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Sawston Village History Society

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About SVHS
The Sawston History Society normally meets on the second Thursday of every month (see diary for next date).
There's a wide range of speakers and subjects related to the history of Sawston and Cambridgeshire.
Check out our FAQ for more information
SVHS notices:

Readers may recollect Bruce Milner's report in the October 2012 Sawston Scene about the Chinese TV crew descending on Sawston and filming a house in London Road (almost directly opposite the Medical Centre) where the famous Chinese poet Xu Zhimu lived for 2 months back in 1921. The first of twenty 15 minute episodes was shown on Chinese TV (funnily enough in Chinese) in late April and featured several minutes of Kings College where Xu was a student. The part featuring Sawston will be shown in a later episode.

Xu's grandson, Tony Hsu has kindly emailed the link to the series on-line - see below.

Bruce Milner

This link will give you access to episode #1 and future episodes (20) of the Xu Zhimo documentary. I am not sure how many episodes will be shown each week. You can either watch the documentary as the TV broadcast on-live show on Channel 11 of CCTV or you can watch on the above website at a later time. Broadcast times for each day are the same time 9:25 PM Beijing Time (on Monday,Tuesday,Thursday, and Sunday)


The Society was recently approached by a retired film producer, offering his services on a voluntary basis to make a film of any interesting happening from the village’s past. This seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss, and 19th century Sawston with much hardship caused by one employer in particular and those who resisted him would make a good story. The suggestion was well received, and the production of a film could involve local talent in researching, script-writing and acting under professional guidance. Anyone interested in helping with the project can call in the History room in the Parish office on any Monday morning for more information, or contact Bryan on 0122383396, email:

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

The next meeting, on Dec 12th, will be a talk on Parish Workhouses given by Marian French.

Recent Meeting Reports
Bruce Milner 1941-2013

Bruce was a committee member of Sawston Village History Society since the inaugural meeting on 24th January 1991 when fourteen people met to form the society.  He was elected Publicity Officer at that meeting and continued in this post until his untimely death on Saturday 22nd June 2013.  Bruce was responsible for designing the posters advertising our meetings and for their distribution in various places in Sawston.  He also sent details of our forthcoming meetings to the local Press and these notices encouraged visitors from further afield.
He was a member of SVHS programme committee and showed a great interest in the paranormal including arranging a ghost watch at Sawston Hall.  However, the various apparitions said to haunt the Hall were not present during our visit.  Bruce gave a presentation to SVHS members earlier this year entitled ‘John Neville – Sawston’s Warlord of the Roses?’ in which he related John’s life in much detail.  

He was also point of contact for enquiries through the SVHS website and he enthusiastically researched information to answer the varied questions he received, many from overseas.  After receiving an email from Tony Hsu, Bruce researched the links of Xu Zhimo, Tony’s Grandfather and one of China’s famous poets who had studied at King’s College while residing at Prince’s Terrace in Sawston in the early 1920s.  This resulted in a visit to Sawston by Tony Hsu and a Chinese film crew and recently this part of their film was shown on Chinese television.

Bruce was a founder member of Sawston’s Twinning Association with Selsingen in Germany and took an active part in arranging visits for both adults and students.  His interest in Landscape Archaeology led him to become an enthusiastic member of Archaeology Rheesearch, a local amateur group who carry out resistivity and magnetometer surveys at many locations including Wimpole Hall, Ely Cathedral and Sawston Hall, as well as other sites in the area.

He was a volunteer with the local Scout movement and also spent time volunteering in Challis Garden.  Some people will remember him cycling round Sawston with the football pools.  Bruce was a member of the U3A and enjoyed his sessions of Mah‑Jong.

We shall miss Bruce very much for his enthusiasm, for the very active part he played in SVHS, his questioning manner, for writing up reports on our speakers and ensuring they were published in Sawston Scene and on the website.  He was straightforward in his manner and fought for what he believed was right. 

Bruce was a proud family man and we send our condolences to Renate, his children and his grandchildren.

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