Independent Press and Chronicle 1961

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Independent Press & Chronicle, Friday, November 17,1961 p13

Carlton-cum-Willingham Small & Quiet

The 98th in our series of articles on Cambridgeshire villages

Bearing a name like Carlton-cum-Willingham, one would have expected that this Cambridgeshire village, situated on the borders of Suffolk, would have had something to characterise it, something of interest to offer the visitor, and something to encourage its development.

But if there was a more apparently forgotten village in this county, it would indeed be hard to find. For Carlton-cum-Willingham consists solely of a church, a few farms and five scattered groups of houses. There is virtually nothing else - the only publichouse seems more akin to Brinkley than it does to the parish in the boundary of which it is just standing.

Villagers who have resided in Carlton for many years have naturally enough grown used to its lack of progress and modern amenities but more recent inhabitants comment with an apologetic smile, “Yes, I’m afraid it is rather dead”.

  • The Parish Church of St. Peter.
  • The Rose and Crown publichouse.

One Pub. - No Shops or Post Office

A quick tour of the place reveals a group of houses, including two Council dwellings, at Willingham Green; a few more dwellings by the old school; a farm, four Council houses and another cottage or two on the Acre Road; a slightly larger community on the Church Road and a final settlement at Carlton Green. There used to be three publichouses but two of these, one bearing the unpleasant sounding name of “Woodman Spare the Tree” have been converted into private houses. The Rose and Crown alone remains and this is surely sufficient for a population which could hardly be more than a couple of hundred – there are 98 on the Register of Electors.

The school, although it still bears the resemblance of the purpose for which it was originally built, has been closed for 30 years. For some time children went to Brinkley School but now they all go to Burrough Green, before moving on to Grammar and Secondary Modern schools.

Similarly, the village general stores has closed, while only a few weeks ago, the Post Office, which had long been conducted in various private houses, followed suit. So now there is no commercial business whatsoever in the village, the nearest place at which to get immediate necessities being Brinkley –if one is not to rely entirely upon delivery vans.

Amenities are just about adequate though admittedly the bare minimum. These include water, a very poor bus service and something which has come relatively recently, electricity. As yet there is no main sewerage system, no street lighting and no speed limit. While those with cars have no complaint to make about the lack of buses, those who are obliged to rely on public transport would dearly like to see a few more passing through the village, the walk to Brinkley in order to get a more convenient bus, being almost a mile.

Clubs are nonexistent, although residents have the opportunity to join those in neighbouring villages, such as the thriving Youth Fellowship at Brinkley and the Women’s Institute at Weston Colville.

But in spite of this lack of organised activity in Carlton, the villagers claim to be living in “a friendly community” – “almost clannish” was how one lady described the atmosphere.

Church Needs Restoration

The church could claim to be the centre. Dedicated to St Peter, it is a small building of the Early English style of architecture. At present it badly needs restoring and so various efforts are being made to raise money for this endeavour. The Vicar (the Rev. P.R.K.Whitaker) shares the living with Brinkley and Burrough Green, and resides at Brinkley, the Old Rectory at Carlton now being used for the Pinewood Dog Kennels.

Some years ago controversy surrounded the church when the then Rector of Great Bradley in the diocese of Bury St. Edmunds wanted to share that living with St. Peter’s Carlton. Eventually Carlton was granted him for his lifetime and when he died the two were again separated, this being a far more practical arrangement since Carlton lies in the Diocese of Ely.

As far as the houses in Carlton-cum-Willingham are concerned, they are of a wide variety, ranging from attractive thatched properties to Council houses and from Swedish styled wooden houses, to solid old farmhouses.

Several of the cottages have been converted into larger single dwellings, two of the most interesting being Walnut Tree Cottage and the one which used to be the old Poor House.

Two Moated Houses

One building, referred to as “The Old House,” was for many years a farmhouse until it was badly damaged by fire and a new farmhouse was erected on the opposite side of the road.

Two moated houses lead one to surmise that Carlton-cum-Willingham was once of far more importance than it is today. These are the moats at Lopham’s Hall and Carlton Hall farms, the former belonging to the biggest landowner in the village Mr. R.A.Vestey.

Lopham’s Hall used to belong to the Lord of the Manor, Mr.C.F.Ryder, and stands on the site of the Manor House of Carlton Parva afterwards being known as Barbedor’s and Lopham’s. The present, mainly 17th century, farmhouse is surrounded by a deep oval-shaped moat which was probably used for defensive purposes in the early Middle Ages, but which is now being partially filled in as it has proved to be rather inconvenient.

The second moat, at Carlton Hall, gets its water from the River Stour which eventually runs into the sea at Harwich, the whole site formerly having belonged to the Priory of Lewes.

  • Hall farmhouse
  • Lopham's Hall, a 17th century farmhouse.

Name of Celtic-Anglo Saxon Origin

The name Carlton-cum-Willingham, contrary to some beliefs, is not a Latin connotation. It is of Celtic-Anglo Saxon origin, the Anglo Saxons having added the “cum Willingham” part when it was discovered that there are so many Carltons – meaning a fortified place – about. The “cum Willingham” is thought to mean “a valley” or “country village”.

While farms in the area provide a certain amount of work for residents of the village, there is no other immediate source of employment and consequently many of them leave Carlton each day to work in Cambridge or Newmarket.

But this problem is not as acute as it might have been had the many displaced people who resided at the Carlton “hutment” after the last war remained longer. The Nissen huts have almost all been demolished and all that remains to keep the memory of the troops and refugees alive, is the aerodrome and hangars at nearby Weston Colville, which are gradually being converted to agricultural usage.

The cross-roads site where displaced persons were formerly housed.

An extensive development scheme for Carlton-cum-Willingham is very unlikely for the simple reason that there is nothing there to attract newcomers. Calm and peaceful the village may be but in a modern world where progress and ambition are the keywords of living, these attractions are hardly sufficient for a youthful and ambitious community