Hallelujah wedding, rail tragedies and a 1937 epidemic

Some of the archive images that made the news in this month over the years. 

Some of the archive images that made the news in this month over the years. - Credit: Archant

Epidemics, rail tragedies, torn trousers, a ‘hallelujah’ wedding and an aeroplane crash help make this week’s headlines.  

These, of course, from the archives and cover span 100 years or more of local Fen history.  

The stories, photos, illustrations and newspaper clippings owe much to the diligence of research by local historian Mike Petty. 

You can follow him, daily, on Fenland History on Facebook.  

Epidemic of Alarming Proportions, Hospitals full, Child immunisation - Ely Standard - November 5th 1937 

From the archives

From the archives - Credit: Archant

Ely Isolation Hospital is practically filled at the present time owing to serious outbreaks of diphtheria and scarlet fever. 

For many weeks scarlet fever has been prevalent not only in Ely but in the surrounding towns and villages.  

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At the present time, there were 39 patients in the isolation hospital suffering from that disease. 

More alarming, however, is a sudden outbreak of diphtheria at Littleport: during the past three weeks; no fewer than 17 children between the ages of five and 11 years been admitted to the hospital.  

Ely Rural District Council Sanitary Inspector reported that 17 cases of diphtheria had been moved to the hospital since October the 12th.  

It might well be faced with an epidemic of alarming proportions. It was a question as to whether the council would make some attempt to immunise the children.  

Immunisation would be voluntary and the procedure was a simple one being carried out in two doses.  

The immunity lasted roughly 10 years and might be the means of saving life and certainly of saving money. 

Remarkable Prickwillow woman – Ely Standard - November 8th 1928 

Mrs Rowell Wilson

Mrs Rowell Wilson - Credit: Archant

The number of women who live to the grand old age of 91 is surely very small.  

Such an amazing feat has been achieved by Miss Rowell Wilson of Old Bank, Prickwillow. This veteran daughter of the soil is now in her 92nd year. 

Living on her own in a snug little cottage, she is truly a wonderful woman considering her age.  

Adelaide railway crossing tragedy - Ely Standard -November 3rd 1922 

From the archives

From the archives - Credit: Archant

An 18-year-old youth, the son of an Ely railway guard, met a tragic fate at Adelaide level crossing where he was employed as a gate boy.  

Evidence given to the inquest gives rise to the assumption that he made a brave attempt to fulfil his duty following an error of judgement. 

Immediately prior to the accident, he was talking to a boy friend in the gate hut and apparently did not allow himself sufficient time to close the gates for an approaching goods train.  

He had succeeded in closing one gate but was caught halfway across the permanent way with the other locked. 

No one other than an employee was allowed inside the gate hut. Notices to this effect were placed in prominent positions. 

The unfortunate lad undoubtedly felt he had made an error and was brave enough to go and face it and it proved fatal.  

He was very active and obliging guide in his duties and never liked to keep anyone waiting. 

Cambridgeshire Past, pictured: V.P: Outings 

Outing from Cambridgeshire

Outing from Cambridgeshire - Credit: Mike Petty

Mike Petty has uncovered copies of thousands of illustrations of Cambridgeshire ranging from 17th-century engravings to modern photographs.  

V.P. is the class number for outings 

Above is an example


Ellsworthy’s torn trousers - ‘Ely Chronicle’ May 16 1846 

Mr Ellsworthy, jun., made an attempt to spring from the platform at the station into one of the carriages when the train was proceeding at a rate of about six miles an hour. 

In doing which his foot slipped and he fell backwards, his head upon the next rail and his knee across the rail on which the train was passing.  

He had the presence of mind to snatch his trousers, which brought his knee three or four inches back; but so near was he by his temerity of losing his life, that the carriages tore the cloth from the knee of his trousers to shatters.  

He escaped however, unhurt, excepting a few bruises, which required the attention of a medical man. 


Littleport Hallelujah Wedding - Cambridge News - November 4th 1910 

A Salvation Army wedding was solemnized at the Wesleyan Chapel, Littleport.  

The parties wore Salvation Army costumes relieved in the case of the bride by a large cream sash. 

After the singing of ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’ the bridal party took their place on the platform behind the pulpit.  

Two babies started crying but did not disturb the proceedings.  


Ely Education Shock –Cambridge News - November 4th 1981 

Prickwillow parents protest in 1982

Prickwillow parents protest in 1982 - Credit: Archant

Shock new proposals to change the face of education in the Ely area have emerged in a secret report.  

It suggests closure of five more schools at Little Ouse, Stuntney, Prickwillow, Black Horse Drove and St Audrey’s, Ely together with Bedford House Further Education Centre. 

At Littleport the Village College buildings would become a new county primary school. 

Littleport Village College and the City of Ely College would lose their individual identities and be amalgamated into a completely new school to open in September 1985.  

This new school to be called the Ely and Littleport Village College would comprise some 1,400 pupils and would take over the further education work being done at Bedford House, Ely.  

It would use the redundant St Audrey’s Primary School buildings close by as its sixth-form centre. 

St Audrey’s pupils, together with those from Stuntney and Prickwillow would move over to the High Barns site in Ely to join up with children at the St Etheldreda’s County Infants’ School and St Mary’s Church of England Junior School in one Ely primary school.  


County Hall Considerable Speech Making - Ely Standard - November 5th 1937 

County Hall March, newspaper report

County Hall March, newspaper report - Credit: Archant

The extension of the County Hall at March, erected at a cost of nearly £17,000 was opened with the fitting ceremony.  

Members of the County Council, county officials and others prominently identified with the public life of the county united in the observance of a Memorial Day in the annals of local government in the Isle of Ely 

The extensive enlargement of the building has resulted in a most imposing hall. 

The scheme has been carried out so efficiently that the whole might well be imagined to have been designed and erected at once, instead of in three sections, as has been the case. 

The original block was built and equipped in1908, the first extension was made in 1928 and the latest additions brings the total overall to over £31,000 

Guests were entertained to luncheon which was followed by considerable speech making.  

Personal tragedies - Ely Chronicle - August 8th 1846 

Fatal Accident 

On Sunday morning last, Edward Poole, a brickmaker, very hard of hearing, was looking over the cottage erecting at the junction of the Peterboro’ line. 

He stepped between the rails to look at the outside, as the down half-past 7 o’clock train was passing.  

The engine driver saw him and endeavoured to make him hear the whistle, but in vain. 

The engine knocked him down and almost cut him in two; the poor fellow’s death must have been instantaneous. 

Earith Station closure – Ely Standard - November 8th 1957 

Train at Earith

Train at Earith - Credit: Archant

The proposal to close Earith Bridge railway station would save £4,332, British Transport Commission state.  

Alternative facilities for full load and station-to-station traffic were available at Bluntisham, Somersham, Sutton & Haddenham stations.  

During 1956 the number of passengers using the special excursion trains totalled 125.  

Ely Rural Council made no comment on the proposal  


Cambridgeshire Past, pictured: V.T.: theatrical groups 

Prickwillow Pierrotts 1909

Prickwillow Pierrotts 1909 - Credit: Mike Petty

Dandies Concert Party

Dandies Concert Party - Credit: Mike Petty

Mike Petty has shared thousands of illustrations of Cambridgeshire ranging from 17th-century engravings to modern photographs.  

The pictures are catalogued by place and topic. V.T. is the class number for theatrical groups 

Above are two examples 

Barway Aeroplane crash - Ely Standard - November 7th 1924 

Barway crash

Barway crash - Credit: Archant

Four R.A.F. men had an exciting experience in an aeroplane crash at Barway.  

The Vickers Vimy developed engine trouble and a landing was made in a stubble field.  

For a score of yards, the aeroplane ran along the ground at the rate of nearly 80 mph and all would have been well had not a four-foot dyke barred the way.  

The machine crashed into the opposite side of the dyke, its nose penetrating the earth. The impact caused the ‘plane to swerve completely round and almost turn a somersault.  

Fortunately, it rebounded on an even keel and the airmen were able to alight, only one sustaining slight injuries.  

One of the wheels had penetrated one of the lower planes while the observer seat was smashed in by the force of the impact. The propellers were damaged 



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