New Ely cinema, royal visit, Welney gets a hall and Thomas a new car

Out shooting - one of many from the collection of Mike Petty photos

Out shooting - one of many from the collection of Mike Petty photos of Cambridgeshire. - Credit: Mike Petty

Back in time we go – and to a cornucopia of delight as we discover how the news was reported by our former colleagues.  

Thanks, again, to Mike Petty and his Fenland History on Facebook, we can discover more of Ely High Street, reflect on a royal visit, and look at the battle between March and Wisbech over county hall.  

And this week, in 1924, people were being asked to vote – but who for?  

Ely Public Room Cinema – Ely Standard, October 19th 1934 

Ely cinema

Ely cinema - Credit: Mike Petty

This week has seen the reopening as a modern cinema of the Public Room, Ely, which has thus come into its own more as an entertainment house in the city. 

Externally the building has undergone very few alterations, apart from lighting and neon sign improvements, but the interior has been completely renovated, and in some instances remodelled. 

The whole building has been made comfortable and cosy. “Damage to Lives”, the film, which is being shown that this week, is proving a great attraction for the opening and drawing a grand house each evening.  

Most Read

Ely High Street obstructions – Ely Standard, October 19th 1934 

Ely High Street 1965

Ely High Street 1965 - Credit: Mike Petty


Before motor cars were so extensively used Ely High Street was practically packed on Thursdays, with new agricultural implements for sale, and, owing to the obstruction caused, the practice was stopped.  

Now the traffic is very intense on a market day but still there appear to be more goods displayed on the roads and paths than ever. 

An Act of Parliament has caused butchers to keep their meat behind glass windows, and I contend that the present state of affairs is grossly unfair to them, and to all traders who keep their goods behind their own glass.  

If a tradesman has not sufficient room to show off his goods, then he must enlarge his premises and pay rates accordingly. Now the idea is to obtain a small shop, with a low assessment, and exhibit more goods on the public highway than are in the shop. 

Another nuisance to pedestrians is the number of trade bicycles that are allowed to accumulate on the paths and gutter.  

In a certain part of High Street, it is necessary to step off the path when passing a lady. I should like to congratulate the people concerned in the excellent lighting of the city but I am afraid the crazy pavements will always be with us. 


Stretham Produce Stronghold - Ely Standard October 19th 1951 

 Stretham Produce Association were interviewed by the BBC in 1948

Members of Stretham Produce Association were interviewed by the BBC in 1948 - Credit: Mike Petty

Stretham is one of the strongholds of the Village Produce Association movement. 

The happiest occasion in the gardening year is the annual autumn show when in the friendliest spirit, each member displays his best produce with the hope that it may be rather better than his neighbour's best 

There were some 25 fewer entries than last year, due to the shortage of green vegetables. 

Ely High School opened by Duchess - Ely Standard, October 18th 1957 

Ely Standard 1957

Ely Standard 1957 - Credit: Ely Standard

Ely Girls High School was formally opened by the Duchess of Gloucester.  

She said “It is a much happier occasion than when I last visited your old school. That was when the Duke and I came to Ely in 1947, at the time of those terrible floods, and Ely had once again become an island.  

“The old school was then being used as headquarters for the forces fighting the floods”. 

The modern excellently-appointed premises in delightful surroundings replace the old High School in St Mary Street in buildings that were formerly the old Fen Offices, headquarters of the Bedford Level Corporation.  

Welney’s Centre of Amusement - Ely Standard, October 18th 1929 

The people of Welney are to be congratulated for having provided their village with a commodious Parish Hall.  

Such a building has been a long felt want, as previously the Odd Fellows Hall had to be used for special occasions and local gatherings.  

The hall was built by two Welney firms. It has galvanised walls and roof and took three months to erect.  

Vote for Our Man, Mond - Fen Times October 17th 1924 

Ely Standard October 17th 1924

Ely Standard October 17th 1924 - Credit: Ely Standard

This story appeared in the Ely Standard of 17th October 1924 

Thomas’s first car - Ely Standard, October 17th 1924 

Veteran motorist

Veteran motorist - Credit: Ely Standard

Thomas Cole, Postmaster of Witchford, at the ripe old age of 82, has just purchased and learnt to drive the motor-car in which he is pictured. 

(Mr Cole, according to a reader, died two years later).

Rings End Landlord - Ely Standard, October 15th 1937 

Mr James Hustler of the Ferry Boat Inn, Rings End was found dead in his bed, aged 85 years of age.  

He had lived at the Ferry Boat Inn, which stands opposite the Guyhirn Bridge for 77 years, going there with his parents when he was eight.  

He had resided there without any lengthy break until the time of his death, and for about 50 years hand been landlord. Until old age kept him indoors, he combined the business of inn-keeping with farming.  

Wisbech or March for County Base?  - letter - Wisbech Standard for 18th January 1889 


According to the Wisbech Advertiser of last Wednesday, there is no place like Wisbech for the meetings of the new County Council.  

Now if the advantages claimed for Wisbech existed in reality, such a weak article would have never been written, but, ever jealous of their rival neighbours at March, the Wisbechians lose no opportunity to sing their own praises, to our disadvantage. 

The Wisbech Corporation, we are told, would willingly place their council chamber at the disposal of the County Council.  

I venture to say the County Council will not want to trespass on the generosity of the Wisbech Corporation, considering they will become the owners of the much more commodious County Court Hall at March, which is admirably suited for a council chamber for fifty or even a hundred representatives. 

Simply because it happens to be about three minutes' walk farther from the railway station than the Wisbech room, it is argued that it would be an advantage to put in 15 miles extra rail journey to go to Wisbech, where the County Council will have no accommodation without being under obligation to another body. 

A boast has been made of the railway communication to and from Wisbech.  

I wish the writer of the article I refer to, could spend a single day on one of the seven platforms at March station, and I am sure he would never write such an empty boast again.  

It is well known that the railway communication between March and the whole surrounding districts, is four times more complete than at Wisbech, which is simply out of it in this respect altogether. 

There are no late trains from Wisbech, therefore a late meeting would mean being booked for the night, unless one decided to try their patience by arriving home about one in the morning now and again. 

Certainly, Wisbech has hotel accommodation sufficient for the whole Council to stay the night, and this is what it would mean very often if Wisbech were selected.  

Speaking for March, I am sure everything necessary for the comfort of the Council would be forthcoming, with the advantage that the councillors would sleep at home, instead of being on expenses at the Wisbech hotels. 

In short, March is most central, has the best railway communication, possesses the Council's own Council Hall, and is in no respect second to Wisbech as a meeting place for the now governing body.  

Undoubtedly the Sheriff displayed common sense in selecting March as the place for the first meeting of the Council, in preference to a town which is at the extreme corner of the Division. Joseph Collingwood, Oxford Villas, March.

Cambridgeshire Past 

From Mike Petty collection

From Mike Petty collection - Credit: Mike Petty collection

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. 

Here are some examples from Mike Petty’s Library 

Ely Railway Smash - Ely Standard October 15th 1926 

Ely railway smash

Ely railway smash - Credit: Cambs Times

Photographs of the railway smash at Ely late on Saturday night show the signal box through the brick work of which two trucks were hurled.  

The front, which is covered in with tarpaulins, was completely carried away by the force of the impact. In the lower picture are the two trucks, one of which is being lifted clear of the lines on to a railway workshop train.  

By the side of the truck are some of the bricks which fell in when the front of the signal box was demolished.  

Wives ‘disinclined to exertion’ by poor houses – Cambridge Daily News, October 11th 1912 

An Ely Diocesan report on housing conditions says that the greatest sufferers are the mothers of families.  

The fathers go out all the day to work, the children are in school but the women are anchored in the house. 

The combined effect of insufficient space, bad sanitation, poor water supply and air deprived of oxygen produces a kind of torpor which disinclines her to any exertion and she cannot control high-spirited children who seek amusement in the streets. 

Many women allow their homes to remain dirty but an untidy house drives the husband to the tavern where he spends the money which might make the house more comfortable.