West End, Wilburton looking towards the cemetery.
More History of Wilburton
Wilburton has vastly changed since the early twenties, then there were no council houses, no mains water, no electricity, very few phones or motorcars.
Children from outlying places, Mitchell’s farm, Twenty Pence Road and the station had to walk to school. There was no transport or school meals. Until recently the drove to Mitchell’s Farm was just a dirt-track with a cinder path on one side. The road to the station and Twenty Pence Road were both hard roads. At twenty pence there was no bridge over the river and to cross a member of the Savidge family would take you over by boat, there was no hard road to Cottenham. There was a regular passenger and goods service by rail to Ely and the papers came in on the 8 am train every day, they were then delivered by a boy or girl on a cycle. Passengers wanting to go by train would be taken to the station by Mr Hazels’, pony and cart.
With regard to the village itself there are few houses beyond the oak tree. There was no playing field as we know it today. The Berristead (now occupied by Hughes family) was two houses, the larger part being occupied by the tenant of the Manor Farm who always kept a large herd of cows, the milk being taking to the station by pony and cart to catch the 8am train to Ely. The house now occupied by Mr and Mrs Wilkinson was two cottages in which lived the cowman for the manor Farm.
Looking at the High Street, at first it would not appear to have changed much, on closer examination much has altered. Where the two Coronation houses row are, there were two small cottages on the edge of the pavement, the present wall being part of them. Missing the next house there was a large barn and a row of timber sheds which were demolished and two houses built. Layton’s vegetable stall is on the site of the old farmyard, which was pictured recently in Ely standard with the Cow and five calves. There were two cottages between them and the house owned by Doctor Wolfendale senior. On the other side of the road Lodge’s garage had two Petrol pumps, Pratt’s and Redline, both hand operated.
Retracing our journey between the old oak tree (now just a stump) and the three Norfolk houses was the round orchard in which was a semi private tennis court. The middle of the Norfolk houses was owned by well known nurseryman for his Paul Crannel geraniums, he was also a part-time church organist.
Beyond Lodge’s garage and we come to the first pub The Royal Oak (still there but closed) there are now two houses built after one previous one was destroyed fire. Hazels shop has always been there and in addition to groceries, sold clothing for both men and woman. Next to that was a blacksmith’s shop and forge where horses were shod and general repairs to farm machinery carried out. The school on the corner of school lane was where most of the children were taught until passing exams for either Soham Grammar for boys or Ely High School for girls. The Head Master lived in a house adjoining. It was only during the time of Mrs Cornwall that the Post Office moved from the Red House to its present position. Proceding along the road we come to the King’s Head now completely modernised.
Beyond that were to cottages and Playles Bake house and a storage shed for a market agent. One very interesting object is the remains of one of the first Petrol pumps in the village delivering Shell petrol at half a gallon a time, hand operated of course. Later a B.P. pump was put on the other side of the gateway; these were the premises of the local carpenter and undertaker Mr C F Goddard. Little has changed beyond there except for the demolition of a room which jutted out into the road in which the house is now occupied by Mr and Mrs Camps.
There were at one-time five Public houses in the village the Red Lion closed before 1920, The Royal Oak open until quite recently, the King’s Head still open, the Chequers (now Mr Buck’s house closed for a long time) and the Bell now also closed.
The present vicarage was not built, the vicarage being what is now known as the Lodge. There is much more one could write about: now bungalows are at West End, this was let into small parcels of orchard land; Broadway was just a dirt track with no houses at all.
This is Mr Norfolk’s brief account of the history of village of Wilburton.