Hubert Ellis was a local celebrity who played an active role in many local organisations. However, he did not shy away from conflict. This page describes just some examples of his causes and disputes.
Hubert Oslar Shepherd Ellis, the eldest son of Charles and Maria (nee Oslar) Ellis was born in Meldreth on 27 June 1856. He was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he read law. He became a member of the Inner Temple in 1879 and practised as a barrister attached to the South East circuit. His recreation is recorded as cricket.
Hubert was a partner in the Meldreth Portland Cement and Brick Co (1898 – 1911) and was instrumental in establishing the tramway which ran between Meldreth Station and the works at Whaddon Road. He was actively engaged in politics and, like his father before him, served as President of the Meldreth Conservative Club. He was also Chairman of Meldreth Parish Council and a Cambridgeshire County Council member.
At Holy Trinity Church he was a churchwarden, vice-chairman and treasurer of the PCC and a prime mover in raising £300 for restoration of the church bells. As a consequence of purchasing land, Hubert was also a lay-rector with responsibility for the upkeep of the chancel at Holy Trinity.
Marriage to Emily Vere Mortlock
Hubert married twice. His first marriage to Emily Vere Mortlock on 26th July 1882 was followed by a legal dispute in which Emily took her father, John George Mortlock, to court.
In dispute was whether Mortlock had made a legally binding agreement to give Emily an allowance after her marriage. The action was for £6 1s 2d representing a weekly instalment of £315 per annum allegedly promised by Mortlock in consideration of her marrying Hubert Ellis. The case, heard by the County Court Judge of Royston, was not upheld and was taken to appeal at the High Court. At a hearing in November 1882 the application was dismissed.
Dispute with George Palmer
In 1904, Hubert Ellis presented his High Street neighbour, George Palmer, with a bill for damages incurred to his garden by the felling of unlopped elm trees upon his lawn, shrubbery and fence.
Accompanying the bill was a detailed list of damaged trees and shrubs which in some cases gave their age. The total bill of £37 11s 6d included £5 to cover:
“annoyance by people passing along the highway seeing over on to private lawn and other nuisances which cannot be remedied for over ten years by large trees destroyed in being taken up to get elm trees out of shrubbery and onto the highway”.
Opening of the Elementary School
Hubert Ellis took a keen interest in the the building of what is now Meldreth Primary School in 1910. The school log book records that in the capacity of manager he attended the school opening on 4th April and returned two days later to check the registers. On 24th June of that year, Hubert and his wife provided a special tea for all the school pupils.
“Through Mr Ellis’ energy on the County Council, the Parish of Meldreth have to thank him for one of the best Elementary Schools in the County” quoted in Cambridgeshire & Huntingdonshire Leaders, Ernest Gaskill, c1911
In December 1937, the school received notification from the Education Secretary that it should be reorganised as a junior and infant school. When parents of children over the age of eleven were asked to send their children to Melbourn School, unhappy parents were encouraged by Hubert Ellis to stage a protest.
On 6th January 1938, eighteen senior children presented themselves for admission but were sent home. This was repeated in the afternoon and again the following day for both the morning and afternoon sessions.
Having duly warned them, the Education Authority brought summons against the parents. A spokesman was elected for the subsequent London Court hearing but the case was lost. Mr Ellis washed his hands of the affair and the spokesman was ordered to pay the costs. Various village events were organised in order to raise the cash.
Opposition to Mains Water
Until the early 1940s Meldreth had no mains water. Although the larger houses had wells, most villagers had to rely on fountains and open ditches for their water. However, when the Rural District Council proposed that Meldreth should have piped water residents strongly opposed it.
At a meeting in July 1939, Hubert Ellis was the spokesman for the village. He said it was a shame and a disgrace that people who already had a plentiful supply of water should be made to pay. He added that it would be cheaper for the Parish Council to install pumps and pipes.
He said, “It’s not going to end here, it will be a “sewage farm” next and we shall have the devil to pay.”
Hubert Ellis died at the age of 93 in 1949. Within a year his second wife, Marion, whom he had married in 1938 also died. Although the parish records show that Hubert and both his wives are buried in the family vault at Holy Trinity Church there appears to be no memorial. There is some evidence to suggest that this was as a consequence of a dispute between the Church and Hubert’s executors.
The quote “always a fighter in whatever cause he took up” was taken from Hubert Ellis’ obituary in the Royston Crow, 1949
Transcription of Angus Bell’s interview with John Gipson about Hubert Ellis.
Go to the audio clip at the top of this page and click on the play button to listen to the interview.
John: “I knew about him most through the church. I was a young choirboy and he fell out with every vicar that came here. There was always trouble with the chancel and other things – Where he put his chair and this, that and the other. He ended up with the oil lamps in the chancel and no one was allowed to touch them.”
Angus: “Did he have a position of responsibility in the Church?”
John: “Yes, he was Church Warden.”
Angus: “Ah right. So that’s where he thought he got his rights from then is it?”
John: “Yes, but funnily enough when Mr Galley came, [he stood up to him]. Mr Galley was a bell ringer, not an expert, but he was a ringer. [The church] had five old bells, but they just chimed. He was very keen on getting these old bells restored and he and old Ellis collected the money within a year and got them re-hung in a new frame. There’s a thing [receipt] in the Church – ‘New Oak Bell Frame £240. That’s one of the good things he did, but he caused an awful lot of trouble otherwise. All the Parsons I knew had trouble with him over something or other – where they put their cloaks or where they did this or did that.”
Angus: “So he tried to rule the roost, did he?”
John: “Yes, he tried to rule the roost, but Mr Galley stood up to him. He lived on his own for a long time and then he was down a well, apparently, one Saturday afternoon and he looked up and he saw this woman who had come from off the train from somewhere. He had got a lot of rare stamps and [she came to buy some]. He married this woman. I can’t remember her name now.”
Angus: “Had he been a widower for a long time? Did his first wife die quite early?”
John: “I think so, yes, probably twenty years “
Angus: “I think his second wife was called Fullagar wasn’t she, Mrs Fullagar?”
John: “I don’t remember.”
Angus: “And I think she was the widow of another solicitor. Do you know anything about that?”
John: “I don’t. No.”
Angus: “So she just turned up on the train one day?”
John: “Yes, she went round the back, knocked on the door and couldn’t find anybody, walked round the back and he was down this well, I don’t know what he was doing and she looked down and that’s the first time he saw her!” (Both laugh!)
Angus: “Love at first sight from a well?”
Angus: “And the other thing which I think is recorded by Sarah Butler is that Hubert Ellis led a protest against the introduction of mains water in the village?”
Angus: “You were telling me earlier about there were a lot of people didn’t want mains water? Can you explain that a bit more for us please?”
John: “Not really, No. I don’t know when it came through, the water. Was it pre-War?”
Angus: “Yes. It was the 1930’s, but it took a long time to be [installed]. I think it took several years before it came in.”
John: “Yes. Oh, they used to protest about anything. After the War, the Parish Council decided to have some street-lights [installed], because it was pitch dark in those days and there weren’t many of these street-lights. They were miles apart and they even protested against new lights. People didn’t like change.”
Angus: “No, but if you go back to the thirties and water, there must have been some people had their own arterial supplies and I suppose Hubert Ellis had his, but then most of the villagers would have had to go to the fountains or the pumps?”
John: “The fountains. Yes. My father owed a row of old thatched cottages up the road [High Street] and the Farnhams had six boys brought up in this one up and one down place. Old man Farnham used to travel up to Bell Close for water with this old tank on iron wheels”
Angus: “So was there a split between people who had to go to the pump? Did they want mains water or did nobody want mains water?”
John: “I don’t know. I can’t remember really. It must have been a boon to a lot of people who’d been used to fetching water. You can’t believe what it was like now can you? When you consider the amount of water we use. ‘Course, there’s a thingummy-jig [spring] near where you live isn’t there?”
John: “Did it run all day and all night?”
Angus: “It was a spring I think.”
John: “Yes, a spring. Then the Atlas put that big pump in during the War and that tied everything up.”
Angus: “So, in North End, was the spring directly in front of our house?” [Angus lived in Five Trees]
John: “It was just to the left wasn’t it?”
Angus: “I don’t know.”
John: “Just to the left, almost where the entrance is to the Bowls Club. It used to run there day and night.”
Angus: “And what did it come out of? Was it just coming out of a pipe or ..?”
John: “I can’t remember.”
Angus: “I think a lot of people from North End got their water from there. That’s what I’ve been told.”
John: “Probably. There was another spring. There used to be a pub in Whaddon called the ‘Queen Adelaide’. There used to be a spring there as well. They all stopped when the Atlas put this big pump in. It lowered the water level. Lots of the bigger houses had their own pump, wells and pumps. Mrs Dainty had one and the Storeys had one and ‘course with the lowering of the water they had to put extra pipes on the bottom because it was harder to draw the water up.”
Angus: “I think the Goddins still do that. They still own the house where the Daintys lived. [Belmington Close]”
Transcription by Gloria Willers