Correspondence after publication

Our most recent correspondence was this article 'Histon - On and Off the Rails' at: https://histonandimpingtonvillagesociety.wordpress.com/. We are grateful to them for sending this article:

The Royal Visit to Chivers in Histon and Cambridge on Thursday 20th October 1955

The Royal Train on Thursday 20th October 1955 conveyed HM The Queen and Prince Philip from London, (probably King’s Cross) to Cambridge. The Cambridge Daily News reported that:

“A tremendous welcome greeted the Queen as she arrived at Cambridge station. Crowds had been waiting in the rain for over two hours and school children were tired of the delay. The glass roof of the station platform sprang a leak and a man was sent aloft to cover it with green waterproof. Exactly on time at 11 o’clock, the train drew in and Her Majesty stepped gracefully onto the platform. The women onlookers gasped as they took in the details of her dress, a fitting emerald green coat with black fur collar, green hat and black handbag.

“A crowd of several thousand massed in Cambridge Market Place as the Royal motor procession moved slowly towards the Guildhall. The weather did not appreciate the importance of the occasion as rain poured down steadily most of the day. The Queen looked radiant as the Mayor (Alderman E. Halnan) presented her with an Electryte Cardiograph adapted by a local firm to monitor the hearts of her thoroughbred racehorses. She thanked him warmly saying ‘This ingenious machine will be put to good use’. Then she made an appearance on the balcony, waving to the crowd, who cheered back.

“But there was more to follow. The Royal couple drove through the rain to Newnham College, where they inspected an undergraduate's room. Then on to Trinity College, where trumpeters on the top of the Great Gate sounded a fanfare, and the College Choir sang madrigals from the Minstrels' Gallery during the lunch for 275 guests in the dining hall.

“The main event of the day was the opening of the new School of Veterinary Medicine in Madingley Road but there was heavy rain as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh arrived for the ceremonial opening.

“The final tour of the day was to Girton College, where among those introduced to the Queen were members of the recently founded New Hall, the third of the Cambridge women's Colleges.“

Then it was time to leave for Chivers at Histon and the train waiting there. Great efforts were put in to complete the new local main sewage system before the Queen and Prince Philip arrived since the roads had been opened up and needed to be put back in place in time.

As the Chivers Magazine at Christmas 1955 subsequently reported:

“For months our builders had been busy painting and repairing the factory so that it should look its best for the Royal visitors. Flags and bunting decorated the factory and on Thursday 20th October all was gay despite the rain.

“Crowds assembled in the roadways, both inside and outside the factory, in cheerful expectation. Just in time, the weather cleared.”

This visit was by car along a route for as many people as possible to see them, from Girton via Park Lane, Histon High Street and Station Road to Chivers, who held the Royal Appointment, where there was another reception – that by the Chivers’ staff as the Queen drove through their factory. The weather by then was dry.

There the black royal limousine with a supporting saloon slowly toured the factory, but without the royal party getting out to make any special inauguration or similar.

The roadway in the factory was lined by the workers, especially the girls from the factory production and the Front Office. Credit: Chivers Magazine via HIVSoc.

The Queen and Prince Philip waving to the Chivers’ crowd. Credit: Chivers Magazine via HIVSoc.

Next, out of the entrance, turning right into Station Road, passing children from the Junior School who were waiting near the Railway Vue, waving their Union Jacks, and slowly towards the Station, where the cars paused, since many of the Chivers’ staff had rushed out to give them a farewell wave.

On to the station where the Royal Train was waiting, with the dedicated, highly polished locomotive Royal Sovereign stopped across the level crossing.

20th October 1955. A very clean 61671 Royal Sovereign at Cambridge that morning, outside the station locomotive shed. Lots of railway officials were keeping an eye on things, despite the wet weather. Credit: The Starling Collection.

When the Monarch was on board a royal train, the front indicator code was for all four lamps to be displayed on the smoke box of the locomotive. For the return journey, the train had to be got to Histon in time and placed in the up platform there with the locomotive facing towards Cambridge. To achieve this and avoiding any risks with working the carriages ‘wrong line’ all the way from Chesterton Junction, it is probable that the whole train was routed via Ely, March (for turning on the triangle there) and St Ives. Other traffic on the line through Histon would have been halted temporarily.

At Histon a special canopy had been erected at the station entrance leading out towards the road for the royal party to use. Then the train pulled out slowly to take them back to Cambridge and on to London.

Royal train leaving for London behind locomotive Royal Sovereign 61671, with the especially white painted cab roof. Credit: Kidderminster Railway Museum Trust, from Cambridge Station, its development and operation, by Rob Shorland-Ball, Pen & Sword Transport 2017.

Villagers remember the visit. Source: Geoffrey Smallwood, Village Memories Project:

John Taylor recalled on 3rd May 2019:

“I have a specific memory when the Queen visited Histon. I'm pretty sure that it involved a visit to Chivers’ factory, and the children from Histon Junior School were taken to the station to line the route and wave our Union Jacks. I was placed very near to the railway gates and I remember the Royal Train headed by B2 61671 Royal Sovereign looking very clean and shiny and was going on to London.”

Impington resident Cynthia Thoday recalled that her late husband, Bill, and her father, the late Roland Pegg, who had a solid fuel business (at the station) stood on top of a coal wagon there and, as the royal train passed, was delighted to be given their own personal royal wave as the Queen went by.

Dick Hibbett of Histon was 24 at the time and working at Unwin’s the Builders premises in Station Road, behind where the fish and chip shop is now. On 22nd May 2020 he recalled:

“On that day in the afternoon a whistle blew and all staff were allowed to down tools and go outside to wave Union Jacks and cheer as the royal cars went by. After that excitement, we just went back to work. The Queen had been visiting Girton so she came from that direction, along Park Lane, down the High Street, turned right into Station Road and then on to Chivers – the route had been chosen so that as many as people as possible could see her.”

Eileen Smallwood, as a schoolgirl, can also remember going down from school to stand near the Railway Vue to wait for the royal party to pass. She was one of the many youngsters waving Union Jacks and can remember that the Queen wore an emerald green outfit.

Mary Law of Impington remembered on 22nd May 2020:

“I worked at Chivers and was one of the many who lined the roadway within the factory, to wave and greet the Queen as she drove slowly through. The car did not stop, so she did not get out. When she had passed, we all rushed down towards the station, where she had paused, so that she could wave to us again before boarding the train. I can remember that she wore an emerald green outfit.”

Shirley Brundish of Impington also remembered on 22nd May 2020:

”I worked, like many others, at Chivers, in the Front Office. Along with lots of the other girls, I was at the side of the route the royal cars took in the factory, so I could wave and cheer. Luckily, it was dry."


The book is available at the Histon & Impington meetings. Copyright is with them.

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We loved the wide range of letters and emails from people who read and appreciated A Community Remembers: Histon Road and told us more about the area. A prime example was a contribution to our history section in Chapter 1 where Alison Wilson described the prehistory of Histon Road going back to the iron age. Professor Philip Gibbard at the Scott Polar Research Institute, took Histon Road back even further - to around c.125,000 years ago:

‘Histon Road was the site of an early study of interglacial deposits using the then relatively new technique of pollen analysis. This technique involves the identification of plant remains and especially fossil pollen to determine the plants that lived during the period in which the deposits were formed. As you’ll see from the attached articles, the site has been repeatedly studied in detail here in Cambridge at the University’s Botany Department (now Plant Sciences) from the late 1940s. The research was led by Professor Sir Harry Godwin and latterly by his student Professor Richard West (deceased in December 2020). It was most recently studied by Dr Steve Boreham in his thesis for the Open University. The site of these investigations were “between Arbury and Histon Roads”, which I take to be the allotments field. The deposits were laid down in a channel of the River Cam under a temperate climate. They date from the last interglacial period.’

This is one of the articles Philip pointed us to which you can access online: Sparks, B. W. and West, R. G.: The Palaeoecology of the Interglacial Deposits at Histon Road, Cambridge, E&G Quaternary Sci. J., 10, 123–147, https://doi.org/10.3285/eg.10.1.12, 1959.


Beth Lane, née Theobold, lived in Roseford Road and the book lit up her childhood memories:

‘Yesterday I was given a copy of A Community Remembers, Histon Road as an 84th birthday gift because I was born at 66, Roseford Road. I have spent this morning reliving my childhood! I do wish that I had known about this as I could have added so much more to it!


‘My Grandfather was Harry Bicheno, he was not an Australian, he was 100% English, hailing from the village of Over, I have the family history as far back as the 1500’s, neither was he a builder, he worked in partnership with a builder, he was in fact a Silver Service Waiter at Sidney Sussex College and something of an entrepreneur! He had ten children, my mother was his youngest, she married Sidney Theobald in 1936 and my Grandfather built their house and most of the houses down that side of the road including number 53, for his son Wally Bicheno and 54 for his daughter Doris Bailey. He also had a hand in building part of Bishops Road, Trumpington and a house there for another daughter Marjorie who married Stan Carter. Oh, I could tell you so much more!


‘I could also name many of the people in the large photo on page 102/3 including myself! The map on page 78 shows numbers 68 and 69 Roseford Road, in fact number 66, my home was the last house and ‘the ditch’ as we called it ran beside our garden through the fields at the back, across Arbury Road into somewhere near Histon where it opened out into a pond in which lived newts, frogs sticklebacks etc. Truly a child’s paradise!


'On page 117 you have a Miss Shry as Headmistress, she was in fact Miss Shrive. Please please don’t think that I am nit picking, I have so enjoyed your wonderful book, it has brought back so many extremely happy memories, should you want any more please get in touch, I am only in Ely.'


Githa St.John-Ives wrote:

'My somewhat cantankerous strawberry roan pony named 'Strawberry', lived at the old Chivers Farm through the lay-by before the A14 flyover. Delightful fruit orchards once stood in the distance on the land that is now being developed into housing - I recall the familiar aroma of fallen apples and fresh grass on dewy mornings and sunny afternoons. No doubt the days of the delicious greengage trees are now numbered, but I shan't dwell on that for too long. Farm hand, Fred, and his wife Elsie, lived in the ancient crumbling farmhouse with a collection of ankle-biting Jack Russell terrorists, always ready to take a chunk. The old stables were full of vintage horse brasses, dusty leathers and a sizeable array of pigeon homing accoutrements. Despite its close proximity to the A14, the oak tree sunsets in the furthest fields were quite spectacular. It was a fascinating place, somewhat disconnected from the modern world, and a big part of my formative years.'


And Mary Lockwood wrote about a postcard [see below] that shows the top of Histon and Victoria Roads:

'I treasure a postcard sent by my grandfather to my grandmother (who lived with her great aunt in the almshouses at the top of Shelley Row). It is postmarked April 1907 - so would be early in their relationship, when he was ‘wooing’ her. The picture shows the junction from Huntingdon Rd looking into Victoria Rd, with a glimpse of the Victoria Tavern & the Histon Rd corner to the left. Two men are in the middle of the otherwise deserted road. One of the men is on a bicycle and was posed in conversation with the other, standing. Behind them can be seen the back of a horse and cart. Grandad’s postcard message asks whether the recipient thinks she can see someone she knows. The man standing (wearing cloth cap working clothes) we understand to be my grandfather who worked as a miller (at French’s Mill) and would take the horse & cart out with deliveries - to bakeries & often to the railway station.'

Finally, in Chapter 3 we wondered whether there was a connection between the house plaques [see below] on the side of 26 Benson Street with E.W. Benson, who was Archbishop of Canterbury, and hence the names of Benson, Canterbury and Priory Streets. The timing of 1883 was spot on. But no! we had 2 people write in with proof that the plaques show the Duke of Wellington. He died in 1852, but house plaques and wall ties were made at a foundry in Derby, and added to this house. Oh well!