Just before the Society was founded in 1987 an incident occurred that highlighted how our heritage was being lost. A large pile of old bound copies of the Littleport Parish Magazines dating from the 1880’s was put out with a dustbin for the dustcart to take away.
Fortunately the dustman recognised what this potential pile of refuse was and saved it from inevitable destruction. He took the items to Miss Eileen Gill, a former school mistress, and well known as a local historian, who was to become the Society’s first President. As there was no historical society in the village she gave them to the Cambridgeshire Collection, a large collection of printed material about the history of Cambridgeshire housed in the Central Library in Cambridge where they can still be seen today.
It was therefore clear when the Society was fully established that one of our aims must be to collect Littleport related material and ensure its safe keeping for the future. One of the first large donations was from the Martin family, who deposited a large metal trunk full to the brim with old documents dating back to the 18th century. Storage was a problem in the early days, but we were kindly given a space in the old Methodist Hall in High Street. There the collection remained until we were able to move into The Barn, where the collection, containing many delicate and fragile old documents is now stored in a very good environment to ensure their preservation.
As well as donated items the Society also began a programme of purchasing items to add to the collection whenever and wherever they came up for sale. Our most expensive purchase to date is the Military Medal of Cpl. Walter Sallis, who received the medal for his part in the siege of the Schwaben Redoubt in 1916 during the First World War. The medal was purchased through an auction, and the Society had strong competition from medal collectors.
The smallest items in the collection are two tiny tokens issued by the Littleport Overseers of the Poor in 1668. One of them was donated by a member who lives in Hull and the other was purchased. Despite their age they are far from the oldest items in the collection, that honour goes to the fossilised flipper bone of a Plesiosaurus which dates back 25 million years.
A selection of items and photographs from the collection is displayed at our open days, and at selected other venues from time to time. The Society will contribute a display to the V.E. Day event at the Adams Heritage Centre in May. The Society’s OPEN DAY this year will be held on Saturday 19th September at The Barn in the Main Street Car Park from 10 am to 4 pm. Displays will include Memories of the 50’s and 60’s, Littleport during the First World War, Washington Bus Services, Family History, and much more. Entrance is free, so why not drop in, have a cup of tea and a cake, have a chat with the members of the committee, and discover how the Littleport Society is preserving our heritage.