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We look back in the Fenland newspaper archives


Through the efforts of Mike Petty, we trace some of the news and features dating back to the 19th century.

You can keep up to date with his research through his Fenland History group on Facebook.

Wilburton Wine d’Etheldreda – Fen Times September 25, 1974

Wine from an Isle of Ely vineyard in Wilburton could go on sale for the first time in the spring. The harvest will take place in four weeks.

“The harvest is ripening very well right now,” said Norman Sneesby, who works the vineyard with his family.


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It is planned to sell the wine under the name of St Etheldreda. She was the founder of the Ely monastery church whose monks produced wine in medieval times

Rooster Flight to Isleham – Fen Times September 25, 1908

Robert Taylor of Isleham, laborer said he lived at the Cock Inn, Isleham Bank with his stepfather.

He shared a room with the prisoner who had been staying in the house for a month and working in the harvest.

On Sunday, he had four books in his possession. He put the money in a box in the bedroom.

He missed the money on Monday after the prisoner left

Police Sergeant Day arrested the prisoner at Prickwillow.

He searched it and found the money. The prisoner said, “You will have to return this money to me. You cannot swear on the money, it is not marked ”.

The officer noticed that he had new trousers which he had bought from Mr. Edwards’ shop in Prickwillow for four shillings and six pence, as well as a shirt.

He was remanded in custody.

Whittlesey Brickworks – Ely Standard of September 26, 1924


Whittlesey Brick Making
– Credit: Archant

Bricks made in Whittlesey go into homes, factories and public buildings across the UK and beyond.

The industry provides stable employment for about 700 of the male population of the city and district.

The total average weekly production is 2,800,000 bricks, but this is well below what is required by current demand and the yards are operating at full pressure.

The process begins in the knot holes – large clay pits about 80 or 90 feet deep, where the clay is cut into the surface of the vein.

Perched at dizzying heights, Knothole Men perform this work, which in brickyard parlance is known as a “dam.”

The loosened clay is transported in railcars to the surface on specially laid narrow gauge lines where it is crushed in pots.

After passing through elevators and a sieving process, the clay is returned to the bins. Chutes and hoppers then transport it to the presses where it is cut into shape and from there the green bricks are conveyed to the ovens to be burned there.

These vast structures are divided into rooms, some of which have a storage capacity of 22,000 bricks. The number of chambers in an oven varies from eight to eighteen in the different courtyards.

Once the oven is set comes the long combustion process which usually takes about three weeks; the lights are kept on continuously.

When the bricks are burnt, they are taken out of the kiln and are quickly ready to be loaded and shipped to their destinations.

Ely’s New Red, White and Blue – Fen Times September 23, 1965


New pub, the Red, White and Blue, Ely

New pub, the Red, White and Blue, Ely
– Credit: Mike Petty

The new building, replacing the old red, white and blue, is a new pub design with a practical service layout compared to the dimly lit small rooms of the old pub.

The exterior reflects the forward trend in design and lettering of the new homes of the Watney Mann Group with the due importance of ample parking to accommodate all guest cars.

The old Red, White and Blue will give way to gardens and lawns, designed to allow the family to relax, the man and woman to cool off in peace while the children play safely away from traffic and parking.

The interior features two well-appointed and comfortable bars where guests can enjoy Stewart and Patters

Ely’s Impresario – Fen Times September 25, 1931


Impresario Jack Hulbert

Impresario Jack Hulbert
– Credit: Mike Petty

Jack Hulbert the brilliant actor, playwright, manager and producer was born in Ely in 1892.

He was educated at Westminster School and King’s College, Cambridge, where he first showed signs of his flair for the theater.

Jack has appeared in concerts and productions for various college drama clubs, including the Footlights Club, for which he has appeared three times in their annual May week productions at the New Theater.

He later married the daughter of his director and participated in several other plays.

In 1934, he went into management on his own. With his brother Claude Hulbert, he aired half a dozen times.

Dodge Beet Trucks – Fen Times September 23, 1938


Dodge Truck Ad

Dodge Truck Ad
– Credit: Archant

Harvest your sugar beets and secure your profits with reliable Dodge trucks.

How much of your harvest goes to pay for its transport? Too much? So here is the answer to your problems. The Dodge truck.

The range incorporates many enhancements that mean larger loads are transported faster, safer and more reliably than ever before.

They include a small turning radius, hydraulic brakes and the famous Dodge Balanced Load Distribution which allows for easier loading and greater safety at higher speeds. 38 09

Soham Downfields Windmill struck by lightning – Fen Times September 24, 1937


Downfield Mill 1930

Downfield Mill 1930
– Credit: Mike Petty

The Old Downfield Timber Mill, one of Soham’s oldest landmarks, was struck by lightning causing extensive damage to the structure and mechanism of the grinding apparatus.

The unstable weather was suddenly interrupted by a terrible accident resembling a violent explosion that rocked many houses nearby, waking many late sleepers from their beds.

It is fortunate that this happened on a Sunday, as fatalities would have occurred on any other day, when work is in progress.

Chatteris Chamels Chaos- Fen Times September 23, 1887

A band of elephants and camels passed through Chatteris in connection with the Sanger Circus.

They gave such a shock to the nervous system of the horse belonging to Mr. Thomas Triplow that the animal swerved and backed up the cart against Mr. Darnell’s private window.

He smashed some windows, smashing the sashes.

Littleport young ‘curled up in dark places’ – Fen Times September 24, 1937

A discussion of the suggestion that there should be a Sunday night movie screening for charity led to strong views being expressed regarding the moral well-being of the youth of Littleport.

Mr Warren spoke of young couples who had nowhere to go after church and religious services.

They found themselves huddled in dark places, dark roads and “blocked doors” as facilities were not provided to allow them to sit comfortably in each other’s company. ”

Mr. Hunt, director of the Regal Cinema, would organize a movie screening on a Sunday evening.

“If we decline this offer, we can’t really say, we are their guardians, we more or less tolerate adultery,” he said.

New March Pump – Fen Times September 24, 1937

A new pumping station in West Fen March to drain the March 4 drainage district.

The floods of last March put a strain on the old engine, and the condition of the boiler made it imperative that something be done to deal with anything approaching a repeat of the flood earlier this year.

Engineers were busy installing the new engine and it was tested; a 4 to 5 inch difference was made in the level of the main drain within minutes.

The area from which the motor drains water into the Nene includes 6,000 acres and 15 miles of drain.

The new engine produced by Farrow and Sons is a six-cylinder paraffin wax capable of discharging 58 tonnes of water per minute. It can be quite easily started and operated by one man

Wisbech Tragedy – Fen Times September 22, 1979


1979 Harrier crash

1979 Harrier crash
– Credit: Wisbech Standard

Stunned and exhausted, the mayor of Wisbech spoke of the appalling tragedy that shook his city. Earl Bob Lake was one of the first at the scene of the disaster.

An RAF Harrier jump jet completely destroyed two houses and a bungalow in a mid-air collision.

“I just ran for the smoke as fast as I could. When I got to Ramnoth Road my heart stopped, ”he said. “I was informed that there was a man and a child trapped so I started tearing up the rubble.

“The remains of the three buildings were on fire and gas filled the air. The three people who died were a former mayor of Wisbech, a 40-year-old man and his 2.5-year-old son.


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