Archived reports of meetings in 2012

5th December

March and its buildings from 1500 to 1840

An in-depth and extensive talk on the history of March buildings between 1500 and 1840 was presented to the March Society by Chairman, Jennifer Lawler.

Photographs, maps and historical facts overwhelmingly indicated that March was a very prosperous town well before the arrival of the railways Grand houses belonging to wealthy merchants stood, and in many cases are still standing, along the banks of the River Nene in March and in High Street.

Jennifer illustrated her talk with modern day photos of these buildings as well as lots of photos of more traditional Fen cottages.

The incredible range of building design and the materials used over the course of 3 centuries were looked at. Some of the earliest buildings such as the Ship Inn, the Griffin Inn and many individual houses have been preserved and tastefully renovated. Unfortunately, other historic buildings are in danger of being lost through neglect.

The March Society is active in keeping a watch on heritage buildings at risk and is making sure that action is taken to preserve that which is worth preserving.

7th November

Trim Trail and Trains

Features of the new Trim Trail & Outdoor Gym in West End Park were outlined at a meeting of the March Society by Michelle Katzler and Beryl. Speaking on behalf of the Friends of West End Park they commented that this will be the best facility of its kind in the whole of Cambridgeshire. It has been funded by the FOWEP and will be free to use. It will be opened on 15 December 2013

Alan Neville, Area Manager for Greater Anglia Trains, talked of events over the past year including the unveiling of the plaque to commemorate the launch of the Hereward Community Rail Partnership at March station. He gave a brief update about on-going improvements carried out by community volunteers at March Railway Station and the winning of further awards for the Station and its 'Volunteer Adopters'. The Adopters continue to do much sterling work in putting on Station displays, gardening, organising surveys and more. One of the on-going issues for the Station is the timetabling of trains to stop at March later in the evenings. In the region March trains link to the re-modelled Peterborough station and the future Cambridge Science Park station

Adrian Sutterby, Chairman of Friends of March Station, had hoped to show photos illustrating the progress in improving the Station but a technical hitch meant that he had to improvise. Adrian gave a superb verbal description of what had been happening over the past year at the Station: footbridge painting, removal of weeds, graffiti elimination, fund raising activities, moving of old track, restoration of rooms, a heritage weekend and the setting up of a Model Railway Club.

60 tons of ballast has now been laid down in the unused part of the Station to prevent the growth of weeds.

One of the current challenges in the restoration of the old part of the Station is to find 20 sets of 'fish-plates' and 80 bolts so that tracks can be joined together.

Many enthusiasts are now looking forward to the Dec 1st coffee morning at March Station when a magnificent Steam Train is scheduled to pass through

3rd October

Heritage, History and Regeneration: Back to the Future

'It's not good because it's old, it's old because it's good' was the opening remark from Steve Bowyer, Head of Economic Development at Opportunity Peterborough. Steve was giving an inspiring and thought provoking presentation to the March Society. He referred to listed buildings and other older buildings in this country and around the world. The question 'What do we value?' and the reality of changing values impacted on the preservation and possible regeneration of old buildings.

His involvement in the highly successful regeneration of Cathedral Square in Peterborough illustrated how, given the will, communities could impact on their environment and help create a sense of civic pride in their City. The demolition of the huge and overbearing Norwich Union building next to St John's Church in the Square had created a vast open space area that now highlighted the church and some of the visually pleasing older facades bordering the Square. Work will now begin, in co-operation with the owners of properties in the Cowgate area, to restore and improve some of the most neglected buildings.

One of the outcomes of this regeneration is the increasing attractiveness to high quality businesses to invest in this part of Peterborough.

Steve stated that his definition of 'heritage' was about passing on to our children the good things that had been inherited by us - and this includes buildings.

There was some laughter at the end of the talk when a member of the audience asked Steve if he would make his next project the improvement of March town centre.

Peterborough fountains

5th September

Buidings of Local Interest

'Odd, exceptional and grand' was the theme used by Andrew Clarke, committee member of the March Society, to describe buildings of local interest in his recent Powerpoint presentation to a large audience at March Library.

Andrew's photographs showed that, as well as the listed buildings, there are many buildings in March that have historic, architectural or rarity value. He showed some examples of buildings that have remarkable and intricate construction details and noted that, before any new developments take place, Planning Officers are required to 'bear in mind' those buildings of local interest that are worth protecting.

He gave several examples of buildings in Peterborough that had been deemed as 'worth protecting' and then compared these with equally meritorious buildings in March.

Some of his many examples included the newly restored public toilets, the Little London pub, signal boxes at March Station, the Methodist Church, industrial units and several individual houses in Acacia Grove and Station Road that exemplify how the town has developed.

This linked with Fenland Heritage Open Days and with The March Society's photo display in March Library from their 'Buildings of Local Interest' collection for Fenland's Local Plan.

Trinity Church

8th August

Whittlesey Walk

with Mrs Maureen Watson.

4th July

AGM followed by a talk by Edna Stacey, "The Way We Were"

Download Chairman's Report

The Annual General meeting was well-attended and everyone enjoyed Edna's talk afterwards.


6th June

Jubilee Walk

During Jubilee week Edna Stacey led the very interesting The March Society Heritage walk starting from March's Broad Street. The group headed north along Station Road as far as Alpha Street then cut through Regent Avenue and Burn St before heading back along Robingoodfellow's Lane, Henson Rd and Marylebone Rd.

Along the way, Edna pointed out many features of interest. These included the cannon ball embedded in the Town Bridge, the old Electric Picture Palace, the Hippodrome and the location (now Boyes Store) of Ritchies Coach Makers and Farriers.

Further along Station Road the residencies of some of March's past notables were pointed out including that of Mr Unwin - the Architect of March Town Hall built in 1900, the original site of the Cambs Times Printing Works and Morton's Granary. St John's Church was built following the development of the railway. It was locally known as the "Railwaymen's Church".

Before the housing developments along and off Station Road the area was largely fields and, in 1744, March was the first town in Cambridgeshire to use one of its fields to hold a cricket match!

Edna's research has indicated that an annual Steeplechase may have taken place along part of the West End Park (originally known as Sumps Common) - there are still 2 roads in March called "The Chase".

Finally the remains of an Earth Fort near the library was pointed out and Edna explained that the nearby circular brick construction on the riverbank was not a well but was thought to be used originally as an air outlet for the Hythe.

photo of March Soc. on Jubilee Walk

2nd May

Tales in Doddington Graveyard

There was enough of a lull in the recent rainy weather to allow the March Society to enjoy an early evening traipse around Doddington graveyard. Despite the gloomy weather, spirits were running high as Doddington resident David Edwards led a large group of keen enthusiasts through the damp grass and the gravestones of St Mary’s Churchyard.

David has dug deep in carrying out research on many of the older incumbents. He has now created a written dossier of the departed. Two of the oldest gravestones appear to be of Robert Rowbottom and Ann Elton 1714. He escaped an incident of body snatching at the graveyard. Another incumbent was not so lucky. She was dug up one night and was then discovered in a case being unloaded from a Coach in London. The perpetrators were caught and hung.

‘Fisher’ is the most frequent name and there is a least one individual who was involved in the Battle of Waterloo.

The last local victim of a Horse and Cart accident 1883 rests here, as does the first victim of a car accident 1923.

There are some fine examples of stonemasonry including the War Memorial, some listed, many built by Wades - the village Stonemason.

One-time masters of the workhouse, farm owners, a suicide, schoolmasters, rectors, a leading pondweed expert Alfred Fryer ALS, eccentrics, the wealthy and the poor now lie in rows in the graveyard.

Each of them has their own story - maybe forgotten or, for some, now recorded and preserved forever.

photo of March Soc. at Doddington

4th April

Good Taste and Opulence

The March Society enjoyed a presentation by speaker Alan Eade on the subject of grand English 18th century Country Houses, entitled ‘Good Taste and Opulence: The Great County Houses in the 18th century’.

He traced the development of timber framed, brick and stone built houses and showed numerous examples of how symmetry was very important and fashionable in the architecture of these grander houses. The advances made in the manufacture of glass were followed by the invention and subsequent massive popularity of sash windows and then Dormer windows. Palladium and Portico styles were popular amongst the gentry and the rich, who brought back ideas in architecture from their Grand Tours of Europe.

His talk included references to the Queen Anne style houses in Norwich, the first sash window (still in place in a house in Newmarket), as well as Houghton Hall and Holkham Hall. Moggerhanger House in Bedfordshire was designed by Sir John Soane, who also created the dramatic interior at Wimpole Hall.

By 1790 architects were more adventurous, adding details such as the dome at Stoke Poges and the rotunda at Ickworth House.

7th March

March in the Cambridgeshire Collection

Chris Jakes, Local Studies Librarian of the ‘Cambridgeshire Collection’, gave a presentation to the March Society and brought along some of the items about March and surroundings that are held in the Collection. As this is the Queen’s Jubilee year, his talk partly took on a ‘Royal’ theme.

In the 1953 Coronation Year the Cambs Times was, during the Coronation week, printed entirely in red, white and blue ink. All very patriotic but not so good if your wedding photos were in the newspaper that week!

When George VI had his Silver Jubilee it was noted that the local Council set up several committees to organise the celebrations in March. It was noticeable the most popular Committee with 42 male members was the ‘Ox Roasting’ Committee and that the ‘Children’ and ‘Unemployed’ Committees were entirely made up of women.

For the 1838 Coronation of Queen Victoria the ‘Cambridge Chronicle’ noted the celebrations that had occurred in March. Apparently a feast of ‘Old English Fayre’ was provided. This largely consisted of beef and plum pudding. It was provided free to the ‘poorer’ inhabitants of March. Out of 5,700 inhabitants of March at that time, 2,500 received the free meal! There were sports, fireworks and a bonfire and the local newspaper reported that it had been ‘a well-ordered occasion without any trouble making’

Moving away from the Royal connection, Chris described other local happenings. For instance, in the late 19th century illegal, bare-fisted boxing contests were occurring in this area. In one notable fight a contestant died after fighting for some 2hours and 40 minutes.

In 1804 the ‘Chronicle’ newspaper was advertising coach trips from March to London. Depart from the Griffin Inn, March at 4.00am and arrive at the White Hart Inn, London at 6.00pm! An 1810 a publication noted that Fen people were ‘rude, uncivil and envious of all others’ but this was later replaced by the one word description of ‘stubborn’.

Chris showed numerous photographs and maps of March through the 18th and 19th centuries. The preponderance of public houses and the growth of March were well illustrated. Many of the present Streets were named after local dignitaries and the past (and continuing) influence of March Railway Station was remarked upon.

1st February

Cancelled as speaker was unwell.

4th January

Environmental Groups

Jeanette Milner, Fenland District Council’s ‘Street Pride Co-ordinator’ gave an inspiring update about local projects to The March Society at their first meeting of 2012 in March library

Jeanette reflected that she had now been in the post for nearly 4 years. As a facilitator of the schemes, she said that the work and improvements to the Fenland area were largely down to the hands-on efforts of some 170 volunteers in Fenland towns and villages.

Many places including March, Chatteris, Manea, Whittlesey and Wisbech now ‘look better’ than they did previously thanks to the work of the Street Pride Groups.

The dramatic improvement in the appearance of March Railway Station is self evident. The present task involves the laying of tracks.

Less well known is the work done on the Norwood Road Nature Reserve. The Wildlife Trust owns this site. Work with young people from NACRO helping to clear brambles and lay down new pathways around the ponds, started in March 2011. Although much improved, this particular work is ongoing and it is hoped to create a ‘Friends of Norwood Road Nature Reserve’ Group. Jeanette would be very keen to hear from anyone interested in nature/wildlife and who is able to spend a few hours each week working on the Reserve.

Another very successful initiative - March in Bloom - started three years ago. It is responsible for the colourful displays in hanging baskets and troughs of flowers on the Town Bridge and in other locations. Donations from local businesses and some residents provides all the funds.

It is planned that, later this year, March will be showing glorious displays of red, white and blue flowers to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.