I was born over fifty years ago in the village of Trumpington in Cambridgeshire, when it was still a separate village. It has now been swallowed up by the expanded boundaries of Cambridge. When I first remember it, the boundary reached only to the Stone Bridge near the end of Brooklands Avenue. Then it was extended to Long Road and finally it engulfed the whole of the village. This loss of individuality caused a vague resentment at the time among many of the villagers, particularly the older ones, but I remember that as far as we, the members of the village cricket club, were concerned it had one immediate advantage – the town council had the Recreation Ground where we played mowed at regular intervals during the summer. We possessed at the time a mower and a large roller – pulled by members of the team when required – and with these we kept the actual pitch mowed and rolled, but beyond the mown table it was practically Indian country. A local farmer used to cut it when it was tall enough and collect the hay once during the season, but until he did so fielding in the deep required skills unknown at Lords. If long-on squatted on his heels, he disappeared from the view of the batsman and it could be very disconcerting to be caught by a fieldsman who rose apparently out of the earth. Even when the grass was cut the hay was left in long swathes to dry and I have known a drive along ‘the carpet’ to disappear under the hay just off the pitch and not be found until six runs had been taken. It was not unknown for a fielder at this time to pretend to carry on searching until he saw the batsmen in mid-pitch and then whip in a quick return before they could finish the run. Not perhaps in the true spirit of the game, but still within the rules.
The Recreation Ground is now unfortunately no more, a large housing estate having, since the last war, been built over it, together with the open cornfields beyond. When we played on it, it bordered the main road in the centre of the village and its rail fence on Saturday afternoons during the match usually held a row of local experts on the game – the most outspoken being, as always, those who had hardly handled a bat in their lives. In the corner near the road stood Percy Noble’s hut, a tiny shop which sold newspapers, magazines, sweets, cigarettes, and minerals, and Saturday afternoons, cups of tea. Just inside the door was a single seat where favoured customers could sit and drink their tea and chat with the presiding genius, a lively young lady named Marjorie. Across the road was Smith’s, the local carpenter’s, a wheelwright’s and undertaker’s shop. The two sons of the owner, Gordon and Cliff were two of the mainstays of the team, one as batsman and the other as bowler. Cliff, the batsman, who later played for the County, was expected to hit a six at least once during the game onto the roof of his father’s shop.
Next to the wheelwright’s shop was Newell’s, the cycle repair shop. The owner of this also ran a taxi service with a venerable but capacious Daimler into which we used somehow to pack the whole cricket team for away matches. Next to his shop – he used it as a paraffin store – was the old village lock-up, complete with stocks. Unfortunately this ancient building was pulled down when new shops were built over the spot. Nearby, a large office block now occupies the corner of Maris Lane but at that time it was a farmyard, known as Duke’s Farm. I remember one hot summer a rick of clover and lucerne, which had been damp when stacked, gradually heated up inside and eventually burst into flame, pervading the whole village with a sweet coffee-like smell.
Half-way down Maris Lane stands Anstey Hall, named after Christopher Anstey, the poet. It was owned then by George Foster, who besides being a large landowner and farmer was also Master of the local foxhounds, and kept the pack in the kennels at the Hall. When I was at Trumpington School the senior classes were often taken down to the Hall by the headmaster, Mr Robinson, when there was a meet and we stayed watching until the hunt moved off. As far as I remember, there was no agitation on behalf of the so-called poor fox in those days. In addition to the hounds, Mr Foster also owned several peacocks and peahens and these sometimes used to wander out of the grounds across the road to the wall of the school playground. On late summer evenings, their discordant screams could be heard all over the village.
Continue with the next part of W.E. Dring’s reminiscences of Trumpington in the 1920s.
E.I. Smith & Sons, Carpenters, Wheelwrights and Undertakers, Trumpington High Street, 1920s. From a photograph used by Percy Robinson during lectures in the 1920s-1940s.