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Great Shelford historical stories and newspaper cuttings courtesy of the Mike Petty archive 


April 1897 At Cambridge County Court Alfred Whitmee, circus proprietor said he visited Great Shelford with his circus in the autumn of 1896. On the Monday it was a rough day and he could not get the tent up. The month of October was an unfortunate one for him. He owed 30s.(shillings) at Histon and about 7s at Trumpington. He had arranged to start for Sawston but was told he could not take anything away until £2.0.6 was paid for lodging his horses.

Sept 1897 The wheat farmers of the Eastern Counties are invited to discard the cultivation of grain for the growth of flax. It is claimed that flax will yield a much greater return per acre than wheat. Flax and hemp straw should be received from the farmers as grown and the fibres manufactured by The English Fibres Industries Company who have just revived the flax mills at Great Shelford and at Long Melford in Suffolk, which had been closed

1898 Shelford undertaker failure – Goat

May 1898 Seven labourers were summoned for “tin kettling in Great Shelford. PC Chater said they were banging tins and trays, and such things, as well as shouting and yelling at a lady. Two of them had pails half full of tar which they used for burning the woman in effigy. This entertainment continued for about two hours. The woman said: "My husband won't part with his money, and that's why I left him.” The magistrate: "What is your husband's name?" - "I don't know what his name is. I never took the trouble to remember his nasty name”. Defendants were fined 2s.6d each.

Nov 1899 Following their manoeuvres at Shelford the London Scottish Rifle Volunteers had a further engagement with the University corps in the vicinity of Caius Farm, near the Gog Magogs. The Scots marched out to occupy the farm and were reinforced at Fulbourn by a company of the Newmarket Suffolk Volunteers. The actual firing operations began at 2.45. The farm having been taken the defending and attacking forces were formed up in line and the march home was begun, the Scottish pipers leading the way.

August 1900 William Lloyd of Great Shelford applied for the removal of the licence of the Peacock beerhouse, which had been pulled down, to a house, newly erected, on another site. A fire had taken place in a cottage which adjoined the house with the result that the west end of the beerhouse fell in. But Mr Vinter put in a petition signed by over 30 residents. There are eight licensed houses in the parish and one, the Black Swan was within 33 yards of the new house. Shelford was becoming more a residential place than in former years & if the licence were not granted it would increase the value of the land for residential purposes. But three-fourths of the people who had signed kept their own cellars & not one of the persons who would frequent the house had signed the petition. The licence was granted.

August 1902 Popular Country Drives. The “Alexandra” and “Coronation” char-a-bancs will leave Cambridge Market Hill on Wednesday for Shelford, Newton and Whittlesford; return fare 1s. Thursday special drive to Royston, Friday Haslingfield and Saturday Earith bridge. Special Sunday drive to Whittlesford Bridge pleasure gardens. H. Buck, jobmaster, Crown Inn, Jesus Lane, Cambridge – advert.

Oct 1902 Oliver St John of the Phoenix Brewery, Little Shelford, brewer trading as Saunders and Co applied for discharge from bankruptcy. In 1887 he had started as a brewer in Whittlesford, purchasing the business as a going concern. In 1892 he left, having lost the whole of his capital and became tenant of a brewery at Lt Shelford, borrowing from his brother. In 1892 he gave a bill of sale in favour of his brother for the plant, barrels and effects but next year was pressed by other creditors.

Jan 1903 An inquest was held on the body of a railway locomotive fireman. The engine driver said he was driving a train from Peterborough to London, passing through Shelford. The deceased had fired up at Shepreth Junction. On approaching Shelford bridge he saw deceased standing on the engine side of the tender raking coal towards him. That was the last time he saw him. He looked forward to watch the signals and first missed the fireman when approaching Sawston siding. If he had seen his mate fall he would have stopped at once. The body was found on line near the bridge.

June 1903 The Cambridge Telephone Committee reported that the mass of existing telephone subscribers lie grouped in the centre; the number of existing lines belonging to the National Telephone Company does not exceed 450 in Cambridge and 20 in Shelford. They would provide for 600 lines with poles for 600 more. Wires would be put underground and out of sight. The Council should apply for a licence to work a telephone system of their own with modern instruments.

Nov 1903 Another shooting outrage has occurred when two shots were fired through the bedroom window of a labourer and his wife in London Road, Great Shelford. They looked out of the window and saw a man on a bicycle with another man in a trailer attached. Pistol shot holes were found bored through the windows of the front sitting-room and the impression of a bullet on the wall is observable, but the bullet has not been found. The police have traversed long distances at night on a motor car in their search for the modern Dick Turpin and are keeping watch on places likely to be frequented by wanderers.

1904 Shelford baby body

Aug 1905 Sir – Great Shelford Parish Council have agreed at a meeting where ratepayers were poorly represented to purchase land for a recreation ground at a cost of £600. I believe slips of paper should have been left at every house on which the occupants could have given their vote about adding this extra rate upon the already overburdened ratepayer. The owner of the land was deeply interested in the scheme and would have presented it to the parish if he had been approached – John Rayment.

March 1906 The Red Cow, Landbeach, sold half a barrel and six dozen bottles of beer a week. A share-out club with 65 members met there fortnightly. Within 760 paces there were 47 private houses and four licensed pubs. The British Queen, with better accommodation, was nearby. The population of the village was 413 and allowing for 78 school children, there was a licensed house to every 67 adults. There were cottages at the back which provided facilities for secret drinking, especially as the house stood back 15 yards from the road. But the landlord was a teetotaller who did not encourage this. Also: Carrier’s Cart Shelford, Haunch of Mutton & Plough & Horses Waterbeach, Rose & Crown Willingham, Hare & Hounds Over, Dolphin Stapleford,

June 1906 Fourteen public houses have been closed under the Licensing Act of 1904. They include a beer house at Heath Road Litlington, which sold one barrel a week, including stout, and a gallon of ginger wine. All their beer was made from pure malt and hops and it was a better house than the two nearest to it. There were four fully-licensed houses, four beer houses and one off-licence in the village. The Dolphin at Stapleford had been shut up for six weeks as the former landlord had run away and the village appeared to do well without it. The present tenant was a cycle agent and taxidermist as well, ‘So you stuff people first and put them on wheels afterwards?’

Also Cambridge: Jolly Butchers, Star, Sun; Bassingbourn: Crown; Bottisham: Plough; Comberton: Plough; Fordham: Six Bells, Landbeach: Red Cow; Lt Shelford: Carrier’s Cart; Stapleford: Dolphin; Steeple Morden: beer house; Waterbeach: Haunch of Mutton, Plough and Horses; Willingham: William IV, Rose and Crown.

Sept 1906 Mr A.P. McAlister of Cambridge and Shelford has been granted a patent for a fire grate of an improved type which abolishes the possibility of discomfort. The fire rests on a grating with an ashpan underneath which can be easily lifted out to empty the contents. Laurie & McConnal have been appointed local agents for the grate which has been fitted in many of the larger houses of the town. Nov 16 1906


1906   The Compensation Authority considered claims for premises closed under the Licensing Act. They included a beerhouse at North Brook End, Steeple Morden, The Plough at Comberton, the Red Cow, Landbeach and Carrier’s Cart at Lt Shelford. Potton Brewery said they would lose £275 if the licence of a beerhouse at Heath Road, Litlington was taken away but accepted £240 as compensation. However Benskin’s Watford Brewery refused £251 for the Sun in Newmarket Road, Cambridge. also Stapleford Dolphin, Waterbeach Haunch of Mutton & Plough & Horses, Sawston – Flower Pot, Willingham – King William IV, Bottisham Plough, Soham Queen’s Arms and Old Brewery,  

March 1907 Exciting scenes were witnessed at Shelford where two cottages close by the railway line were gutted. The discovery synchronised with the passing of the G.E.R. express and it is thought a spark from the engine alighted upon the thatched roof. In the absence of any fire appliance helpers concentrated on removing the furniture and every article, with the exception of the iron bedsteads, was carried to a place of safety.

March 1909   The Ortona Motor Bus Company, whose enterprise has proved such a boon in Cambridge and Chesterton, intend to commence a service to Sawston via Trumpington, Shelford and Stapleford. A fine new Maudsley bus has been obtained which will do the full journey in 50 minutes. Parcels as well as passengers will be carried.

Jan 1912   Telephonic communication between the police-station and certain police-officers’ houses was discussed. Some police houses were simply hired in an ordinary manner and they might have to move the telephone when a new policeman came to a village and took a different house to his predecessor. At Shelford the call office was only about 20 yards from the constable’s house, but you couldn’t call him. The Chief Constable said he didn’t want a constable sitting in the house waiting to be called. His business is to be outside, looking after the property in the village. 12 01

Jan 1913       The moon and mud were the most momentous factors in the night military manoeuvres. The searchlight might have played an important part but could not be used at the last moment. But the bright moon meant it was possible to see men half-way across the field they had to cross before attacking the hills between Shelford station and Hills Road where wire entanglements had been prepared and two companies of infantry were waiting. Firing was fast and furious, the big guns and Maxim sounding above the splattering of rifles.

May 1913       Suffragettes attempted to blow up a railway crossing gate at Granhams Road, Shelford. The gatekeeper found a treacle tin with a bootlace through the lid connecting with a long red squib inside. It was surrounded by cotton wool soaked in oil and lumps of charcoal. On the outside was written ‘Votes for Women’. There is little doubt it was a genuine article that could have set fire to the gate had the lighted lace not gone out. It was immersed in a bucket of water.  Rumours said that two strange women had been seen near the site


Nov 1913       An undergraduate told the court that he was a relative of the Khedive of Egypt and living at Shelford with a private tutor. He told his valet to get tickets for the New Theatre. But when refused admission he’d got involved in a struggle with an attendant and fell to the ground. The manager said he’d been drunk and had used bad language. But this was a serious matter from a moral point of view and would affect his career here and in his own country if upheld. He was convicted.


July 1914 Large Eggs.—A hen, the property of Mr. W. Housden (Great. Shelford) has laid some large eggs of late. One last week weighed 4½ ozs. and measured 7 in. round. Another, laid the following day, weighed 32oz- and measured 6½ ins. round.

October 1914 County MoH report on children The dentist of the Stapleford & Sawston clinic said that at Stapleford, where the children were reinspected annually, no teeth were found to be unsaveable. But at Shelford, where work had been interrupted for a year, some children had teeth so decayed as to be beyond saving. This emphasises the importance of annual inspections. Only one treatment was refused at Stapleford where there is no charge, but at Shelford, where payment is sought, treatment was refused for 25 out of 82 children for whom it was advised.


October 1914 Fire. — In the early hours of Wednesday morning a fire broke out at the house occupied by Mr. W. Lane in Chapel Yard, Great Shelford. Considerable damage was done, one side of the kitchen being burnt out. But for the efforts of Mr. Whitechurch and Mr V Brunning the whole block of ten houses would have been razed to the ground. It is supposed that the fire was caused by a beam catching fire in the chimney.


Nov 1914 The Germans had a great network of spies, County Councillors were told. The county should be purged of all spies or people of treasonable actions. The Emergency committees which were being formed should ensure people were not installing secret petrol stores for Zeppelins or watch for partisans with carrier pigeons or wireless apparatus. University Laboratories were doing much undisclosed research involving explosives and chemicals and employed a high proportion of aliens. A man who had watched army evolutions on Parker’s Piece was pursued and arrested by two police constables after an old lady denounced him as a spy. A large number of naturalised German people lived locally but in the zeal to put down espionage an enormous amount of injustice had been done.

People in Shelford and Stapleford are worried about mysterious lights shining on the Gogs and are concerned that there are spies. But Dr Henry Bond says the light came from his house. There is concrete in the foundations and the removal of the house might provide a base from which a German gun could demolish King’s College chapel. He admits he speaks German and has had holidays there. But he is not a spy and honest folk are quite safe. However given the present alarm nobody who has electric light in his house, a bottle of German wine in his cellar, or worse of all (like our Royal Family) German blood in his veins, will be safe. 

Dec 1914 Shelford Man Wounded. — Pte. Robert Dean returned to his home at Great Shelford on Tuesday from the front, being wounded in both legs. His mother had not heard from him for 15 months and did not know he had rejoined his regiment. Pte. Dean was abroad at the outbreak of the war, and returned to England and re-enlisted. He was amongst the Second Division to go to France. His brother. Sgt. Fred Dean, of the A.S.C., was quite well at the time of writing.

Feb 1915       Well-known G.E.R. Stationmaster —It is with deep regret that we record the death of Mr. John Ablitt, the Gt. Eastern Railway stationmaster at Cambridge, which occurred at his residence. Morecambe House, Mill Road, on Thurs­day. The news of his demise will be received with universal regret throughout the whole of the Gt. Eastern system. Mr. Ablitt was in his 58th year. At the age of 21, he was appointed relief Stationmaster in the London district, and when Huntingdon joint railway station was opened, he took up duties there as stationmaster. He was after­wards transferred to Shelford, where he remained for 10 years, proceeding to Hunstanton (two years), St. Ives (two years), and Wisbech (six years) as stationmaster. In 1911 he secured the appointment at Cambridge railway station.

April 1915 Red Cross – no more small convalescent homes to be opened – are waiting at Balsham, Cottenham, Great Shelford & Cambridge; Seven hospitals now open with 158 beds. First Borough Hospital temporarily closed & would reopen at St Chad’s; also one at Linton. A private hospital opened at Cheveley by Lady Savile Crossley. New scheme for large convalescent camps


August 1915 Photos of fallen soldiers G.D. Salmon, Wisbech; G.C. Coote, Foxton; Capt R.E. Sindall, Cambridge; A.J. Coote, Barrington; L. Tuck; L/C Ryder; B. Rolph; S. Trotman; A.D. McPherson; H.H. Bendall; E.C. Colchester, Shelford; R.N. Bendyshe, Barrington; Capt Tebbutt; Hodson; W.J. Blane; E. Freeman; B. Carter, Bourn; Dunnett; - 15 08 06a A.E. Seagrott; E.H. Cawthrop; W.F. Taylor, Lt Shelford; W.Gee, Sawston; A. Davis, T. Kimmence; C.L. Wayman; E. Clarke, Bourn; H.C. Yorke, J.H. Caldecoat, Bourn; F.J. Gipp, Chesterton; N.W. Fielding; O.J. Goddard, Dewey; G. Pamplin, Fen Ditton; J. Wallage; Phillips; C. Richmond, Fulbourn; W.E. Jones; J.J. Mayle; L.J. Naylor; S. Phillips; R.L. Player; C. Butler


August 1920 Photos of scenes and happenings Lady French leaves Tipperary rooms; King visits EGH; war-time degrees, Senate House; Lady Jellicoe’s visit; departure 1st Battalion, station; Red Cross auction sale; V.T.C. men on route march; St David’s day scene; Cambs recruiting party leaving Cambridge; German helmet trophy; wounded soldiers at Waterbeach; Histon Red Cross Hospital ward 15 08 20a Men who have distinguished themselves on battlefield W. Ralph, Bottisham; E.T. Saint; Daldry; O.W. Parkinson; C.E. Morley, Great Shelford; S. Freestone, Sawston; L.A. Austin; F. Potter DCM; F.J. Gatward – 15 08 20b Good work of the VAD Ladies detachment; Men’s detachment - photos – 15 08 20c Cambridge aviator lands in dyke – Lieut Broughton lands in Thuring – photo – 15 08 20d # Q.C.


January 1916 Ald George Stace, Mayor & freemason – profile – 16 01 12a # c.37.1 Large tree snapped off by gale on Christ’s Pieces – photo – 16 01 12b Mount Blow, Great Shelford, VAD Hospital & staff – photo – 16 01 12c # c.21.4 # WH.She.K16 # Y.She.K16 Haydn Inwards, violinist and instructor CUMS – profile – 16 01 12d Bijou amateurs cannot perform due number of men in forces


April 1916 Shelford Damage. — The great blizzard last week did an immense amount of damage in the village of Great Shelford, and neighbourhood. A number of trees were blown down. The drains had been blocked consequently the road in Sunnett’s Lane has been impassable for a considerable distance, and many gardens have also been flooded. In Little Shelford over 100 trees have been laid low. The road from Whittlesford through Little Shelford was blocked by a large elm tree that stood in the garden of King's Farm. It fell across the road, obstructing the traffic. The road between the two bridges was also rendered impassable by trees, the walls and fences being dam¬aged. In Stapleford a number of trees were blown down; one fell on the school house, knocking in the window. A large arm of a tree belonging to Mr. Linton, Stapleford House, fell on the telegraph wires, breaking them through.


August 1916 Another Son Lost. — Mrs. Chap¬man of Shelford, has received news that he son, Pte. A. Chapman (Suffolk Regiment) has been killed in action. This is the second son Mrs. Chapman, has lost during the war, and a third son is reported missing.

September 1916 Wagon Accident.—A serious accident occurred to George Benstead, a (Great Shelford) lad of six years. He was walking beside a wagon in Mr. Wright's field and stumbled and .fell, the wheel passing over his arm, breaking it in three places. He also hurt his ankle, the shoe being torn off his foot. Dr Magoris was called in, and sent the boy to Addenbrooke's Hospital, where he is progressing slowly.


October 1916 Killed in action. — We are pleased to say that our local casualty list is the shortest we have been able to publish for some time past, but regret to have to record the death of Lt. Edward Spearing, son of Mr. James Spearing (of the firm of Messrs. Eaden, Spearing and Raynes. solicitor, Cambridge) and Mrs. Spearing, Troodos, Great Shelford. Great sympathy will be extended to Mr. and Mrs. Spearing in the loss of their only son, who promised in due course to achieve considerable success in local legal circles.

November 1917 Awarded Medal, — Corporal George Gifford, R.G.A., of Great Shelford, has been awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery. A fire broke out in a gun pit which contained large quantities of ammunition, and at great risk, Corporal Gifford entered the pit, and single-handed, extinguished the flames, thus averting what, would have probably been a disastrous explosion


April 1918 Shelford Man’s Heroism. — A tale of great heroism is told of a Shelford man, Gunner George F. Jordan, of the R.F.A. When in hospital last September, suffering from a wound in the eye, he volunteered to give 1½ pints of his blood to save a comrade's life. Gunner Jordan, who is brother to Miss G. Jordan, of The Uplands, Great Shelford, now lies in the l/5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester.


October 1920 Shelford infant welfare centre opened


Feb 1922 Long-felt want supplied in Great Shelford. The hall is a converted army hut built on the public recreation ground. Great Shelford was to be congratulated in that its ex-Servicemen had joined with the Womens Friendly League to build the hall, a result which was eminently satisfactory for the village. If the ex-Service men were prepared to pull together for the places where they lived there was a great future for the county.


20 August 1923 The staff of the Cambridge division of the L. & N.E. railway gathered to show their appreciation on the retirement of Mr Frederick Harradine after nearly half a century. He entered the service in 1875 as a porter at Cambridge station and two years later became a single line pilot on the old Newmarket line. In 1880 he went to Shelford as a signalman and later transferred to Ely. Returning to Cambridge he was made a divisional inspector. One of his duties was to be in attendance after any serious mishap. He was the best known railwaymen in the division, if not on the railway.

October 1923 Sir, - May I draw your attention to three great points of danger in Great Shelford? One is by the war memorial, the other at Pumfreys corner and Little Shelford. To a newcomer the speed of some of the cars is most alarming. On Monday my daughter's Alsatian puppy was knocked down by a car going at great speed. I hear there were some women in the car, but can only suppose they were the thoughtless present-day variety without thought or feeling for anyone, or they would have asked the driver to stop. During the short time we have been here another dog has been killed and two men knocked down opposite the war memorial - E.S. Adutt

January 1927 H.L. Hughes spoke on how town planning could be improved. The last 100 years have seen an enormous increase in population and as a result town planning if not a problem for the future but more for the immediate present. The traffic, the sewers, the gas or electricity all have to be thought of. There are roads from the foot of the Gogs to Shelford and Stapleford which only contain one or two houses along them. Buses may pass the door but one has to go miles for a doctor, a church or a school. In a few years’ time people will not live in such places and these houses will be left to fall down and spoil the approach to the town.

June 1927 An inspection of the River Rhee from Guilden Morden to Cambridge showed banks were much overgrown and a number of trees had fallen into the stream. There was only one foot of water in the river in places. There are two mills in use, at Guilden Morden and Grantchester. One at Harston had not been used for a year and at Barrington no work had been possible for some years and the channel was blocked up. The river at Shelford was in a most dilapidated state.

Jan 1928 The General Election has been one of the keenest on record and it is with a feeling of relief that one realises the struggle is over. A number of election hoaxes have been perpetrated: rumours were circulated that a conflict had taken place between police and crowds at Cambridge and that the Riot Act had been read at St Ives. At Great Shelford a false result was announced before the counting was even finished. The whole village was taken in and rejoicings on quite an extensive scale were started.

March 1929 A disastrous fire occurred the Hall, Little Shelford in the early hours of Sunday morning with the result that the building was almost completely gutted. It was discovered by Madam Carne, the governess who with the butler and the maid were immediately above the fire. Captain and Mrs Gordon Dill removed their children to safety in the Lodge. While waiting for the fire brigade, which was delayed owing to the terribly thick fog, the occupants attempted to subdue the outbreak, then confined to the pantry, with buckets of water. But the heat melted a lead pipe and the cistern emptied so water had to be fetched from a cottage about 30 yards away. The building is 71 years old being erected in the grounds of the old Hall which was pulled down in 1858.

Oct 1931        An Inquiry opened into plans to expand Cambridge’s boundaries. It was the centre for education, shopping and amusement for adjacent villages where people were still dependent on cesspools: these would be provided with a sewerage system. Less than 500 acres were available for building because of the attitude of certain colleges, but it was undesirable that Cambridge should be filled up as if it were a manufacturing town. Most of the new houses in Shelford and Trumpington were of the working-class type.


July 1932 Tobacco-growing in this country has been crushed by absurd laws but pipe and cigarette tobacco could be grown on Cambridgeshire allotments – Shelford alone could produce many tons of cured leaf. It could be a more profitable industry than sugar beet with a factory in Cambridge providing employment. Mr J. Burn-Murdoch will show samples of his home-grown tobacco at Shelford Horticultural Show together with specimens of cigarettes manufactured in England.

May 1933 Royal horse trainer, Richard Marsh, dies at Shelford

July 1933 early moving pictures Arthur Melbourne-Cooper was the builder of St Alban’s first cinema, a photographer and film-maker who was also a stunt man and acting coach. Having trained in his father’s photographic business he became cameraman to Birt Acres, a scientist who in 1892 was experimenting with ‘moving projection figures’. Arthur made short films which were presented by the showmen who travelled Hertfordshire showgrounds then set up a company and filmed extensively. Spectators often tried to disrupt proceedings and a crowd of undergraduates attacked his cast and camera crew when filming in Cambridge. He retired to Little Shelford .

Dec 1935 Mr William Macintosh, a member of the Cambridge firm of ironmongers, died following an accident at Granham’s crossing. The express train stopped in Shelford station for five minutes after the accident. In another incident a passenger train from Peterborough to Cambridge was delayed when it ran through the gates at Dimmock’s Crossing near Stretham and smashed them. Fortunately no passenger of member of the train crew was injured. The debris was cleared quickly enough not to affect the other trains on the line.

Jan 1936 Proposals to establish a greyhound racing track at Caxton or any part of the rural district could injure the amenities of the area, councillors decided. But Mr Pease said there was already a track at Teversham and if the residents of Histon rose up and said they wanted a track to make life more interesting there, they should not object to it. The conversion of The Elms, Great Shelford, into a country club was also opposed as the land was zoned for eight houses per acre

For Great Shelford historical stories after 1935 click here.


Great Shelford historical stories and newspaper cuttings courtesy of the Mike Petty archive 

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