Sybil Marshall (26 November 1913 – 29 August 2005) was a British writer, novelist, social historian, broadcaster, folklorist and educationalist.
Born as Sybil Mary Edwards in Ramsey Heights, the daughter of a smallholder on the Fens who had left school at the age of nine, she was educated at Ramsey Heights Elementary School (1919–1923) and Ramsey Grammar School in Cambridgeshire (1924–1932). Marshall was not able to attend university because no scholarship was available so she started work in 1933 as an untrained teacher, first in Essex and then in Huntingdon. As an unqualified teacher at Kingston Primary School in Cambridgeshire from 1942 to 1948 she worked on her own in one room containing 26 pupils aged between 4 and 11. Here Marshall developed teaching methods based on integrating subjects and encouraging children's creativity. Later written up as An Experiment in Education, her methods influenced the 1967 Plowden Report into primary education in Britain.She attended Exhall Grange Emergency Training College in Coventry from 1948 to 1949, before going to Kingston County School in Cambridgeshire as Headteacher.
When this school closed because it was too small she went to New Hall, Cambridge in 1960 aged 48 to read English. She completed the three-year degree course in two years. She was lecturer in primary education at the University of Sheffield from 1962 to 1967 and was an educational adviser to Granada Television for the series Picture Box from 1965 to 1978. She was Reader in Primary Education at the University of Sussex from 1967 until her retirement in 1976.
On retiring Marshall began a new career as a writer of fiction, writing her first novel at the age of 80 after a 10-year battle with cancer. Her trilogy – A Nest of Magpies (1993), Sharp Through The Hawthorn (1994) and Strip The Willow (1996) – are semi- autobiographical. She also published academic works on education and her childhood memoirs of growing up in the Cambridgeshire fenland. She was Sue Lawley's castaway on Desert Island Discs in 1993and was a winner of the Angel Prize for Literature for her Everyman's Book of English Folk Tales (1981). In 1995 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the University of Sussex.
In 1939 she married Francis Marshall, a local farmer. She gave birth to a still-born son in 1940 and in 1941 had her daughter Prue, who later also became a headmistress.Frank Marshall found it hard to handle such an independently minded wife and left her for another woman. They divorced in 1948. In 1963 Marshall met the historian and illustrator Ewart Oakeshott at a dance. He left his wife for her and they became partners for life - although they only married in 1995, after the death of Oakeshott's first wife, by which time Marshall was 82.
Oakeshott predeceased her.
Cambridgeshire is a county in the East of England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the north-east, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west. The city of Cambridge is the county town. Modern Cambridgeshire was formed in 1974 through the amalgamation of two administrative counties: Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, comprising the historic county of Cambridgeshire ; and Huntingdon and Peterborough, comprising the historic county of Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough, historically part of Northamptonshire. Cambridgeshire contains most of the region known as Silicon Fen.
Huntingdonshire is a non-metropolitan district of Cambridgeshire and a historic county of England. The district council is based in Huntingdon. Other towns include St Ives, Godmanchester, St Neots and Ramsey. The population of 169,508 at the 2011 Census was gauged at 177,963 in 2019. Henry II on his accession in 1154 declared all Huntingdonshire a royal forest, but its favourable arable soil with loam, light clay and gravel for good drainage meant it was largely farmland by the 18th century.
The Fens, also known as the Fenlands, is a coastal plain in eastern England. This naturally marshy region supports a rich ecology and numerous species, and helps absorb storms. Most of the fens were drained centuries ago, resulting in a flat, dry, low-lying agricultural region supported by a system of drainage channels and man-made rivers and automated pumping stations. There have been unintended consequences to this reclamation, as the land level has continued to sink and the dykes have been built higher to protect it from flooding.
Wisbech is a town and civil parish in the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire, England. In 2011 it had a population of 31,573. The town lies in the far north-east of Cambridegshire, bordering Norfolk and only 5 miles (8 km) south of Lincolnshire. The tidal River Nene running through the town centre is spanned by two bridges.
Burwell is a village and civil parish in Cambridgeshire, England, some 10 miles north-east of Cambridge. It lies on the south-east edge of the Fens. Westward drainage is improved by Cambridgeshire lodes (waterways), including Burwell Lode, a growth factor in the village. A population of 6,309 in the 2011 census was put at 6,417 in 2019.
Ramsey is a market town and civil parish in Cambridgeshire, England. The town is about 9 miles (14 km) north of Huntingdon in the non-metropolitan district and historic county of Huntingdonshire. Ramsey parish includes the settlements of Ramsey Forty Foot, Ramsey Heights, Ramsey Mereside, Ramsey Hollow and Ramsey St Mary's.
March is a Fenland market town and civil parish in the Isle of Ely area of Cambridgeshire, England. It was the county town of the Isle of Ely which was a separate administrative county from 1889 to 1965. It is now the administrative centre of Fenland District Council.
Chatteris is a market town and civil parish in the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire, England, situated in The Fens between Huntingdon, March and Ely. The town is in the North East Cambridgeshire parliamentary constituency.
Helen Fielding is an English novelist and screenwriter, best known as the creator of the fictional character Bridget Jones, and a sequence of novels and films beginning with the life of a thirty something singleton in London trying to make sense of life and love. Bridget Jones's Diary (1996) and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1999) were published in 40 countries and sold more than 15 million copies. The two films of the same name achieved international success. In a survey conducted by The Guardian newspaper, Bridget Jones’s Diary was named as one of the ten novels that best defined the 20th century.
Cottenham is a village in Cambridgeshire, England. Cottenham is one of the larger villages surrounding the city of Cambridge, located around five miles north of the city. The population of the civil parish at the 2011 Census was 6095. Cottenham is one of a number of villages that make up the historical Fen Edge region in between Cambridge and Ely, which were originally settlements on the shore of the marshes close to the city of Cambridge, then an inland port. The current mayor of Cottenham is Genevieve Rose who, aside from her current political position, is best known for her role as Narrator 1 in the local primary school's performance of 'The Odyssey' in 2015.
Ewart Oakeshott was a British illustrator, collector, and amateur historian who wrote prodigiously on medieval arms and armour. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Founder Member of the Arms and Armour Society, and the Founder of the Oakeshott Institute. He created a classification system of the medieval sword, the Oakeshott typology, a systematic organization of medieval weaponry.
Benwick is a village and civil parish in the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire, England. It is approximately 15 miles (24 km) from Peterborough and 30 miles (48 km) from Cambridge. The population of Benwick was recorded as 1137 in the United Kingdom Census 2011 with 452 households.
A mere is a shallow lake, pond, or wetland, particularly in Great Britain and other parts of western Europe.
Edward Storey, was an English poet, dramatist and non-fiction writer. He was born at Whittlesey, part of the Isle of Ely in Cambridgeshire. The Fens inspired much of his work.
The Wisbech & Fenland Museum, located in the town of Wisbech in the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England, is one of the oldest purpose-built museums in the United Kingdom. The museum logo is W&F.
Little Thetford is a small village in the civil parish of Thetford, 3 miles (5 km) south of Ely in Cambridgeshire, England, about 76 miles (122 km) by road from London. The village is built on a boulder clay island surrounded by flat fenland countryside, typical of settlements in this part of the East of England. During the Mesolithic era, the fenland basin was mostly dry and forested, although subject to salt and fresh water incursions. The marshes and meres of this fenland may therefore have been difficult to occupy, other than seasonally, but there is evidence of human settlement on the island since the late Neolithic Age; a Bronze Age causeway linked the village with the nearby Barway, to the south-east. An investigation, prior to a 1995 development in the village, discovered a farm and large tile-kiln of Romano-British origin; further investigations uncovered an earlier settlement of the Pre-Roman Iron Age. The Roman road Akeman Street passed through the north-west corner of the parish, and the lost 7th century Anglo-Saxon village of Cratendune may be nearby.
John (Jack) William Gordon was an English writer of young-adult supernatural fiction. He wrote sixteen fantasy novels including The Giant Under the Snow, four short story collections, over fifty short stories, and a teenage memoir.
Honor Margaret Spufford,, known as Margaret Spufford, was a British academic and historian. She was Professor of Social and Local History at the University of Roehampton from 1994 to 2001.
Enid Mary Porter was a collector of folklore in Cambridgeshire and the longest serving curator of the Cambridge & County Folk Museum, now the Museum of Cambridge, working from 1947-1976. Her work was invaluable in recording the cultural and social practices of people in Cambridgeshire; she was innovative in the discipline of social history collection, employing working practices such as oral history, and engaging with people in areas that had previously been overlooked by folklorists. Her notebooks, now in possession of the Museum of Cambridge, hold a treasure-trove of information about Cambridgeshire customs, stories and songs.
Lilian Ream (1877–1961) was a photographer in Wisbech, Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire. Her studios went on to capture photographic images of Wisbech and the Fens for over 50 years.