Fire Fighters


St Neots Firemen in the parade in St Neots as part of the Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in June 1897
Fire Hose practice by the St Neots Firemen in Church Street St Neots, in the 1930s
St Neots Fire Engine and crew in the 1930s
Fire Insurance plaque on the wall of the former Three Horseshoes Pub in Staploe – March 2015

Plaques like these would indicate which firemen were needed to put out a fire. Each Insurance Company would have their own plaque.



Scotch Express Crash 1895 at St.Neots

The incident known as ‘St. Neots Derailment 1895‘ happened on the 10th of November 1895 when Great Northern Railway’s Scottish Express was travelling from Kings Cross Station London. This train would have been travelling around 50MPH, and around 40 yards south of the St.Neots platforms and main station the train hit a broken rail which derailed the train , The hind part of the train veered to the left and struck a row of goods wagons in a siding to the north of the station. The forward part of the train came to a stand about a quarter of a mile further on.[2]

It was hauled by one of the GNR’s latest and largest of its 8 foot singles, number 1006. The consist was of eight vehicles: a guard’s van, a coach, a Pullman sleeping car (Iona), a corridor coach, another sleeping car, two further coaches and a final guard’s van. Fortunately it was only carrying twenty seven passengers.

Rolt, L.T.C. (2009). Red for Danger: The Classic History of British Railways. Stroud: The History Press Ltd. [1]

One person is recorded to have died in this incident, a lady called Louisa O’Hara, who was propelled out of the sleeping car and struck her head against a goods wagon. Some four to six passengers were more or less severely injured, the guard also having struck his head.


Although the train crew became aware of unusual noises and movement within the train, it was impossible, in the darkness, for them to tell what was amiss. It transpired that a portion of the left hand rail had broken, derailing the coaches, which had scraped along the platform leaving a trail of debris. The coupling of the second sleeping car finally parted as it passed over the crossover to the siding, colliding with a row of coal wagons. It took the brunt of the impact, losing its roof, much of its body work being shattered, and the floor being driven back into the following coach.[2] The next two coaches were thrown partly over and telescoped together, but the guard’s van remained virtually undamaged.

Meanwhile, once stationary it was discovered that the front section of the train was also derailed. The first two carriages were undamaged (and were used to carry the uninjured passengers on to Peterborough) but the Pullman car had damage to its wheels and undergear, while the following coach had lost all its glass on the left hand side. It too appeared to have struck some wagons but, fortunately, stayed upright and passed beneath the bridge.

Though probably not as a direct response to this accident, the Stirling Singles were replaced in the next few years by Ivatt’s Atlantics. At this time also, cast, or wrought, iron rails were being replaced with steel and manufacturing processes were steadily improving. Serious accidents due to rail breakage, therefore, remained rare, though a full understanding of crack propagation from internal defects did not come about until the mid-twentieth century and the work of the British Rail Research Division among others.


[1] Rolt, L.T.C. (2009). Red for Danger: The Classic History of British Railways. Stroud: The History Press Ltd.

[2] “Serious Accident To A Scotch Express”. The Times (34731). 11 November 1895. p. 11, column A.

Barretts Of St.Neots

For 127 years, Barretts has had a presence in St Neots, but now, director Alan Huckle has confirmed that the store will be closing. According to the Hunts Post’s 26th May Article  , he said “The decline has been dramatic, it all happened very quickly”

1900 – Market Square, St Neots, from the east showing the north side from Barrett’s corner to the Bridge & Half Moon Hotel, child in foreground with hoop. about 1900

The Store announced in late 2015 that it was considering its options, but that it may have to shut down.

According to the Cambridgeshire Community Archive Record,  Barretts was opened in 1888 by Arthur E Barrett, and Charles Huckle started working there in 1889. Arthur E Barrett  died in 1893, leaving his widow, Kitty running the business with Charles. Charles and Kitty Married in 1907, but Kitty died in 1908, and Charles inherited the store.

Coronation Celebrations in St Neots in June 1911 – View from Barrett’s Corner to the Bridge.

Barretts are doing a closing down sale open to the public on the 3rd of June.

On the left is the Corn Exchange & Clock. This photograph is held at St Neots Museum – Ref 1995.189.10

St Neots, View from Barretts Corner into the Market Square with troops and band playing in 1915

Barrett’s Shop, St Neots, in the 1930s. (This photograph has been copied with the kind permission of Alan Huckle)

Barrett’s shop was in the corner shop between the Market Square and New Street in St Neots. The shop sold clothing hats and hosiery. This shop window is full of shoes.

Floods in St Neots High Street in 1947 at Barrett’s corner

Behind the boat is Barretts shop and on the right is Freeman Hardy and Willis shoe shop.

Barrett’s shop, St Neots, in the 1950s (This photograph has been copied with the kind permission of Alan Huckle)

The shop has changed little from the 1940s apart from the shop signage above the windows. However, the sign that once read High Street to the left of the 1st floor corner window has been replaced by a sign saying Market Square – which is too large for the brickwork and actually overhangs the corner.  Outside the shop are traffic lights and their accompanying box which houses the workings for the lights. This indicates that traffic is sufficiently increased that the lights are needed at this road junction.

Barrett’s shop, St Neots in 1962.(This photograph has been copied with the kind permission of Alan Huckle)

Compared to the 1950’s photograph the whole shop front has now been painted and new shop signs have been put above the shop windows. The shop windows in some cases have been enlarged and the shop is still selling clothing.

Barrett’s of St Neots in 1966 (This photograph has been copied with the kind permission of Alan Huckle)

Barrett’s acquired a 1960s concrete facade which altered the shop front considerably. The Street sign for the Market Square was put on the building but not the sign for New Street. The shop continued to sell clothing until the 1980s.

November 2008

Clarkes shoe shop was formerly Claytons Electrical and leather shop, and also Barrett’s general store.

Barrett’s display at the History Day at St Neots Priory Centre in September 2010 (P.Ibbett)

Barretts of St.Neots on YouTube

Barrett’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mural painted 1st November 2014


Ekins Livestock

This photograph is held in St Neots Museum – Ref SNEMU 2008.89.58
Ekins Livestock Auction in New Street, which closed in the 1980s

Ekins Livestock Auction in New Street, which closed in the 1980s, was redeveloped as Old Market Court sheltered housing. Cattle, sheep and pig auctions were still held on Thursdays in the early 1980s.

St Neots Livestock Auction 1954

“From recollections of Ekins staff from 1950s & 1960s it is believed that sitting in the centre of the front row are local butchers Joe Peck & Howard Bonham and farmer John Chapman. Others in the photo are believed to include Wally Theobalds, Johnny Bigg, Mac Boddington, Bert Sharman, Alan Cope, Archie Sewell, Harry Childerly, Wally Mumford and Mr Barnett from Fenstanton and the drover was Punch Huckle” – By Brian Storey (20/02/2016)

The Livestock Auction Market in New Street, St Neots was run by Ekins Witherow and Handley and was the largest pig market in East Anglia. It attracted buyers from a wide area and it was a weekly meeting place for local farmers. The market ran until 1985 when the site was redeveloped as the Old Market Court Residential Flats. The auctioneer in the 1950s was Victor Ekins, later joined as auctioneers in the late 1960s by his son Anthony and Brian Storey and Michael Alexander.

Selling cattle at St Neots Livestock Auction in New Street, site is now Old Market Court sheltered housing, SNEMU 2008.89.19

Prisoner of War Camps in St. Neots

In World War II, it wasn’t just the Axis powers who used prisoner of war camps. In fact, the British used to have POW camps, including two in St Neots, one where now The Crescent is located, and one called the Beeson House Camp, a labour camp for captured German soldiers.

Why you ask? Well, between 1939 and 1945 the population of prisoners in Britain increased by 400,000. Prisons didn’t have enough space to keep them, so the British government had to have lots of camps made: more than 1000 in fact, though it is unknown how many of these where completed, or used.

Picture of German Prisoners being taken to Kempton park holding camp for interrogation. From German Prisoners of War in Britain

There are no pictures of Beeson House Camp, as no one is sure where it is, but a National Grid Reference has been provided, and it was somewhere between these points: POW

Little Paxton Health Spa & ‘Neotia’
View of the Paper Mill at Little Paxton when the health spa was opened in 1895

Taking the waters at St Neots Spa in Huntingdonshire

The spring originated near or under the paper mill and an idea arose to popularise St Neots by promoting it as a spa town. A small committee was set up in 1895, they leased the mineral spring, believed to be chalybeate similar to Hail Weston springs, and allegedly dug a 90 foot deep well. The idea appears to have gained momentum with dreams of an East Anglian version of Tunbridge Wells. Later that year the grand opening was arranged for Whit Monday, with a procession of boats rowed from the town bridge to the spa, complete with floating band.

This photograph is held in St Neots Museum – Ref  SNEMU 1996.67.266
Celebrating Opening of the Spa 1895. Hotel & Public Rooms in the background

The company Messrs. Jordan & Addington were ready, prepared to produce bottles of ‘Neotia’ for sale, examples were used in quantity as decoration for the opening ceremony. The water now piped from source had been plugged, with Mrs Fydell Rowley officially unplugging and declaring the spa open. A ceremonial round was drunk from the Fellow Football Cup, recently won by St Neots Town Football Club.

Local enthusiasm at its height a company was created in 1896 with press

Spa Water Spring at Little Paxton in 1952

speculating on the building of a baths, claims being made of a dog being completely cured of sores by bathing in the spas curative waters. However it was all very short lived, with no land available for even just a pump house to be built, and the market for ‘Neotia’ apparently not materialising. By the turn of the last century, just five years from conception there were complaints that the spa was a neglected eye sore.