Around Fenland Villages – William (Bill) Smith

BThere was a very good turnout for the April meeting 36 people coming to see and hear the ever popular Bill Smith.
As this was essentially a photographic tour of some local Fenland villages and the photographs were the focal point of the talk I shall write about some of the topics and hope that you will have the opportunity to see and hear Bill’s talk at some time in the future.
Bill has spent many years collecting photographs and researching local history and he was able to show how he has been able to enhance some damaged photographs and then compare and contrast them with modern views of the same scene. His talk covered the villages mainly on the Norfolk side of Wisbech although Wisbech St Mary and Guyhirn were mentioned.
Bill started in Upwell with an image of St Peter’s Church painted in 1817 which contrasted with a photograph taken in 1882 showing that the steeple had been removed (in 1823). At this time a lane runs between the church and what is now the back of the Five Bells but was then the front: New Road which now leads out to Three Holes was built in 1889. The original lane ran on to join the lane that runs behind the war memorial. This, of course, is the sort of information that can be of tremendous value to family researchers.
Bill showed lots of pictures of various places and told anecdotes about people and significant events in the area. He is currently finding out more about an industrialist called Charles Anthony Vandewell who owned the Colony Lakes at Manea; he subsequently financed the Vanwall Racing Team.
There were images of various public houses in different villages that have changed their names (and appearances) over the years. The Sportsman in Elm was the Black Horse; The Tea Garden became the Elm Tree Inn; The Red Hart in Three Holes was a low thatched building with dormer windows and then became a substantial two storey road house (it is now a private house).
One of the images that sticks particularly in my mind is of some cottages, in Nordelph, with very narrow back yards immediately against the Well Creek. Every house had a line of very white washing – probably a Monday in the late nineteenth century.
This was a very enjoyable tour of some local villages and there was lots of information about people and places to be gathered.
[Margaret Lake ]

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