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Miss Hilda Bagnall remembers


 Miss Hilda Bagnall remembers.                                                                                                    HJN

Strictly speaking, our oldest resident actually lives in the parish of Harston, but this knowledge came as a very unwelcome surprise to Miss Hilda Bagnall after she moved into her present home some years ago!

Born at Cintra Lodge in Church Street, over 90 years ago, Miss Bagnall was the third generation of her family to live in Little Shelford. Her grandfather was a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, when he bought Kirby Lodge in High Street and began a school there. One of his pupils fell in love with his daughter and Hilda was the first of their four children. Miss Bagnall shared a love of music and drama with her mother of whom she speaks with warmth and admiration. Plays were entered for the Cambridge Festival, with some success, including the winning of the Shakespeare Cup. On one occasion, a local village comedy play was written by the late Miss Norah Powell and produced by Miss Bagnall, bringing acclaim for players and playwright. Both Miss Bagnall and her mother were invited to join one of Jack Hulbert’s productions with the Footlights to raise money for the new Hospital.

The Bagnall family occupied various houses in the village at different times and eventually built the Red House in Newton Road where they lived for many years. The move to The Old Enclosure, was, to quote Miss Bagnall herself, “quite recent”. The house was designed by Kenneth Dalgleish and was originally thatched. One day on her return home, she went to her room to remove her hat and fire burst down through the ceiling. The house needed almost total re-building and a new roof was finished in the present brown tiles. Fire has played an important part in the history of many of the old buildings is Little Shelford it seems.

In her childhood, Miss Bagnall recalls that the Village Feast caused great excitement. Stalls crowded Church Street selling things like toy watches, made of tin, which delighted the children, though there was no question, more than eighty years ago, of children going to such an event alone. However, if someone would take them, they could enjoy rides on little model ponies and the “steam horse”, which was in reality powered by a real pony! With gypsy caravans and coconut shies, it must have been a colourful scene.

Miss Bagnall has vivid memories of the dire warnings that children received to keep them away from the Rope Walk, which then extended from Hauxton Road to the Rectory, for fear that they would get twisted up in the ropes being made there. A bustling Church Street was often full of railway vans delivering to this major industry, or collecting the finished ropes for dispatch at the station.

During the 1914-18 War, Miss Bagnall and her sister travelled to Whittlesford every day to cook for sixty men, and later, she was made Quarter Master at Great Shelford Hospital – an experience with its own rich fund of stories!

After the war, Little Shelford Village held a meeting to decide on a fitting War Memorial and plans for a Village Hall were made. Mrs Ward, an aunt of Mr E.B.S. Powell, purchased a large hut at Whittlesford and Messrs. Fordham, Litchfield and Bagnall got it moved into a piece of land in Church Street given by Mr Clay, who also built part of the present structure in memory of his son, lost in the War.

The new Hall, which was later to become the present cricket pavilion was the scene of entertainments and dances with ‘Bagnall’s Band’ in attendance, to raise money for the new Hospital.

The dramatic flair is still evident as Miss Bagnall recounts her earlier days, supplying the relevant accounts with ease. Lively and alert, she is well informed about current events and we hope that the Parish Council’s request for changes in the parish boundary will be granted, so that Miss ‘Hilly’ Bagnall, who has never been in doubt were her affections and loyalties lie, may be officially restored to her beloved with Little Shelford.

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