Once upon a time the grassy area in front of the George Inn was the village green. Sheep grazed on it and there was a water pump for the village. Up until the late 1950’s there was no running water in the almshouses over the road and water had to be carried to them from the pump, usually by children from the school which is also there. On a Saturday afternoon all the contents of the toilets from the almshouses, the school house and the school itself would be collected by one lucky chap, emptied into a sort of swinging dustbin on wheels and pushed up to the end of Honeysuckle Lane where it was tipped out.
Madeline Adeane was a notable beauty who was painted by Burne Jones and more famously by John Singer Sargent, together with her two sisters,. This portrait is entitled The Wyndham Sisters and hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Adeane family gave a village hall to Babraham, which was named after Madeline. A dance was held there every Saturday night for hall staff. Madeline House stands on the site of the old hall in the High Street.
Evelyn Barnard wrote a children’s book called ‘The Brothers Are Walking’, set in Babraham. As well as mentioning several familiar place names it incorporates the story of the Bennet brothers, whose ghosts are supposed to walk near the church. They were probably a bit put out when their family vault was opened and their remains removed to make way for Robert Jones’ family. Robert Jones owned the Babraham estate and his daughter eloped with Colonel Adeane, who subsequently inherited the estate. You can see a monument to the brothers in the church.
In 1920 two future kings played cricket in front of Babraham Hall. Prince Albert (George VI) and Prince Edward (Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor) were both at Trinity College and rode out to Babraham on their motorbikes. The first recorded match by Babraham cricket club was in 1856 – on a Tuesday oddly enough but Saturday was a full working day and a game on a Sunday would have been out of the question. Gubby Allen, captain for England, played in 3 matches for Babraham after his return from the 1936/7 tour of Australia.
The first ever Christmas tree in England was put up at Windsor Castle in 1839. Henry John and Maude Adeane followed suit at Babraham Hall in 1842.
Isobel Adeane (1839-1913) was the eighth of twelve children born to Henry John and Maude Adeane. With her brothers and sisters she had to stand with her feet in stocks – apparently this taught them to turn out their toes. As a child she was not allowed to go near the Cambridge Road ‘because of all the undergraduates who were really looked upon more like wild beasts.’
(An extract from Isobel’s diary in the Babraham Institute archive)
The tollkeeper lived in Granta Cottage by the bridge and charged 1d for a horse and cart to go through the tollgate and over the bridge.
This is what Granta Cottage looked like in the 1950’s. On the opposite side of the road you can see the grass where the pavement is now.
(Photo courtesy of Clare Kemp)
Source: Archive material from Babraham Institute and aural history