Trumpington School, built 1843. Percy Robinson collection.
Following his appointment as Head Teacher of the Church School in 1908, Percy Robinson built up an extensive knowledge of Trumpington’s history. He gave two lectures in February 1931, which were reported on in the Cambridge Chronicle , reproduced below.
Percy Robinson History Lectures, February 1931
When giving his lectures, Percy Robinson would have used his notes, including ‘A Trip Through Trumpington’ and ‘Individual notes’, copies of which are also available, see the sources on the Percy Robinson page. There were detailed reports on the lectures in two issues of the Cambridge Chronicle , reproduced in W.E. Dring’s Newspaper Cuttings, vol. 1 (Cambridgeshire Collection). The newspaper reports include a sample of Percy Robinson’s illustrations. These have been omitted from this page but are included in ‘A Trip Through Trumpington’.
Cambridge Chronicle , 11 February 1931, p. 5.
The first of Mr. P.R. Robinson’s two lantern lectures on Trumpington was delivered in Trumpington Village Hall on Wednesday evening to an appreciative audience.
Mr. Robinson commenced his discourse by explaining the geographical position of the village, afterwards picturing Trumpington in historic times. They would be able to divide it roughly into two parts: (a) the high lands, probably covered with thick forests, (b) the valley near the river, probably a vast swamp with a sluggish stream, which at times became a raging torrent. This region was inhabited by countless aquatic birds and creatures, evidenced by the coprolites that are found and have been dug in this area. Possibly pre-historic creatures wandered about these parts, for the fossilised remains of a mammoth’s tooth (or similar creature) have been found in the Barnwell Ridge of sand just over Hauxton Road railway bridge. As the Romans made a settlement at Grantchester, it is quite possible that Trumpington became an outpost, and no doubt a Roman fort guarded the approach to the fords. “Camping Close” may have obtained its name from the fact that it was a camping ground. In the time of the Britons this district was supposed to belong to the Iceni, who under Boadicea rebelled against the Romans. As there appears some doubt as to the exact meaning of the name of the town Cambridge, so also it is hard to find the exact meaning of Trumpington. Mr. Robinson suggested as a possible meaning, “the town where the trumpet may be heard,” for, assuming a Roman fort was at Trumpington, they could by means of a trumpet attract the attention of those in the fort.
An extract from “Inquisition of the County of Cambridge” about 1080 (Domesday Book) was read enumerating the acreage, value, etc., of the land and by whom it was held; followed by an account of the manors in the past and how they had become absorbed in the Trumpington and Anstey Estates.
Mr. Robinson’s first slide was of an Inclosure Award map, 1804, interesting in that it gave some of the old names of the land.
Describing local flora and fauna, he remarked that Trumpington is noted for its elms, evidenced by the plantation on the Trumpington Road and others dotted about the district, but other trees flourish. A huge walnut tree stood for many years in the grounds of Anstey Hall, in the fork of which fifteen men have sat with a barrel of ale. Eventually the tree was cut down and the wood used to panel the study of the present owner of Anstey hall. Three stately oaks stand in a meadow on the same estate, but unfortunately two have been seriously damaged by storm. On the lawn of Trumpington Hall may be seen a magnificent cedar and a fine lime tree, whilst a very old “Judas” tree is trained to the wall. Some very large Scotch firs and Wellington pines stand near the house. At Leighton, on Trumpington Road, a good specimen of the monkey-puzzle tree (araucaria) may be seen. A splendid example of the tree of heaven (ailanthus glandulosa) stands in the garden of T he V illa, but it has recently been pollarded, and some good beech trees stand in the Old Mills Plantations.
Bird, Animal and Insect Life
Although so close to Cambridge, the private lands in Trumpington may well be regarded as a sanctuary for bird, animal and insect life. Some of the prettiest and rarest of British birds are by no means uncommon. Kingfishers, woodpeckers, magpies, jays, herons, kestrel, and sparrow hawks, pheasants, partridges, snipe, gold crest, hawfinch, Bohemian waxwing, corncrakes, owls, wild duck, peewit or plover, golden plover, and a host of smaller birds may often be seen in their natural element on a fine summer’s day, providing one has permission to cross the land and knows the direction to take. The crossbill has also been seen. The fox is the largest of our wild animals, and a vixen has “cubbed down” for a number of years in succession; on occasions the mother with her five young ones could be seen gambolling in the mornings and evenings by a precautious watcher. Otters are far too plentiful from a fisherman’s point of view, but owing to the depth of water the hounds find it difficult to kill. [Their food is very plentiful] Pike up to 17¼ lbs. weight, bream 5¼ lbs., roach 2¼ lbs., chub 5¼ lbs., trout 4¼ lbs., perch 1¾ lbs. have been taken by fishermen, but with the exception of the bream mentioned he knew of no others – not even small ones – having been taken.
From an entomological standpoint, Trumpington can vie with Wicken Fen, for many different specimens of moths and butterflies such as, death’s head, goat, puss, leopard, convolvulus hawk, privet hawk, elephant hawk, hummingbird hawk, lobster, clouded yellow, pale clouded yellow, etc., are to be obtained by enthusiastic collectors.
A Trip Through the Village
Entering the Parish from the north end, Cambridge, one comes to the “Stone Bridge.” Why Stone Bridge? It is built of bricks and is evidently short for “Mile Stone” Bridge. Originally there was a ford there, kept in repair by the people of Cambridge conjointly with those of Trumpington. The milestone is the first out of Cambridge and is very large. It was erected on the occasion of the visit of George II to the University in 1728, replacing a smaller one said to have been put there in the time of the Romans, and is the first of sixteen set up between Cambridge and Barkway, in the early part of the 18th century. On this particular stone is inscribed, “One mile to Great St. Maries (not Mary’s) Church.” The coat of arms represents the arms of Trinity Hall, impaling those of Dr. Mowse, a former master of the college. The last stone at Barkway bears the arms of Dr. Harvey also of Trinity Hall. Years gone by the Village Feast was a much more important event, stalls and booths reaching from the Stone Bridge to the Tally Ho.
A reference was made to the Evelyn Nursing Home, the lecturer paying a tribute to the skill of Mr. Arthur Cooke, who performed a successful operation on Evelyn, wife of Charles Morland Agnew, who built the home as a thank-offering for her recovery.Roman pottery, buckles, pins, etc., have been found at River Farm, which is near the site of “Dam Hill,” an old Roman cemetery. Mention was made of “Paradise,” that lovely strip of the Granta. Christopher Anstey, the poet, in the appendix to “The Patriot” mentions “In Granta’s delightful and quiet retreat.” Edmund Spenser also mentions the Granta in the “Faerie Queen [Queene].”
Coming from River Farm and proceeding along Trumpington Road, passing Bentley Road, on the left hand side about half a mile south of the Stone Bridge, there is a stone in the hedgerow. This marks the end of the Stump Cross Turnpike Trust (Chesterford). It is truly a stump now, for in 1922 it was smashed by an Air Force motor lorry.
A slide of Leighton, now the residence of Brigadier-General Bainbridge, showed a view of the rise in the ground. The house is built on the site known as Gibbet Hill. The last person to hang on the gibbet was tarred and feathered, and was so punished about 1757. The Long Road, previous to the Enclosure Award, was nothing more or less than a drift – simply a grass track used by carts, etc. It has had various names, Long Drift, Long Drove, New Road, Mill Road and Cherryhinton Road.
Road that Hereward Trod
A reference was made to Worts Causeway, part of an old Roman road that used to run from the Icknield way, crossing Hills Road to the ford at Trumpington. This is probably the road mentioned by Charles Kingsley in “Hereward the Wake.”
Elm Tree Mound, given this name by Mr. Robinson because it is an elm tree on a mound, is situated at the back of the thatched cottages on the east side of Trumpington Road, and is supposed to be the site of some old Roman fort, probably an outpost of the garrison at Grantchester, situated on the side of the then causeway to guard the approach to the ford. Formerly there was a ditch round it. Many antiquarians are anxiously waiting for the tree to die, but it appears to be like a cat with nine lives. Widnell, in his book “Reminiscences of Trumpington” mentions it as being dead. Some years it certainly seems dead, but in others the lower part breaks into a flourishing condition. A picture of St Mary’s produced some interesting facts. This house is built on the site of John Cumming’s school, which had a reputation. There were boarders at the school, and they had to stand for meals, breakfast consisting of bread and milk. The children were punished with a “spanker,” a piece of wood about one foot long with a circular piece at each end. One piece had a hole in it and was used for serious offences. Slides were shown of the Green Man and the Coach and Horses, and some picturesque thatched cottages. A house with two very old, tiny leaded windows provoked much amusement when the speaker wondered how the modern flapper could “titivate” behind them.
Cross Hill, the name given to the piece of land at the junction of the Grantchester and Trumpington main roads, no doubt derives its name from the fact that the old Village Cross stood on this site. When excavations for the foundation for the present War Memorial were in progress the base of the old stone cross was uncovered, the top being about three inches below the surface of the road. This stone was discovered 17th August 1921. It is a piece of Barnack stone 2 ft. 4 ins. Square at the bottom, and 1 ft. 9 ins. High, and it is probable the stone was erected in the fifteenth century.
The present War memorial is the village tribute to its honoured dead, and has 36 names on it. The carvings are symbolical rather that picturesque.
Old Blacksmith’s Shop
The old blacksmith’s shop was occupied by Mr. John Nichols and stood on a site near the present lodge house of Trumpington Hall. Cows and bullocks were shoed here, as they had to be driven long distances to market – hence the necessity. To the south of this place was the village pond, probably near the north-west corner of the Unicorn garden and on the piece of ground now used by the school gardening class. Between the blacksmith’s shop and the pond were the stocks and whipping post. A slide of the smithy, a sketch by Widnell from memory of the place, and another showing the smithy on a new site were both interesting. The Village Hall was built in 1908, and declared open by the late Sir Clifford Allbutt. It was enlarged in 1923-4, mainly through the generosity of the Pemberton family, the new additions also being opened by Sir Clifford.
The old lock-up, in which prisoners were placed until it was convenient for their removal, showed how prisoners were provided with a seat, but were kept in position by irons. The Village Pound, in which straying cattle were placed, was adjacent to the lock-up. At one time there were two pounds. The site of the pound is now used as a cycle shop tenanted by Mr. Harry Newell, who has removed the old gates and covered the site in for business purposes. Hobson was a great benefactor to the town of Cambridge, and he also arranged that children from Trumpington might compete for free places at the Perse Grammar School.
Concerning the front doorway of Anstey Hall, one might travel the country through and have great difficulty in finding such an imposing doorway. The listeners’ attention was drawn to the height of the pillars on either side.
Mr. Robinson concluded on an amusing note, when he projected a picture of the mirror situated near the front gates of Anstey Hall, remarking on vanity and temptation placed in the children’s way when they find a heap of gravel nearby.
Cambridge Chronicle , 25 February 1931, p. 5.
The second part of Mr P.R. Robinson’s lecture on Trumpington was continued in Trumpington Village Hall on Thursday evening.
From the mirror at Anstey Hall, which concluded his first lecture, Mr. Robinson carried on to a history of the school (other than Cumming’s), which was started by Mrs Foster, of Anstey Hall, in a house opposite the Vicarage (next to the one dated 1654). In 1830 twenty-five children attended Grantchester School from Trumpington. The present school was built in 1842, and the new room added in 1903. The schoolmaster’s house was an old thatched one built near the present front garden gate. A very interesting slide taken from an old print was shown of the school in 1842, and is very picturesque compared with the present structure. The names of some of the schoolmasters are Bridges, Stafford, and Higham (a bit of a dandy who drove a tandem and pair, and had a door made in the stables of the “Unicorn” in order to see the horses – or so he said). The door is still there. Then followed the respected Mr. George Hutt, who worked here for forty-four years, and Miss G. Marshall, who has worked for over fifty years in the school and is still “not out.” The stables at the “Unicorn” have been used for various purposes; at one time an old fellow named Tom Wynhall lived near and used them as a butcher’s shop. It is said that he used to go to the villages round about and enquire of the farmers whether they had any ailing cattle to dispose of. They were then hurried to the “Unicorn” and the meat sold locally. Possibly this accounts for the longevity of some of the inhabitants! Many old memories were revived by a slide portraying the old Trumpington Brass Band with the Amicable Brotherly Friendly Society (dissolved 1911) before the Unicorn Inn, and showing the interesting old thatched roof.Years gone by the tap room of the “Unicorn” was used as a laundry. It is said that the thatch is there, but the tiles have been put over it.
An interesting slide showing the carving on an oak window frame in the old house opposite the school was shown. No one appears to know the date of the building, evidently an important house when built, probably about 1572. It is of Flemish design, and many similar structures may be seen in Flanders. There are rings under the eaves, which held large hooks used for pulling off thatch when fires broke out. The slide of one shown was taken from the hook standing in St. Benet’s Church, while similar rings may be seen over one of the houses in Bene’t Street, Cambridge, and some opposite St. Clement’s Church. Inside the house are some fine old beams, and formerly an old-fashioned oven, now removed. The house was restored in 1925 by Mr. William Pemberton, when it was found necessary to brick in the wide open chimneys. Five windows had been filled in, no doubt when the window tax was in force. Windows and catches to correspond with the originals were made by Mr. E. Lawrence, the village blacksmith. There is a quaint old design on the chimney that looks like a bunch of grapes or a baker’s twist.
This piece of ground is on the right-hand side of the road as we go from the Old House in the direction of Cambridge in the Church lane, and an old tumbled down thatched cottage stood on this site, occupied by a very notorious character called “Mother” Sivill. She was supposed to be a witch and fortune teller, and to her belongs the credit of being the last person to be placed in the pillory at Cambridge, which stood close to the Old Market Cross near the end of St. Mary’s Passage and in front of Barrett’s shop. “Mother” was placed in the pillory for one hour, turned round every fifteen minutes, and pelted with eggs and other soft missiles as a warning for future fortune tellers. For a piece of silver she guaranteed to give your enemy trouble, by causing the chickens to have roup, his cattle the glanders, his pigs the fever and his wife the creeping palsy or any other trouble.
The lecturer showed a slide of Dangler’s End, so named on old village maps, which was formerly an important part of the village, no doubt consisting of the dwellings of the artisans that were employed by the Lord of the Manor years ago. A slide of the ancient thatched cottages opposite the church was obtained from an excellent painting made by a scholar of Trumpington School, 1929. Few people have noticed the tablet on “Brazel” Bridge which states that it was “erected by public subscription in 1790.” Previously the stream had to be forded, but there was a plank for foot passengers (called in the Award, Bast Bridge) some fifty yards lower down. The pathway was done away with on the Enclosure, 1804. A slide of Dead Man’s Hole gave a view of the bend in the river where possibly the old backwater from “Chaucer’s Mill” entered the river. The ditch can still be seen. The small copse of trees on the left bank is in the parish of Trumpington. The story goes that a man was found drowned here. Grantchester refused to pay for his burial, for it was said he was in Trumpington parish, and it fell to the lot of Trumpington. On this account Trumpington claimed the small portion of land.
No one seems to know when this name was given to it. Byron, who was a poet of nature, is said to have made it his favourite spot for bathing. Another story says that when sitting meditating on the stone wall he tumbled headlong into the pool. The foundation of the Old Mill immortalised by Chaucer could be observed in a picture of Byron’s Pool projected on to the screen. Chaucer, 1340-1400, gives an account of the miller in the Reves [Reeve’s] Tale of the Canterbury Tales.
No doubt there used to be two mills, for the plantation is called Old Mills Plantation. There are three disused fishponds in it, and another in Mr. Foster’s meadow.
Tennyson also wrote of the place in “The Miller’s Daughter,” 1832.
“I see the wealthy miller yet,
His double chin, his portly size .”
Mr. Robinson referred to the miller of the now burned down Grantchester Mill, “whose shadow did not diminish,” as true to Tennyson’s description.
William Wordsworth, in 1800, writes:
“Beside the pleasant Mill of Trumpington
I laughed with Chaucer in the hawthorn shade.”
Whilst mentioning poets one must remember the young patriot Rupert Brooke, who lived at the old Vicarage, Grantchester. He wrote unpleasant things of the people of Trumpington, but we must put his remarks down to the privilege of poet’s license.
“At Over they fling oaths at one,
And worse than oaths at Trumpington.”
A slide illustrating the Miller of Trumpington from a print dated 1727 was very interesting, and another pertaining to the Volunteer Corps at the time they were guarding the Pile Bridge was of a humorous character, amusing anecdotes being told of individual members. It showed a burlesque menu headed “Hotel Ritz.” The “Hotel Ritz” was the name given to the hut on Pile Bridge used by the Volunteers, which was taken over by the Royal Defence Corps when the Volunteers had finished with it. The Cambridge and Trumpington Volunteers combined to carry out their duties, Cambridge men taking them over after twelve o’clock, when Trumpington finished. It was guarded so faithfully that it has not moved an inch!
A name invented by Mr. Robinson. “Squandermania” is very appropriate. It relates to the coprolite workings at the south end of the village near to Hauxton. Two huge mounds of earth, one of top soil and the other the sub-soil, were the result of the excavations. Boring commenced on June 8th, 1917, and works started on January 2nd, 1918, and the workers managed to get to the coprolites when the war ended. Millions of pounds were squandered, for it is doubtful whether a ton of coprolite was turned to good account. In olden days of the other workings, about 1870, the coprolites were used for manorial purposes, but during the Great War they were no doubt required for the making of high explosives with the phosphorus they contained. It is said that one train load of coprolites went as far as Norwich and was sent back and emptied into the pit. Another huge mound is on the Hauxton Road; on this was the “washing plant,” and the slurry was conveyed in channels to “pans” near the river.
Nearby is the huge pit from which the earth was removed and which now containes a large quantity of water. During the hot summer of 1921 it became a favourite spot for undergraduates to bathe without permission, and was commonly known by them as the “Blue Lagoon.”
Trumpington Church is dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin and St. Michael, or as some are inclined to think, to St Nicholas, with a Vicarage in the gift of Trinity College. It belongs to the Archdeaconry of Ely and the Deanery of Barton. The Vicarage land in all contains about 8a. 3r. 9p. The house which stood on the Rectory was secured to the Vicar by the Enclosure Act, 1804. An extension in the form of a cemetery was made in the year 1893, the area being situated at the corner of the Shelford and London Roads, the old Turnpike. The nuns of the Priory of Haliwell, near Shoreditch, London, purchased the Avowson in 1343, and a little later the Bishop Simon issued letters from his manor appropriating the Church of Trumpington to the Sisters of Haliwell. The Convent appears to have retained possession of the Rectory until the dissolution of the Monasteries, when it was granted by Henry VIII about 1546 to the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, to whom it still belongs and who are also the Patrons of the Vicarage.
In 1643 the fanatic Dowsing visited the church, and in his journal is written “We brake three superstitious pictures (? windows) and ordered Mr. Thompson to level the steps, but he refused.”
In 1676 the population was 135, and at the Visitation in 1728 there were 62 families and 379 inhabitants. In 1841 the population was 750, whilst the oldest parish register commences with the year 1671. A picture of the Brass of Master Roger of Trumpington, was shown, and all extract from the Inquisition at his death showed that his property was worth £22 18s. 2d. An acre of land was valued at thirteen pence, 1 lb. of pepper was worth sixpence, and fowls one penny each.
There was a chapel dedicated to St. Anne, in the street of Trumpington, which in 1399 had a serving Chaplain, and a hermit, who in 1280 held seven acres of land in Madingley at 9d. a year.
The church is a uniform and beautiful specimen of decorated architecture, erected probably in the latter part of the reign of Edward II. Evidently a church existed there previously, as traces can be found at the base of the south-west nave pier, which is evidently early English. The original plan consisted of a chancel, nave, two aisles, with north and south chapels respectively, and the western tower, which remains uninjured by any mutilations with the exception of the demolition of a chantry or sacristy on the north side of the chancel, and the destruction of the high pitched roof of the nave, which is shown by a weather mould on the tower to have been higher. Probably the tower had a wooden spire, but no traces can now be seen. All churches built about this period had spires.
The vestry was built in 1912, during the time of the Rev. R.G. Bury, Litt.D., vicar. The idea of placing the Rolls of Honour, which exist in the church at the moment, originated with Mr. A.W. Bishop (churchwarden) backed by the Rev. R.G. Bury (vicar) and Canon T.P. Pemberton. The first roll was at the outbreak, the second when the Germans were attacking Paris, and the third at the time of preparation for the great final advance against the Germans. The boards are incomplete, for at the moment there are still twelve more names to be added. The first two were unveiled by the Rev. R.G. Bury; the third was unveiled by the late Rev. H.S. Cronin.
Although mention was made of the charities of Trumpington, time did not permit of details. Altogether 81 slides were shown, and most of these were the work of Mr. W. Tams, of Humberstone Road, Cambridge.
Mr. W.W. Pemberton proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Robinson at the close of the lecture and also Mr. King, who so ably manipulated the lantern.
Wendy Roberts transcribed the text of the 1931 newspaper reports.