Jet crash, Peace in Our Time, the ferrymen and an Omnibus crash

Cambridgeshire Collection

The Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library includes many thousand illustrations. One of those from the sport collection. - Credit: Mike Petty

With the assistance of historian Mike Petty, we take you back through the archives of our local newspapers. 

Venom Crash at Sutton - Ely Standard, October 5th 1956 

Jet crashes near Sutton 

Jet crashes near Sutton - Credit: Ely Standard

A Venom jet aircraft crashed on the outskirts of Sutton killing both the pilot and the navigator, an inquest was told, 

A member of the Observer Corps said he heard the aircraft approach from the direction of St Ives.  

It then went into a dive, crashed and exploded.  

Members of the public went to the scene and small portions of flesh and aircraft were found, the former being parts of the airman.  

The identification of the aircraft was confirmed by an engine plate tag. 

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The aircraft had left RAF Station Waterbeach. 


Black Horse Drove Teacher retires - Ely Standard, October 7th 1932 

Black Horse Drove school 1971

Black Horse Drove school 1971 - Credit: Mike Petty

After 28 years as the headmaster of the Black Horse Drove mixed school, Mr. H, H Durham has retired.  

He has been assisted by his wife who has had sole charge of the infants. He came to the Isle of Ely in 1896 and for two years was with Mr Kidd at Chatteris.  

The next 18 months was spent at Whittlesey before coming to Black Horse Drove. 

During these 28 years the actual school buildings had not changed.

But the number of scholars has increased tremendously and it has been found necessary to use the Wesleyan School Room, three- quarters of a mile away as a classroom, which has been a great inconvenience.  

He has triumphed over the difficulties and today it would be hard to find better-trained children.  


“Peace in Our Time” but prepare anyway - Ely Standard, October 7th 1938 

“Peace in Our Time” but prepare anyway - Ely Standard, October 7th 1938

“Peace in Our Time” but prepare anyway - Ely Standard, October 7th 1938 - Credit: Ely Standard

Thanks to Mr Chamberlain’s efforts in the cause of peace, air raid precaution measures in Ely have been conducted in a less feverish state than was the case a week ago. 

But this should not be taken as meaning nothing is being done.  

The whole idea is to bring the services up to full strength in order that should the need ever arrive there will not have to be an appeal at the last moment for volunteers.  

More than 20 people have volunteered and are joining in the lectures. 

The gas masks already distributed will be left with residents and the work of fitting them will be continued. 

Home Office notices have been posted containing advice as to their treatment and warning as to the penalties for misuse.  

Children have been seen playing in the streets of Fordham wearing their masks.  

Parents should not hesitate to take every precaution against this, because damage can easily be done.

Adults are not altogether blameless, and one person been seen to don her respirator in order to be more comfortable when peeling onions. 

The Ely Women's Institute have met to make provisions for accommodating children under five years of age.  

Elementary schools which were closed, have re-opened. Sand bags have been delivered at the railway station and the Barracks will be used as a decontamination centre.  

A pit for an anti-aircraft gun and a trench have been prepared in the parade grounds. 

An emergency meeting of Soham Parish Council discussed air raid precautions in the parish.  


Somersham Air Disaster – Ely Standard, October 6th 1942 

Eight people were killed and two are missing as the result of a British plane crashing in the middle of the village of Somersham.  

Six cottages were wrecked and a number of others damaged. 

The plane was in difficulty and the crew baled out and landed safely. 

There was a tremendous blaze visible for miles which was fought by N.F.S. formations.  

The Home Guard did good work in rescuing trapped people and recovering bodies from the debris.  


Beggars Bridge – Ely Standard, October 4th 1929 

The old Beggars Bridge on LNER between March and Whittlesey

The old Beggars Bridge on LNER between March and Whittlesey was a wooden one of the gantry type - Credit: Ely Standard

The old Beggars Bridge on LNER between March and Whittlesey was a wooden one of the gantry type, crossing the Twenty Foot River and two adjoining drove-ways. 

Of late it was apparent that the structure had outlived its useful purpose and was becoming increasingly dangerous for the heavy traffic on that route.  

In the early part of 1927 the work of erecting a new bridge was started. 

As both up and down lines had to be kept open to traffic the first section was to reconstruct a new down line, which was completed in June.  

The former down-line was utilised for the cranes and machinery necessary to carry out the second portion. The sub-soil was particularly bad but eventually foundations were made with over 300 piles driven into the ground. 

The third bridge, over the March side drove-way was then erected and the final stage has now been completed  



Cambridgeshire Past 

Cambridgeshire Collection

The Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library includes many thousand illustrations. One of those from the sport collection. - Credit: Mike Petty

Cambridgeshire Collection

The Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library includes many thousand illustrations. One of those from the sport collection. - Credit: Mike Petty

Cambridgeshire Collection

The Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library includes many thousand illustrations. One of those from the sport collection. - Credit: Mike Petty

The Cambridgeshire Collection at Cambridge Central Library includes many thousand illustrations ranging from 17th-century engravings, through postcards to original photographs.  

They are arranged in classified order. 

‘U’ is the heading for sport.  

Here are some examples from Mike Petty’s Library 

Lt Thetford ferryman - Ely Standard, October 4th 1935 

In the tiny Little Thetford cottage, Mr and Mrs. Henry James Dewsberry of Ivy Cottage celebrated their diamond wedding. 

Mrs Dewsberry, just over 80, is twice as active as the average woman of her age, and frequently goes to Ely to do her shopping.  

Her husband looks more his age, and unfortunately is deaf, and his eyesight is not good.  

He is none the more for that a marvellous man for his years and can still row himself across the river, a wonderful feat for such an elderly man. 

Mrs Dewsberry’s eyes sparkled with pride as she spoke of her eight living children.  

But tears were not far away when she mentioned her trip to France, some years ago, and her unsuccessful attempt to find the graves of her two soldier sons who were killed in the Great War.  

She pointed out their photographs which were hung up over the fireplace, and then hastily turned the conversation 

The loss of her sons is her only unbearable lifelong sorrow. 

“We have lived happily together these 60 years but it has not always been easy bringing up 10 children,” she said.  

“We have worked hard and cheerfully and made the best of our lives for the happiness of our children”, she said. 

They live contentedly together, forgetful of the hardships of their life and thinking only of the happiness that lays in front of them. 

Mr Dewsberry lived at Harrimere Mill, Soham for about 50 years and for nearly 20 years he ran the floating bridge across the river at Little Thetford until it sank in 1917. 


Mepal ferryman – Ely Standard, October 4th 1935 

Mepal ferryman – Ely Standard, October 4th 1935

Mepal ferryman – Ely Standard, October 4th 1935 - Credit: Archant

Those who can recall the crossing of Mepal Causeway by ferry boat before the coming of the viaduct will remember the short sturdy man of the boat.  

William Waters, so skilled with the spread, and at home on the wash, who has passed away. 

Born at Mepal he spent the greater part of his days, a resident of his native village, and as father and grandfather before him was the local ferry man and residing at the Ferry Cottage.  

A lighterman of old he made hundreds of river trips by lighter before he retired some 20 years ago.  


Snailwell Omnibus accident - ‘Ely Chronicle’ August 16 1845 

On Wednesday week as the omnibus from Newmarket to the railway at Ely, was proceeding through the parish of Snailwell, the horse, a very spirited one, was frightened by a dog, started off at full speed. 

It threw the driver and a commercial traveller from the box. 

The latter having received a concussion of the brain and some severe wounds in the head, was carried to the only public house in the village, kept by Mrs Woollard. 

She, inhumanly, refused to take him in, he was then taken to the Green Dragon, at Fordham, where he was bled and his wounds dressed.  

Messrs. Addison, of Soham, and Peck, of Newmarket, surgeons, have attended him, and with the kindness of Mr Smith, the landlord, and his daughter, he is in a fair way of doing well. 

It is due to Mr Bottom, the coach proprietor, to say that he has ordered everything necessary towards his recovery.  

The driver's arm was a good deal hurt, but he is doing well. 

And finally, a dash of Ely humour

Fishing at Ely - historic humour

Fishing at Ely - historic humour - Credit: Mike Petty

Further contributions gratefully received. Email photos or archive items to john.elworthy@archant.co.uk 

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