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.
This season the Porch Museum presents the town with a series of sparkling events for your entertainment. Energetic fund raising and the benefit of a £460 Godmanchester Community Association grant kindly raised by citizens of the town will enable the museum’s precious collections to be displayed in well lit new wall cabinets. This is perfect timing as St Ives’ Norris Museum has lent us a selection of their unshown secrets, for display in these cabinets. The artefacts range from a dinosaur bone found in Godmanchester, to the town policemen’s equipment, dating back to the early 19th century, including a whistle and handcuffs.
On April 17th there will be a World War11 wedding exhibition put together by committee member Sandy Ferrelly which will include an extraordinary wedding and bridesmaid’s dress from a local family. There are also precious items from a war bride’s wedding day provided by Godmanchester resident Catherine Short. These delightful old things include a loving letter to the bride from her father. He had sent her ration book which was vital to give the honeymoon hotel who may otherwise have been unable to feed the young couple.
On May 1st and 2nd, we will present a fascinating ‘ Homemade In Godmanchester Exhibition ‘which will touch on the good, solid history of skilled wives, mothers and daughters of this town, who made the families’ clothes and furnishings. Women were judged in past times by their domestic skills.
This has been a wonderful opportunity for the organisers Sandy Ferrelly and David Bowers to collect contemporary examples of sewing, knitting, patchwork, embroidery and other allied crafts.. There will be an opportunity to watch people at work. If you are a passionate patchworker, embroiderer, knitter or practiser of any other magical sewing arts we would be very pleased to see your work.
We are also excited to tell you that on May 29 and 30th St Ives Norris Museum comes to Godmanchester and is hosted here by the Porch Museum. Currently undergoing a redesign, the Museum will bring many curiosities including some of their mammoth and prehistoric collection. (A baby mammoth tusk was found in The Avenue last summer and verified at the Norris Museum.
This aircraft, captained by Squadron Leader Drummond Wilson, was one of 18 Stirling bombers which were part of a raid on the German city of Essen on the night of the 10th/11th April 1942.
Over the city they were 'coned' by searchlights and badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire.
Drummond, and his co-pilot 19yr old Sgt David Southey, coaxed the stricken bomber back to RAF Alconbury. However with wheels down on final approach they were ordered to go 'around' as there was an aircraft on the runway without permission.
As they flew over Godmanchester a damaged oil pipe broke, both starboard engines cut out and the plane came down in an area close to the A14/Cow Lane.
Drummond and the Mid Upper Gunner, Sgt Edgar Gould, were killed. Of the six that survived, three would not live to see the end of the war. The Navigator, Flying Officer Clifford Reeve, went back into the burning aircraft to rescue two crew members despite being severely injured himself.
For his actions that day he was awarded a military MBE which he received from the King in December 1942 at Buckingham Palace.
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.