CALH meeting 1st June 2019

Philip Saunders ‘Inspired by Henry Martyn: Cambridgeshire Missionaries of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century.’

In this illustrated talk Dr Saunders of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide described how the relatively short life of Henry Martyn influenced others to follow him into missionary work. Martyn worked in Bengal and Persia (Iran), and was followed by others, both men and women into India, and eventually into Africa, and still continue his work. The Henry Martyn Hall in Market Street was erected in his honour.

CALH Saturday 6th April

It’s on the cards’ Victorian and Edwardian Postcards -Vanessa Mann

Vanessa Mann started her talk by pointing out that between 1902 and 1910 there were 6 billion pieces of mail passing through the post office, and the majority of these were post cards. In cities there were 5 deliveries a day, so a post card sent making an arrangement to meet in the evening could be posted on the same morning. Her interest in post cards is not only the illustration on the front, but the messages on the reverse, and the people involved in these. She has traced a number of those who wrote the messages, and the recipients and through this has been able to hand these cards and messages onto their descendants, and she suggested that post cards were the first example of a social medium, distributed across time and place. The talk was illustrated with examples of the pictures on the post cards and the messages.

CALH Meeting 2nd March 2019

This meeting held in St John’s Church was a talk by Mary Naylor on ‘Who Lived here. Researching Occupiers of houses in East Cambridgeshire in the 19th century’. Houses in Mill Road and its environs including Turpin’s Yard, and Covent Garden and their occupants over the century were described with an account of how these were uncovered through research through the census, photographs and maps. These accounts were enhanced by the life stories of some of the more recent occupants of the houses.

Sir Graham Hart: ‘Scandalous Ministers’ in Cambridgeshire, 1644-45, Saturday 7 October

Sir Graham’s talk was based on the surviving records of the Cambridgeshire Committee for Scandalous Ministers, one of eight such Committees set up by the Parliamentary commander the Earl of Manchester in Eastern England to weed out disaffected clergy, and which he has recently (2017) edited for the Cambridgeshire Records Society.

Sir Graham set the scene by describing how the uneasy early 17th century religious truce between different factions in the Church of England broke down in the 11 years of Charles I’s personal rule (1629-40) thanks to the policies of Archbishop William Laud, aimed at restoring the beauty of holiness’ and how these were energetically enforced in the Diocese of Ely by Bishop Matthew Wren. To Puritans in Cambridgeshire as elsewhere, these seemed a prelude to a possible reconciliation with Rome and were bitterly opposed.

Manchester’s committees were set up in 1644, and took evidence from the ‘godly’ of 28 Cambridgeshire parishes against their ministers. Their complaints – which give us a unique insight into relations between the parochial clergy and their flocks – were on three main grounds: moral transgression, preaching pro-Royalist propaganda, and zealous prosecution of the Laudian reforms. Many of those giving evidence were parish office-holders, and it would seem that they seized this as the opportunity to avenge long-standing grievances, and to have a clergyman more to their taste. The complexities of parish politics emerged clearly: the leader of the anti-Laudian faction in Stretham, who succeeded in having the vicar ejected, emerged as the equally energetic opponent of his Puritan successor in 1649 over his refusal to use the liturgy of the traditional Anglican burial service.

A Brief History of Enclosure, using Cambridgeshire examples:  Bill Franklin Saturday 3 March 2017
The starting point for Mr Franklin’s talk was the medieval farming landscape, which in every Cambridgeshire parish was based on the open field system, although in many Cambridgeshire villages this was more complex than the traditional ‘three field’ system of the Midlands: Ely, for example, had nine (and once possibly ten) fields. Villages also had areas of permanent meadowland (subject to strict regulation regarding stock) and areas such as commons, regarded as ‘waste’. In theory, every farmer had an equal share of different soil types; this led to widely dispersed pattern of individual holdings across the parish: Soham was given as an example of this.
From the later medieval period, enclosure of land became more common, particularly in the Tudor period. It was usually implemented by landowners looking for a more profitable form of farming, and often produced social unrest (e.g Kett’s Rebellion in Norfolk, 1549). Several Government commissions of inquiry revealed the extent of the problem, but failed to come up with concrete solutions.
By the 18th century, enclosure by agreement (between landowners) was becoming more common, and from the middle of the century enclosure by Private Act of Parliament became the norm. Mr Franklin described how the process worked, using several Cambridgeshire examples such as Burwell, Cottenham and Stow-cum-Quy. He concluded by looking at the ‘balance sheet’ of enclosure: the traditional ‘gloomy’ view that it was fatal to very small farmers and those who were able to scrape a living by combining farming on their own account with working for someone else, did not, on the Cambridgeshire evidence, seem to be justified. Admittedly there was much unrest in the early 19th century countryside, but this stemmed from a variety of causes, of which Enclosure was only one. The disbenefits were outweighed by more regular employment for labourers, with more land under cultivation, increased food production, the new availability of building land and the new freedom that farmers had to choose their own agrarian regimes without interference from manorial courts.

Bill can be contacted at (note the underscore)

Saturday 4 November

Mike Cowham: The World of Sundials

This was a fascinating talk by one of the country’s leading experts on the topic.  Mr Cowham started with some very local examples from Cambridge colleges, not all of which were familiar to members, including the remarkable example at Queens' College, before showing others from around the county, notably at Anglesey Abbey, Hauxton church and in Ely. He explained how dials actually worked and the complex mathematics that lay behind their design.

Besides the dials we are all familiar with, he showed examples of stained glass dials, the scratch dials for calculating the correct time for Mass and perhaps most interesting of all the portable dials produced from at least the 16th century as an early equivalent to the pocket watch. The artistry and workmanship that had gone into many of these was amazing.

Mr Cowham can be contacted at:

The Cambridge Museum of Technology: past, present and future

A Talk given by Pam Halls at the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History Meeting on 25th November 2017.

Most people who know Cambridge will be familiar with the tower by the river behind Newmarket Road. This marks the site of what is now the Cambridge Museum of Technology. As Pam Halls explained formerly this was a sewage pumping station, powered by one of the first attempts in the nineteenth century at an environmental source of heat – Cambridge’s rubbish. This was collected by dust carts, taken to the pumping station and placed in huge boilers and burnt to provide the energy to work the pumps, thus helping to clean up Cambridge and the river Cam. The pumping station was closed in 1968 and the site re-opened as a museum in 1971. It aims to be a working museum preserving Cambridge’s industrial history. The gas pump still is still in action, and one of the four boilers powering it is still complete. The museum includes other working exhibits and a collection of Pye instruments.

The future for the museum is rosy. Thanks to a large grant the whole site will be landscaped, scheduled buildings repaired, a new exhibition hall built, and amenities including a cafeteria added. When it is compete it will be a tribute to a little known feature of Cambridge’s past, its industry as well as the technology for which it is renowned today.

CALH Summary of Meeting 5/1/2019

‘The Balsham 1617 Map Project’ Seppe Cassettari

Dr Cassettari explained that the ‘Balsham Map Project’ developed from the discovery of map made in 1617 of Balsham and its landholdings, and was part of a project to examine how old maps can be used to relate to contemporary maps, and add to the discovery of the history of the village and how it has developed over the subsequent centuries. This was done by a digitising and over –laying maps from subsequent centuries and adding in aerial photographs, and a data-base of land owners of strips and where these were situated, followed by mapping the evolution of the village, additional buildings, and how building use has changed.