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 Borough of Godmanchester, or Gumecester, is co-extensive with the Parish of the same name in the County of Huntingdon.
It is situated on the Southern bank of the navigable River Ouse, which separates it from the adjoining Borough of
Huntingdon, and occupies a space of about four miles and a quarter of the-rìver's bank, from East to West, at an average breadth of about one and three quarters, comprising an area of 4,667A. n.. 2R 36p., according to a survey made in 1803 under an inclosure Act; about 50 acres of this land are in roads, drains, &c.
The Parish is an agricultural district, containing (with the exception of the Town) not more than three or four small cottages, inhabited by servants of the proprietors of the land. The total annual value of the real property value of the the parish, áccording to a valuation made thereof in 1825, for the pnrpóse of parochial assessment, is 7,8761. 16s. 3d. * The Population of the Parish (according to the Census of 1831) is 2,146.
by Shirley Dunaetz (nee Evans)
I remember at least once a week walking to Gill's Garage to pick up pink paraffin. You might think what was that for? Well pink paraffin burns cleaner and doesn't have the smell that regular paraffin has. Pink paraffin was used in the oil lamp that hung from the ceiling. We kids were threatened within an inch of our lives if we touched it. It was a pretty thing, with a brass bottom and a lovely china lamp shade. It of course had a glass chimney and the wick could be turned up our down. When I was very little, I was afraid of the dark, so I was allowed to stay downstairs until the grownups went to bed. If there was no one reading or doing sewing in the room, the lamp was turned down low, I suppose so I would go to sleep. This lamp could be moved from room to room, as needed, but didn't go upstairs, candles were the rule there.
My brother and I recently talked about the "Hunt" that met at the corner of West Street and Old Court Hall. That was a sight to see, all those horses, dogs and the ladies and gentlemen all dressed up in their hunt clothes. They usually started their hunt by going down Silver Street. The Tally Ho's and dogs barking and baying are still with me today. There would be a crowd of us locals watching as they congregated and got ready to leave.
Reproduced by kind permission of The Hunts Post. January 2009
Farm Hall, in Godmanchester, played a key role at the end of the Second World War in identifying the extent of Hitler's nuclear capability and the likelihood of that knowledge being passed to Soviet Russia. When he was awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours, The Hunts Post asked the mansion's present owner, Professor MARCIAL ECHENIQUE, Professor of Land Use and Transport Studies at the University of Cambridge, to describe Farm Hall's history and the part it played in the history of the world.
WHEN we bought Farm Hall from the National Trust 30 years ago, my wife and I had no idea that behind the classical Georgian facade of the Godmanchester mansion, there was an extraordinary piece of history that had been kept secret for many years.
In 1979 my wife and I embarked on a large restoration programme involving the re-roofing of the house, rebuilding parapets and chimneys, as well as restoring the historic parkland to its former glory. The house, originally built at the end of the 17th century, was transformed at the beginning of the 18th century into a fashionable Palladian mansion by Charles Clarke, recorder of Huntingdon and Baron of Exchequer.