I wonder how many folk in Sutton Bridge remember the wood train that used to go from Wisbech to Travis and Arnold’s yard at Sutton Bridge? – Quite a number of long-standing residents of the town, I’m sure 92 year old Mister Jack for one..
He arrived in Sutton Bridge when it was entirely an ‘agricultural village’, when most people worked on the land, often doing back-breaking work. He came to work for Travis Arnold, timber merchants, and worked his way up to become the manager. He recalls sitting in his office looking out across the river at between 3.30 and 4pm every day to see bicycle upon bicycle streaming along East Bank towards the Bridge, as the workers left the fields to return home.
The photograph above shows timber in wagons crossing at the gates at New Road, Sutton Bridge. You can make out the roof line of Cindy’s (top left). This was a private line and British Rail engines could not haul the trucks directly into Travis Arnold’s yard (BR regulations) so the engine was unhitched and the trucks shunted into the yard, where they were unloaded.
Jack said the import of wood at the port was stopped during the War and afterwards there were fewer ships using it. Sutton Bridge was an NAA (Not always afloat) port, which meant that ships had to rest on the silt in the middle of the river at low tides and were not so stable as in other ports where deep water ensured boats had a good anchorage. Even today, the boats moored at the modern port are not floating, but resting on clay.
Photo taken early 20th century. Notice the man and his son and their handcart – could he be a knife-grinder? The man seems to be sitting at his cart.