DCS event: A Day in Godmanchester

Saturday 7th september 2013 Return to Alumni Events

Our visit to Godmanchester marked the first event of the academic year and of course, an academic year of the Darwin College 50th Anniversary celebrations so there was a little more apprehension about the poor weather forecast earlier in the week. As often occurs, the forecast improved as the week progressed and on the day the weather was very nice, so we all met at Godmanchester to meet Ken and Pam Sneath, our guides and authors of the official history of Godmanchester, written to celebrate 800 years of the Charter given to it by King John in 1212. Ken is an Evolved Darwinian and he and his wife had kindly offered to take us for a tour but it happened to coincide with their trip to the U.S.A. and a return during the early hours so we have to be extra grateful to them. We are also thankful for the Exhibition Public House which allowed us to park there for the day.


Ken Sneath Our Tour Guide

The Street

Ken Stops to Show a Point of Interest


DCS Inspecting the Headstones

Ken introduced the importance of Roman Godmanchester (Durovigutum) by pointing out that it was on the intersection of Ermine Street which ran from London to York, with the Via Devana running from Colchester to Chester and of course the Great Ouse crossing of Ermine Street. He showed us the locations of the Roman town, the flats named the Roman Gate flats which are built on the gate site then very interestingly we went to a series of residential roads within which Ken mapped out the positions of the Roman Mansio and Baths excavated by Michael Green prior to the construction of the houses and then pictures of some of the relics found, often pointing out the house built where they were located. The tour included stops by buildings of historical interest including the church. Most interestingly we were taken into the churchyard where Ken took us to look at headstones and told us stories about the individuals of Godmanchester who were interred there.

We just arrived back on schedule to the Exhibition for lunch where we were joined by Christopher Vane-Percy. When we had finished Ken and Pam went off for a well-deserved sleep and Christopher took us back to his ancestral home, Island Hall. The Hall has a most interesting history but in recent times it was requisitioned for the 2nd World War billeting, taken over via the Emergency Housing Act and then what remained sold to Godmanchester Borough Council. The result was a large unkempt garden and a much-changed house. Christopher and Linda bought the house in 1983 and have restored much of the remaining garden, island and the house to it's former design and decor as well as collecting items from family which were in the house originally. The house is unusual as it was built such that the front and rear aspects are identical as in 1749, when it was built by the Jacksons, it was considered that visitors were as likely to approach from the river by boat as from the street. The original wooden Chinese Bridge, joining the garden to the island has now been replaced with a relica. Inside the hall there were several rooms to visit in the capable hands of Christopher and Lady LindaVane-Percy who added information and stories. In all it was fascinating and we did not leave until nearly 5 p.m.


Christopher Vane-Percy in the Garden

Island Hall

Island Hall from the Garden


Lady Linda Vane-Percy in an Island Hall Bedroom

We must gratefully acknowledge the efforts of Ken and Pam, Christopher and Linda and of the staff and management of The Exhibition.

Pictures by Helen Moore(Click on the picture for larger a versions)


Most of the DCS party in Island Hall garden

Pictures by Lauries Jones (Click on the picture for larger a versions)


The Chinese Bridge linking Island Hall to the island

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