St Ives

Click Oliver Cromwell (who once lived here) to go to contents list.

A personal view
by Philip Grosset

Memories of St Ives

(taken from your feedback)

Contributions always welcome! Please send them via my guest book.

Part of old St Ives: Georgian houses behind the churchyard at All Saints Church.

" How lovely.... My father was stationed at Alconbury and we lived in St. Ives in around 1955 - 1956. I went to 3rd "form" at the school with the green door. My next door neighbor, Alison, and I would walk to school across fields frozen with ice. I remember having to walk through the slaughter house and discussing cow's hearts and innerds. Nice stuff for a 9 year old. I won't forget the candy store around the corner from the school and the "maggot pudding" actually I am sure it was tapioca with a drollop of jelly in the middle. How funny, looking at the pictures, I don't remember the country side so much but I remember our little bungalow and I remember being so cold. I think my bed was wet for a year from the walls. We then moved to Hemmigford Abbots(?) and then moved onto the base when they opened the housing. I learned to ride horses at Mrs. Hockaday's riding school. This site has brought back so many memories. If those of you who were stationed Alconbury from 1995 to 1959 see this please contact me at Thank you for the walk down memory lane." (Susan Bush (Maiden name Klein), Costa Mesa, California)
I too would be very interested to hear about other memories of St Ives in the past. Please
use my guest book to get in touch with me.
me with anything I could use here!
The future of Alconbury airfield is causing considerable controversy. See my
Latest News page! (PG)

"Great!!!!!!!!!! My father was stationed in Alconbury 1971 thru 1973. I also remember the candy store, fish and chips, and my friends (airforce brats). I remember the bus trips we took to see the castles. I recently watched part of the movie The Choir. It brought back fond memories. I remember a family in Peterborough, where we first lived. The Huckles. Christina Huckle - not sure of her married name. I understand that she is married to a priest. Forgive me if I got that title wrong. I wish I could see her again. Back to St Ives, it is a most enjoyable place to live and I would recommend it to everyone. An experience I will never forget!" (Lorie Lindsey Van Hoosier, Tell City, Indiana, USA)

" Here I am in Italy surfing the net...looking for some news on my home town of St Ives. Your page brought a few sighs and smiles:). I remember we used to have cows and pigs running (out of control) in our garden on the way to the auction..and I'm not THAT old! How about a "news page"? A great little book for walks: "Walks Around St Ives". Well, off to bed..I've had my dose of nostalgia. Tootle pips." (Anne-Louise Alcott, originally St Ives, Naples, Italy, )
I'm afraid "Walks Around St Ives" is out of print now. We tried its suggested walk to Holywell the other day, but the details it gives no longer quite apply! I've done what you suggest and added a
Latest News page! Thanks for the suggestion. (PG)

"This site is great. It brings back a lot of memories of when I used to live in St Ives in 1976 to 1978. I aways try to make it back for a visit every couple years and love how the town has progressed since the bypass was built. My college days at Huntington technical college were the best and the night life at the St Ivo recreation center is memorable. I highly recommend the Dolphin hotel to anyone visiting the town. The staff is friendly and the location puts you in walking distance of all restaurants and pubs. Keep up the good work and thanks." (Shane Gerschefske,Colleyville, Texas,USA)

"My home is a little village called Needingworth, just outside of St Ives. I love the town. It has so many happy memories for me. I used to work in a local solicitors office in the town. I met my husband when he was stationed at RAF Wyton.(Is it still there?). We would spent most of our time in St Ives. Going to the local dance on a Saturday night at the corn exchange. And of course, taking walks through the "Thicket". Oh what memories your site brings back, and yes, I still miss St Ives after many years away. I will be back, via your site. Thank you for giving me some pleasant memory jogs."
(Sylvia Saunders, Ottawa, Canada)

"Hi. This is Astrid Terlep. I can't believe it. You have a photo of Mr E. Venditti, the basket maker. He was our neighbor...across the street from us. Their family and ours used to get together for dinner often. He and his wife are so sweet. I love all the new photos that you've scanned/placed since I last visited your site. Brought tears to my many memories..." (Astrid Terlep, California, USA)

"It is a very nice and informative site. I was born in St Ives and spent nineteen years of my life there (my mother still lives in High Leys) so it is a nice trip down memory lane. However I do not remember my time in St Ives as a completely happy one. I was a pupil at the St Ivo when the science block was destroyed by arson. I lost a lot of my
coursework! It would be nice if you had a 'ex-pats' section as I rely on my mother for most of the news of the town, which is frustrating when she tells me one of my old friends has married but can't remember who and has lost the newspaper cutting." ( Liz Parsons, Pencader, Carmarthenshire)
I'd hoped that this "Memories of St Ives" section might serve this purpose. More contributions always welcome! (PG)

" I noticed someone asking about the Three Tuns at 5 West Street, well I was born at 13 West Street in 1932 and have vivid recillections of being sent to the celler for a jug of beer for Sunday dinner time. My father Harry Wright, the barber, used to call at the Tuns for a pint on his way home from the allotment in Pig Lane. National Service broke my residential connections with St Ives in 1950 and apart from some holidays in the 50s and 60s, I have since lived abroad, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and finally New Zealand. When I lived in the town the population was barely 3000 and everyone knew everyone else - this had good and bad points because one could hardly get into any kind of mischief without mum and dad hearing about it. I expect some of my old school chums, Huntingdon Grammar, are still about and if any should read this, my email address is below. By the way I noticed the picture of the All Saints spire after an RFC plane flew into it and recall that my grandfather, Sam Attwood (who worked for George Russell in Broadway) told me that the aircraft took off from the meadow in fog. I could go on - I really like your site and will be back from time to time to check it out. Many thanks." (Bill Wright, Pleasant Point, Nr Timaru, New Zealand. Email:
I'd be very interested to hear more memories of this sort. (PG)

More from Bill Wright:"You did ask for more recollections: More on the Three Tuns, the landlord during my childhood and youth, was Jack Stocker.
I have some reservations on the date of the big flood in 1949. My recollection is that it was 1947 after the big snow (RAF Wyton was cut off for a day till they brought the runway snow machines out). There was even water in West Street - I have a picture somewhere of my mother and father standing on the shop step surveying the water. There may well have been a flood in 49, but it was not as high. There was another in 1953, but by that time I was in Aden. I recall that in 1947 the council sent out 'Nimble' Newman, the town crier, to call for flood watchers as it was feared that the water level would increase overnight. I volunteered along with my school friend John Peters (I think that John still lives at 8 Parkside) and we were stationed on the Waits in front of Harry Anderson's butcher shop, where the water was lapping at the door. Sometime after midnight, we saw the water drop by more than a foot in a veryfew minutes.
We learned the next day that the bank at Earith had breached and the Fen flooded. A few days later a convoy of tracked Buffalo amphibious vehicles crossed the bridge and one somehow skewed on the road and knocked the parapet out of one of the shallow triangular recesses - the second on the right (looking from Bridge Street - as I recall). These vehicles were sunk into the breach and then sandbagged in - I wonder if they are still there? It took the Navy 6 months using enormous pumps to put the water back where it belonged. That was the year too that John Peters and I went to the Scout Jamboree at Moisson near Paris. I wonder if I could trouble you to give John and Mary a ring and give him my kind thoughts and good wishes. If he has access to email, perhaps you could give him my address.
I spent most of my spare time during my schooldays on the river in boats of various kinds - I sometimes used to receive mail addressed simply "Boatman Bill, St Ives". That brings back a few memories too - we used to give the lock keeper (George Thorpe and then Sqdn Ldr Waldock (I think)) at the Staunch conniptions (agitations) by pulling our dinghies up to the slice gates when the gates were all open during floods. We could never understand how a retired RAF officer could become a lock keeper - but in retrospect I guess it was a case of any port in a storm. I think he was a supply officer anyway. He didn't last long. My parents knew him from childhood and if I remember rightly, he was related to the Moores who kept a watchmakers and jewellers shop in that wide street that crossed the eastern end of East Street - can't recall its name.
Alan Scotney was one of my mates in those days - later he owned Whalleys hardware store in Bridge Street. My years playing about with boats on the Ouse led me into RAF ASR boats when I did my two years National Service and boats have popped up in almost every job I had through my working years. When people remarked on this, I always said that that means I am destined to drown rather than hang!
Just another little point. I note mention of the October fair and the fact that the streets are closed. Well they were not closed at all until the early years of this century. I mentioned before that my grandfather Sam Attwood worked for George Russell and Sons in Broadway, He travelled all over the county (Huntingdonshire) and beyond, delivering groceries with a horse and wagon.Well, one October, the wagon was parked in the street outside the store and one of the amusements started up without warning and scared the horses. Sam received two broken legs and a child was killed. Thereafter the Broadway was closed to traffic each year. I don't think I ever knew the year, but doubtless it'll be recorded somewhere. You'll also find two of my Attwood uncles on the war memorial on Market Hill.
My sister still lives at Fenstanton, but my brother Ted (PC 9) died some years ago. My niece still lives in the house in Green Leys.
I pinched the banner of the bridge from the "Visit Historic St Ives" website and am now using as wallpaper on my desktop. I would like as many dollars as the number of times I have pulled or poled through those arches!
My sons, who have yet to visit St Ives are urging me to get writing - I guess it is probably time that I did something about it. But, when you retire, you get busier than ever. Not of any particular interest to you, but take a look at <>. Enough. Many thanks for all your trouble in putting St Ives on the web - I shall watch with interest. Cheers...Bill."

"More of a memory than anything else. As a child in 1953 my mother and father hired a cruiser called Explorer from H C Banhams' boatyard in Cambridge, and we spent many happy days on the Cam and the Ouse. As we approached St Ives we were in the process of looking for a mooring when we saw an elderly man fishing. By his side were 5 cats, ranging in size from a large moggie to a kitten - all of them were engrossed in watching the float, that bobbed on the water. Sure enough, eventually it vanished, the man reeled in, unhooked his catch, and passed it to the largest of the cats, who took it behind the raspberry canes behind them. The remaining cats all moved up, and continued to watch the float. Sure enough, it vanished again, and the next cat departed. By the time there were two cats left, the smallest had had enough of waiting, and when the float vanished again, decided to jump the queue. The other cat, incensed, walloped it with a paw, and it returned to! its rightful place. We waited until the cats had all gone, and then the man packed up his rod, and walked away. We were totally bemused, and unable to believe what we'd seen - but the next morning the whole procedure was repeated.
In more recent years my wife and I have visited St Ives on several occasions, and enjoyed the peace of a quiet rural English town. Our fondest memory is of the late 90s, one balmy summer, sitting in the cheese shop/cafe near the bridge, at the big round table, with the sun streaming through the open French windows, the dragon flies zooming over the trailing plant on the balcony, and the inexperienced boat people making fools of themselves down below.
Thanks for the website - bring back lots of memories - and the town has hardly changed over the years!" (Tony Reeve)

"Further to browsing your excellent St Ives website I thought you would be interested in a transcription of a recording made by my great grandmother some years back talking about her time "in service" at a St Ives vicarage. She was born in 1892 so would have been in St Ives at around 1907/08. I dont know which vicarage or where in St Ives it is. Any light you may be able to shed here would be of interest!" (Mark Stanton)

On her early life working as a kitchen maid in St Ives, Cambridge. Recorded December 1976. Conversation between Annie May Stanton (nee Heath) and daughter-in-law Ruby Stanton (nee Allen). Ruby speaking first.

"Right Nan. It's the 17th of December 1976. You are sitting knitting…."
"Yes… yes."
 "I am cracking crab claws."
"So go on lets hear about St Ives."
"Oh alright well we've got to keep each other occupied somehow!
Well I can go back to the Boer war…oh it comes to that! I can remember seeing the soldiers marching up Gloucester Road coming back and dragging their guns behind them."
"In Bristol?"
"In Bristol this was yes."
"When I was 14 we moved to London from Bristol, Bert was 3 weeks old when we went there."
"Was he?"
"Well then I stayed home for a little while but I got a position as a kitchen maid in St Ives in Cambridge. ….it was a vicarage, in a vicarage. But it was a very, very hard place there, the work was terrific, I used to have to kneel on the tops of the range to clean the flues out."
"How often did you do those?"
"Oh about twice a week I had to 'cause they had great big ovens, very big ovens. If I got up too late after 6 o' clock I used to have to stand on the kitchen table to heat the water in a saucepan. Over an ordinary gas flame, the ordinary old fashioned flames you know? Oh I had to do that many a time. They had a lady's maid she used to come down 'bout 7 o' clock for the lady's bathwater and they used to have hip? baths in the bedroom, she used to have to bath…. and the gentleman only, was allowed to use the bathroom."
"They had a bathroom?
"Oh they had a bathroom yes, but only the gentleman was allowed to use it."
"It must have been very early days."
"Oh it was a beautiful vicarage, it was a huge vicarage, the staircase was a lovely one of those, lovely round staircases that when up… a big square hall. We weren't allowed to use those stairs, we had the servants stairs to go up. Same as we had the servants hall where we had our meals, and never the same food as they had in the dining rooms, quite different food."
"Was it good food?"
"Well it was good, but it was plain… but it was joint on Sunday and "done up" until Wednesday. Then we'd have another one on Thursday and that was "done up" until Saturday. But it was never what they had in the dining rooms, was always different what they had."
"What did they have in the dining room, can you remember?"
"Well all sorts, they used to have a lot of their stuff up from the army and navy stores in London. Lobsters and things like that. And I always remember they used to drink a lot of "Salutarous" water… come up in bottles from the Army and Navy stores. I don't know what special water it was…. I s'pose it was some health water you know. Oh and they always dressed in the evenings in evening dress, with trains! This is a vicar's wife mind and her mother, Mrs Hamilton-Bell was her mothers name, but I can't remember the vicars name. But they were oh… really gentry they must have been because… She had a son that was a major in the army at Aldershot. And he had about one of the first, I should think, motor cars that ever came out, one of those very, very high ones. And the chauffeur that he had was a soldier, and he was a married man with 7 children. When he used to bring him up, he [the chauffeur] used to be ever so sorry for me, he said he would never let one of his girls go into service. I used to have to work from 6 o'clock in the morning to 10 o' clock… 10 half past at night. Course it used to take me ages to wash up the dinner things!"
"What time did you have off?"
"Oh…. erm.."
"No unions then!"
"No, No! One half day, one Sunday afternoon, a fortnight. And then I was just allowed to go out for a walk you know and back again and that was all I had. Eight pounds a year was my pay…. Eight pounds a year, I used to get that monthly. And I don't know what could have happened but I must have been I suppose a little bit saucy to the cook and she made a complaint to me to the lady in the…. I had to go into the dining room when this was reported. But I can always remember, course as a youngster naturally I burst out crying… and I said and it was very unkind of Elizabeth to tell tales about me!"
"You can remember saying that?"
"Yes! I can remember so well saying it, just like it was only yesterday! It was a lovely place, they had a gardener there and an under-gardener. Oh! it was a beautiful kitchen garden. And when he came, he used to come in with the vegetables, every day fresh vegetables, he was awfully kind to me, he always used to bring me in some… either some peaches or apricots in his pocket and he'd quietly give them to me. I used to take them up in my bedr… My bedroom was up three flights of stairs! A little attic room, with just bare boards in it which I used to have to scrub."
"Did you have to share it or was it your own?"
"Yes I used to share it with a house maid."
"Really "upstairs downstairs"!"
"Yes, yes. The lady's maid she had a special room outside Mrs Hamilton-Bell's bedroom. I used to have to practically wait on her with different things. In the mornings before 8 o'clock I had to do three fireplaces, the study,  the dining room and the drawing room fireplaces."
"And that was clear out the ashes first…and then…. ?"
"Oh yes, all that sort of thing. And then there were three bedrooms upstairs to do, their bedrooms 'cause they all had fires up there you see. So it was all fires everywhere. And the kitchen range I used to have to see to that. But oh it was a terribly big… But what I used to enjoy most of all was when I used to have to wash up was to scrape up the…. 'Cause I was so hungry you know I didn't have enough food a growing youngster. Used to like to scrape out the lovely sauces that she used to make, with anchovy sauce and all that sort of thing."
"Still do it now!"
"Well it used to be lovely there I used to enjoy that! Of course they had all the luxuries that you could possibly have that you… today you know. I don't think that he had any pay at that vicarage I think it was a private living really. Because they always seemed to have plenty of money. I remember they had a jumble sale once, and they put some lovely things, and they used to wear those boas, the lady's maid used to make a lot of things for them and she used to make those boas, in like "fissues", and all that sort of thing. And they were made of net the boas and then she'd have long silk ribbons you know hanging down from it. 'Cause trains on their dresses to everything. And the lady's maid got rid of a navy blue skirt once, she said would I like this navy blue skirt. And when I went home finally, I was really…. I told my mother if I couldn't leave I was going to run away, and I'd been there six months then. And when I went home and my mother met me at Walham Green, we lived at Fulham, she met me at Walham Green station she had a shock! I had a navy blue skirt with a train on it!"
"Oh dear!"
"How old were you then?
"I must have looked terrible. When she told me about it you know after years about it… but when she saw me with this skirt on, and I forget, I think I had an like an ordinary motor hat on and, you know a straw hat that they used to wear then. But I always remember I thought I was quite a lady with this train you know, I thought it was absolutely wonderful to have, especially as it was one that the lady's maid used to wear. But oh... I used to have to do the lady's maids room and make her bed. And I know one morning she caught me... I used to just throw the bedclothes over! She said you set that bed and make it properly you know, and I was so disappointed because I often just used to throw the things over and cover them up, you know! It was wicked you know the way that they made you… just for eight pounds a year."
"It's ridiculous isn't it?"
"Yes. Terrible you know really. 'Cause, as they said you had your food… such as it was. But you couldn't help yourself to anything, it was just given to you what there was on the table, but it was very, very rigid. There was a butler, they had a butler that when I first went there, the butler had been to the Boer war and he'd picked up drink. And one evening they wanted the shutters put across in the drawing room, and he wasn't there. And he wasn't there… he wasn't there to put these shutters over. And he'd gone down the end of the drive, down there was a little pub at the end, and he wanted a drink. He did it two or three times. Well somebody must have split on him, and he came… they had him on the carpet about it it was quite a to-do, and they gave him the sack. But then they had another one and he was a very quaint fellow. Course when we went to church we had to file in, we had our own row, we had to file in, and when I first went there I hadn't any gloves. I was pulled up because I didn't have no gloves to wear to church. And he… it was, it was summertime, it was a very sunny day one Sunday, and he thought he'd go to church with a straw hat on. Oh he was pulled up on the carpet… butlers should always wear a bowler hat! Wasn't allowed to wear a straw hat! But oh it was very, very rigid with everything that was there, what we had to do. I just was… really I got to that state that I should have run away from the place. I wrote to Mother and tell her I couldn't come home, I intended running away""
"And was there any reaction to your leaving?"
"They took back the old kitchen maid that left previously. She'd gone somewhere else, she was an older girl. I was really too young for the job actually, because it was such a great big stone kitchen. I was supposed to get on my hands and knees and scrub the floor but I couldn't do it! I wasn't… I couldn't get the work done in time with everything that was there, what with the washing up, loads and loads of washing up as I say I used to be washing… and I can remember one occasion when the chauffeur came with the major once. He came out to help me, it was about 10 o'clock, and all this washing up I had to do, he came out… but the cook came out and told him "No look that's her job" he said, "Leave her alone" he said, "You come away from it." Oh and he used to feel so sorry for me, you know, he said "I'd never let a girl of mine go to service." Said "It's terrible…" Still! I mean I learnt a lot… it's all experience, I learnt a lot from that."

Many thanks for sending me such an interesting interview. The vicar at the time would, I think, have been the Rev. Oscar Wade Wilde (who was apparently very proud to be distantly related to the famous Oscar Wilde). The old vicarage of All Saints, where your great grandmother must have worked, was pulled down in the 1960s, but its grounds used to occupy most of the space between the churchyard and Westwood Road, including what is now Clare Court. The present vicarage in Westwood Road just takes up a very small part of this area. The pub mentioned might have been the Bricklayer's Arms or the Spare Rib, now on the sites of nos. 2 and 5, Church Street, or the Dun Horse, that became The Aviator, in the corner between Church Place and Ramsey Road, and which has now been converted into a private house. More information welcome! (PG)

Go on to Betty Yeandle's account of her time at SLEPE HALL SCHOOL.

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