Olaudah Equiano / Gustavus Vassa
Olaudah Equiano otherwise known as Gustavus Vassa was the African slave who gained his freedom and became an activist for the abolition of slavery in the 18th Century. He wrote his celebrated Autobiography - 'The Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African in 1789'. His connection with Soham comes from the fact that he married a local woman, Susannah Cullen, in St. Andrew's Church and both his daughters were born and baptised there.
Town's history in the spotlight
Ely Standard - Thursday 24th January 2008 (Article)
A dancing vicar and architectural historian helped to celebrate the launch of two books on the history of Soham.
African dancers and youngsters from the Stage Chance Dance School transported guests to the time of Olaudah Equiano, a former slave who became part of the movement to abolish the slave trade.
He married Soham girl, Susannah Cullen, in St Andrews Church, in April 1792. "Equiano was a man who did an awful lot to change our world," said Community History Museum chairman Donna Martin. "We are incredibly proud of his links with Soham".
More than 50 guests at Lodeside Hall heard Mrs Martin give an in depth talk on her forthcoming book: Soham at the time of the abolition.
Ely based architectural historian, Mac Dowdy, introduced his book: Soham; An improving town, which uses new photographic techniques to reveal what the town would have looked like during the 18th century.
"One of the things that really struck me about Soham, when I started walking around, is that it has far more buildings of high architectural standard than Ely, a significant number of which would have been standing at the time of Equiano," said Mr Dowdy.
A copy of 'Soham, an improving town' will be delivered to every household in Soham. The evening of talks, exhibitions and dancing with vicar Tim Alban-Jones acting as compere, was funded by the National Lottery.
1944 Soham Rail Disaster
Soham was saved from certain destruction when a train carrying bombs for the D-day advance caught fire at Soham Station in the early hours of 2nd June 1944. The town was saved by the uncoupling of the burning wagon which took up valuable escape time. The ensuing explosion, which occurred as the train pulled out of the station killed fireman James Nighthall and signalman Frank Bridges instantly while the driver Benjamin Gimbert and guard Herbert Clarke miraculously survived, being blown clear. A cargo of four hundred tons of bombs and the town of Soham remained intact due to the heroic actions of those four men. Gimbert and Nighthall were both awarded the George Medal, Nighthall posthumously.
Soham Rail Disaster Memorial (2007)
Momument dedicated to the men of the 1944 rail disaster
(On island behind the War Memorial, Red Lion Square, Soham)
The artwork is the culmination of nine years of work by the Soham Community History Museum, which won a £15,000 Heritage Lottery fund grant along with £10,000 in donations to fund the project. It was officially unveiled by HRH The Duke of Gloucester on Saturday 2nd June 2007 at the War Memorial, with relatives of Ben Gimbert, Jim Nightall and Frank Bridges attending. This was followed by a Street Parade to St. Andrew's Church and Service of Dedication by the Vicar of Soham, The Reverend Tim Alban Jones MBE.
Lodeside building - Village College Soham - Plaque
The Walter Gidney Pavilion - Plaque
Train Engines - various
Several streets in Soham have been named after these brave and selfless men in gratitude for their actions since the disaster.
Frank Bridges Gravestone Restoration (2007)
Restored grave of Frank Bridges
Grave location - Frank Bridges: Fordham Road Cemetery (Soham), back plot behind left hand side chapel, left hand of main avenue by watering can access, 4th row back, 12th grave in. Immediately to left front of Ellen Westly's highly visible grave marker, (4ft high square plinth with veiled lady crouching aloft with hand to bent head and wreath in right hand pointing down).