Correspondence after publication

One of our major contributors has been Ann Whitmore who was brought up at 75a Histon Road with her parents, 2 aunts and 7 siblings. As a child her family received donations of bread and soup from St John's College which she writes about on page 17 and 18. The archivist at St John's explains that this was a practice probably remaining from medieval times, when it was still a hospital. The practice was subsequently handed over to the WRVS as part of their 'Meals on Wheels' service and Ann, without knowing about this connection, had become a volunteer with the WRVS, delivering meals on wheels in Histon. With thanks to the Master, Fellows and Scholars of St John's College, we are able to reproduce the recipe for 'The Poor's Soup' above that dates from the 1950s above (when they had omitted the beef!). 


From 'Histon - On and Off the Rails' at: 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.

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.

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.

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


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,, 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!