Memories from former Fenstanton residents

Mrs Elizabeth Hodgson of The Orchard, Fen Drayton grew up in Fenstanton and recalled a couple informally christened “the parcel people” who visited the village when she was a child

“When I was about 10, in 1966, some strange people arrived in Fenstanton an old man and a woman.

“They sat on the roadside, and had lots of parcels wrapped in newspapers. My friends and I got talking to them, and they said they were travelling around the country, carrying a lot of their belongings with them.

“They said they had a big house and nice car, but were seeing what it was like to be without them. They caused a great deal of interest in the village, especially among the schoolchildren who found them fascinating.

“I always remember once when we were talking to them seeing earwigs crawling down the man’s tatty trousers, though he took no notice.

‘They disappeared one day, and we later heard that they had been arrested, and that when the police undid all the parcels they were carrying they contained mostly stones. We were quite sad, because we had all found them interesting people.”

Mrs Sylvia Goodliff of Pinfold Lane, Godmanchester-was also a former Fenstanton resident, her parents — Mr and Mrs Boreham — keeping the shop adjoining The George pub from 1947 to 1960.

“Prior to us Mr Makeham had the shop, and also I believe his father before him. They used to deliver groceries in a horse-drawn vehicle, there was a stable at the back of the premises.”

Her parents ran a cafe for a time also, and Mrs Goodliff remembers going to the baker to buy rolls for the cafe from Mr Jack Gifford, father of the present baker.

Mr J Douglas Casburn of Somersham High Street has memories of Fenstanton stretching back many years.

As a boy in the 1920’s he used to visit the village with his grandparents.

“My grandfather, William Ellis, came to visit Bill Emmerson, because they both were beekeepers — this was half their income then.”
Some years later he helped when his father, J Harold Casburn, a small jobbing builder, was employed to build a nursery for Mr William Chillery “who had a few green¬houses near the church, I believe at Fen End.

“We built a large three span greenhouse and a bungalow in a field on the right down the lane, in¬cluding digging the wells to supply the water to the greenhouses”

“Bill Chillery used to deliver tomatoes in a new lorry, in which he and I used to go to Warboys brick¬works to collect the bricks for the building works — they were about 30/- (£1.50) per thousand.”

Another correspondent was Mrs Dora Tack, of Cherry Tree Way, Fenstanton who worked at two of the places featured in the article — the Fenstanton dairy and later Oaklands.

She was at the dairy for 10 years, when Mr Kenneth Archer was manager. “I worked in the dairy office with Roy Watchman, at¬tending to the tickets for wholesale cream, which I took to Harry Hart on “the dock”, for him to prepare the orders ready for the lorry drivers to load up and deliver.”

At that time, she says, cream was put into cartons and tins by hand, by Harry Hart and Vera Bailey, and Christmas 1964 was especially hectic — so much so that Vera got “tippers elbow” after filling so many cartons with her large jug!

Being as she says “something of a dabbler in da-di-da-di verse” Mrs Tack commemorated the occasion in a poem “White Christmas”.

Here are two of the verses:
The boxes stand in dozens
And orders are coming through.
There’s been hours of label stringing
And of rubber-stamping too.
The crystal ball’s been gazed in
And we hope we’ve got enough.
We’re ready — well we hope we are
For the next days will be rough.
And now we’re in the thick of it,
It’s “All hands to the task”.

“How often will they change their minds?”
This question oft we ask!
You may recall that long ago
Bing sang of his Christmas dream,
We know now what that
‘whiteness” was …
Yes! Our white Christmas cream!

After the dairy Mrs Tack moved to Oaklands, to be¬come secretary to the Manager of ‘Transmotels”. “The owners were the firm of Edarn at Harston — I think they owned building machinery, JCBs etc and were also ‘into’ building.

“Part of my job was to collect cash from the cafe, and from the sale of petrol from one pump on the transport cafe forecourt.”

Living in the Lodge Cottage then were Mr and Mrs Hargreaves. Mrs Hargreaves had been employed at Oak- lands when it was a private house, and had many stories of days gone by. “When fountains played and people walked round the shrubbery walk and fairy lights twinkled and reflected in the pools.”

“Mrs Hargreaves told me there were extensive cellars below the room in which I worked. These were now unused, but were full of old china removed from the various rooms when they were converted into bed¬sitters and flatlets.

“As you say, the stables were converted to take several beds, upstairs and down, for lorry drivers. Mrs Hargreaves kept the bed¬clothes clean and changed, and Mr Hargreaves — who worked I think, at Angoods shop in St Ives Market Square — cut the grass and gardened whenever he had some spare time. Both of them loved the place, and were sad to see it reduced to a cafe-cum-petrol station and bed and breakfast ‘drop-in’.”

When it became obvious that the business was going to close Mrs Tack looked for and found another job, but she remembers the demolition of the house and the fire.

“I also remember being told that the cellars were just filled with rubble and covered in — I often wonder if the occupants of the new houses built on the land have dug up any of the old china I’d been told was in them.”

In earlier days she remembered watching the squirrels who lived in the garden of Oaklands. “The picture used in the paper showed the back of the house, and I many times stood at one of the lower windows to watch whole families of squirrels streaking across the lawns and chasing each other. I heard later that the poor creatures ran wildly about when many of the old trees were cut down.

“It was such a very sad end for an elegant house.”