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William Lawrence Bragg

3 West Road (New Road), Thorpe House

History of 3 West Road


William Eaden Lilley

William Eaden Lilley, 55, wholesale retail dealer, b Cambridge

Rachel Martha, 45, b Norfolk

Rachel Elizabeth, 20, engaged teaching sisters at home, b Cambridge

Philip Henry, 19, apprentice draper, b Cambridge

Caroline Sarah, 16, b Cambridge

Agnes, 14, b Cambridge

Bertha, 13, b Cambridge

Emma Gertrude, 12, b Cambridge

Arthur Palmer, 10, b Cambridge

Maud Alexandra, 8, b Cambridge

Margaret, 1, b Cambridge

Ann Matthews, 64, cook, b Cambs

Elizabeth Hilsden, 45, nursemaid, b Cambridge

Mary Wilderspin, 23, housemaid, b Cambridge

1881 West Road House




West Road OS map 1903

1901 Thorpe House



Philip Henry Lilley

1913 Thorpe House

Philip Henry Lilley

Miss Lilley

The house was lived in during the 1930s by Mrs Wollaston, the widow of A F R ‘Sandy’ Wollaston who was shot dead in his rooms at King’s College by an undergraduate in an event which resulted in three deaths in 1930.

Illustrated Police News 12/6/1930.

The account of the murder of Alexander Frederick Richmond Wollaston is included in Alison Bruce’s book ‘Cambridgeshire Murders’. A detailed source of the information in this case is the Illustrated Police News 12/6/1930. Douglas Newton Potts was a student at King’s College whose lifestyle had become more and more eccentric since he arrived as an undergraduate in October 1929. He  had befriended another undergraduate John Frederick Gerald Newman and together they formed a dance band in which Potts played the drums and piano and sometimes conducted. In May 1930 Potts and Newman disappeared from Cambridge and went to London where they stayed with Madge Miller, a 25 year dance instructor in Shaftsbury Avenue. Potts had stolen a gun and boasted about wanting to follow a life of crime. The owner of the gun, a Webley automatic,  was David Gattiker who had bought it for target practice at a local range from Messrs Gallyon of Bridge Street. Other students didn’t take him seriously but rapidly falling foul of their college authorities Potts and Newman decided to leave Cambridge. Whilst in London they appeared suicidal to some  of their acquaintances but were persuaded to return to Cambridge by a third year student Frederick Waterwell Bolton.

On 3rd June the two undergraduates went to meet their tutors; in the case of Potts this was Alexander Wollaston. Whilst in a meeting, the policeman Sergeant Francis James Willis arrived to arrest Potts concerning the disappearance of the firearm. Potts shot both Wollaston, Willis and then himself.

The jury at the inquests determined that Douglas Potts had committed suicide during temporary insanity and that he murdered Wollaston and Willis during this same period.

See also Cambridge Historian website.

1938 The Bragg family moved to 3 West Road. Alice Bragg describes in detail their life in West Road in ‘Crystal Clear’ p.373f. The arrangements within the house for the duration of the war are interesting. Two maids and the gardener were called up … the house gave accommodation to a mixed bag of people, including a girl student from Bedford College, a pregnant bus conductress, a friend’s child with pneumonia, and a professor from London. The Bragg family were lucky that, despite rationing, they received regular food parcels from friends in America. Housed in its cellar was some of the glass from the windows of King’s College chapel.

Alice Bragg had already been involved with Lady Reading in national recruitment to the WVS. She continued her WVS role in Cambridge.

William Laurence Bragg’s father was William Henry Bragg (1862-1942). He had married Gwendoline Todd (1869-1929). She was born in Adelaide and was the daughter of Sir Charles Heavitree Todd and Alice Gillam Bell.


William Laurence Bragg, physicist and crystallographer Nobel Prize 1915

Alice Grace Jenny Bragg, b 1899 [WVS organiser for Cambridge and then Mayor of Cambridge. She was later on several government commissions].

Lady Alice Bragg

Margaret A Bragg, b 1931


James A McGoughan, b 1932

Hilda M Leaper, b 1909, children’s nurse

Beatrice B Watts, b 1911, children’s nurse

Nellie Norfield, b 1889, cook

Elizabeth F Thorpe, b 1903, housemaid

There is a detailed description of family life at 3 West Road in Crystal Clear: the autobiographies of Sir Lawrence and Lady Bragg pub. OUP 2015.

Crystal Clear (excerpt)

The Bragg family decided not to evacuate their children out of Cambridge during the war.

Lawrence Bragg was the son of William Henry Bragg (1862-1962) who had married Gwendoline Todd (1869-1929).

Gwendoline Todd was the daughter of Charles Todd (1926-1910) and Alice Gillam Bell (1836-1898).


Gonville and Caius College hostel


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