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Sawston Village History Society

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About SVHS
The Sawston Village History Society normally meets on the second Thursday of every month (see diary for upcoming meetings). There's a wide range of speakers and subjects related to the history of Sawston and Cambridgeshire.

The next meeting, on September 8th 2016, will be the Annual General Meeting: Your chance to find out what's been happening behind the scenes and to suggest speakers for the next year's programme. See the diary for more details.

Check out our FAQ for more information

A note from Bryan Howe: The Sawston Village History Society is helping with a project to remember names of evacuees who came to Sawston in WWII - 1939-45. For those of us who were at school then, the mention of a name that we recognize often recalls a picture of what they looked like, how they dressed or other memories. Contributions will be welcomed either by dropping a note to, or visiting the Parish office on Monday mornings, or by email to just heading 'evacuees'. We've already had about a dozen names so far, from only three people interviewed.
SVHS notices:
Comments from visitors

Geoff wrote: I looked up your site after seeing an old newsreel from 1925 about the pea custom. I just thought I would drop you a line with the link in case you don't already know of it. As it may be an extra weapon to help you fight the bureaucracy that is threatening the event. British Pathe film of Sawston Peas.

Dot wrote: I am trying to trace the Samuel family for a friend. James Samuel lived in Great Shelford and was a miller and I believe there was a steam flour mill there. His children moved to Sawston and also became millers and one ran the pub in Sawston High Street. Could you tell me please - are you aware of any flour mills in Sawston? I have seen mention of the Dernford one and wondered if they ran that? Thanks for a wonderful site.

Can any of our readers and members help Dot? We look forward to publishing any of your contributions. Our thanks to Geoff for pointing us towards the fascination film - a real window on our past. Ed

The Sawston Community Archive Group (SCAG) now has a strong nucleus of members drawn from the Society, but is also open to non-SVHS members. Our mission (as they now say) is to create a digital archive of anything relating to Sawston, under the auspices of the Cambridgeshire Community Archive Network (CCAN), web site: We usually meet at the Sawston library (for times please contact Liz Dockerill on 835127) for on-line archiving sessions

An archive of former notices is available.

Recent Meeting Reports
October 2016 Meeting Report

Children of the Raj by Vyvyen Brendon

VYVYEN BRENDON gave a talk in October on "CHILDREN OF THE RAJ", writes Tony Moss. The talk was based on her book (published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson). Her research included many interviews with those involved.

There are many local links with the Raj. Henry Martyn, curate of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, went as a missionary but sadly died after six years aged 31. Thomas Truebody Thomason, a vicar of Shelford, was the son of an India Civil Servant, grandson of a soldier in India, and a great-grandson of an engineer on the Indian Railways. Henry Huddleston of Sawston Hall in 1820 started 30 years of working as a Civil Engineer for the East India Company. The 1851 census shows that the Forbes children, whose father was a judge in India, were living in the parsonage at the bottom of Hillside which was being run as a school by the Sawston parson.

There was a rigid hierarchy in India: heaven-born Civil Servants, Army Officers, Box Wallahs such as traders (fabrics, spices and opium), and planters (tea, rubber, indigo), then came missionaries, and railwaymen. This decided your club, sport, and social position. Most of the Raj left at independence in 1948.

Most children of the Raj were sent to England for education, at an early age and often travelling alone. As the journey time was so long, they could not return for the holidays but were wished upon relatives, and there was no telephone communication with India. The Pemberton family archive in Trumpington Hall shows the son of the family marrying in 1771 and having 3 sons and a daughter in India. These were sent home to be schooled in Cavendish. When he died in 1794 his will mentioned 2 daughters who are never mentioned elsewhere, so may be assumed to be Anglo-Indian. The problem of wives for the English workers in India was partly solved by the "Fishing Fleets" where single English women were recruited to be sent to India with marriage in mind.

There are many examples of letters sent to parents in India by lonely, unhappy, sons and daughters at school (and on holiday) in England. Because the children rarely had a stable life, there are fewer examples remaining of letters sent by 'bereaved' parents in India. One Baptist missionary retired when his son reached school age so that the family could return to England together. Rab Butlerís sister, Iris Portal, went to Kotah State and his nieces Jane and Susan were sent home to England. One of them later developed serious psychological problems.

One of the alternatives was to go to public school in India, especially if the parents were not rich. However, these were usually mixed race schools such as Bishop Cotton School in Simla. There were also army schools and Catholic schools. Another alternative was home schooling.

The health of children who stayed in India was not seriously affected if compared with the health of English Victorian children. Most children of the Raj fondly remember their time in India, with pets, servants, games with Indian friends, and wildlife. Snakes and leopards were the main dangers. Few British children were killed in the Indian Mutiny of 1857, often being helped by Indian servants. Also, British children were rarely affected by partition during independence.

A great many families in England have links to the Raj, as was shown by the contributions of History Society members after the talk.

Tony Moss

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