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Vandervell's or Colony Lake, and Chateau Pisces, Bedford Bank


Sometime in 2004, a visitor to The Welney Website, Charles Frowd from Sussex, contacted the webmaster, Peter Cox, regarding family holidays Charles recalled being told about that occured somewhere near Welney in the 1930s.

Charles e-mailed a copy of a faded sepia photograph of "a bungalow" (below) that the family stayed in somewhere on the banks of the Old Bedford River and wondered whether Peter knew its location, and if it still existed. He didn't know, but luckily knew a man who did - Tony Smart, an ex-Welneyite lving in Cambridge, who identified the bungalow as the one at the "Colony" on Bedford Bank a little over 1½ miles (2.5km) south-west of Welney Bridge.

"The Bungalow"

The bunglow at Vandervells Lake We don't know when it was built or who by, but we do know it existed in the 1930s when the Vandervell family owned it and the 8 acre plot of mostly lake behind it. It was built in what had been the brick yard started by "The Colonists" (see link on left) in 1838, and the lake had once been the clay-pits supplying the yard.

(For clarity we must point out that the lake and Bungalow are not where the Colonists lived; they had brick-built terraced housing on the land now farmed by the Headings family immediately northeast between the lakes and the track leading from the B1093.)

The photo Charles Frowd sent was taken in 1933 showing his mother, Anita Loraine, who was related to the Vandervell family. By the 1950s (and probably long before) the lake was known as Vandervell's Lake At some time in the 1920s or 1930s the lake that had once been the Colony's clay pits was acquired by a member or members of the wealthy London Vandervell family as a shooting and fishing retreat. The low cost of land in the Fens and possibly the advantage of a railway station just a couple of miles away with connections to London would have made this an attractive investment.

Some of our information has been witheld at the request of the family, but it is well known that Charles Anthony Vandervell (1872-1955) was a successful industrialist whose West London based electrical and motor parts company bearing his initials - CAV - was and still is famous world-wide. It is said tyhat he bought a bearings manufacturer, also in West London, and gave it to his son, Guy Anthony (Tony, 1898-1967) whose success with that business later enabled him to finance and build British racing cars to match - and beat - the Italians. Frank and Yvonne Vandervell

However we have no evidence to connect Charles or Tony directly with the aquisition of the lake, but if it wasn't either of them it must certainly have been a very close relative, or maybe a Vandervell family trust.

This photo is of Frank and Yvonne Vandervell in the 1930s on the Old Bedford River adjacent to the lakes,  Frank (1885-?) was a much younger brother of Charles A Vandervell.
photo courtesy of Charles Frowd, Sussex

The Loraines

Some of this section has been witheld at the request of Charles Frowd on behalf of the family.
Peter and Babette Loraine
The Loraines were related to the Vandervells and were allowed to use (or rent/lease) the bungalow and lake. Charles has kindly provided these 1930s photos of his uncles, Leonard and Peter, and his mother Anita.

This is Peter and Babette Loraine in the 1930s in the same boat as above, but here in the lake. Peter owned some land and a caravan at Welche's Dam until the mid 1990s.

Below, Babette swimming in the lake with a dog.
Babette Loraine

Anita Loraine

On the bridge on the right is Anita Loraine, Charles Frowd's mother, with her dog Julie, in 1933
all photos © and courtesy of Charles Frowd, Sussex

photo and cuttings © and courtesy of Charles Frowd, Sussex


  We know from local sources that one of the Loraines, Leonard (one of Charles Frowd's uncles), took up permanent residence. Leonard (who was also known in Welney as Larry or Laurie, see below) was what we would now call "a bit of a character". He loved the place and the freedom it gave to indulge himself, owning an ex-WW2 Jeep 4x4, and a glass bottomed catamaran.

Leonard loraine boat
Leonard Loraine with his catamaran on the Old Bedford River
Leonard Loraine-1
press cuttings Dec 1964
Leonard Loraine-2
Ernie James from Welney said that Lenny once drove from the Colony to Welney on the frozen Old Bedford River (1947?) Leonard left the Bungalow and Colony Lake in the autumn of 1967, moving into a caravan next to the Three Tuns pub on the Old Bedford Bank at Welney. Was it a co-incidence that his move came just a few months after the death of Tony Vandervell in March 1967?

Tony Smart, a Welney historian, emailed in 2006:
"the Loraines - during the 50s / 60s there used to be a chap who lived way down the bank .... called 'Larry' or Laurie Loraine."
"During my childhood we would sometimes venture down to the lakes under the pretence of fishing - have a vivid memory of this lakeside residence, single storey villa style and to a child the architecture seemed very foreign, nevertheless could see that someone with money had been living there".

Colonel Atherton and his pike.

Col Atherton and Edward Hankin Col Atherton and pike During the 1950s, a Col. Atherton was a regular visitor to the area, enjoying fishing in the Old Bedford River at Vandervell's Lake.

In 1957 he caught a huge pike, thought to be a record weight, at the lake. Andrew Hankins of Welney kindly supplied these photos of Col. Atherton and his pike; the small boy in the boat is Andrews's father/uncle? Edward Hankins.

Well known angler Denis Moules' described the event and has a photo of the pike in his book, "The Fenland Thirties" :
Pike at L&F "This Pike is displayed in the Lamb and Flag Pub at Welney. The Colonel originally hooked the Pike on 25th February 1957 but his line broke, fortunately above the float.

He returned the following day and snagged the float with a spinner. The Pike was landed and recorded at 40lb on a set of “pig scales”. The [display] case states it was 36½lb, 3 hours after the capture.

Some 30 hours later Angling Times reported weighing the fish at 32½lb after it had shed a large amount of spawn. Angling Times at the time stated: “The fish was still fresh but undoubtedly has lost weight. It could not have lost enough, however, to bring it anywhere near the record. Angling Times feel that the Pike weighed around 34lb when caught”. Its dimension’s length 46½”, girth 33”.

With the passing of time and circumstances that prevailed at time of capture, one can now only speculate as to its true weight.

Whatever, it is a stunning fish. If you find the time please view it [at the Lamb & Flag inn, Welney] – you won’t be disappointed!

Denis Moules 30/01/03"
You can also enjoy a drink and meal at the pub so its worth a visit even if stuffed pikes are not for you.

Denis's book is out of print but a CD may be available for about £10. Details: moules@btinternet.com


Chas Moorhen and "Chateau Pisces"

A mile or so north-east of Vandervell's Lake are more pits (lakes) alongside the Old Bedford River which in the 1980s (and maybe earlier) were known as Pisces Fishery (or similar). At one time (1960s-1980s ?) Vandervell's or Colony Lake and Pisces Fisheries were apparently owned (or managed?) by a Charles (Chas) Moorhen, who lived in a house he named "Chateau Pisces". There had been a suggestion that Moorhen's house had been at what is now Pisces Fishery, but this photo shows it was in fact what had previously been know as "the Bungalow" at Vandervell's/Colony Lake.
Pike at L&F
(By the 1990s, Pisces Fishery was owned by Richard and Carol Shelton, and from c2004 until c2012 by Mike Jones and Julie Perkins-Jones under whose ownership it became Pisces Country Park.)


John Moran's boyhood holiday

John Moran emailed from Christchurch, Dorset, on 10th July 2014
"When I was about 13 or 14 (I can't remember exactly) [c1964] I was a "mad-keen" angler and was a member of the Wimbledon Broadway Angling Club (run by "Gerry of Wimbledon"). My mum and dad paid for me and a mate to have a holiday at "Chateau Pisces" which was run by "Chas Morehen".

It was a dream holiday for 2 young lads. I remember it well as the accommodation was 4 old railway carriages in a square with a roof over the middle. The bedrooms were the separate compartments with the old "slam" doors and leather-strapped windows! It was really snug and the main living area was the bit in the middle which was huge and we ate our meals there served by the eccentric Chas who was a delight to know and his stories were fascinating.

We spent every waking minute fishing in the lakes or the "drain" (as I believe in was known). It was idyllic! I have been searching the Internet for the last 10 years to try and find a reference to it but without luck (until now!) My mum & dad may have taken some photos but, if they did I don't know if they still exist but I'll have to have a look! It seems strange that neither Chas nor Chateau Pisces appear on the Internet much as they were so much an important part of my life and I would have thought that many others would also have fond memories! Kind Regards, John Moran"

Pete Young and his mates

Regular visitors to Colony (previously known as Vandervell's) lake from the 1970s up to 2001 were four friends who  lodged in a chalet on the far side of the lake.
Four fishermen in 1987
Seen here in 1987, from left to right: Pete Young, Glyn Pemberton, Ian Webb and Mick Highnam. (In 2009, Pete & Mick were living in the Southend area, Glyn near Peterborough and Ian at Feltwell.)
Pete Young e-mailed in 2009:

the bungalow and tower in the 1970s "I have attached a photo of the original house down at Colony which I took in the 70's. How that tower never fell down I shall never know, I believe it moved a bit every year.

The owners then were Bob & Hilda David who we got to know because they also owned what was then the Pisces Caravan Park & Fishery. In those days the park consisted of just one lake, a chalet, about a dozen caravans and an outside toilet block. After a couple of holidays in one of their caravans we were invited to fish up at their place (Colony) which in those days was a rare privelidge, they seemed to just take a liking to us.

the chalet in 1988We were then offered a regular week in June staying in the chalet on the other side of the lake. We continued to stay in the chalet every June & the odd long weekend right up till 2000. Bob & Hilda moved out in 1995 selling the property to Bill Whitehouse & his wife who, like us, had been customers of theirs for many years. Bill was also a keen angler who we had met on a number of occasions up there and things didn't really change much. We continued to fish the lake every year but it all changed when he sold up in 2001.

The Crouts were the next owners and wrote to us to say that for the time being they were not having anyone stay up there as they had plans for the place which included doing some work on the lake and the possibilty of some more chalets. Things went onto hold really and the thought of us possibly having to share the lake with other Anglers in the future wasn't that appealing, part of the magic of the place was having it completely to ourselves and the tranquility and peace that existed there. Probably being selfish but it's difficult to find places like that which we regarded as a little piece of paradise with some great fishing thrown in.  We didn't hear from the Crout's and the years seemed to come and go, I haven't actully met them but spoke to Abigail on the phone shortly after they moved in. One of our mates who lives in Feltwell has been down there a few times and even fished it again recently, he told us that the railway carriages had finally gone. Maybe I will get to fish it again some time, it's been 9 years now since I cast a rod and line down there, doesn't feel as though it was as long ago as that.

As you know there was a commune down there set up by William Hodson in the 19th century. I believe Bill Whitehouse had some research on it which Bob & Hilda did, I have asked my mate Mick if he still has a contact phone number for him, if so I will let you know. You are right about the place being originally owned by a wealthy family from London. I believe it was the Vandervells who I think were connected to the engineering company which produced bearings. I have heard a few stories of the things that were supposed to have gone on down there back in the 30's, most of which would have probably been told to me in the Tuns.  Charles (Chas) Morehen lived down there and was Hilda David's first husband. He died a few years or so before we discovered Welney. He had a heart attack down there and obviously the remoteness of the place didn't help with regards to getting him medical attention, I believe it was around the late 60's. I cant remember how old he was and it's a bit of a grey area as to how he first started to live there, I'm fairly sure he was initially renting the place from the Vandervell's." 
all photos in this section courtesy of Pete Young. Many more of Pete's photos are on the Slideshow.

Two carriages, later rendered with cement on the outside to window level, remained part of the much extended building until 2007 when they were removed to enable the final stages of a new house to be completed,
At some stage a tower was added which by the 1970s when this was taken it was leaning badly. Over time more bits were added; a conservatory facing the lake; and a modern extention replacing the tower facing the river.
photo courtesy of Pete Young, Southend

railway carriage exterior railway carriage exteriorabove, a carriage in June 2006 with rendering; right rendering removed in July 2007 prior to removal
sitting-room-2006 railway carriage interior above, interior of carriage from outside; right, the sitting-room, 2006, carriage on far side
photos by Peter Cox 2006-2009

Dream Home, 2001 - 2011

The quiet, beautiful and secluded setting with eight acres of lakes and woodland with a house built around two railway carriages would be many peoples idea of heaven. When it came on the market in 2000, Peter and Abigail Crout saw the potential to turn that into their dream home, and bought it in 2001.

Over the next ten years the house was transformed into an award winning building with a tall observation tower - the third to be built here, as you will know if you've read the previous sections.

It was during that period that Mr and Mrs Crout kindly allowed me to visit on a number of occasions and photograph the property and the lakes. A few of my photos are in the Bungalow section above, and here are just a small selection of the others plus some press cuttings.

award press cutting

The rear of the finished house seen in 2011 looking from the lake. (photo source unknown.)



What next? Tourism, Development, Sale ?


Owners and Occupiers

from to owner(s) occupier(s) status/remarks land use
pre 1838   Hodson, William   farmer arable
1838 1841   The Colonists    
1841 1906   various local families farm labourers, brickmakers  
    Cambs CC smallholders holdings for ex-soldiers arable
1925s?   Vandervell family (trust?)   8 acre plot with lake & bungalow  
1925s? 1967   Loraine, Lenny tenant of Vandervell's ?
mover to caravan at Three Tuns, Welney
  1970s   Morehen, Chas & Hilda owners or managers ?  
1970s? 1995 David, Bob & Hilda David, Bob & Hilda Hilda previously married to Morehen.
Also owned Pisces
fishing lake
holiday chalet
1995 2001 Whitehouse, Bill & wife Whitehouse, Bill & wife    
2001 to date Crout, Peter & Abigail Crout, Peter & Abigail   private, but some fishing


Notes and sources

Note detail/source