New sign for Fenland village honours steam history

VILLAGERS in Walpole St Andrew have a dazzling new sign thanks to the power of steam.

The design of the new centrepiece was unveiled yesterday and the stainless steel creation reflected the history of a village event which raised the money to provide it.

Steam engine rallies were part of village life from 1967 to 1981 and raised thousands of pounds for both the village church and the community. Now, 30 years after the last event, there is a permanent reminder.

“It is a fantastic sign – many villages have signs depicting historic events which visitors rarely understand, but ours has its own lectern information sign explaining the history and what it means,” said John Smith, chairman of the rally committee.

The church tower represents the church, the war memorial is for the community while apples and strawberries show how the village relied on the crops.

Waves relate to the fact the village was once on the coast while bulrushes indicate its marshland location.

The sign was designed by Wisbech artist Gordon Gillick and made by former villager Michael Self.

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A crowd of former steam rally committee members and villagers gathered to watch the unveiling which was followed by a blessing from the parish vicar the Rev Mike Cheshire before he took a short service of thanksgiving.

Funds for the information lectern were provided by the Sutton Bridge Power Fund.

The connection with the steam rallies was marked with the appearance of The Lord of the Isles – an engine from Wisbech St Mary which appeared at the original events.

The rallies attracted thousands of people each year and were only halted when the costs of staging them became too prohibitive.

Money raised had re-roofed the church’s Lady Chapel, gilded and electrified its clock and provided a range of equipment for clubs and organisations. There is still some left in the kitty for future projects.