The Museum is housed in the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, a Grade II listed building situated in the heart of the historic town of Godmanchester in Cambridgeshire. We are an independent museum and a part of the Friends of the Queen Elizabeth School a registered charity. The museum is run by a small team of enthusiastic volunteers who work together to record the town’s history and its people. We receive no government funding and rely on funds from various organisations, donations and the generosity of our visitors to fund our projects.
One of the Porch Museum aims is to produce and show short films devoted to the history of the town. We want to capture, through the memories of some of the oldest members of our community, as clear a perception as we can get of the way life was in this lovely town during the first half of the 20th century.
Godmanchester is an unusual town because many of the old families who have lived here for hundreds of years and whose ancestors are buried in the churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin, are still here. Markham, Arnold, Thompson and Mortlock are just a few of the many old names still represented here. In many cases we are recording not only memories of old Godmanchester from the vibrant and amusing senior members of these families, but through them the memories and experiences of their grandparents and great grandparents.
This way there’s every hope that we can bring to the community through snatches of remembered anecdote, at least an echo of how it was to live in Victorian Godmanchester.
The Porch Museum plans its new season with fresh local history displays from committee members and very excitingly indeed, from the town community. We are running an exhibition devoted to Godmanchester’s men and women during World War I and World War II. These are subjects close to the heart of those who live here and so we welcome the Women’s Institute and GodmanchesterPrimary School who will present their displays on April 6th at the museum. St Anne’s School will be sending their display for the following opening date. We are grateful to the teachers who have given their time and of course to the children.
Why World War I and World War II?
We are not celebrating these events but giving those who lived through them honourable remembrance. In a town such as this with so many old families still living here, families whose men died or suffered in World War I, insisted that we must cover the second war as well as the first. It is said that with not a generation between them, the advent of World War II broke people’s hearts here. So much had already been sacrificed and was it all for nothing? And perhaps this sentiment was shared with very many ordinary people in the rest of the country.
Our exhibition will bring you stories and memories from local men who died and those who came back; memories too from the families about the impact these experiences had on the families. But there is humour too - and an unusual portrait of life in Godmanchester at that time.
Photos and text kindly supplied by Winifred Pender (Nee Dale)
An exciting event took place in Godmanchester in July 1949
Earlier in that year a fund raiser by the name of Kirkland Bridge decided that this town was one of the places in England suitable to stage a week of events to raise money for the Merchant Navy Comforts Fund. With the co-operation of the Mayor, Councillor John Brading he set about the organisation of a week of events including a cricket match, fancy dress parade, whist drive, singing competitions etc.
During a Youth Night held at the Church Hall a Merchant Navy Queen and 4 attendants were chosen. These 5 girls were all aged 14 or 15 and had no idea that during that night of games and fun they were being singled out for this future event.
July proved to be fine and the town supported extremely well. Research may unearth the total money raised but at present that is unavailable. The Queen and attendants spent each day with collecting boxes as part of their duties so it probably was financially well supported.
The following pictures show some of the events which were all covered by the Hunts Post and brought out crowds of people every evening, culminating in a Garden Party held on the Recreation Ground on the final Saturday.
Author, Roger Leivers
Everything had been planned for a few months, as per usual all we needed was for the great British summer to deliver a beautiful day. And for once it came up trumps.
It was a very different day to the one back in November 2012, when a short email dropped into the Community Association website. It was forwarded onto me as I have carried out some 'war walks' around the town.
It was from a gentleman called Roy Palmer and he was enquiring about a Stirling bomber that crashed on the outskirts of Godmanchester back in 1942 and could anyone provide any background information.
A few emails later and I soon had confirmation of the crash and also a rough idea as to its location. Of course the obvious question was why was Roy interested ? Well it turned out that the pilot, Squadron Leader Drummond 'Jock' Wilson, had been an avid rally car driver before the second world war. He raced extensively in the UK and even took part in the Monte Carlo rally! Roy had purchased the car, a Squire Supercharged, some years ago and was now trying to find out more about the crash that claimed the life of its previous owner. Only seven Squires were built and only six remain, making it a very rare and extremely valuable car.