Change to Lecture – Thursday 6th April

Unfortunately, I’m sorry to say that Dr Stephen Upex, our next speaker, is unwell and will be unable to talk to us on Thursday 6 April.  We wish him the very best for a full recovery.  In his place Dr Philip Saunders will be expanding upon a short talk he gave to the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership conference in November 2016 under the slightly different title of ‘The People who drained the Fens: Promoters, Engineers, Workers’. 

For more information see Future Events (The People who drained the Fens)

May Weekend 2017 – Exploring the Cotswolds

The Society weekend away for 2017 has been announced, we will be ‘Exploring the Cotswolds’ from  Friday 12th May to Monday 15th May 2017.

Day 1 we will visit Waddesdon Manor, a magnificent house in the style of a French chateau, and Compton Verney a Capability Brown landscaped park and an independent art gallery.

Day 2 in the morning we visit Burford village, a beautiful Cotswold town with an interesting connection to our own Oliver Cromwell and his treatment of his disgruntled soldiers and a group of Levellers. In the afternoon we visit Snowshill Manor, a unique house full of the extraordinary treasures collected by its owner Charles Wade

Day 3 we go back in time to the Romans at Chedworth Roman Villa, one of the grandest villas in the country. The afternoon we will be free to explore Cirencester.

Day 4 we start with a visit to Hidcote Gardens, one of our finest country gardens. In the afternoon we visit Broughton Castle, a fortified moated manor near to Banbury. Broughton was one of only 20 houses to be awarded five stars by Simon Jenkins in his book ‘England’s Best 1000 Houses.

For full details of the weekend please click on the following Exploring the Cotswolds 2017

A booking form can be downloaded by pressing [FORM] and printing the form.

President’s Lecture and Goodliff Awards Presentation 2016

The 2016 President’s Lecture by Dr Simon Thurley and the presentation of this year’s Goodliff awards will take place on Thursday 10th November 2016 at Huntingdon Town Hall, not 13th October as printed in your membership card.

The first Autumn lecture at the Methodist Church will be on 13th October. Further details on this lecture will be published shortly.


Brampton’s Hand Drawn Hearse

BRAMPTON HAND DRAWN HEARSE (by kind permission of Mrs Maureen Wigley)

Brampton Churchyard had been in constant use for internments since Norman times but on 31st December 1882 the Council decided that there was no more room in the Churchyard and it was closed to further burials. Land, adjacent to the East of Churchyard, was bought by the Council as the Parish Cemetery in 1883 and this was to be administered jointly by the Rural District and the Parish Councils. At about the same time a local man, Mr A. J. Allen, purchased a Hand Drawn Hearse and erected a building to house the vehicle in Brampton. The Hearse was donated to the Parish Council for use during funerals and although initially used quite extensively, it fell into disuse in the middle of the 20th Century. The Parish Council decided that rather than dispose of the hearse it would be offered on loan to the Norris Museum, St Ives, to be displayed so that the general public could understand how coffins were transported to the cemetery in the past.

However, after some time the hearse was removed from public display and was consigned to the storage room at the museum. In 2012, the museum was reviewing its exhibits and articles in storage and deciding that the hearse was no-longer a suitable exhibit they requested the Brampton Parish Council remove the hearse and take charge of its further storage.

Brampton Hearse004In December 2014 the hearse was disassembled and moved into storage at a local farmer’s barn. In the same month a chance meeting between Councillor Mrs Maureen Wigley, Brampton Burial Clerk, and the Huntingdon Co-op Funerals Office she noticed they had a number of pictures of old and modern hearses but no picture of a hand drawn hearse. After some discussion between Mr Brendan Smith, Director of the Huntingdon Anglia Co-op Funeral Office and members of the Brampton Parish Council it was agreed that the hearse would be loaned to the Funeral Office to be displayed. Sadly the Hand Drawn Hearse had fallen into some disrepair so it was agreed that it should be renovated before being displayed. Fortunately a friend of Mr Smith’s was willing to take on renovation task.Brampton Hearse002

Having completed the work, the hearse in its resplendent black lacquered finish and new cloth side panels was put on display at the Huntingdon Anglia Co-operative Funeral Office, St Peters Road on Saturday 23rd May 2015. The hearse will stay at the Co-operative Funeral Office for the foreseeable future.

Brampton’s WW1 unsung hero – Constance Hilda Howland (Babs)

The Story of Constance (Babs) Howland (by the kind permission of Mrs Maureen Wigley)

In this month of remembrance, there are numerous people who we can call unsung heroes of WW1. They are not remembered on any memorial but served their country just as much as those remembered each year on 11th November. This is the story of such a young woman who served her community of Brampton throughout the WW1 period with honour and dedication to the sick and wounded soldiers who were repatriated back to Great Britain for hospital care and attention. Whilst we are not singling this young girl out as the only local hero, this article is a short story of the life and sacrifice of one member of the Brampton community that should be remembered.

Hilda on the left with her sister Dorothy, both in Huntingdon Grammar School uniforms

Hilda on the left with her sister Dorothy, both in Huntingdon Grammar School uniforms

Constance Hilda Howland (Babs) was the second daughter of Elizabeth and James Neaves Howland. The family lived at Emerson House, Buckden Road, Brampton (just opposite the Dragoon public house). Her father was on the Parish Council a great many years, a Trustee of the Miller Charity and was also an Overseer for the relief of the poor. James and his family were well regarded in the community as caring individuals who were always helping their fellow man. During WW1 both the village rectory and The Towers at Buckden were both hospitals where the family helped with the sick and wounded.

Hilda in her nurses uniform, aged 16 to 19 years old

Hilda in her nurses uniform, aged 16 to 19 years old


Hilda Howland and her sister Dorothy both attended Huntingdon Grammar School, and can be seen in their school uniform in the picture above. As soon as her final exams were over in 1916, at just aged 16 years Hilda volunteered to become a Red Cross nurse and joined the nursing team at Walden House (VAD) hospital in Huntingdon (53 High Street, Huntingdon). The hospital was treating the wounded and sick who were sent back from the trenches.

Walden House Hospital closed on 31st January 1919, after 3,900 men had passed through the hospital during the Great War, in addition to many hundreds of out-patients, often up to 50 per day. A few days before it closed, Mrs Scott Gatty, an indefatigable fund raiser for the hospital, who lived in Castle Hill House (used by the Pathfinders in WW2), donated badges with “Huntingdon VAD Hospital 1914-1919” engraved on them, and presented them to all her staff.

Constance Hilda Howland (Babs) ages 20 in 1921, the year she died

Constance Hilda Howland (Babs) ages 20 in 1921, the year she died

Hilda worked very hard during her nursing career, working long hours often strenuous work helping the wounded, being constantly exposed to the diseases, including TB, that the troops brought back from the front. Shortly after the hospital closed Hilda became very ill with TB that she had contracted from the troops she was nursing. Her family nursed her and said that she bore the her illness with fortitude and patience. Sadly she lost her battle against TB and she died on 22nd November 1921, just aged 20 years. The internment was in Brampton Cemetery with the Rector, Archdeacon Kenneth Davenport Knowles, officiating at the service. Archdeacon Knowles had been a Chaplain to the Forces at home and abroad and was well acquainted with the horrors of war and the dangers of disease; he had been gravely ill from an illness caught in the trenches in France.

The plaque in the table next to the alter in front of the choir stalls in Brampton Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene

The plaque in the table next to the alter in front of the choir stalls in Brampton Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene

In Brampton Church there is a small plaque in the table next to the alter in front of the choir stalls to the memory of the young and courageous girl.

Thank you Hilda for the sacrifice you made and the help and nursing care you gave to our soldiers in those awful years of WW1.