Posts Tagged ‘Huntingdon’

An Unusual Job For A Woman

Three Sheets to The Wind is the latest collection of stories and poems from the renowned u3a writing group Whittlesey Wordsmiths of which I am immensely proud to be a member

Three Sheets to the Wind by Whittlesey Wordsmiths

I promised to put a longer version of my story that featured on Marsha Ingrao’s blog after the book, Three Sheets to the Wind was published An Unusual Job for a Woman is one of the stories in this collection.

Here is the full version of the story that appeared earlier as “Not a Proper Job.”

An Unusual Job for a Woman.

Philip Cumberland

The guided bus was an unusual getaway vehicle, but it had served her well in the past.

“It’s their vanity that makes them vulnerable,” she thought.

She had been glad to get out of her waitress uniform and into something less conspicuous. What politician full of their own importance could refuse an honorary doctorate from one of the world’s leading universities?

“More wine Mr Ambulant? Yes, the glass is a bit dirty. I will fetch you a clean one. It was the Chardonnay, wasn’t it?”

Fortunately, she was in the kitchen when he collapsed, nowhere near him. When they all rushed to see what was happening, she was in the ladies, changing into jeans and a tee shirt. Then nipping out through the Masters’ Garden… a bit naughty really, but not as naughty as poisoning someone.

Thank goodness for the tourists. It was easy to get swallowed up by the crowds. The bus was waiting in its bay when she arrived at Drummer Street. Some of those academics can be a bit handy when a girl is carrying a tray of drinks while wearing a fairly short skirt; the women were the worst. She wondered if she had been missed yet. The Park and Ride is very useful; you can park for free at St Ives, get into the middle of Cambridge then back to pick your car up. The luggage lockers are useful too. The Jiffy bag was waiting for her; Sheila would count its contents later. No doubt the next job was in there too.

The policemen standing waiting by her car were a surprise. She noticed them as she closed the locker door – always sensible to park near the bus shelter. Fortunately, the bus was still waiting to move off. She climbed back on, flashed her day rider ticket at the driver, and then found a seat next to the emergency exit.

As she left the bus at Huntingdon, she thought it was always good to have a plan B. The elderly Renault Clio was inconspicuous and could be left anywhere without arousing suspicion if there weren’t yellow lines or parking restrictions.

She drove to her cottage in Wistow. It wasn’t her main address, but somewhere out of the way when life got complicated. After opening the Chardonnay with a wry smile on her face and pouring herself a glass she reached for the Jiffy bag. Inside were a few hundred in twenties and tens for expenses. The lottery ticket was there too.

The photograph of her next target was a bit of a surprise. He was nasty enough but well connected; he must have really upset someone, Sheila thought. Then she remembered a story – well, a rumour of a story circulating – that would explain it.No matter how big a bully you are, there is always someone bigger and nastier.

Right, London on Monday to claim her lottery prize and perhaps a call to Grandmother.

The Sunday papers headlined Ambulant’s sudden death; a heart attack was the suspected cause. Hopefully, the college had secured his endowment before his demise.

Sunday passed quietly, and it was the eleven-thirty train from Huntingdon that delivered Sheila to Kings Cross. The newsagent’s shop was small, scruffy and inconspicuous, located on an anonymous side street.

The newsagent, certainly the man behind the counter, was elderly, bald and stooped. His nicotine-stained fingers suggested that a few years ago, a cigarette would have been permanently between his lips. He took Sheila’s blank lottery ticket and took it into a back room. Returning after a few minutes he inserted it into the lottery machine. The tune from the machine announced it was a winner.

“Congratulations, young lady; five numbers and the bonus ball, £180,000 and 3p. You will have to contact Camelot; keep your ticket safe.”

Sheila called Camelot’s special number using her mobile phone, identified herself, scanned the QR code and arranged the transfer of the winnings to her bank in Switzerland. She had left the newsagents with a copy of the Times and then found a call box.

The call was answered on the third ring by a quavery elderly male voice.

“Hello, who is it?”

“Mr Wolf?”

“Yes.”The voice immediately changed to something younger, no longer quavery.

“It’s Little Red Riding Hood. Can I speak to Grandmother please?”

“Grandmother’s familiar voice was calm as usual.”

“Hello, my dear. What can I do for you?”

“I am a little concerned about my next job.”

“He has got a history of heart problems. You are an attractive young lady and very clever.”

“Two policemen were waiting by my car at St Ives after Mr Ambulant died.”

“You should have a list of your next target’s engagements in your pack. You need to be very careful about how you manage things.”

“I am a little concerned about how quickly the police were onto my car.”

“The payment for the next job will be a lot higher, a million from the Euromillions draw. There is less interest in those winners.”

“Who else knows about me and the next target?”

“Just Mr Wolf, the Woodcutter and myself.”

“What about the Witch?”

“She’s dead.”

“Okay then, I will do it, but won’t notify you first. Once I have done the job I will phone you.”

“That’s absolutely fine, my dear. We know you well enough by now.”

Sheila ended her call and went shopping, mainly in charity shops, although she didn’t need new clothes, but the right clothes for the job.

A slightly plump middle-aged woman booked a room at a small hotel near Holborn underground station. She had booked for a week in the name of Mrs June Gordon and produced her driving licence with an address in Stamford as proof of identification. Her clothes were of good quality but not fashionable: sensible suits and skirts.

Sheila’s target was a man of habit. He jogged in Green Park most mornings, usually at seven. His list of engagements included lunch with the prime minister, theatre visits, and talks with dignitaries.

Sir John Grantly-Crouch prided himself on his physical fitness, and his run in Green Park, close to his house, was part of his daily routine. It was the second day in a row that the middle-aged lady wobbled by on a Santander hire bicycle, wishing him good morning. A bit unusual for a woman to cycle in a tweed skirt, he thought, but that was all. He jogged on, turned a corner, and saw that she appeared to have fallen off her bike. He extended his hand and helped her up, holding her gloved hand to do so.

She thanked him profusely, remounted her cycle and rode off.

Sir John Grantly-Crouch never finished his run. A few minutes later, he suffered a heart attack, collapsed and died.

The middle-aged lady parked the hired cycle at the docking station near the toilets and Green Park underground station. She peeled off her gloves and put them on the ground beside her. After taking her capacious leather handbag from the bicycle’s front basket, she opened it and put on a pair of surgical rubber gloves before opening a plastic bin liner. The leather gloves were placed in the bag; a pack of antibacterial wipes was used to clean the handlebars, saddle and frame. She didn’t want innocent victims.

The used wipes and surgical gloves went into the bin bag too. The partially filled bin bag was sealed, placed inside another, and both went back into the capacious handbag.

Sheila found a call box and spoke to Grandmother.

“Sir John Grantly-Crouch collapsed and died in Green Park this morning whilst out for his run. The cause of death will be a heart attack.”

“Thank you, Little Red Riding Hood. Your lottery ticket will be sent to you.”

“I have already bought it. Here is the number; have you got a pen to hand?”Sheila read the number from her ticket.

“That’s not the way it works, Little Red Riding Hood.”

“It is this time. I have plenty of the substance left, Grandmother. Or should I say, Joan? I know where you all live, so no monkey business.”

“There will be none, I assure you.”

The tube was busy with the morning commute. Kings Cross was crowded and they weren’t looking for a middle-aged lady or the older woman who left the train at St Neots.

Three Sheets to the Wind is available to buy on Amazon

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner a review.

Missing Presumed by Susie Steiner

I can’t think of a single occasion when I have visited a book event at Huntingdon’s Commemoration Hall and left empty handed.

The Book Bank and similar book related events are hosted by Niche Comics and Books of Huntingdon, it was at a recent event that I came away with “Missing, Presumed”, written by Susie Steiner.

Angela Mackey, of said Niche Comics told me that the book was set in Huntingdon.

I bore my purchase home and have now finally got around to reading it.

I think knowing the area identifying the streets and places adds a little more to the story, it does for me and I have had similar comments from those readers familiar with Cambridge about my book.

Susie Steiner’s story is of a young woman, whose disappearance, is discovered by her boyfriend. An open door a trail of blood, her clothing and mobile phone left behind in their house, prompts fears for her safety. DS Mannon Bradshaw, DI Harriet Harper and their team struggle to make headway in the search for famous surgeon Sir. Ian Hinds’, daughter Edith.

This is a fascinating story, the plot moves in different directions as new threads are woven into its fabric.

All the time the team are coping with their own problems, within their relationships and families.

 A tale of secrets, fragile lives, deception and families under stress, the end is unexpected and satisfying.

Susie Steiner

I learned from Angela that Susie Steiner was no longer with us having died of brain cancer in July 2022 at the tragically young age of 51.

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah, a review.

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

I am grateful to Niche Comics and Book Shop of Huntingdon, in particular to Angela Mackey of the said establishment. Angela regularly organises events in Huntingdon bringing many well-known authors into the town’s Commemoration Hall to discuss their writing and books. The only problem it gives me is trying to sneak the books into our house which I buy at these events without my wife noticing, she thinks that we have far too many books already.

A while back I was at an event where two authors, Alison Bruce and Sophie Hannah; were in discussion with a gentleman whose name escapes me (I’m sorry I should have been taking notes.)

I am familiar with Alison’s work and a great fan, Sophie Hannah was a name I recognised but hadn’t read anything of hers. I enjoyed the evening and came away with a copy of Sophie Hannah’s Monogram Murders; I have copies of all Alison’s novels.

It is a long while since I have read any of Agatha Christie’s books and I must admit I am not a huge fan of hers, so I hesitated and prevaricated about starting to read Ms Hannah’s take on Agatha Christie’s famous Belgium detective.

The story starts when Poirot’s supper is disturbed by a distraught young woman entering the café where he is dining. She is convinced that she is soon be murdered.

Three murders take place at the Bloxham Hotel in London on that very same night. The victim’s bodies are found in separate rooms on different floors. Hercule Poirot assists Catchpool a Scotland Yard detective, who lives at the same lodgings as Poirot; investigate the murders. Before very long Poirot is in charge of the case with Catchpool, the narrator trying to keep up with Poirot’s thought processes.

The plot is engaging; constantly twisting and turning, to wrong-foot the reader.

I prefer Sophie Hannah’s version of a Poirot mystery to any I have read penned by Agatha Christie; I shall read more of Sophie’s books.

A bit of Public Speaking

Me with my book, Killing Time in Cambridge with the Grasshopper Chronophage at Corpus Christi College Cambridge
Me with my book, Killing Time in Cambridge with the Grasshopper Chronophage at Corpus Christi College Cambridge

I was given the opportunity to talk about writing and my novel twice during this last week. On Tuesday I was invited to speak at a local Women’s Institute meeting and on Thursday at The August Book Bank event at Huntingdon’s Commemoration Hall.

I haven’t spoken in public for a very long time and then it was only once. I can’t even remember what the talk was about.

It was very kind of both the Whittlesey Women’s Institute (W I) and Niche Comics and Books in Huntingdon to invite me.

I was able to tell the attentive W I audience about the tremendous help and collaborative effort of the u3a Whittlesey Wordsmiths, to which I belong. The group encourages its members to write, help hone their skills and see their work in print and published. It is the mutual support and collaboration that has helped all of us within the group to succeed, including me.

The W I audience was engaging and their questions were interesting.

Best-selling author Emma Rous with her first novel The Au Pair

At, Huntingdon I was invited to give a short talk to an audience which included the best-selling author Emma Rous, about my book Killing Time in Cambridge. I was invited to read a well-received short extract. After other members of the audience shared experiences of their recent reading the local best-selling author, Emma Rous spoke to us about her writing. She spoke about the decision to give up her profession as a vet to pursue her writing career. By coincidence we both worked at Ramsey, Emma leaving her job as a vet and me retiring in the same year.

It was an interesting talk, Emma gave us insights into the world of professional publishing, explaining the methods and processes of a major publishing house. The changes in titles and cover designs to suit different markets and countries were an eye-opener. The examples on display were remarkable both in variety and concept. The thinking behind the different designs was prompted by serious market research and knowledge of different markets. She also mentioned the willingness of other authors to help and support one another, something even with my limited experience I have found to be the case.

When I spoke to Emma afterwards she told me she enjoyed the piece from my book that I had read aloud to the audience.

We share a love of the Fen country, in particular the skies.

I enjoyed both meetings, particularly the supportive interaction from both audiences.

Thank you Whittlesey Women’s Institute and Niche Books and Comics for the opportunity to share my story.

At the Commemoration Hall with Emma Rous

To read more about Emma Rous visit: http://www.emmarous.com/

For Niche Comics and Books, bookshop visit: http://www.nichecomics.co.uk

Alison Bruce at Huntingdonshire History Festival

Alison Bruce at Huntingdonshire History Festival

I try to visit Huntingdonshire History Festival every year attending events that interest me. The month-long festival hosts a number of diverse and interesting events.

Alison Bruce’s talk, “Forensics and Stopping People getting away with Murder”, was hosted and organised by Niche Comics and Books, Huntingdon’s very own unique, independent book shop.

Alison shared her extensive knowledge of forensics and criminology with a spellbound and engaged audience, explaining how advances in forensic science had helped to capture criminals who could without the availability of these techniques have evaded capture. She gave real-life examples of how these advances had helped solve actual cases and the use made of IT by law enforcement agencies to thwart criminals.

Alison believes it is the lack of resources available to the law enforcement agencies which is the biggest obstacle to increasing prosecution rates, not the lack of tools. She also touched on the lack of literacy amongst the prison population believing that it together with poverty is a prime cause of crime.

Alison Bruce is a favourite author of mine; I own copies of just about all her books. She takes her crime writing craft very seriously, her latest degree is in Criminology. Alison lectures at the Anglian Ruskin University, in Cambridge, amongst other things training the police.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a one-day writing course hosted by Alison at Ramsey, it was organised by Ramsey u3a. It proved to be a very useful day and I learned a lot.

This was an interesting, informative evening with a terrific author and wonderful lady.

Alison with a scruffy old man

I am looking forward to reading her next book promised for 2023.

Alison Bruce

Niche Comics and Books

Huntingdonshire History Festival

The new bike basket.

The new basket but old bike

I have an ancient Pashley Delibike, similar to the one Granville used in the Open All Hours, television comedy programme; someone once asked me what was I doing with Granville’s bike?

The bike is used primarily for my Sunday Paper rounds but also for litter picking excursions with Whittlesey Sreet Pride and occasional shopping trips.

The large wicker basket used for carrying my papers and other goods finally succumbed to the ravages of time and the base parted company with the sides. I managed a temporary repair by cutting a piece of plywood and fixing it to the frame below the basket’s base while I searched for a replacement.

It had seen better days

I tried local cycle shops, without success, Huntingdon’s Blind Shop used to sell baskets when I was a lad but they no longer do. Finally, I tried the internet. Initial searches found basket makers well out of my area and although the price for the basket was reasonable, when carriage costs were added, things started to mount up.

Eventually, I found a fairly local basket maker, Sue Kirk, based in Kings Cliffe, near to both Oundle and Stamford.

A really great improvement

After an exchange of emails with photographs and dimensions, we agreed on a price and time scale.

Kings Cliffe is a picturesque village of stone houses and in places narrow streets.

The Old Brewery Studios is on Wood Street and itself is an old stone building

of character.

I dropped the bike off in my van and left it to Sue to sort out. Two weeks later I was able to collect my bike with its new basket.

The quality is excellent and the price was very reasonable. However, the new basket puts the rest of the bike to shame, I will have to set to and bring the bike up to the same standard as the basket.

It is great to see traditional crafts still being carried on and to find such outstanding craftspeople, if you are in the market for a willow basket of any kind Sue’s studio is well worth a visit.

Sue Kirk – Willow Baskets (suekirkwillowbaskets.co.uk)

I wrote an earlier post about delivering papers and my bike.

https://fenlandphil.com/?s=Delivering+the+news

The Authorised Guide to Grunty Fen (Gateway to the East) by Christopher South. A review.

The Authorised Guide to Grunty Fen by Christopher South

I was at Niche Comics Bookshop in Huntingdon a few weeks ago delivering copies of my books, when my gaze fell on The Authorised Guide to Grunty Fen by Christopher South.

Dennis of Grunty Fen was a celebrated resident of this unusual place and appeared weekly in conversation with Christopher South on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. When I managed to listen to them I was usually reduced to uncontrollable laughter, accounts of Hereward the Wake and his racing punt, the undiscovered vaults beneath Ely Cathedral are just two of the incidents discussed by Dennis and Christopher. There is many, many, many, more each one a gem.

This book gives an account of the area its architecture and inhabitants, it is a long time since I laughed so much that the tears rolled down my face. The Grunty Fen in this book has only mild exaggerations of some of the buildings in the fens. Rusting corrugated iron, railway sleepers together with leaning buildings of all shapes and sizes are not uncommon. The book contains many excellent drawings by John Holder enhancing visually the pictures so eloquently painted in words by the author.

Day to day life in this remote area of the fens is described in detail. For example, the importance of rhubarb both as a staple part of the diet and a means of communication is carefully described as are local competitive sports, Drain Rodding as a sport is unique to the area.

Sadly Dennis, Pete Sayers, is no longer with us but his spirit lives on I am grateful for the pleasure he and Mr South gave me. Even now there are pilgrims asking directions to Grunty Fen from the surrounding villages in search if not of Dennis but Potts Garage, Mrs Edwards at the Post Office, The Wolseley Hen Coop Car and of course Dennis’s home the LNER carriage. Visitors are advised to be wary of Feral Nuns on Vespas.

This book is a wonderful reminder of Sunday mornings on Radio Cambridgeshire, the world is a poorer place without Dennis and the community of Grunty Fen.

There is actually a place called Grunty Fen
This was Grunty Fen in 1648 before much of the fens was drained

To learn more about Grunty Fen and its most celebrated resident, Dennis visit: https://www.dennisofgruntyfen.co.uk/

To find out more about the wonderful bookshop that is Niche Comics Bookshop, visit: https://huntsbooks.co.uk/

The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne, a review.

The Red House Mystery

The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne

I was surprised to learn that as well as writing Winnie The Pooh, A. A. Milne had also written an adult novel, The Red House Mystery, apparently his third I learned later.

Curious I decided to track down a copy, by mere chance I found a copy in a charity shop in Huntingdon. This particular edition was a paperback “A Rediscovered Classic” issued by The Times. The Red House Mystery was written before the Winnie The Pooh books, A. A. Milne’s more well known works.

It is an interesting book, undoubtedly, of its time, a time when the lives of ordinary people were, of no consequence. In this book like it seems so many others, murders took place in large country houses, inhabited mainly by the great, the respectable and the good. The fact that the great, the respectable and the good numbered among them the murderers doesn’t seem to be the contradiction it ought to be, perhaps just a better class of villain. The Red House Mystery  is not badly written but for me lacks pace. The plot is dependent on the unlikely as much as the probable. I had difficulty in finding the enthusiasm to continue reading and was able to put it down for long periods of time sometimes for days. It was a shame it wasn’t a better book, it could have been, should have been.

On a side note in a book that is nearly a hundred years old and reissued it should have been possible for someone competent to proof read it and remove the typos.

 

The Gaspipe Cavalry

Have you heard of the Gaspipe Cavalry?

This nickname was given to The Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalions, (The Hunt’s Cyclists) a military unit raised within the county of Huntingdonshire.

As part of the Huntingdonshire History Festival Mr Martyn Smith, webmaster of http://huntscycles.co.uk/ gave a talk at the George Hotel in Huntingdon on the 26 of July.

His talk about the Hunts Cyclist Battalion was interesting and informative. Several of the audience had ancestors or other relatives who had served in our local unit. Many men then moved on to regiments of the line to fight in France or overseas. The Hunts Cyclist battalion was only allowed to deploy in the British Isles under the army regulations of the time.

Hunts Cyclists A Company Filey 1914

A photograph of A Company Hunts Cyclists at Filey in 1914

Most of us didn’t know but guessed at the high casualty rate; of those who joined, 25% were killed and 50% wounded in action. Many more carried hidden wounds until the day they died. Reliving unrelenting memories of horrors they had witnessed or grief for the loss of close, even boyhood friends. Post Traumatic Stress wasn’t identified as a problem then and no treatment was available.

This local battalion, a cavalry unit was started in 1908,  the Earl of Sandwich its honorary colonel. Because Huntingdonshire was a small rural county, there seemed little likelihood that the 1000 men needed to form an infantry regiment would be available. A cavalry battalion only needed 500 men. However instead of horses, their steeds were to be bicycles, the soldiers were described as wheelmen. As some of the bicycles were allegedly made from surplus gas pipes, they became known as the Gaspipe Cavalry.

The Hunts Cyclists spent their active service in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire protecting the coast from a possible German invasion. As Martyn pointed out their single shot rifles were no deterrent to the German Battleships which shelled some East coast towns. Their failure to deter the German navy led to ill feeling from the affected town’s residents who were disappointed in their failure.

The talk showed in great detail how the local Hunts community got behind their own men whether it was knitting warm clothing for them or converting vehicles to carry machine guns.

He detailed the development of the Gaspipe Cavalry’s mounts (originally the cyclists were expected to supply their own steeds). How rifle mounts were developed, the need for brakes, (very important in the hilly areas where they were stationed not so in the fens). There were many casualties caused by the cycles themselves until their design was improved

Another interesting feature was the billeting arrangements, bell tents for the unfortunate men, a hotel for the officers. He mentioned Charles Laughton, not from Huntingdon but a family member of the hotel owners in Scarborough where the HC. officers stayed. He was evidently recruited there. Charles Laughton became a famous actor in the twenties and thirties. Starring on both the stage and in films He went onto become a renowned film director and producer, dying in 1962 at Hollywood.

Mr and Mrs Richard Cumberland

Mr and Mrs Richard Cumberland. My grandad and grandma.

My grandfather Richard Cumberland served in the army during the First World War. Joining the Hunt’s Cyclist Battalion in August 1914 before seeing active service as a member of Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was discharged wounded in February 1918.

His first posting was as a member of  A Company to Filey, I am not sure whether during the time he was there my grandmother joined him or not. I have a recollection of a story that Granddad helped out at the fish docks unloading the catches, whether this was at Filey or somewhere else in that area. This may have been as part of his duties or a bit of spare time private enterprise. When you are young you seldom ask the questions you should have done. Thinking that people will live forever you put off finding out information that will become so precious in later years.

War badge record showing Grandad's discharge record

War badge record showing Grandad’s discharge record

Martyn’s love of his subject, the tremendous respect and desire to make sure these men who sacrificed so much are not forgotten is something that will stay with all of us who were privileged to hear him speak, for a long time. He has made it his mission to track down every member of the Hunts Cyclists and commemorate each one, holding memorial services as he finds another grave or resting place. Honouring the men we owe our existence to

Thank you, Martyn, for a most interesting talk.

 

Cromwell Walk in Huntingdon

The Falcon Inn Huntingdon

The Falcon Inn Huntingdon Headquarters of the Parliamentary forces’

Last Monday evening I joined a group of like-minded people for a guided walk to explore what was left of the Huntingdon Oliver Cromwell would have known. The tour had been organised by Huntingdonshire History Festival, our guide was Alan Butler, a long-serving volunteer at the Cromwell Museum.

Our group set off from the Town Hall heading for the North end of the High Street. It was here that Royalist troops entered the town following their thrashing at Naseby, to start what became known as the Battle of Huntingdon. The Royalists overcame local resistance and occupied the town for two days before withdrawing.

Moving South the next point of interest was Cromwell House, the site of Oliver Cromwell’s birth and home of his parents. Outside the house set in the pavement is a commemorative plaque one of several around the town. The original building in Cromwell’s time was a Priory. The house is now a care home.

St John’s churchyard is a little further along on the opposite side of the road to Cromwell House, Oliver was baptised here, the church was in a state of disrepair even then and didn’t survive the civil war pulled down near its end in 1651.

Moving along the High Street, Alan our splendid guide directed to cast our eyes to the roofs of the buildings on the George Hotel side. To the surprise of most of our group, we learned that most of these buildings dated from the seventeenth century. The twisted chimneys an important clue. My great-grandfather, then my granddad (his son in law) had a corn shop in one of these buildings no 63. I knew it was old but hadn’t realised it was that old. Now an estate agent the beams in the ceilings and in the party walls have been exposed and clearly visible, through the front windows. The George Hotel (outside). was the next stopping point, Alan said that Charles the First had his headquarters here for the two days the Royalists occupied the town.

On our left, as we moved southwards to what is now the Cromwell Museum. The rebuilt Old Grammar School where Oliver Cromwell and been a pupil and later one Samuel Pepys.

Cromwell Museum Huntingdon

The Cromwell Museum Huntingdon from all Saint’s churchyard.

All Saint’s church was next, opposite the museum occupying one side of Market Hill, there is another commemorative plaque set in the pavement just outside the church gates. Oliver Cromwell’s father Robert is buried here in the family tomb. An old former Huntingdon neighbour claimed to have shaken hands with Oliver Cromwell’s father when work was being carried out on the tomb.

The Falcon Inn to the left of All Saints also in Market Hill was used as the Parliamentarian’s headquarters during part of the Civil War, it was also reputedly the recruiting station for the New Model Army. Remaining original features of the Inn include the heavy oak doors and the first-floor bow window.

The Falcon Inn Huntingdon

The Falcon Inn Huntingdon Headquarters of the Parliamentary forces’

The present Town Hall directly opposite All Saints Church is built on the site of an earlier town hall. We walked behind the town hall passing the Market Inn, though old it isn’t thought to date from that period.

Moving south along the High Street we paused at Saint Benedict’s Court site of the church of that name. The church was said to have been destroyed by Royalist cannon fire during the Civil War. Stone reclaimed from the ruins of the church was used to build the Barley Mow public house in nearby Hartford.

Continuing along, Alan told us that lurking behind many of the present day shop and building frontages, older building remain. Again he directed our attention skyward to the evidence of twisted seventeenth-century chimneys. An open door from the High Street to one of the remaining passages gave us a glimpse of half-timbered walls on either side.

The present-day Hartford Road is shown on John Speeds map of the time, on the corner of which stands the Three Tuns Public House. My great-grandfather is recorded in the 1911 census as landlord (William Dixon). His daughter, my grandmother Lily, is shown in the record as working there, not Cromwell related but a bit of local history.

The Three Tuns public house Huntingdon

The Three Tuns Huntingdon

Saint Mary’s Church was our next port of call, this was old in Cromwell’s time, Robert Cromwell, his father had been one of its bailiffs. After passing more seventeenth century buildings, including the wonderfully restored 147 High Street, next to the former studio of photographer Earnest Whitney, we crossed the ring road to arrive at the stone bridge between Huntingdon and Godmanchester. During the Civil war, the central section was removed and a wooden drawbridge substituted as part of the town’s defences.

Entrance to Saint Mary's Church Huntingdon

Entrance to Saint Mary’s Church Huntingdon

After visiting the Bridge we made our way back beside the ring road to Castle Hills, during the Civil War the earthworks were used as defensive positions. The hill top commands a good view with firing positions for cannons over the river and the bridge. The site would have been larger in Cromwell’s time the encroachment of first the railway then the A14 has taken a sizable portion of the site.

We completed the tour near the Bus Station, at the town sign, lamenting collectively about the lack of a statue to Oliver Cromwell, in this his birthplace. He is described by Antonia Fraser as our “Chief of Men” and by Christopher Hill as “God’s Englishman”.

Thanks Alan for a most interesting tour.

If you fancy seeing what’s on offer at the Huntigdonshire History Festival try this site:

https://huntshistoryfest.wordpress.com/calendar-of-events/

 

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reflecting my eclectic (and sometimes erratic) life

Stuart Orme

Historian, Folklorist, Writer, Re-enactor, Museum Professional. Follow me on Twitter: @stuartorme

thedrabble.wordpress.com/

Shortness of Breadth

Best Dog Training Tips & Tricks

Dog Training Guidance

Fenlandphil's Blog

A blog from the low country

So You think you've got problems?

The advice columns of two eccentric agony aunts who guide the bewildered of Britain through their personal problems,

How I Killed Betty!

Mad as a box of frogs? Most probably ... but if I can’t be perfect, then I’ll happily be fabulously imperfect!

Seriousgardener's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Incomplete Verse

Here I share words and illustrations I discover on the journey within the crevices of my mind and the outside world. 💚

Dread Poets Sobriety

Irreverence's Glittering New Low!

MovieBabble

The Casual Way to Discuss Movies

Mistakes Writers Make ...

... and how to put them right! Advice and opportunities for new, aspiring and upcoming journalists and writers of non-fiction

Writing Wrinkles, and Random Ramblings

Smoothing the wrinkles in this wrinkly's writing

estherchiltonblog

Esther Chilton - Writer and Tutor

lactosefreelovelies

Lots of lovely lactose free products.