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Sawston Village History Society

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About SVHS
The Sawston Village History Society normally meets on the second Thursday of every month (see diary for upcoming meetings). There's a wide range of speakers and subjects related to the history of Sawston and Cambridgeshire.

The next meeting, on January 14th 2016, will feature a talk from Barry Tew on The life and inventions of Guglielmo Marconi, founder of the Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company. See the diary for more details.

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Comments from visitors

Geoff wrote: I looked up your site after seeing an old newsreel from 1925 about the pea custom. I just thought I would drop you a line with the link in case you don't already know of it. As it may be an extra weapon to help you fight the bureaucracy that is threatening the event. British Pathe film of Sawston Peas.

Dot wrote: I am trying to trace the Samuel family for a friend. James Samuel lived in Great Shelford and was a miller and I believe there was a steam flour mill there. His children moved to Sawston and also became millers and one ran the pub in Sawston High Street. Could you tell me please - are you aware of any flour mills in Sawston? I have seen mention of the Dernford one and wondered if they ran that? Thanks for a wonderful site.

Can any of our readers and members help Dot? We look forward to publishing any of your contributions. Our thanks to Geoff for pointing us towards the fascination film - a real window on our past. Ed

The Sawston Community Archive Group (SCAG) now has a strong nucleus of members drawn from the Society, but is also open to non-SVHS members. Our mission (as they now say) is to create a digital archive of anything relating to Sawston, under the auspices of the Cambridgeshire Community Archive Network (CCAN), web site: We usually meet at the Sawston library (for times please contact Liz Dockerill on 835127) for on-line archiving sessions

An archive of former notices is available.

Recent Meeting Reports
February 2016 Meeting Report

Xu Zhimo, China, and Cambridge by Nick Chrimes

In this very interesting talk by Nick Chrimes for residents of Sawston about the man who has been described as the Shakespeare of China, and who lived in Sawston while he was at Cambridge, the scene was set for how Cambridge became a University town.

By 1200, Cambridge was a thriving commercial community with good river access to Kings Lynn and beyond. In 1209, scholars from Oxford came to take refuge from hostile townsmen, and this eventually led to the founding of the university. By 1600, there were 60 universities in Europe, but only Oxford and Cambridge in England, and very little cross fertilisation with European universities, although Erasmus had been the first to come.

China meanwhile was progressing very well on its own and saw no need to have contact with the outside world. When, in the eighteenth century, England wanted to trade with China, particularly for tea, porcelain and silk, there was nothing that China wanted from England. This was why England developed the opium crop in India, to have something to sell to China.

Interest in China was not reciprocated until the 1911 revolution, but did join the allies in 1917. Even before this, Chinese workers dug trenches, repaired tanks, and assembled shells and many other tasks. The Chinese government hoped that their support would be rewarded by the return of Shandong province, the birthplace of Confucius, which had been seized by Germany in 1898. Instead the western powers handed it to Japan. This caused lasting resentment in China.

However, the ice had been broken, and China could no longer ignore the rest of the world. This brings us on to Xu Zhimo, one of the most renowned romantic poets of 20th century Chinese literature. He was born in 1897 and read law at Peking University in 1915-17. He went to America in 1918 to study history and later economics and politics. He was not happy there and in 1921 left to study at King's College Cambridge, where he fell in love with the romantic poetry of Keats and Shelley. He fell in love with Cambridge and became part of the Bloomsbury group and in particular was a friend of Roger Fry.

He chose to live in Sawston, it is thought at 26 London Road, rather than in Cambridge. It is assumed that this was to keep his wife, when she joined him, well away from his life in Cambridge. She cannot have had a happy time, isolated, and just cooking and cleaning for him, and he seems to have had many girl-friends during his time in America and England.

Jim Butchart

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