LETTER: Looking for proof

As I come to the end of my year as mayor, I have been asked to help establish whether or not there is any truth in the story that one of Ernest Shepard’s illustrations for the Wind in the Willows has links with Ely’s historic courthouse.

It has been said that he used the main courtroom as the inspiration for his drawing of Toad being hauled before the magistrates after stealing a valuable motor car, driving to the public danger and being grossly impertinent to the rural police. He got 20 years in prison for his troubles.

Apparently, Mr Shepard made several drawings for the book which was first published in 1908 , adding more to the later editions.

If anyone has a copy of one of the early editions that might help prove that it really was our courthouse, I would be grateful for the opportunity to photocopy the illustration. Similarly, if anyone has any recollections or heard stories of E.H. Shepard coming to Ely (maybe to visit friends?), I would be delighted if they could get in touch with me.


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