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Cresswell Bank Hoax postcard, J F Burrows 1905

Cresswells Bank, River Great Ouse, Ely

History of Cresswells Bank Hoax

According to Michael Rouse’s Cambridgeshire in Early Postcards (1978):

J F Burrows was a lively and energetic figure in Edwardian Ely. He was a journalist who had come from Oxford to the small market town to work on the Ely Guardian. Before long he had opened two shops selling newspapers, stationery, toys and games … In 1904 he published his own almanack and directory, The Green Book, priced at 1d.  …. In his 1906 Green Book he revealed his opportunism as a postcard publisher in an article, ‘The Ely Hoax.’

‘The Hoax! Most people of Ely, and many outside the city, can doubtless remember the Ely Hoax, or the River Mystery of All Fools’ Day 1905 – how certain articles of clothing (hat, coat, waistcoat, collar, tie, trousers and watch) were found in the early morning lying on the Cresswells bank – how footprints leading into the water pointed to a ‘deliberate suicide’ – how a diligent search was maintained for many hours in the presence of a crowd of sightseers …. The opportunity was seized upon by the publisher of picture postcards. In a few days Hoax Postcards were ‘ all the rage’ and nearly two thousand of Nos. One and Two were sold …. the Hoax was aimed at a particularly unpopular policeman.


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