Feb 21 – On this day in Cambridgeshire history – In Your Area

Each weekend, Mike Petty and I look through the archives and recount some of the stories that occurred on this day in Cambridgeshire history.

‘Ambitious’ and ‘revolutionary’ council estate

1962 A site in West Fen Road, Ely, where Nissen huts once stood, will become a new council estate that could well become the housing showpiece of the Eastern Counties. Ambitious in outlook and almost revolutionary in concept, Priors Court will provide 162 homes together with 143 garages.

In addition, two parking areas will give space for 41 cars to allow for visitors. The emphasis on the modern need for garages is only one unusual aspect. Another is the high regard for road safety which will keep children and traffic completely apart.

Old Mother Riley and daughter Kitty delight


Arthur Lucan (left) as Old Mother Riley with actress Kitty McShane in a scene from Jungle Treasure in 1950.


Well known both on the screen and radio, ‘Old Mother Riley and her daughter Kitty’ this week gave Cambridge theatregoers their chance of enjoying their particular brand of comedy in the flesh. There is something for all ages – first the pantomime horse, then begob and begorrah comes the old lady herself, Old Mother Riley, with a laugh-a-line to set you twisting in your seats. We see her deal in her own inimitable way with the breakfast routine with daughter Kitty, sweetheart Danny and troublesome Rodger the lodger.

Arthur Lucan is ‘her’ usual exuberant self as Old Mother Riley and Kitty McShane delightful as the darlin’ daughter.

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We build the best tanks – but more are needed


Feb 21 – On this day in Cambridgeshire history - In Your AreaTanks in Linton during the Second World War.

Much of the mystery which the tank – Britain’s secret weapon of the last war – still holds for a good number of people is explained by the Ministry of Information exhibition which opens at the central library, Cambridge. Photographs, scale models, diagrams, drawings and explanatory text throw an interesting bite on the many technicalities, present a complete record of the evolution of the tank from scrap metal heap to fighting line, and explain the vast array of mobile facilities which make up a British armoured division. Briefly, the exhibition is a sterling record of Britain’s tremendous effort to beat the axis powers in the production of this most vital weapon of war.

Two points stand out from a mass of detail: the fact that Britain still builds the best tanks. The second – and the most important of all – is that we still need immense numbers. Only now, after two years of war, are we catching up with the enemy strength.

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When was the last time anyone wore a smock?


Feb 21 – On this day in Cambridgeshire history - In Your AreaThe Shepherd by J.F.

Millet wearing his smock. Print Collector/Getty.

A correspondent, writes Watchman, states that, some time ago, a few interested Cambridgeshire antiquaries tried to discover who was the last farm hand in the country to wear the smock front seriously. He says ‘seriously’ because one often sees it worn nowadays in fancy dress parades.

The investigators came to the conclusion that the smock was last worn by an old shepherd at Little Abington, near Linton, somewhere about the year 1892. My correspondent goes on to say the smocks were worn on Sundays as a sort of best dress, long after it was customary to wear them as a working dress, and that a clean smock, corded breeches, worsted stockings, a beaver or other make of top hat and greased lace-up boots formed the approved rural costume for Sabbath and holiday wear. A little more than half a century — in some parts of Cambridgeshire a full century — however, has passed since the gabardine or smock was as honourable a distinction of carters and shepherds as the uniforms of the men in our fighting forces today.

Feb 21 – On this day in Cambridgeshire history - In Your AreaTwo carters, one wearing a smock, in the early 19th century.

Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty.

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Coalmen overcome consignment complications


Feb 21 – On this day in Cambridgeshire history - In Your AreaA coalman at work in 1963.

Many expedients have been adopted to overcome the difficulty of coal delivery. In many instances, people have been down to their last shovelful and, in some cases, there had been coal-less days even among the well-to-do. Some of the G.E.R. staff at Cambridge were determined to run no such risks so they devoted a Saturday afternoon to unloading a truck of coal, filling bags, loading them onto lorries, and taking them home.

This energetic band of ‘amateur’ coal heavers evidently enjoyed their ‘afternoon out,’ assisted by one or two ‘professionals.’ We understand one lorry delivered nine tons of coal in one day.

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Cautioned for causing crowd to bunch together


Feb 21 – On this day in Cambridgeshire history - In Your AreaSelling flowers at the Cambridge market.

A fifteen-year-old flower seller was summoned at the children’s court for causing an obstruction in Market Street. He was offering a bunch of flowers to some ladies and had put his basket on the pavement.

There were numbers of people who had shops and sold flowers and it did not seem fair competition for these others to sell in front of their shops. He was cautioned.

Children enjoy a pleasant life at Dr Barnardo’s


Feb 21 – On this day in Cambridgeshire history - In Your AreaMilk drinkers at one of Dr. Barnardo’s ‘colonies’ in 1900.


There are many colonies of Dr Barnardo’s children in Cambridgeshire, and no pleasanter life for them can be imagined than the breathing of pure air and association with happy village children, whose happiness is shared by their playmates. At Witchford, there are no fewer than 22 boarded out from the home. Two girls, one six years old and her sister, eight, were given a ride by the vicar in his carriage while he made arrangement for meetings in neighbouring villages.

He is exceedingly fond of children, enjoying the company of the little ones and shared merrily in their conversation. He took them to Stretham station and they walked back home to Witchford.

Read Mike Petty’s Cambridgeshire Scrapbook to search for other stories.

Illuminating example of council incompetence


Feb 21 – On this day in Cambridgeshire history - In Your AreaMerchants at the Corn Exchange.

Sir, Verily the doings of Cambridge town council are marvellous. They have recommended the installation of the electric light in the Corn Exchange “owing to the representations made to them by ‘corn merchants and others’ using it.”

I should have thought they would have known that corn dealers can only carry on their business by daylight and it is impossible to buy and sell corn by electric or other artificial light. Moreover, the business of the Corn Exchange is all over by 4.30, so what do they want the electric light for? If the council thinks it necessary to light it by electricity by all means let them do so, but they should not talk nonsense as they do when they say the traders want it. – J.