Floods, hovertrain dreams end and 'distressing' scene at child's funeral

Hovertrain at Earith 1971

Hovertrain at Earith 1971 - Credit: Mike Petty

February in years gone by – and thanks to Mike Petty and his Fenland History on Facebook for helping our journey back in time.  

We begin this week with the hovertrain project in our area that was abandoned.  

And we take a glimpse at the 1947 floods –and reflect on a ‘distressing’ scene at an Elm funeral.  

Hovertrain Abandoned – Cambridge News - 14th February 1973 

The Government have abandoned the Hovertrain project. 

Aerospace minister hopes to sell of parts of the project to two contractors.  

Mr Heseltine said nearly all the 150 workers on the project would lose their jobs. 

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The Tracked Hovercraft Company was set up in 1967 and £5,250,000 was originally earmarked for it 


Barclays Soham Bank – Ely Standard 19th February 1926 

Barclays Bank Soham 1926

Barclays Bank Soham 1926 - Credit: Archant

Barclays Bank’s new premises in High Street, Soham are not only a tribute to the business progressiveness of the town, but also to the bank itself.  

A beautiful all-white structure, the building constitutes a welcome street improvement and its artistic appearance immediately arrests attention.  

Mr. H. R Buck is the manager and there are five clerks.  

Elm Funeral Hooting –Cambridge Weekly News, 18th February 1910 

A distressing scene was witnessed at the funeral of a young woman who died at Elm after giving birth to a child.  

A portion of the service was omitted at the graveside and the mourners hooted the clergyman.  

When the grave had been filled up, he ordered the removal of certain artificial wreaths in glass cases and took them into his own house. 

If the parents will give a guarantee that no attempts will be made to place them on the grave, he will hand them over.  

Last Stretham post – Ely Standard, 19th February 1926 

Isaac Asplin

Isaac Asplin, retiring as postman at Stretham - Credit: Mike Petty

Isaac Asplin has retired as postman in Stretham after many years. 

He was born in 1853 and in 1872 joined the army, taking part in the Afghan war.  

He is still crier, and passes his leisure in gardening. 

In 1910, at the age of 57, when the weather vane on the church was under repair, Mr Asplin ascended the scaffolding to examine the steeple, which was reported to be in need of repair.  


Manea Rat Gleave – Ely Standard 19th February 1932 

Mr E Cox of Manea is the official rat catcher of the Drainage Commissioners.  

Since last September, he has accounted for over 1,300 rats of all sizes.  

The method of tracking down the rats is ferrets and dogs while Mr Cox also carries a long implement, which reminds one of an eel gleave.  

The edge of the world ...' 1947 Fen Floods: W. Martin Lane's photographic record; no.6 

PC Ray Pegg. going about his duties during the floods of 1947

PC Ray Pegg. going about his duties during the floods of 1947 - Credit: Archant

The convoy of ‘Ducks’ made their way through Stretham, Wilburton and Haddenham before descending Hillrow where they were halted at a roadblock manned by PC Ray Pegg. 

Gathered there were some of the men whose homes were – or had been – on the road to Earith 

On the edge of the waves famers had left their ploughs – they knew where the floods would finish. But would they ever end? 

On the edge of their world men gathered, hoping to spot a chimney still poking out of the ‘sea’. One of them was enlisted as pilot. 

Once water had overtopped the Old West River it arrived in Hillrow farmyards like a high tide in Hunstanton.  

Farmers tried to sweep it back, but it just kept coming. 

Policemen Ray Pegg told residents what they had to do – they had to flit. But there’d been floods before and they did not flit then, they were not going to flit now!  

Then they saw the rabbits running, the foxes running, the rats running – running from the unstoppable tide.  

And if rats and rabbits run, men must run too 

Lark Bridge Collapse – Ely Standard 17h February 1928 

Lark Bridge Collapse – Ely Standard 17h February 1928

Lark Bridge Collapse – Ely Standard 17h February 1928 - Credit: Ely Standard

Branch Bank which spans the River Lark at its mouth and connects Adelaide with Sand Hill, about four miles from Ely, suddenly collapsed.  

Fortunately, no one was on the bridge at the time and the only damage done was to the bridge itself which crashed into the river.