A Portrait of Caldecote Seen Through Historic Trade Directories

Before the days of Google and the internet there were chunky volumes called Yellow Pages. Before Yellow Pages there were Trade Directories. Produced from the early nineteen century into the middle of the twentieth century Trade Directories did more than inform their readers about trades and trades people. Location by location, whether city, town, or village, a trade directory offered a short account of an area, including the history of the local church and land ownership, provided basic information about necessities such as communications and transport links, and listed the main businesses and significant residents. Browsing through these volumes, which were produced at irregular intervals, it is possible to construct a series of snapshots through time of any chosen place. Here, then, is a brief look at what these Trade Directories have had to say about Caldecote through the years.

Title Page of Gardner’s History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cambridgeshire
title page of the 1883 edition of Kelly’s Directory of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk (Right). © University of Leicester Special Collections

Directories and gazetteers for Cambridgeshire have evolved across the decades. The earliest that mentions Caldecote, R. Gardner’s History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cambridgeshire, published in 1851, has only a short entry for Caldecote. In 1869 and 1879 the Post Office produced similar directories, and the level of detail increased. Later, Kelly’s Directories became the standard reference work for Cambridgeshire. Kelly’s Directories for the years 1883, 1892, 1896, 1904 and 1916 are available online. We can see how Caldecote changed through those years – as well as what stayed the same. The history of the Church of St Michael and All Angels was repeated virtually word for word in each edition, although the fact that the church underwent substantial repair in 1860 and 1861 was considered worth mentioning in the 1869 Post Office Directory. The position of Vicar of Caldecote was in the gift of Christ’s College, Cambridge, and Gardner’s 1851 edition gives us the name of the vicar, the Rev. Edward Arnett Powell. He was appointed in 1843 and remained the vicar until his death in 1892. For most of his remarkable tenure he lived in the vicarage at Toft, while from Census Returns we learn that successive curates and their families occupied the Rectory in Caldecote.

The history of land tenure in Caldecote from Medieval times to the twentieth century is also included in each directory entry. The principal landholders in recent times have been Clare College and Christ’s College, Cambridge, and some private individuals, such as Joseph Westrope. Historically the area has always been farmland, and it is interesting how much can be learned about the pattern of farming in Caldecote. The main crops are consistently listed as wheat, barley, and beans. Each directory lists the acreage given over to agriculture and its value. This changed over the years. In 1869, 1879, 1883 and 1892 it was reported that 915 acres were under cultivation, but by 1896 this had increased to 948 acres. The rateable value of the land, though, did not increase. From a high point of £861 per acre in 1879, the value dropped to £484 in 1896 and had increased only to £566 per acre by 1916.

The main trade in Caldecote, therefore, was farming, and it was farmers who were listed in each directory. Usually these were tenant farmers, working the land on behalf of Clare and Christ’s Colleges. Combining information from the Census for 1871 with the 1869 Post Office Directory, for example, we can see that James Barnes was farming 170 acres and employing two men, Henry Poole was farming 120 acres and employing two men and two boys, while Joseph Westrope was farming 100 acres, which he probably owned outright. Few other businesses were listed. One tradesman who deserved a mention, although his name was never included, was Benjamin Prior. Born in Barton in 1769, he lived in Caldecote for most of his life until his death in 1862. He was a thatcher and would have travelled far and wide to ensure the homes and barns of the villagers of Caldecote and the surrounding area were weatherproof.
Only in 1851 and in 1883 were there specific references to shopkeepers in the village. Either there was an absence of shops at other times, or shops were not considered worth mentioning. Shops were often operated from one room of a family home and sold only a limited range of products. Other supplies, such as fresh bread, milk, fuel, and household needs, would be brought into the village by mobile traders, many of whom would deliver daily or weekly using a horse and cart. The provision of alcoholic refreshment, however, was always included in the directories. In 1851 Joseph Farrington was listed as a beer retailer, probably at The Fox Public House, although Gardner’s directory does not say so. However, The Fox is included in the 1869, 1879, 1883 and 1892 directories under the stewardship of William Badcock, and by 1916 Mrs Harriet Badcock is recorded as landlady.
One consistent feature of all the directory entries is information regarding postal services, and this included the ability to send and receive money, since most villagers would not have had access to a bank. In 1881 the Post Office introduced postal orders as a convenient way of transferring funds, but before that there were money orders. Each directory lists where the nearest money order office was located, and for Caldecote this was initially Caxton, and later Bourn, which also became the nearest telegraph office. Times for the collection and delivery of mail were also listed, becoming more frequent as time went on, but it was not until 1904 that it was apparent that Caldecote had acquired its own post box. By 1916 the village had two post boxes, each of which had two collections per day.

Old North Road Station on the Cambridge to Bedford Line. Reproduced with the permission of Martin Edwards

Access to transport was also mentioned in the directories as the population gradually became more mobile. The Cambridge to Bedford railway line, which passed close to the village, opened in 1862, although it was not until 1883 that the nearest station, Old North Road (now a private house on the present A1198 south of Longstowe) was first included in the listing for Caldecote, a mere 4 miles away. The line carried both goods and passenger traffic and provided opportunities for wider travel for Caldecote residents, in addition to the regular road carrier services that travelled to and from Cambridge on Wednesdays and Saturdays and which were consistently listed in the directories.

First of two promotional leaflets issued for excursions on the Cambridge to Bedford line. The inaugural excursion for directors and shareholders on the new railway on 4th July 1862.
Second of two promotional leaflets issued for excursions on the Cambridge to Bedford line. A leaflet detailing a day-trip to St Ives on 10th July 1884. Both leaflets show the stations along the line and the time taken to travel between them. North Road, later Old North Road, was a regular stop along the line. © Bill Simpson, Oxford to Cambridge Railway Volume Two, Oxford Publishing Co. Reproduced with the permission of Crecy Publishing Ltd

This short article cannot do justice to the wealth of information that can be gleaned from Trade Directories, but it does give a flavour of the stories that can be told when they are combined with other sources.

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A Postcard from Old Caldecote – A Facebook Message of its Time?

Caldecote Postcard

Caldecote Postcard

In 1905 someone (we don’t know who) sent a postcard to a lady living in Toft. The photograph on the card was taken looking north from the road that runs through the valley of Bourn Brook (now the B1046), and shows our church, St Michael and All Angels, at the centre. In front of it is Manor Farm and, to the left of centre, a row of cottages. In the foreground is the line of the old Cambridge to Oxford Railway line, which closed in 1967.


The cottages and outbuildings are no longer there, and we believe they succumbed to fire. One news report describes a fire that devastated one of the properties in January 1929. It is said that ‘only the iron framework and corrugated iron roofing’ remained, and ‘even the concrete slabs of the walls were levelled to the ground’. From this description, we can tell that the cottages were not made of solid brick and tile, which might have resisted the flames better.


You can read more about the fire, and see a close-up view of the cottages, in our book, The Book of Caldecote: The long slender thread, on pages 127 and 128. An electronic copy of the book is available by clicking the link on our website.


Postcards were the Facebook messages of their day. To send a note written on the back of a postcard from someone in one village to someone in the next village might have been quite common practice. The recipient would probably have received the card the same day, and maybe even sent a reply, who knows? Certainly, it was worth making and selling postcards of Caldecote, and although ephemeral in themselves, when picture postcards survive they can tell us more about how Caldecote looked in the past.

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William J Green of Highfields Farm Caldecote

In 1887 William J Green came to south Cambridgeshire from Crofton, Yorkshire, where he had already been a successful farmer and dairyman.

Crofton Dairy in Yorkshire was owned by W J Green. This image dates from about 1875 © D Green

Crofton Dairy in Yorkshire was owned by W J Green. This image dates from about 1875 © D Green

On first arriving from Yorkshire, William and his family rented Manor Farm, Knapwell. William was accompanied by his wife Elizabeth, son James, and daughters Eleanor, Marion and Winifred. William and Elizabeth’s fourth daughter, Dorothy, was born at Knapwell. By 1901 William and his family were settled at Highfields Farm, Childerley Gate. The family kept a servant to help with work in the farmhouse, and William had trainee farm boys working with him and lodging in the household while they learned to be farmers themselves.

Manor Farm Knapwell in about 1890. © D Green

Manor Farm Knapwell in about 1890. © D Green

Highfields Farm Caldecote in about 1925 © J Day

Highfields Farm Caldecote in about 1925 © J Day

The family were expected to help on the farm too. On the 1911, the occupation of William’s daughter Winifred was described as ‘Farmer’s Daughter – Cooking’, while Dorothy, his youngest daughter’s occupation is listed as ‘Farmer’s Daughter – Dairy Work’. The girls were aged 24 and 20 respectively at the time of the census.

William’s youngest daughters, Winifred and Dorothy Green © D Green

William’s youngest daughters, Winifred and Dorothy Green © D Green

Winifred and Dorothy’s older sister, Eleanor, married in St Michael and All Angels Church, Caldecote, on 30th August 1906. Her bridegroom was Albert Armstrong, an architect from Harrogate, Yorkshire.
Earlier this year we enjoyed a visit from William’s great grandson, David Green and his wife Cari, and we have learned so much more about William Green and his family. William played a very active role in the local community. He was a JP (Justice of the Peace), a surveyor as well as a farmer. He also bred and judged sheep, and won a cup at the Grandsen Show in 1897 for the ‘Best Hackney Brood Mare’.

William J Green © D Green

William J Green © D Green

William Green was the proud possessor of a motor car, which must have been quite a rarity at the time. William’s brother, Henry, also came from Yorkshire, and farmed at Catley Park Farm, Linton, to the east of Cambridge, before the entire family moved out of the area in the mid-nineteen twenties.

William Green’s Motor Car © D Green

William Green’s Motor Car © D Green

During their stay, David and Cari, visited Manor Farm at Knapwell, Highfields Farm here in Caldecote, and Moat Farm (formerly called Library Farm) in Kingston where William’s son, James farmed, and where James’ son Granville, who was David’s father, was born.

Working the land at Library Farm, James Green’s farm at Kingston (later called Moat Farm) © D Green

Working the land at Library Farm, James Green’s farm at Kingston (later called Moat Farm) © D Green

David and Cari rounded off their visit by meeting with members of Caldecote Local History Group in the Sidewalk Café to share their thoughts and impressions of their visit to Cambridgeshire.

David Green holding his great grandfather’s inscribed trophy from the 1897 Gransden Show © A Day for CLHG

David Green holding his great grandfather’s inscribed trophy from the 1897 Gransden Show © A Day for CLHG

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Caldecote School Sports Day – 1964

We have Julie Day and her cousin John Hagger to thank for this contribution on The Caldecote School Sports Day in 1964.


caldecote sports day 1964

Caldecote sports day 1964

caldecote sports day 1964 - identifying names

Key: 1. Mr J. Davies, Headmaster. 2. Mrs Tatum. 3. Ann Gill. 4. Clive Swindells. 5. Susan Akeilan. 6. Ursula Klimke. 7. Patrick Rowell. 8. Vera Akeilan. 9. Anna Malig. 10. Lesley Perry. 11. John Malig. 12. Grace Smith. 13. Peter Willis. 14. Marilyn Stevens. 15. Peter Desborough. 16. Krystyna Sutkowski. 17. Jill Clements. 18. Herbert Klimke. 19. Richard Bartram. 20. Margaret Richmond. 21. Nicky Stevens. 22. Tim Sewell. 23. Andrew Sutkowski. 24. Chris Horsnell.

Here we have a photograph taken at the Inter – School Summer Sports Day in 1964, which took place at Coton, rather than here in Caldecote.


It shows the class of 1964 with their teachers. Together with this super photograph, John Hagger has provided us with a numbered silhouette and he has been able to put a name to all the people in the photo.


John says he cannot remember whether he, or his brother Les, took the photo, but he is sure it was taken on his brother’s camera.


Do you recognise yourself in this photo? Do you have any memories of Caldecote School Sports Days? Please get in touch and let us know if you do.


And thanks again to Julie and John.


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BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Video on restored Old North Road Station


Yesterday, the early morning sunshine, that is Dotty McLeod and the Breakfast crew of BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, looked at railways past and future in our region. As part of the program there was a great historical video by Radio Cambridgeshire made by Producer Heather Noble. It is on the Old North Road Station near Longstowe, its history and loving restoration.


Click on image or on the following link to view: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04qmyrx


You can listen to Dotty’s program here until 20th February. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04nztqn


There were items at around 25 mins, 1h 17 mins, 1h 38 mins, 1h 53 mins, 2h 21 mins, 2h 49 mins, 2h 54 mins.


These are historic memories within current lifetimes. It would be a shame if they were not made available permanently, say on the Cambridgeshire Archive or the Internet Archive!

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Childerley Gate: The School on Bourn Airfield

When we, that is, Caldecote Local History Group, were putting together The Book of Caldecote, many of the residents to whom we spoke mentioned that they had attended Childerley Gate School, which existed between 1910 and 1940. Sadly, the school was demolished when, at the outbreak of the Second World War, the land on which it stood became Bourn Airfield, a satellite air-base for RAF Oakington. It is said that an aeroplane coming into land struck the roof of the school and the building was demolished as it had become a hazard to aircraft.

school airfield

Childerley Gate School can be seen centre left in this map from 1928. It is situated on the south side of St Neots Road, between Childerley Gate and Two Pots House, north of Grange Farm.

When we were putting together The Book of Caldecote many people described to us their memories of the school, the head-master’s house, the ringing of the school bell, and their recollections of the teachers, and the lessons they attended.  But with exception of one photograph taken in about 1930, in which the school buildings can be glimpsed behind a group of pupils, we have no idea what the school buildings looked like.


Christmas Fancy Dress party, Childerley Gate School in 1929/30. The school buildings can be seen in the background.

But, hidden away in the Cambridgeshire County Council archives, there are the original architect’s drawings for the entire building. And with the permission of Cambridgeshire County Council, we are delighted to be able to show these images today. We now know what Childerley Gate School looked like when it opened in 1910. And for the first time since its demolition nearly 80 years ago, we can display these images here on our website. The drawings were signed by Mr H. H. Dunn ARIBA, the County Architect of Cambridgeshire County Council at that time. The drawings appear to have been completed in June 1909, and the copies we have were probably used by the building contractors, Clark & Sons of Cambridge.

From the drawings, we can see that the headmaster’s house was a two-storey building, attached to the school, which was single storey. The school bell tower was placed on the roof over the main classrooms.


The drawings show all four elevations, north, east, south and west, and plan views of the internal layout.

School plan 02

The school had two classrooms, one for infants and one for older children, up to the age of 14. There were separate cloakrooms for boys and girls, and a block of outside toilets that must have been very cold in winter. The headmaster’s house had a parlour, a living room, a scullery (kitchen) and three bedrooms on the first floor.

School plan 03

These drawings, which are now very fragile, were beautifully executed and coloured by hand. There is a tremendous amount of detail to be seen if you look closely. The notes and details have been added in neat handwriting that can be read clearly. They really are a work of art and we are very lucky that they have survived.

School plan 04

(Architectural drawings are reproduced here by kind permission of Cambridgeshire County Council Archives Service and must not be published elsewhere without their permission. The originals are deposited in Cambridgeshire Archives, Shire Hall, Cambridge under catalogue reference KCC7/ARCH/E3/8).


Sue Day, Caldecote Local History Group


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The Caldecote Local History Quiz!


This Quiz on some of Caldecote, Cambridgeshire’s local history is based on the excellent “Book of Caldecote: The long slender thread”. Thirty curious and intriguing questions which can be enjoyed by young and old, history buffs and novices alike! With multiple choice answers you have a chance of scoring points, whatever your skill. What’s more, you will come out of the quiz knowing a bit more about this village that has been inhabited by man for at least 4,000 years.

Click on the picture above or go to https://www.playbuzz.com/christ32/caldecote-local-history-quiz.

Those wishing to gen up before or afterwards can download the FREE e-book of “Book of Caldecote: The long slender thread”, from this site.

Good Luck with your Quiz answers.

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One boy’s experience of being an evacuee in Caldecote


Toney Toler’s map showing the area where he lived

Toney Toler recalled his experiences as an evacuee. He was born in 1942 and arrived in Caldecote at the age of about two years old (He later emigrated to Australia with his wife and children and has kindly emailed his experiences to both the school and the History Group).

‘It was during the Second World War and the doodle bugs (V1 flying bombs) had just started. It was early June and luckily we were in an air raid shelter across the road from where we lived when a mighty explosion demolished our house. We were all taken to a requisitioned school where we had to look for bunks. These were all around the walls in piles of three. In the morning a telegram arrived from my uncle Stan in Comberton. (This was Stanley Lawrence.) Within a few days we were on our way to stay with him until we could get a requisitioned house. These houses had been taken over by the Government to help people who had been bombed out. It was probably about August when we moved over to 3 Highfields Farm. This was part of what had been a big farmhouse that had been divided into three.

When we arrived we were destitute, no belongings, just the clothes we had on our backs so to speak!

We had the end house. It had two bedrooms upstairs where the 4 girls slept two to a bed ‘top to tail’. The adults were in the other room while the 2 boys had to sleep down stairs in a small room just off the kitchen area. We had no electricity. We used candles. The adults were the only ones allowed to use the only Aladdin light that we had. We had no running water or gas. For water, we had to use a pump over a very shallow sink which came from a well. We had to strain it all first because it contained a lot of mosquito larva. The kitchen did not have a proper stove to start with so we had to use a paraffin primus and cook on an open fire. Outside was the ‘privy’ (which we all had to take turns with emptying) and on the other side, opposite the house there was a large railway carriage and a deep pond. We used to play in the railway carriage.
Next door to us was a family called Dobson. There was a husband, wife and brother. They were very good to us during the first winter providing us with lots of wood. Opposite them was the pigsty and various barns and out buildings. Other residents I recall were the Coolys, the Beresfords and the Fulbrooks.

Opposite us on the other side of the muddy track was a house with a family called Garner. I well remember Valerie Garner. I can’t remember whether her father was one of the farmers who had the big field next to them, but I do remember we used to help harvest, putting up the stooks and watching the rabbits running out. There would be people with shotguns and we would have to get out of the way.’

Arriving from London, destitute as they were, they lived a life of sheer poverty. Not knowing any differently Toney assumed that this was the normal way of life. They only accumulated any belongings at all thanks to the generosity of others. Hunger was a major problem. This was made worse by the severe rationing in place at the time. He recalls the various ways they tried to add to their diet:

‘We were hungry to the point of being malnourished. We were always seeking ways of supplementing our meagre supply of food. One particular event I recall relates to the time I was able to ‘obtain’ a couple of wild duck eggs from a nest close to our pond. Feeling very proud of my acquisition I proudly gave to my mother who eagerly hard boiled them, cut them in half and gave them to us. Well they were the worst I have ever tried to eat. They were a bluey colour that when trying to eat was like rubber. The yolk was a deep yellow, which was very difficult to swallow. This put me off duck eggs for life.’

Toney even tried eating sugar beet. The best things to eat he recalled were fruit in season. Greengages, Victoria plums, apples, rhubarb and walnuts were all available. He was also entitled to the cod liver oil and concentrated orange juice, which was made available by the government to improve the health of children across the country.
Things improved once his mother, Doris obtained a job in a laundry in a major hotel in Cambridge. Ted his father eventually gained a job at Catlins a Cambridge butchers. He later had a similar job at Dewhurst in Petty Cury. From then on, they could look forward to a roast dinner on Sunday.

Toney also recalls the weekly bath nights. These occurred on Sunday evenings. The tin bath was placed in front of the open fire, which was the only source of heat. This also provided the only light in the room in winter. Hot coals were put into containers to heat the water. Everyone took turns to have a bath in the same water starting with the eldest. The water level was topped up as each child being smaller took less space. As the second youngest, by the time it was Toney’s turn the water was rather cloudy. The flagstone floor of the farmhouse was laid directly onto mud and was never warm. As a result, Toney avoided stepping out from the bath onto them. He recalls the prickly ex-army blanket his mother used to wrap him in.

He recalls other aspects of living in Caldecote while rationing was a part of life:
‘The muddy track going to the other side went to the village. At the top was Becket’s shop. This sold everything from flour, sugar, bacon, and paraffin including vegetables. We had to take our ration books there to get registered. Further down the village were families like us who were displaced by the war, living in railway carriages and numerous Nissen huts made with corrugated iron. As a result, Caldecote gained the name ‘Tin Town’.

Everyone seemed to own a goat. Most of them were tethered out on the front of the premises on the grassy areas. These goats were important for their milk. Further on was the village Hall. I have fond memories of the white elephant sales where we were able to get some hand me down clothes. Ted Toler was MC at the Village Hall for some functions. Right down the end of the village was the post office.
On a freezing December 1952 morning, we were ‘rounded’ up and loaded in an old open truck with our scant belongings; we headed for our new dwelling in Cambridge. I left with some fond memories of Caldecote, which I revisited on occasions. Despite our deprived upbringing I stand by the saying, you ‘don’t miss what you don’t have.’ In fact the deprivation of the ‘nicer’ things in life made me very appreciative of what I have now!’


Extract from ‘The Book of Caldecote’. You can read it free online here.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Caldecote Revisited

Dot Harvey (left), with her daughter Bev Pollard in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels

Dot Harvey (left), with her daughter Bev Pollard in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels

On 1st September 2016, two descendants of James and Jane Parish, Dot Harvey and her daughter Bev Pollard, made the journey from their home in Swan Hill, Victoria, Australia to visit Caldecote and the church to see where their family originated. Having spent a month touring the UK, the ladies were delighted to be spending the last day of their holiday in the village where their ancestors lived and worked. They spent a pleasant afternoon in the late summer sunshine looking around the churchyard, and although is no longer any sign of where their family members might have been buried, they were thrilled to be in the area that their family would have known so well.

In August 1792 Elizabeth Parish baptised her baby son, Smith, in the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Caldecote. When Smith grew up he worked as a farmer labourer and married an Irish girl called Ann.

Together Smith and Ann Parish had seven children (Jane, John, James, Robert, Caroline, Sarah and Mark) and they brought them up in one of the labourers’ cottages near the church. As the children grew up, the boys also went to work on the land. Most of the children found marriage partners locally and, in time, presented Smith and Ann with a succession of grandchildren.

Smith died in October 1855 and was buried in Caldecote churchyard. Ann, his widow, lived alone on until May 1869, when she was also laid to rest beside her husband in the churchyard.

Many of Smith and Ann’s children did not move far and settled with their families in nearby villages, Kingston, Toft, and the Eversdens. James, born in August 1821, married a girl from Kingston, Jane Smith, in 1849. In 1850, Jane gave birth to twin girls, Louisa and Eliza. Sadly Louisa died, aged only 17 months old.

After the loss of their daughter James and Jane Parish set out for a new life in Australia, where they settled with Eliza in Victoria. Eliza later married and had a daughter of her own, Ellen, who in turn married and had children.

James died in Victoria in 1895, and Jane followed him in 1901, the family having made a good life for themselves far from the farmlands of Cambridgeshire.

On 1st September 2016, two descendants of James and Jane, Dot Harvey and her daughter Bev Pollard, made the journey from their home in Swan Hill, Victoria, Australia to visit Caldecote and the church to see where their family originated. Having spent a month touring the UK, the ladies were delighted to be spending the last day of their holiday in the village where their ancestors lived and worked. They spent a pleasant afternoon in the late summer sunshine looking around the churchyard, and although is no longer any sign of where their family members might have been buried, they were thrilled to be in the area that their family would have known so well.


Postcard from the Swan Hill Region, Victoria

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Caldecote Local History Group at the Cambridgeshire Family and Local History Society Fair


On Saturday 22 October, Caldecote Local History Group put up a stand showing maps and farming scenes from the Caldecote area. We also had wartime pictures too. This caught the eye of many passers by and generated memories and conversations. We had a table display which was conveniently next door to that of our publisher Chris Thomas of Milton Contact Limited, who kindly took the picture seen here of the group.

We joined forces and together converted what would have been a quiet alcove, that visitors rushed past, into a friendly conversation area that welcomed them in.

Several villagers both past and present came up to have a chat to the three members there; Sue Day, Nicky Wallace and David Phillips. They learnt some interesting things and hope to meet up with some of the villagers so that they can take some notes which will fill in gaps in our knowledge. For example we have old photos of villagers, but do not know their names.

The Book of Caldecote is now available to read online Free!  See below

The Book of Caldecote – The Long Slender Thread


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