Centenary of Armistice ending World War I
‘Read–Details-Yourself’ Summary Guide
to Circular Walk past TEN Marked Locations
significant in Whittlesford in 1914-18
STARTING AFTER 11am Act of Remembrance
at WHITTLESFORD WAR MEMORIAL
(Turn around…and face our most iconic village building as we start our walk at the ‘front door’ in North Rd, overlooking the High Street, of the…
1. GUILDHALL Then three cottages homes of an ARNOLD family where three sons & a son-in-law left to fight plus another Drury brother from the family next door. The eldest, James Arnold MM gave his life –but is named only on Duxford War Memorial where he, his widow & small children lived.
ARNOLD was a significant surname here: four brothers from Duxford Rd were among the ‘Whittlesford 100’*who left to fight, and whose life stories triggered Whit Soc’s major research project since 2014 on the impact on this village of WW1. Their relative Catherine, Mrs Philip Arnold was Quarter-master of the three Voluntary Auxiliary/ Red Cross Hospitals here 1915-18.
(carefully!) cross North Road to pass…
2. ORIENT HOUSE – Built in 1865 as family home of Nathan Maynard, founder /owner of the Village Stores opposite & 2 also renowned sons until 1912.
It was requisitioned as one of the Red Cross hospitals after Revd George Britten completed his year’s secondment as Minister at the Chapel (URC) staying here with his family. Extracts from his diary, describing how he found life here in 1913-14 are in Whither Whittlesford issues numbers 34-37.
(Forward on High St past listed cottages/Social Club & cross to the grounds of…
3 SHEADS Former farmstead, homes of family of prominent villager Reuben Chapman; 3 sons among ‘The100’ & son in-law Percy Overhill, postman & parish church lead tenor, who was in killed in action in 1917 leaving widow ALICE with 2 young children. She, along with other war widow, Jane Eliza-beth Douglas nee Nunn, (100-yearold ‘star’ of the 1977 village history Whittlesford Recalled) unveiled this War Memorial Cross. ‘Ms Overhill’ is remembered as a teacher at the village school. After their only son Geoffrey Overhill was killed in WW2, she alone unveiled the current, extended War Memorial. Of the 8 names listing the fallen in WW2, two were grandsons of Reuben Chapman. As well as her son Geoffrey, an RAF pilot killed Feb 1943, Alice’s nephew Royal Marine Robert Henry Chapman, died June 1944 aged 19. He was the son of Arthur Reuben, another of ‘The 100’
* In fact, some 130 “Men of Whittlesford” are listed in Karen Wright’s service biographies. There is more about the people at Sheads in Whither Whittlesford nos.33 & 37)
(Cross to north side High St; continue along pavement to gather on the grass verge at bottom of Scotts Gardens where the high wall continues ahead-)
4 DOOR IN THE WALL – High St/Scotts Gardens, the only remaining sign of the substantial Working Men’s Institute or Hall built by Robert Maynard I in 1865 as village social/educational centre, requisitioned 1914 as main VAD Hospital. His son Robert Maynard II, also a brilliant engineer/entrepreneur, inventor of the famous Chaff Cutter, had taken over from him as boss of Maynards Works in its heyday. From their family home, Scotts, this leading village benefactor with wife Frances, in WW1 personally organised letters and parcels for the men overseas and watched over welfare & activity back at home, including the impact of a staggering total of over 1,700 wounded servicemen cared for, largely, by local volunteers, in the three hospitals here between 1915-1918.
All the hall’s furniture & equipment had been stored for the duration in the old chapel/Sunday School in Orchard Terrace, destroyed by fire in June 1918, so the Institute could barely function postwar & was being superseded by a new Memorial Hall, which incorporates its stage. In 1921 teetotal Robert Maynard II had it demolished after incidents of drunken gambling – and in 1922 the British Legion Club (now Social Club) opened in High St with bar, snooker table & darts board – the only place where men could talk about war experiences that only those who’d been there could hope to understand.
(Continue on pavement –round into West End to grassy triangle at Vicarage Lane & look back across West End to Reeds Cottage on the Farm Rise corner)
5. REEDS COTTAGE, West End: home of largest single family directly affected in WW1 – FIVE brothers, sons of Walter & Jemima RUNHAM were among those who went to fight; the youngest two gave their lives: Pte Reginald James on 7/5/16 & Pte Henry Richard age 19, on 21/8/18. The other side of what was then two adjoined cottages, was the official address of Cpl Alfred Mark Runham, as lodger with his sister Sarah & her husband Herbert Diss. Despite the same surname, it doesn’t seem they were closely related but in the 1911 census he was a regular soldier aged about 21 serving in India – probably an exciting role model to the younger Runham lads! He survived the war & was on the electoral register here till at least Spring 1920 and in November he married a girl in South Lancashire, where his regiment was based.
(Turn to look /continue past Swallowcroft to the cottage on the left at the end.…
6. ACRE GREEN, Vicarage Lane, then two tiny cottages each home to a son killed in action: Pte Edward Nunn died September 1915 and Cpl Reginald James Haylock in April 1918. Edward’s father, Stephen Nunn, was from an especially significant branch of the prolific NUNN FAMILY from the far end of West End, whose brother Isaac took over what is still known as Nunn’s Cottage. Stephen’s sister Jane Elizabeth, war widow of Sgt Albert Douglas has been mentioned already and she +3 Nunn siblings were parents of a total of 5 sons in the Whit100, also including Stkr Frederick Nunn RN, lost 16/5/16 in the Battle of Jutland. Albert & JE Douglas’ own son, Pte Harry Douglas, enlisted while a Maynards apprentice & completed army training, but the war ended before he was posted overseas. Like his father & grandfather, he was an engineer at Maynards, there till it closed in the 1960s. He was the Chaff Cutter expert and regularly spent a fortnight at a time in the ’20s-‘30s at the Buckingham Palace Royal Mews servicing their machines. He was a life-long stalwart of the URC, a member & Chairman of the Parish Council, a noted local historian & a founder member of Whit Soc, who gave his papers and memorabilia to the County Archives, designated the Harry Douglas Collection. (See articles by or about him in WhWh issues 2, 22, 24 & 42.) No 24 also has the obituary/life story of Jane Elizabeth, then the second oldest person in Cambridgeshire, whose funeral on 3 Sept 1981 was the day after her christening in that church 104 years before. Her youngest daughter, Harry’s third sister, Joyce, married Kenneth Maynard and we are especially grateful for the help, of their sons, Nick and Rob Maynard for material and memorabilia about their grandfather Albert, and especially memories of Jane Elizabeth Douglas herself.
(Ahead on Croat footpath; notice sign to Middlemoor/Whippletree/Newton Rd hamlet, but branch right, past Millennium wood to North Rd & cross to…
7. BEES IN THE WALL- originally The Exhibition PH, home and business of the CREEK family, where 3 sons of the publican & watch-maker, William, served overseas:- Dvr Charles, Pte David, and their younger brother Pte James Creek, who lost his life on 11 May 1916. James had joined the Cambridgeshire regiment in August 1914 and after training was posted, under-age, on 15 Feb 1815 to Le Havre and saw action five times before transfer later that year through several different brigades & locations until in Feb 1916 he was at the Somme. He died in Bethune on 11 May 1916, unclear if killed in action or from his wounds. He was so young one wonders if he had lied or acquiesced about his date of birth (3 Feb 1897) to be recruited aged just 17½ & posted to France barely a week after his 18th birthday – if he felt influenced by older brothers, fellow workers at the paper mill or customers at the pub?
Today, mine host at the Bees, Lawrie Childs in memory of his predecessor in WWI days, will provide free tea & coffee to those on the Pilgrimage.
(Resume Pilgrimage trail on pavement at that side of North Rd looking across at
8 MANOR HOUSE: formerly called ‘The Lodge’, from March 1915 to December 1918, the village’s third VAD Hospital. Residence of successive Squires Tickell (though they lived most of the time in London). Joseph Harkness Tickell had died age 66 in March 1915, succeeded by his son, Joseph Avery Tickell, who served as a Captain in WWI and was prominent in enabling the War Memorial and the Dinner honouring ‘The100’. The whole village got involved helping in dozens of different ways to make life better for so many wounded strangers for whom Whittlesford was temporarily home – young servicemen just like our 100 local lads so far away.
9 VILLAGE SIGN –and the nearby group of COMMEMORATIVE OAK TREES which Whit Soc has planted to mark royal jubilees and key anniversaries over the years. This will be an appropriate opportunity for the Vice Presidents to ‘unveil’ the new wooden board, beautifully carved by Neil Barber.
The official VILLAGE SIGN, itself commemorating the Silver Jubilee, reflects, as the WW1 project shows, that the whole village was affected by the fate of every man/boy who went to war and those who didn’t return.
The large Park meadow behind it stresses the agricultural essence of Whittlesford and alongside it is the start of ‘Spicers’ Footpath no.1, trudged daily by scores of village workers in Sawston’s industries, especially the paper mill, that also provided vital all-year-round paid work not just for men, but also for women having to provide for their families, They and others of all ages including children, also had to cover the work of the men who had gone to fight. Reminder, too of the many men who didn’t go to fight but were EXEMPT as their employers (eg. Towgoods, Maynards & especially, farmers) insisted they were essential on the home front – but who would also put in voluntary hours after that supporting the community & hospitals (eg as Night Orderlies).
(Continue up North Rd & take left turn along footpath to the Parish Church)
10. THE CHURCHYARD The circular Poppy Pilgrimage ends at the Parish Church, from which tower the bells will have been ringing here & nationwide, at least 100 times at 12.30 ‘To Remember’ and again at 7.30pm this evening ‘For Peace’.
THE GRAVE of Pte Reginald Rupert Andrews is near the seat past the Porch on main churchyard path. His was the first Whittlesford life sacrificed in The Great War – the only one of the 15 Whittlesford men on the War Memorial who is buried in this country. The only son of William & Emily Andrews of Wells Farm, he died on 19 April 1915. One hundred years later, this grave was the focus of a remarkable tribute when over 100 people including many impressive civic & military dignitaries saw a dozen motorcyclists of the ‘Cambs 876 Remembered’ Project re-enacting the original procession bearing his 21-year old body here from the railway station for a funeral with full military honours. Now Guards-of-Honour from British Legion sections, the Cambridgeshire Regiment, local Cadet force and Scout Group lined the path with colourful standards as a lone bell tolled, before an unforgettable service in church and graveside ceremony with a bugler’s ‘Last Post’ before 2 minutes silence, ‘Reveille’ and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant leading the placing of poppy crosses. (Full story & photos in WhWh 117) Appropriately it was announced that the Central Council of Bell Ringers have added Reginald’s name to their Great War Roll of Honour- he’d had been a keen bell-ringer here and Boy Scout for several years.
THANKS to Lawrie for his hospitality at The Bees & to all property owners involved in this Pilgrimage. PLEASE LET US KNOW your thoughts on a wider village/Poppy Trail with guide notes on Listed/interesting buildings, land-marks & public footpaths. 832453/833386/email