Take off – octogenarian airman, Levi’s whiskers, and racehorses housed better than farm workers

Some of the stories from our archives for this week

Some of the stories from our archives for this week - Credit: Archant

These were some of the stories making the news over the past 100 years or more. 

And they have been collated in conjunction with Mike Petty from his hugely popular Fenland History on Facebook. 

He also unearths the sad story of a “calamitous occurrence” at Manea and parking problems in Ely – back in 1937.    

John Betts, Octogenarian airman - Ely Standard, October 25th 1929 

J Betts

J Betts - Credit: Archant

When the football matches at March were at their height on Saturday afternoon an aeroplane flying fairly low proceeded over part of the town. 

It was one of the machines in which many March people have availed themselves of trips, the plane having taken off from the temporary aviation ground in Elm Road, March.  

Many football spectators on hearing the roar of the engine gazed heavenwards as did shoppers in the streets.  

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Few guessed that the passengers were two old gentlemen, one 70 years of age, and the other nearly 90. 

We found John Betts, who resides in a cottage near Chain Bridge, sitting in the sunshine. There were a few wrinkles in his face and his head bore a shock of snowy white hair which fell in curls at the back, just beneath the brim of his hat. 

He said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the trip” and pointing to the reporter's car said “I did not think any more about it, than I was riding in that car.  

“But the wind was sharp, I never felt anything so fierce before. When I looked down the fields were like little bits of square gardens but everything is deceiving when you are up there. I was up there five minutes”. 

Mr Betts is well known in March and may be seen most days on Elm Road strolling along at a steady gate. He, retired from farming when he was 80 years of age, and will celebrate his 87th birthday next year. 

Haddenham’s striking mill – Ely Standard, October 31st 1952 

haddenham windmill

Haddenham windmill - Credit: Mike Petty

Rex Wailes told the Friends of Haddenham that mills have played a prominent part in the village community life since the 12th century.  

He dealt with the beauty of Stretham mill and the immense task of moving windmills which had been undertaken by Mr. Ison of Histon. 

Rex Wailes first became acquainted with Haddenham windmill and its owner, Mr. J. Lawrence in 1924 and said that mill was a fine example of its type. 

Over the past 15 years windmills had been falling rapidly into a derelict state and many had gone.  


Levi’s Whiskers – Cambridge News, October 31st 1902 

An Ely man was summonsed for assault. 

Levi Denton said he was in the farmer’s field gathering blackberries without asking his permission.  

Defendant, who had a large stick, came up and asked what he was doing – but he could see for himself.  

He then caught hold of his whiskers, knocked him down, kicked him and dragged him out of the gate. Mr Denton went back into the field for his basket. 

The chairman: “I observe one side of your beard is longer than the other. Was it pulled out by the accused?”  

Denton: “Yes, and they are on the field now, if not picked up”  

But he was on the wrong side of 50 and whiskers come out more easily at that age.  

The case was dismissed 

Cathedral Treasures discovered by tv - Fen Times October 31st 1952 

The beauties of Ely’s glorious cathedral were taken into many thousands of English homes in a 35-minute televised conducted tour undertaken by the BBC’s most famous outside broadcaster Richard Dimbleby.  

Reception in the district was generally very good and local viewers are full of praise for the reverence of the manner in which the programme was presented.  

 
Fen Bobby Baldwin Retiring – Ely Standard, October 30th 1931 

P.c. Baldwin, who is leaving Manea after six years upholding the law there, comes from a real old stock of ‘Robert Peels’.  

His father served for 30 years on the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire Constabulary and he also had an uncle who served 40 years in Norfolk, rising from the rank of constable to be a superintendent.  

A brother-in-law is also at present, serving as a superintendent in the Norfolk force, having had 32 years of service.  

At one time, P.c Baldwin had a brother serving at March at the same time as he himself was serving. Baldwin has had various stations since he first joined the force in 1905.  

Manea Children Suffocated – Ely Standard, 2nd November 1905 

We may be thankful that it is only on rare occasions that we are visited by such a calamitous occurrence as that which took place during Monday afternoon in the vicinity of Manea.  

There in one of the wildest spots one would wish to discover in the whole of Fenland, three young children were suffocated. 

They were locked in the kitchen of a house and not many hundred yards away their hard-working parents were labouring, little recking that the hand of deaths was hovering over their peaceful and happy home in such a tragic form  

Agricultural workers housed worse than pigs - Ely Standard, October 30th 1925 

Farm workers wages under fire

Farm workers wages under fire - Credit: Archant

The housing condition of agricultural workers are a national scandal and disgrace.  

The racehorses at Newmarket are better housed than the bulk of the agricultural labourers in this country.  

You could find pigsties far better than the houses of the agricultural labourers. There is electric light for the man when he goes to feed the pigs and paraffin oil for him in his home.  

It is inhuman and callous, Albert Stubbs, chairman of the Agricultural Wages Committee claimed. “I've never felt more humiliated in my life than when the farmers moved that the wages of an agricultural neighbour should be cut from 30 shillings to 24 shillings”. 

Agriculture was the most important and essential industry in the world. The agricultural labourer was being treated more like a beast of burden than a human being.  

Ely Parking issues - Ely Standard, October 29th 1937 

Ely Urban District Council reconsidered parking places for motor cars. There was space for 312 cars in the garages but the number using them was 117. 

It was unfair to the garage proprietors for the council to put up the garage proprietors' rates and then provide more free parking.  

If a person could afford the cost of purchasing and running a car, that person could also afford the sixpence or shilling to park it in a garage and so keep the streets of Ely free.  

Ely’s dud Second-hand Siren - Ely Standard, October 28th 1938 

Ely gets March reject

Ely gets March reject - Credit: Archant

An air raid siren which was originally intended for March – but not thought satisfactory - has been fitted on the Shire Hall at Ely. 

Councillors would have the opportunity of hearing it themselves at a test. The climatic conditions were ideal, it being a calm night. 

At the time the siren was sounded observers at the Railway Station and on Cambridge Road failed to hear it.  

Numerous residents who were asked if they had heard the siren were quite unaware that it had been sounded.  

It is obvious that the siren fails the purpose for which it is required.  

Councillor Vail said, “If it is not good enough for March, it is not good enough for Ely”.  


Cambridgeshire Past, pictured: V.D: Demonstrations 

Cambridgeshire demo

Cambridgeshire demo - Credit: Mike Petty


Cambridgeshire demo

Cambridgeshire demo - Credit: Mike Petty

Cambridgeshire demo

Cambridgeshire demo - Credit: Mike Petty

The Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library includes many thousand illustrations ranging from 17th-century engravings, through postcards to original photographs. They are arranged in classified order. 

‘V’ is the heading for Traditional activities; V.D. is demonstrations etc 

These are some examples from Mike Petty’s Library 

Cyril Horn cycling and skating superstar – Ely Standard, October 25th 1929 

Cyril Horn

Cyril Horn - Credit: Archant

Cyril W. Horn, the well-known Upwell cyclist and one of the foremost riders in the Eastern Counties has again had a very successful season on the track.  

Cyril possesses wonderful speed and stamina as shown not only in cycling but in skating, for he beaten his previous skating record winning several cups, beside the British Amateur Skating Championship.  


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