Douglas motor bike with a belt drive in which I am interested. Opposite him is the village pump and the forge. I love going in there to watch the horses being shod with those red hot shoes which make a funny smell when nailed on to their hooves. Also I watch the great big bellows which make the fire glow hot. They are always busy as there are so many horses in the village. Down the road to Newton we pass the Brightsmith’s house. They have a daughter called Joan. Then we come to the Red House where the Bagnalls live, Hilly and Maya and Freddy and Merrick and their parents. One day we were having tea there to fetch a teddy bear which May had made for my sister and there was a bang on the door and in walked Merrick who had just come from the trenches in France, unexpected. Great excitement in the family! I had never seen a soldier all dressed up in his trenches kit, though I had seen a lot of soldiers in the dark marching all night past the Lodge. When they stopped my mother gave them water for their bottles. Beyond the Bagnalls is Maggots Mount where the Obelisk stands. It is a monument to one of my ancestors. We climb up it and slide down. Sometimes we catch butterflies up there, or in the chalk pit just beyond.

Down the road to Hauxton there are hardly any houses but we go to watch the trains at the level crossing. It is a slow line so the old carriages don’t have corridors and the engine has no tender – liked a shunting engine. It is green, the Great Northern Railway colour, like the great big Great Eastern Railway engines at Cambridge, so big that they are four, six, two, or four, six, nought, the wheels I mean. The smell of the sleepers in the sun at the level crossing is lovely – a sort of tar smell. The engine drivers wave to us.

Opposite the Prince Regent is the village shop which is kept by Mr Gillie Miles, a tiny little rather hunch backed man. He has rows and rows of big glass bottles full of sweets on the shelves and some in the bay window. When we get our pocket money we go to buy acid drops, usually twopence worth in a conical paper bag which gets very sticky. Also we buy red penny stamps for my mother. Then there is the village hall, an old wooden building where Aunt Milly and Hilly Bagnall and others give comic plays or sing, or Freddy plays his flute. My sister is a lovely dancer and she sometimes dances there to an old piano played by my mother. There are hardly any more houses until you come to the church which I will tell you about later. Up the manor road is the Manor House. It looks very gaunt and un-kept up. Two old ladies live there whom nobody ever sees. We think they are sort of witches. At the end is another farm and more cows and horses.

Up the road to Great Shelford is a black mark on the wall between the bridges which is the village boundary. For fun we stand with one leg in each village. There are lots of ducks swimming in the river. I have been told that long ago there were no bridges, only a ford over the river and a hut with a man who used to charge a penny to cross over.

Beyond the bridges you are in Great Shelford. We don’t go there much because all our friends live in Little Shelford. But we go to the station when we go away. We go to stay with my granma near London. When we come back we look out of the window after Whittlesford and I always say ‘I hope we shall be met by the Napier’. This is my uncle Jack’s car, but he doesn’t use it much, so usually we are met be the Buckboard which has room for luggage. The Napier was made in 1908. I love cars and the smell of them, leather, rubber and petrol smells all mixed. And sometimes acetylene, if the gas cylinder for the lights is leaking.

Now will you travel on with me for some years. The war is now over and my uncle died so we are now living at the Hall with my aunt. We have our own nursery down a long passage which frightens us in the dark, especially when the candle blows out. I have a big toy cupboard full of Meccano, trains, my butterfly boxes and books. We went to Wicken Fen before my  uncle died with Bill Ecclestone and caught some rare Swallow Tails. I catch butterflies in the kitchen garden. We go on the river often where we have a large punt at the perch hole. We go up to King’s Mill and the weir beyond, to bathe, but only if the mill is working, because then the water is deep enough to punt up. We have to listen beforehand to hear if the mill is grinding. If not we go downstream under one of the bridges through the woods beyond the Manor House. It is quiet there. You only see the moor hens, water rats and often a King Fisher flying low and very fast. Beyond the trees you come to open fields, again full of cows. Once we got almost to Hauxton. But punting back against the stream is hard work so we don’t usually go very far. Once my sister and I wanted to camp for a night at the punt but my mother thought we might drown – silly we thought as we can both swim well.

My aunt and my mother are now very social and go out a lot in the car because you can get petrol now. My mother has bought a 1906 Humber car, open, with a big hood. We go to Selfridges in London to shop in it and at Welwyn on the Great North Road we have to jump out at the bottom of the hill while my mother struggles with the gears to get up. We have to get back early because the acetylene lamps don’t work very well. She bought the car from Merrick Bagnall who is back from the war. Mr. Albert Thorogood has also come back and he is chauffeur and gardener. Mr. Wisbey is also gardener. Also in the stable yard are Mr. Whitfield and Mr. Harry Want who look after some hunters which belong to Mr. and Mrs. Pares Wilson who have come to live in the Manor House. I don’t know what happened to the two witches. The new hunters are now in our stables and graze in the fields and my aunt has got rid of the cows and pigs to save work. I have my first motor bike, since I was fourteen. It goes wrong often as it only cost £14 which I saved up. Albert helps me to mend it. But he is very busy. He and Billy mow the lawns with a push and pull machine, but Albert has just put a motor bike engine into the mower. He is very clever as he made the Napier too, but my aunt has now bought a new car with a special body high enough to take her big hats.

In the house we have Cook and Lena and Celia living in and more help for visitors in the summer. When the grown ups go out we often play hide and seek with the maids in the house or the garden. The house is very long and has lots of hiding places. Lena is young and loves playing – she giggles all the time. Celia is older and very stern. When there is a dinner party she comes in and turns the men out of the dining room to stop them drinking too much port.

Now we come to 1928 when catastrophe struck. Some cousins borrowed the Hall for the winter when we were living in my aunt’s house in Cambridge. They had a butler who left sticks to dry in the pantry one night and in the middle of that foggy night the house caught fire and the Cambridge fire engine could not find the house until it was fully alight. Then they had no water until they laid pipes to the river. Alas, only a little furniture and some pictures were saved by Mr. Thorogood and many others who were alerted, and who worked all night among the smoke and flames. Nothing was saved from the nurseries, sadly for my sister and me.

The house was mortgaged so could not be rebuilt, but an addition was built across the front of the Lodge; thus the Lodge became once again the family home, because it had been half pulled down when the Hall was built. It had been the family house since about 1700

So, in the 1930’s our life went on much the same from the Lodge. The village changed very little over the years. The village hall was rebuilt as a War Memorial, gradually more cars came as Herbert Austin and William Morris built up their factories. Roads in the village were tarmacked at last. Electricity came and main water, but no main drainage, so the village drain still smelt. Tractors came and the forge went out of business. People died and others became old and I grew up.

At the end of this era of comparative peace and quiet when the village was still very rural and still had an isolated feeling, there came World War Two. My family retired to Cambridge and the Lodge was taken over by the Army as an Officers’ Mess and as offices. I went abroad on RAF duty and was not to live again here permanently until I retired in 1962,

Now if you will come back with me in time to when I was very young I will tell you a little about the Church.

It was about the middle of the First World War when I was considered old enough by my mother to be taken with my younger sister to Church regularly, with the rest of the family, on Sunday mornings.

Except that the Church was nearly always cold and damp, the walls drab and crumbling here and there, it was structurally much as it is now. But the personality of the Rector, the conduct of the services and the congregation were very different.

The Reverend Edward Carr was an old man with white hair and white whiskers. For a great many years he never seemed to change and to us children he was regarded almost as part of the ancient fabric. He lived unmarried at the Old Rectory all by himself, a withdrawn recluse, but with a gentle, kindly manner if one could penetrate his reserve. He dressed all in black with gaiters and lace-up boots, a cloak for winter and always a black hat. On the rare occasions when he was seen outside the Rectory grounds he was often riding his very ancient penny-farthing tricycle very, very slowly in the direction of Cambridge where we all believed he went to study deep theological matters in preparation for the following Sunday’s sermon.

These sermons were so abstruse that we children understood not a word. Nor did I hear the grown-ups ever comment on them, so I assumed they too were baffled. My mother would hide her eyes under her large hat, my great-aunt would blatantly sleep, and her husband would hide his face behind his hand, while we children would fidget until rebuked in a whisper. Mr. Carr would drone gently for nearly half an hour (I used to time him), and as he went through every single word of Mattins as set out in the Prayer Book and went on to the Litany in full we got home across the road to Sunday lunch at around a quarter to one, having set off at five minutes to eleven.

Once a month he read the Communion Service at the end of Mattins. Then he would leave out the Litany, and we children, and others who did not wish to ‘stay’, could leave during a Hymn before the Communion service itself. This delighted us as we got home a little sooner.

The congregation at Mattins might consist of twenty people including our, sometimes large, family turnout. I never saw any other children. Nowadays children have their own or family services and are given more intelligible religious teaching. But at the time of which I am speaking the effect of regular Sunday Mattins on us children was only to put us in fear of Hell and Damnation. This we understood to mean dire punishment by God for disobedience to any of the Ten Commandments, read out in full so fiercely by Mr. Carr, or for disobedience to our elders; and that such punishment would surely come after death by us going to Hell, or even during our lifetime by perhaps not being allowed by God to have something we dearly wanted (in my case perhaps a new bicycle).

There was a further sanction, perhaps only implied by the gentle Rector, but spelt out by my family, that the Pope was a heretic or worse. Even Great Shelford church was frowned upon as being too ‘high’.

As a postscript, it was not until I became a chorister in King’s Chapel that my young eyes were opened to a different Christianity, there the beauty of the building, the mystery of the candlelit interior, the ecstasy of singing the disciplined wonderful music added a new dimension to my limited religious experience, a dimension understandable even to a little boy of ten.

John Altham, Ivy Cottage Transcribed by Avril Pedley December 2021

 

Here are some first-hand impressions, stories and anecdotes “by an old resident”, Mr Pat Long of Newton Road, of

LITTLE SHELFORD FROM 1923 ONWARDS

In sixty-two years residence I have of course seen many changes in this charming, friendly village (a population census of 1924, trusting to memory, gave the total of 498; it is now slightly in excess of 1000, thus having doubled). New housing estates have arisen and not a few derelict cottages demolished, piped water, mains drainage, gas, street lamps, electricity, raised pavements, all these beneficial things we now take for granted were not existent then – “beneficial” is the operative word. What a shambles of inhabited buildings there was around the “Prince Regent” area. Picturesque? Yes, but certainly nothing else. In fact it has been slow but steady progress all the time and the certainty is CONTINUITY.

Agriculture is still the dominant feature. In 1923 it was absolute, the farmers at that time being Joseph Fordham (Jack’s father), William Meadows, and the Litchfield brothers, Frank and Reuben, who also ran a thriving milk round, a coal business, and, in addition, owned a gravel pit, long ago filled in; part of Courtyards estate now replaces it. Horse drawn ploughs and self binders, stackyards full of well thatched ricks; an acre a day was the accepted standard for the ploughman with his two horses and single plough – nowadays it’s nearer fifty for the multi-furrow pulling crawler-tractor. Wages then were around thirty shillings a week. We are incomparably much BETTER OFF today.

Characters? Little Shelford then had its fair share of them, some of them surviving until quite recently. Who could ever forget BILLY WISBEY, a wiry little man whose every speech was interspersed at about every half dozen words with the very mild expletive “bleedun”; TEDDY MOORE, landlord of “The Plough” for forty years, renowned and remembered for his “I’ll heap it up next time owd partner”, if a customer complained of his pint mug being a little short of full; and dear old  VICTOR DICKERSON, that highly skilled man in the now forgotten crafts of hurdle making and thatching? I write with authority on the latter, for did I not act as his labourer in at least two very busy harvest periods just prior to World War 2? “Boonch”, he would call out when ready to lay another strip, and up the ladder went me with another “boonch” of half a dozen “YELLUMS”. Who knows what a “YELLUM” is today?

But to deviate from nostalgia to one or two examples of that lovely type of unrehearsed humour – humour only to the true villager. Mr Bert Moore, for many years captain of the village cricket club, met Rupert Rogers a few hours prior to the start of an important cup match. Rupert enjoyed a strong reputation for his cricket knowledge, quite unmatched by his ability with bat and ball. Says Rupert. “Get your spinners out Bertie; that wicket is made for them.” Says Bertie, “Well, if you can tell me who they are I’ll certainly put ’em on.”

Incidentally, the cricket club must be just about the oldest in the whole of this administrative County. Trusting to memory again and hoping I have got the date near the mark, it was formed around 1878. And we must not forget the splendid football team this village once enjoyed. Believe it or not they once won a cup final in a junior Cambridge league. Mr Horace Marsh, now living in Garden Fields, was one of the players. He will remember that thrilling final when Little Shelford licked Teversham  2 – 1. Not so long ago there hung in “The Plough” two handsome shields the cricket club won in competitive matches, bearing also the players’ names. I wonder “where they are now”?

World War 2 and the memories it evokes! That crack cavalry regiment the 17th/21st Lancers, being transformed into an armoured unit, were deposited on the recreation ground and other open spaces. The officers made the “Prince Regent” more or less their secondary headquarters, the real one being “The Lodge”. The landlord of “The Prince” at that time was George Townsend who never seemed short of a bottle of scotch whilst the Lancers were with us. Along with many others I wondered if one of their officers, Captain BUCHANAN, was in any way influencing the supply of a commodity in Little Shelford that was almost unobtainable elsewhere. The Lancers left many of us with very happy memories.

During the same period, old Arthur Scott, a London evacuee, was in occupation of “The Plough”. Long after closing time one night in 1942 I was one of a little card party there when three taps rattled on the window. We all looked at each other and winked. We all knew who it was and what would happen next. Scott bawled out, “You’ll find it in the usual place.”

 

No sooner spoken when up jumps George Baker, the “Kings Farm” gardener, with this observation, “Not tonight he won’t! Here’s yer twelve and a tanner!” – that being the price of a bottle of scotch in those days (62 ½ p today). We all knew who was the intended recipient but prudence forbids disclosure. The reader must guess.

Finally, I am not one of the very small minority of “oldies” resentful of new faces, new ideas. Things must progress and that spells change. We are now blessed with a well balanced, progressive community that will ensure continuance of our long established qualities described in my opening paragraph – FRIENDLY, CHARMING. Comparative “newcomers” have indeed been the very essence of kindness to me in many respects, and not only to me. This sketchy record reflects but a fragment of life here as it has unfolded over a long period of time. It has been pretty to watch, pleasant to put on record.

Pat Long 1989 transcribed by Avril Pedley Dec 2021

 

HIGH STREET in 1880 by Enid Crutchley (first published in 1990)

It is not too difficult to envisage the High Street as it was 100 years ago, a quiet country road of stone and flint, no pavements, no lights, and of course far fewer houses.

Let us start with the farm side of the road. At that time Westfield was probably lived in by a Mr Smith, who had a haberdashery shop in Sidney Street. To supplement his income he took in holiday guests, for the following advertisement appeared in the railway guide – “Westfield, Little Shelford, 1 sitting room, 2 bedrooms, Return fare from London, First Class 15/-. Large ornamental gardens. Tennis Lawn. Good Stabling etc.”

Nos. 74 and 72 (Mr Betts and Mr Mitchell) consisted of three cottages, which were bought in 1872 for £116. In the one nearest to Westfield lived (for a weekly rent of 1/6d) a retired soldier named Gillingham, who had married an Irish girl. The family were the only Roman Catholics in the village and used to travel by train into Cambridge on Sundays. His great-grandfather, the Reverend Roger Gillingham, had lived in the Manor House in the 18th century, having married the daughter of the Lord of the Manor, but the family had descended in the social scale. In the garden of the centre cottage there was a well of pure spring water which came from Magots Mount. The field opposite the cottages was called the Deanses and the children were allowed in to gather mushrooms and blackberries.

No. 68 (Mr Grierson) was two cottages. The next building along the side of the road was, as now, the farmhouse, which can have been little altered. Between the farm and Kirby Lodge were meadowland and stackyards, and the beautiful old wooden barn which was, sadly, demolished about ten years ago.

Kirby Lodge had been bought by Mr John Dunn, a mathematician and a Fellow of St John’s College, in 1874 for a coaching establishment. He was grandfather to Miss Bagnall and Mrs Culley, and Setta Culley’s great-grandfather. The garden extended as far as the little lane leading to the farm, with the back of White’s farm (Mr Reuben Litchfield) the other side of the lane. The wall is still there and against it was the smallest cottage imaginable, surely not more than one up and one down. This was demolished not so very long ago, thus making the lane a little wider. After White’s Farm the fields continued to the allotments on which Garden Fields was eventually built. The existing road between the houses was, however, still there. In fact this is the remnant of a mediaeval road which entered the village from Harston and Newton. The village pump (the great meeting place of the village) was facing up Church Street, next to Mr Elbourne’s forge.

Next we cross the road. At the corner, opposite the Prince Regent, there was a complex of three cottages, one facing the public house (the village post office) and the other two round the corner. From Kelly’s Directory for 1880 we learn that the sub-postmaster was Mr John Everett, and that letters arrived from Cambridge at 7.45 a.m. and the collection was taken up at 7.30 p.m.

The four-acre field next to the cottages was, and still is, called the Camping Close. There are a number of those fields in Cambridgeshire. “Camp Ball” was evidently a game played with hands only, with teams of ten to fifteen men. The field came right up to the slat fence of No. 11 (Crutchleys), which in those days consisted of two thatched cottages.

The chapel was a fairly new building in 1880, and must have looked approximately the same as now, a well-built, solid Victorian place of worship. The house adjoining the passage leading to the chapel was a bakery and at that time would have been a white lath and plaster building with, of course, the yard and bakehouse at the back. The baker at that time was a Mr Charles Butler (grandfather of Mrs Parker and Miss Giggle). In addition to his bakery business he had a small shop in front of the house, which many of us will remember. It was a sad day for the village when, in 1974, the business closed down, having been in the family for well over 100 years.

Mrs Elbourne’s house (No. 17) was lath and plaster in 1880, and there were two cottages behind the house.

King’s Farm at about this time was bought by Mr Jack Eaden, who had just married Miss Isabella Willis, the granddaughter of General Sir Charles Wale, whose memorial stone is in the Church. He added to the house so that, in about 1880, it must have looked very much as it does now.

On the site of No. 31 (Mr Taylor) there were two or three small cottages. The rows of houses next to this was called Bowtell’s Row (after the builder), and was eventually completed in 1880, when Mr and Mrs Rogers with their growing family moved into the two houses nearest the Plough. Mrs Goodwin is the last surviving member of that family. Mrs Fordham and Mr Rupert Rogers were her sister and brother.

Nos. 51 and 53 (Mr Hurst) were three cottages, with another one at the back on the site of the garage. The next house was No. 59 (Miss Giggle), with the garden reaching from Mr Hurst’s house to the Plough.

The Plough has of course been added to, but the original building can be clearly seen. There was a row of sheds backing onto the next house, and the stable lay at the far end of the yard.

No. 65 (Mr Winfield) was two cottages at that time, and one of the occupants had a little sweet shop. The step is still there, sticking out onto the pavement. There was a bakehouse behind the house, with a loft reached by a ladder, and right at the end of the garden there were pig sties. Altogether a busy place!

Carriers was, in 1880, the Carriers Cart Public House and kept by Mrs Litchfield, Mr Reuben Litchfield’s grandmother, who also had a small shop. Her husband, Francis, was a carrier and carter. The tap room, since demolished, ran along the front of the yard with a small gate. Next to it was the barn, used for storage, the site of No. 71 (Mrs Smith), and on the other side the entrance to the stables and out-buildings at the back.

Next to No. 73 (Mrs Goodwin) at the corner of the Terrace. In 1880 a Mr Pett lived there. He was a carrier to London and kept his horse and wagon in a yard behind the house.

The Terrace was far more thickly populated than it is at present. There was a terrace of five cottages from the Whittlesford Road end (behind what was then called Elm Cottage) to Mr Douglas Walker’s house, and a further terrace of five at the High Street end. They consisted of two downstairs rooms and two or three bedrooms, and there were no back doors. Their allotments were the other side of the lane, facing the cottages, and of course backed onto the field, which was called Maltern Close. The little house next to Mr Walker’s was the village laundry (including an ironing room) with two adjoining wells.

Where No. 77 now stands (Mr Cook), there was a thatched cottage, with its garden in front. The pump on the road marks the end of a strip of land which divided this house from two adjoining properties, built lengthwise on to the road.

The last houses of the village (Mrs Pooley and Mr Roberts) were one residence 100 years ago, and made up the King William IV public house, which was partly thatched. The tap room faced the road, and the present front garden was the yard. The wooden stump by the gate is all that remains of the post bearing the inn sign.

High Street must have been a pleasant, peaceful road in which to live in 1880. Perhaps not so peaceful in 1980, but still pleasant, with a few of the old houses still standing.

Transcribed by Avril Pedley January 2022

 

LITTLE SHELFORD CHRONICLE  1777 to 1899

Hopefully by the end of 1985 the L.S. Chronicle will be published. Mrs Stella Batchelor,  who lived for some time in Ley Grove Cottages and now lives in Stapleford, has been working on this for several years whilst employed at the Cambridge Collection in the Central Library in Cambridge. It will contain articles from the local newspaper, the “Cambridge Chronicle”, and we hope they will give an insight of the life and times of the village during the period 1777 to 1899. The following extracts were compiled with the help of Miss Enid Crutchley who also possesses a scrap book containing a lot of information about the village gathered over the past decades.

21 May 1819

On Sunday last an inquisition was taken at L.S. before John Ingle Esq., on view of the body of James Desboro’ who being against the post of the turnpike gate at the moment the said gate was thrown open, he was crushed between the gate and the post so as to cause his immediate death. Verdict accordingly.

18 November 1848

Fowl robbery . Some evil disposed person or persons on Saturday night last, with a piece of wood belonging to a cart, broke open the hen-house of Mr. James Baker, farmer at Frog Hall, L.S., and stole seven fat geese, and several ducks and fowls, with which they got clear off, putting the piece of wood again on the cart, and hanging the lock of the hen-house door on it. It is singular that although two dogs are kept of the premises neither of them gave the least alarm.

15th of February 1862

Interesting lecture. On Wednesday evening lost, a very amusing and interesting lecture was given by Lieut. Col. Wale, at the new Reading Room in Pound Yard, which was numerously attended.  The subject was “Ancient History”. We have much pleasure in recording the continued exertions of Colonel Wale and his amiable lady, to instruct as well as amuse the poor in the village, for in addition to the adult school, a reading room has been erected by Col. Wale. Papers are sent to this room by the inhabitants. Indeed there are few villages in the county that have the advantages that are now offered here by the exertions of the gentry. After the lecture, Mr W. Dennis proposed a vote of thanks to Colonel Wale,  and expressed the hope that he would continue in another lecture, the “History of England” to the present time, which the Colonel very kindly promised to do.

28 December 1898

School entertainment. At the breaking up of the Misses Thompson’s & Livermore’s Ladies School an entertainment was given to the parents and friends of the pupils. The operetta “Fashion” was admirably represented by the older pupils, and a series of nursery rhymes in French and English was recited and illustrated by juniors. Several very effective tableaux vivants followed, after which “Father Christmas” was put upon the stage in a very masterly style. The historic talent displayed by the pupils gave evidence of very careful training.

*****************************************************************************************

We hope the above will whet the appetite of all our villagers to buy a copy of the “Little Shelford Chronicle” when it comes out

 

MEMORIES OF THE MANOR by Mrs Gertrude Long

(from the Little Shelford Parish Guide 1993)

I was appointed cook/housekeeper to the Manor in Little Shelford in 1935 when I was in my mid-20s. This was my third job since I had started work at the age of 14. I had been allowed to leave school early because my father was away fighting in the 1914-18 Great War, and my mother had found me a position at the big house in our home village, Ickleton. There I was the only assistant in the household and I gained a good basic training in general domestic work.

My second job came at the age of 17 when I went 40 miles away to a large house in an estate of 467 acres, at Boxmoor near Hemel Hempstead, where I was employed by a distinguished politician and his wife as kitchen maid for approximately 38p per week. Despite the hard work and long hours I spent many happy years in this household discovering the delights of a lavish cuisine, and only left when my employers moved much further south.

On coming to Little Shelford it was like coming home. My new employers at the Manor were a Mr and Mrs Pares-Wilson. They were great sportspeople, and keen on hunting, shooting, and racing at Newmarket. They were party-lovers and there was always a houseful to cater for. The running of the Manor was quite a business and required a large staff. Apart from myself, there was a kitchen maid, four house-maids, a nanny and a maid to look after the Pares-Wilson’s two children, a man-servant, two or three gardeners, and a head gardener, three grooms and a chauffeur. Extra staff would be taken on from the village when needed. Most of the staff lived in.

In many respects the Manor was self-sufficient. All vegetables and fruit were grown on the estate, and there was a very large ornamental garden. The processing of fruit was a big responsibility, and the making of jam and bottling took up a lot of time in the late summer. Manor farm supplied eggs, milk, butter and cream. Other food would be delivered to the Manor from Cambridge, or the chauffeur would go in and collect it. Mr Pares-Wilson himself used to buy beautiful hams and cheeses from Stilton on the other side of Huntingdon.

My place of work was a fine kitchen on the ground floor with a lovely view, looking over on to the railway. The floor was flagged with great big stones which my little kitchen maid had to wash every day. She also did the hall outside the door, which had white flag stones with a little blue square in the middle. And of course she had to prepare the vegetables, and help to wash up.

There was a big range with an oven each side, one for roasting, one for baking, and plate racks which opened and shut down to keep everything warm. There was a great big table in the centre of the room, and cupboards all round, and one armchair. We had everything necessary for cooking. All the saucepans were copper. The room got very hot at times, but we did have two lovely big windows, and there was an electric fan – a real luxury for the time. The scullery was in the basement with a lift for sending things up and down. The larder was also in the basement to keep things cool. Ice was kept down there, a one hundred weight block, brought from MacFisheries, which was placed in a wooden box lined with zinc, and a tray to catch any water that might accumulate. Later a game larder was built on the side of the kitchen.

There were two floors above the ground floor, and some of the maids lived at the very top of the house, where I also had a bedroom all to myself. We reached our quarters by a separate staircase near the kitchen door at the back of the house. Whilst the others wore print dresses in the morning, and head housemaids wore all-black, black dresses and white aprons, and caps, I wore white overalls and never wore a cap, since I never had to formally meet the people of the house.

My kitchen maid was up at 6.30 in the morning, to get the fire going in the big range to boil the kettle for a cup of tea, and to clean the stoves. She would then bring me a cup of tea at about 7.30, when I would get up and get the servants' breakfast by about 8.00 to 8.30 in the servants' hall on the same floor.

The dining room breakfast was at 9 o'clock. There were several dishes, kidneys, bacon, eggs, sausages, sometimes kippers - no cornflakes in those days - set out on the hot plate, and toast and coffee. The lady used to come out to the kitchen at about 1 o’clock to discuss the day's menus with me, and to order the food to be delivered from Cambridge - sometimes she would leave decisions about menus to me.

For lunch they'd have two courses, a joint sometimes, chops, steak and kidney, anything ordinary. Tea in the afternoon, served in the drawing room, would consist of cake and sometimes a plate of thin bread and butter. Mr Pares- Wilson's' favourite cake was a Dundee. Once I made a cherry cake, and the cherries all went to the bottom, so I turned it up the other way and iced it! And they said, 'Oh, our cherries always go to the bottom.'

At night, everyone changed for dinner, and after the gong had sounded at 7.30 sherry was served in the drawing room, then they moved into the dining room at 8 o'clock. There were four main courses - soup, fish, meat and sweet. Often there'd be an hors d'oeuvres and if they didn't want a sweet they'd have a savoury.

The stock-pot, which was always on the top of the range in the kitchen, was the main source for all the soups we made. The main ingredient was 1lb of shin beef, costing 6d, and all kinds of vegetables, bacon rinds, and left overs. All this was boiled and strained many times. The fish course was often plaice or sole (and sometimes we had cod for the servants' hall) which the chauffeur would have fetched again from Mac Fisheries.

The most popular meat was lamb cutlets served with all the fat trimmed off and a paper frill on the end of the bone. But poultry and game was the staple meat course, pheasant, partridge, woodcock, snipe, sometimes birds they hand caught, sometimes bought in such as guinea fowl, and poussins which were cut in half, like partridges. Game birds and poultry also provided the main ingredients for hors d’oeuvres.

Ice cream was a popular sweet. This was made by breaking the ice with an ice-pick and putting it into an ice-cream machine, first a layer of ice, then a layer of freezing salt, a layer of ice, a layer of salt, and so on until it was full, and then the cylinder of ice cream mixture was placed inside and the whole thing turned over and over until it was ready in about half an hour.

Mrs Pares-Wilson was keen to adopt the then fashionable idea of enjoying some French cookery. After she had been out to a party she used to come back and tell me what she had eaten and I had to try and make up the recipe! Lobster Newberg was one such, and it became a favourite dish. The meat was removed, cut up and done in a beautiful sauce with lemon juice, then put back in the shells and browned in the oven.

Sometimes the sweets were quite elaborate. We used to do one, crepe suzette, that’s a thin pancake in a hot orange-flavoured sauce, with brandy poured on and lit; it had to go through the flame. This was one recipe I learnt when I was sent up to London each week for two days to attend cookery classes in Fortnum and Mason. I would drive up there with the Pares-Wilsons and stay the night at Mrs Wilson’s mother’s flat. The chef who taught me and other women who attended was Marcel Boullerstein. We learnt a great deal from him.

One of my specialities became souffles, which sometimes replaced the sweet. A cheese souffle made with eggs, had to be hot and rise and be served at just the right moment. The Pares-Wilsons liked salads every day, and sometimes it was an awful job to find anything to serve out of season; the gardener would say, “Whatever can we do”. We used to use a plant with forget-me-not leaves, anything to make a salad.

The children’s meals of course were prepared separately and always taken upstairs. Ice-cream was for adults not for the children. They had a special diet and the nannies were very strict about it. If they had a boiled egg they would have to have stewed apple to counteract the effect of it! They never joined their parents at meal times. They would join them afterwards and spend the morning riding.

The stables were not at the Manor but in a separate building down the drive where Dr Robin Church’s bungalow is now. About five horses were stabled there. The riders crossed over the road from the little gate on Bridge Lane. The garage was at the Manor where they had three cars, one of them a little Morris, but the main one was an Invicta.

When there was a shoot, lunch parties had to be arranged and the food packed up. There’d be Irish stew, sausages and mash, and Brussels sprouts, each put into a great big Thermos, and they’d take all this, along with plates, knives and forks all the way to Huntingdon or the big estates near Puckeridge. They provided a bit for the beaters too – bread and cheese and a glass of beer.

The day was long especially when everything had to be washed up and cleared away after dinner was over. I would get to bed between 9 and 10 at night. We had an hour or two’s break in the evening before dinner when we would gather in the servants’ hall and either knit or play cards or other games. We generally got a half-day a week off and every other Sunday. If I got a little extra time off, perhaps a Saturday afternoon, I’d go home to Ickleton by bus. On one occasion I got home and there was a note on the table, ‘Gone to B. Stortford’, and I put underneath, ‘Gone to B. Shelford.’ My father never forgot B. Shelford!

We were very happy and I wasn’t badly off despite my 25/- a week. After all I had my keep, and a good home, a good bed and was warm. I stayed there for over three years. I would have liked to stay there longer but I met my future husband. I think we met at a whist drive or something. I’d already got one or two trailers, but he never let me go once he sort of got hold of me!

Mr Pares-Wilson was killed a year or two after I’d left, when he fell off his horse, and Mrs Wilson married again and became Lady Daniels when she married the Admiral. And now Prof. and Mrs Charles Loke are in residence.

 

Members of the Over Sixties (Cecil) Club Memories of the Village Hall before its demolition in May 1999 to be replaced by a new Hall

 

The first meeting of the Over Sixties Club (also called The Cecil Club in memory of Mr Blennie Powell’s mother who was the last of seven daughters and was called Cecil in exasperation!) For the equipment, Miss Powell provided packs of cards, Mr Fordham, two sets of draughts, the Rector a game and a box of dominoes and Mrs Stearn one pound of tea.

The following are a few memories of members regarding the Village Hall.

Before the war, a mobile cinema came to the village hall where black and white films were shown, including many cowboy films. Mr Hurst from Beech Close remembers winning half a dozen spoons and a water set in 1935 at one of these film shows – he still has the spoons.

The Snooker Room was used for a “men only” club for those over 18 where cards, darts, dominos and table tennis were also played. Bert Harvey remembers being turned away because he wasn’t old enough.

There was a large television in the hall so that the whole village could watch the Coronation in 1953. Mugs were distributed for the children.

 

In the 1970s, the village hall floor was replaced with Canadian Maple by Charlie Seaman, helped by Jim Pearman. Water was found puddling under the original floor – thus explaining the damp smell which was always present.

Mr Marsh who until recently lived in Garden Fields, helped to build the village hall.

All four of Mrs Poulter’s children held their wedding receptions there in the 1950s and 1960s.

Galas were held for several years, mainly on the Recreation Ground, starting in 1977 to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. During the first Gala Week, £1000 was raised for repairs to the ceiling of the village hall. Fundraising for this included a concert, dance and casino.

A cake competition was held in the village hall during Jubilee week, judged by Arnold Parker.

The evening before Jubilee Day, Little Shelford had a Social Evening open to the whole village. A free bar was provided which had with wine and Abbot Ale and everyone got very merry. There was dancing, a local folk group and a ploughman’s supper with more than enough butter. It was rumoured that perhaps the European Butter Mountain had found its way to Little Shelford.

Little Shelford’s allocation of free half pounds of butter for the pensioners of the village was made available – the postmistress of the time helped with names of those who did not belong to the club but cashed pensions. It was a very popular exercise.

The crowning of the Gala Queen took place in the village hall – ones remembered were Diana Nunn, Rachel Andrews and Deborah Nottage.

Yoga classes were held during the 1970s and 80s.

Nursery Schools were held in the hall at several times from the late 1950s to mid 90s. These were mainly run by people who lived in the village - Maureen Clamp, Gladys Dawson, Brenda Newsam, Wendy Pearce and Pam Bloy. These schools were very popular and there was often a waiting list

War memories

There were Nissen huts erected in the village during the war for soldiers, and dances were held in the village hall every Wednesday and Saturday for the soldiers and villagers. These were organised by Betty Harris of Cintra House and the band was Dina’s Dance Band. (These dances continued after the war when the Walker Brothers played the music.) The dance floor was ruined after the soldiers danced on it in their boots.

Soldiers’ boots were repaired in the Committee (Back) Room.

Dancing classes were held by Joan Wybrow during the war.

Molly Peters, who cycled to the dances from Duxford, remembers she and her partner winning a spot prize at one of the dances – he was given 50 Player’s cigarettes and she was given peppermint creams. When she got home very late, she left the sweets on the kitchen table. In the morning her mother thanked her for the peppermint creams and ate them all!

During part of the war, the hall was requisitioned for the troops.

A soldier let his rifle off in the Committee room and the bullet went through the snooker table. The scar underneath the table where the hole was filled can still be seen.

Compensation was received for damage caused during the war.

 

Valerie Luff and Chris Ruffles

13.4.99

 

Other sections on the Little Shelford history website

The first history book about Little Shelford

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/fanny-wale-book

Little Shelford's historical photos

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/photos

Little Shelford's historical buildings

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/buildings

Famous people from Little Shelford's history

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/people

The history of Little Shelford

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/history-1

The archaeology of Little Shelford

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/archaeology

Little Shelford in World War One

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/world-war-one

Old maps featuring Little Shelford

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/maps

Old censuses from Little Shelford

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/censuses

Family trees with Little Shelford connections

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/family-trees

Graveyard inscriptions from Little Shelford

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/graveyard-inscriptions

Historical memories from Little Shelford

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/memories

Historical stories from Little Shelford

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/history-stories

Memories of old Little Shelford

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/historical-memories

The story of Little Shelford's village sign

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/village-sign

Books about Little Shelford's history

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/books

Little Shelford's historical heritage trail

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/heritage-trail

Other sources of information about Little Shelford's history

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/links

About Little Shelford and its history

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/about-1

The Little Shelford Local History Society

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/history-society

Website contact details

www.littleshelfordhistory.com/contact

Other sister community websites

​​

www.littleshelford.online/

www.greatshelford.online/

www.staplefordonline.co.uk/