Looking back

PUBLISHED: 11:26 06 October 2006 | UPDATED: 12:02 04 May 2010

IN 1934, two old boys from the King s School published a book called the Register of the King s School Ely. It lists the names and achievements of boys who attended the school between 1853 and 1932. It has been an invaluable reference book helping me to

IN 1934, two old boys from the King's School published a book called the Register of the King's School Ely.

It lists the names and achievements of boys who attended the school between 1853 and 1932.

It has been an invaluable reference book helping me to trace the lives of Old Eleans, particularly those killed in the First World War. In addition, it also provides an insight into many of the long-established Ely families.

William John Cutlack and his father JD Cutlack both attended the school and are presumably related to the Henry and John Cutlack, who opened their High Street store in 1841. The ironmongers supplied everything from horseshoe nails to agricultural implements and carried out repairs on the premises.

Pledger's clothes shop was another popular establishment in the High Street. Eight boys from the family attended King's in the late 19th century and one of them, Percy Pledger, died in action in France in 1915.

The name Cutlack was also linked to the Ely brewing trade along with Hall, Harlock Porter and Legge. Christopher Harold Richard Legge, born in 1883, is listed as a businessman of 5 High Street, Ely. This was a shoe shop and still is, now retailing as Gibbs of Ely.

Dr Beckett sent his three sons

Francis, Hugh and Victor to the school between 1886 and 1893. Victor died on the Somme in July, 1916.

The Beckett name continued in Ely with Lieutenant Colonel John Beckett in the Second World War with the Cambridgeshire Regiment. As a prisoner of war, he had a small radio receiver hidden in his hot water bottle and also produced an illicit newspaper to spread news of the war. This was a morale booster for the men, but he would have been executed if the Japanese had found out.

On his return to Ely, John Beckett was a stalwart of the county, district and parish councils.

Charles Bidwell is listed in the register as 'estate agent, auctioneer and land valuer'. He started Bidwells the auctioneers and estate agents now based in Cambridge.

Charles Bidwell also served on the county council, from 1899 to 1922 and was the first chairman of the Urban District Council in 1895.

George Comins, born 1911 and living at 17 St Mary's Street, Ely, was also an estate agent and auctioneer.

Just above the name of Charles Bidwell are those of brothers Harold and Thomas Archer, the sons of Goodwyn Archer 'solicitor, Ely'. Harold followed in his father's footsteps and became a solicitor, his younger brother became a surgeon. The Archer name seems to have been synonymous with Ely for many generations with another Thomas Archer responsible for riding to Bury St Edmunds to call the militia during the Littleport riots in May, 1816.

It is an interesting insight into life today that the names of those who take an active role in the city are not so recognisable and the High Street has more chain store names than local retailers.

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