Sutton Bridge and Long Sutton united by unique event

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There are many things that separate Long Sutton from Sutton Bridge but the two villages will be joined in a unique event later this month.

In fact, the two villages will be transported back to a time when they were one community when Long Sutton and District Civic Society holds its Histories and Anniversaries of Sutton Bridge exhibition at the Curlew Centre on Saturday and Sunday, May 25 and 26. The exhibition coincides with a display of work by members of Sutton Bridge Art Group at the centre from May 23 to 28.

Until the 18th century what is now Sutton Bridge didn’t exist, and was little more than marsh land on the fringes of Long Sutton, or Sutton St Mary as it was called.

The civic society’s exhibition will explore the way in which Sutton Bridge emerged as a distinct village from about 1780 onwards. However, in tracing the first stirrings of the village and researching its history to the current day, civic society members uncovered an astonishing number of anniversaries that fall at about the same time.

Chairman Bobbie Ashton says it was the construction of the first bridge over the Nene, work carried out as part of the straightening of the Nene to allow access to the port at Wisbech, that encouraged settlement at what became Sutton Bridge.

Sutton Bridge born vice-chairman Tony Button, who is vice-chairman, says: “Until the church was built in Sutton Bridge in about 1843 folk had to be buried at Sutton St Mary.”

Once the river had been cut work began on docks for Sutton Bridge, but these only lasted three years before collapsing in 1912, or just over 100 years ago.

Tony recalls that this area and the river banks were a natural playground for youngsters, and says: “It was a good community. We supported each other and never went hungry.”

Part of the reason for that was that renowned wildfowler, poacher, artist and middleweight boxing champion Kenzie Thorpe kept families supplied with food. Kenzie’s part in Sutton Bridge’s history will be explained by members of Gedney Drove End & District Wildfowlers Association. Kenzie’s daughter Fay will open the exhibition at 10am on Saturday.

Anniversaries that will feature are those of Westmere Primary School, which opened 150 years ago, Sutton Bridge Golf Club, which celebrates its centenary in 2014, and the closure of the railway in Sutton Bridge in 1963. There will be images of the 1953 floods and the winter of 1963 when the river froze over.

Finally, Baxter’s Fish Shop has been trading for just over 100 years with only three owners – Harry Funnel, Arthur (Chippie) Cawthorne – for whom Tony chipped potatoes as a schoolboy – and current owner Martyn Baxter.