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Wisbech (/ˈwɪzb/ WIZ-beech) is a Fenland market town, inland port and civil parish in the Fens of Cambridgeshire, England. It had a population of 31,573 in 2011. The town lies in the far north-east of the county, 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. Before the Local Government Act 1972 came into force in 1974 Wisbech was a municipal borough.

North brink wisbech.jpg
North Brink
Wisbech is located in Cambridgeshire
Location within Cambridgeshire
Population33,933 (2016)
OS grid referenceTF4609
Civil parish
  • Wisbech
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWISBECH
Postcode districtPE13, PE14
Dialling code01945
AmbulanceEast of England
EU ParliamentEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°39′50″N 0°09′36″E / 52.664°N 0.160°E / 52.664; 0.160Coordinates: 52°39′50″N 0°09′36″E / 52.664°N 0.160°E / 52.664; 0.160



Wisbece was recorded in the 1086 Domesday. The name Wisbech is believed to mean "on the back of the (River) Ouse", Ouse being a common Celtic word relating to water, and the name of a river that once flowed through the town. Alternatively, the first element may derive from the River Whissey which used to run to Wisbech or possibly ‘marshy-meadow valley or ridge’. OE Wisc or wisc + bece or baec.[1]

During the Iron Age, the area where Wisbech would develop lay in the west of the Brythonic Iceni tribe's territory. Icenian coins are known from both March and Wisbech.[2] Like the rest of Cambridgeshire, Wisbech was part of the Kingdom of East Anglia after the Anglo-Saxon invasion.

Middle AgesEdit

The first authentic references to Wisbech occur in a charter dated 664 granting the Abbey at Medehamstead (now Peterborough) land in Wisbech[3] and in 1000, when Oswy and Leoflede, on the admission of their son Aelfwin as a monk, gave the vill to the monastery of Ely.[4] In 1086, when Wisbech was held by the abbot, there may have been some 65 to 70 families, or about 300 to 350 persons, in Wisbech manor. However, Wisbech (which is the only one of the Marshland vills of the isle to be mentioned in the Domesday Book) probably comprised the whole area from Tydd Gote down to the far end of Upwell at Welney.[5]

Wisbech Castle was built by William I to fortify the town.

King John of England visited the castle on 12 October 1216 as he came from Bishop's Lynn. Tradition has it that his baggage train was lost to the incoming tide of The Wash. Treasure hunters still seek the lost royal treasure.[6] Twenty years later the castle was 'utterly destroyed' by marine flooding however it was rebuilt by 1246 when the constable or keeper was Wm Justice. Edward IV visited Wisbech in 1469.[7]

The register of Bishop Fordham of Ely appoints a Master of the Grammar Scholars in 1407 (the Grammar School dates back to 1379 or earlier).

Early ModernEdit

The Charter of Edward VI, 1 June 1549 raised the town to a corporation. In the same year Wm. Bellman gave a plot of land for the school-house.[8]

During the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, there was a state ecclesiastical prison in Wisbech for Catholics, many of whom died there owing to the insanitary conditions.[9] Among those held there was John Feckenham, the last Abbot of Westminster. The castle was rebuilt in the mid-17th century, and again in 1816 by Joseph Medworth, who also developed The Crescent, familiar as the setting in numerous costume dramas.

Soap was taxed and manufacturers such as the Wisbech Soap Company required a licence. Based in an Old Market property facing the river they were able to receive oil from the blubber yards of King's Lynn as well as coal, wood for casks and olive oil used in making the coarse, sweet and grey (speckled) soaps they produced from 1716 to about 1770.[10]

Peckover House on North Brink by the Nene

Peckover House, with its fine walled garden, was built in 1722 and purchased by the Quaker Peckover banking family in the 1790s, and is now owned by the National Trust (NT). Formerly known as Bank House, the house was renamed in honour of the Peckover family by the NT. The Peckover Bank became part of Barclays Bank.

In the 17th century, the inhabitants became known as the "Fen Tigers" for their resistance to the draining of the Fens, but the project turned Wisbech into a wealthy port handling agricultural produce. At the time, Wisbech was on the estuary of the River Great Ouse, but silting caused the coastline to move north, and the River Nene was diverted to serve the town.

In 1797, a corps of volunteer infantry was formed. A light infantry company was added in 1807.[11]

Late ModernEdit

In 1835 a copy of Col. Watson's History of Wisbech was presented to Princess Victoria during her brief halt in Wisbech.

In 1863 a copy of Walker and Craddocks History of Wisbech was presented to the Prince and Princess of Wales on their arrival by train.[12]

The Wisbech Canal joining the River Nene at Wisbech was subsequently filled in and became the dual carriageway leading into the town from the east (now crossing the bypass).[13]

On Thursday 2 June 1932 newsreel photographers record the 'Capital of the Fens' as it is brought to a standstill as crowds fill the streets to catch a glimpse of Prince George as he receives the Loyal Address from the Mayor.

In 1934 part of Walsoken parish, Norfolk was merged with Wisbech bringing with it the schools, shops and public houses but leaving the church and much of the rural part in Norfolk. The suburb of New Walsoken is now largely built up. A boundary marker in Wisbech Park was erected to record the event.[14] Ring's End was transferred from Wisbech to Elm.[15] The port of Wisbech now houses a large number of berths for yachts adjacent to the Boathouse development.

In 1949 the Borough celebrated the quarter centenary of receiving its charter. The Pageant in Sibalds Holme Park, Barton Road featured over 600 performers. The Wisbech Charter Celebrations book was printed by Balding & Mansell, Park Works.[16]

On 27 June 1970, the heaviest point rainfall was recorded in Wisbech, when 2 inches (50.8 mm) fell in just 12 minutes during the Rose Fair.[1]

On 21 September 1979, two Harrier jump jets on a training exercise collided over Wisbech; one landed in a field and the other in a residential area. Two houses and a bungalow were demolished on Ramnoth Road, causing the death of Bob Bowers, his two-year-old son Jonathan Bowers, and former town mayor Bill Trumpess.[17]

The 5-mile (8-km), £6 million A47 Wisbech/West Walton bypass opened in spring 1982.

In 1990 further county boundary changes brought a small piece of Walsoken, Norfolk into Wisbech.[18]


In 2009 Oxford Archaeology East (OAE) organised a dig at Wisbech Castle to search for remains of the Bishop's Palace.[19] Large numbers of local volunteers took part and hundreds of children visited the dig site. Later in the year a group of volunteers formed Fenland Archaeological Society (FenArch). The Society has carried out a number of digs including the Manea Colony dig organised by Cambridge Archaeology Unit (CAU).[20]

In April 2011 the Princess Royal visited Wisbech and opened the new education centre and library at Octavia Hill's Birthplace House.[21]

In 2011, the Wisbech magistrates court closed.[22]

On 19 January 2012, BBC Look East reported growing tensions in the town, where one-third of the population were said to be East European immigrants.[23]

In 2015 in his first week with the East Anglian Air Ambulance, Prince William came to Wisbech.[24]

The town's traditional market days are Thursday and Saturday, but the town council now runs markets seven days a week. The Sunday market runs alongside a car-boot sale.

The Town is well known for horticulture, the Rose Fair and other flower festivals. In 2018 the town won the business improvement district (BID) category gold award at the Royal Horticultural Society's (RHS) annual Britain in Bloom awards ceremony.[25]

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Wisbech in November 2018.[26]


Wisbech held a number of charters. King Edward VI's charter raised the town to a corporation; ten men were to be elected burgesses. The Charter was renewed by King James. In 1835 the Municipal Bill caused the old charters governing Wisbech to be swept away and Wisbech became a corporate borough with a mayor, aldermen and councillors replacing the town bailiff and capital burgesses. The town was divided into two wards, North and South.[27]

The Wisbech Town Council elect a mayor. The town council of 18 councillors is elected every four years. The town has seven wards:- Clarkson, Kirton, Medworth, Octavia Hill, Peckover, Staithe and Waterlees village. The town council are responsible for allotments and the market place.[28] In 2018 they took a lease on Wisbech Castle.[29]

The town also elects councillors to Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council. Wisbech is within the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.[30]

In the May 2019 elections, twelve councillors were returned without a vote to Fenland District Council which topped the Electoral Reform Society's list of 'rotten boroughs'.[31]

In 1659 John Thurloe was elected to represent Wisbech. He was also elected for Cambridge University for which he preferred to sit. Wisbech was not a polling station until after 1832.[32] Wisbech is now part of the North East Cambridgeshire constituency. It was part of the Isle of Ely constituency between 1918-1983. Between 1885-1918 Wisbech returned a member of Parliament in its own right.

Coat of ArmsEdit

Official blazon

Arms : Azure representations of St. Peter and St Paul standing within a double Canopy Or. Crest : On a Wreath of the Colours a sixteenth century Ship with three Masts Or on each mast a square Sail Azure the centre one charged with two Keys in saltire wards upwards and the other two charged with a Castle Gold.

Origin/meaning The arms were officially granted on November 11, 1929. The figures of St.Peter and St.Paul, to whom the parish church is dedicated, appeared on the old seal. The ship recalls the town's former note as a port and the crossed keys on the centre sail refer to St Peter. The castles refer to the ancient stronghold built it is said, by William I, and converted in the fifteenth century into a palace for the bishops of Ely.



Wisbech sits on either side of the River Nene although in the past, prior to drainage schemes, it sat on the Well stream the confluence of the rivers Great Ouse and Nene.[33]

The port is Cambridgeshire's only gateway to the sea. Wisbech Borough was the port authority but this passed to Fenland District Council when local government was reorganised in the 1970s. The port still uses the WI code which is used by those boats registered to the port. [34]

In 1631 Sir Cornelius Vermuyden built the Horseshoe Sluice at Wisbech at a cost of £8,000.[35]

In 1680 the trade of Wisbech had increased sufficiently for the port to be reckoned independent and no longer a member of King's Lynn.[36]

In 1720 the corporation was licensed to buoy the channel for the first time and 1751 it was possible in a dry year to walk across the river bed under Wisbech Bridge. Ship building was carried out in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1797 the Wisbech Canal opened connecting the river Nene at Wisbech with the inland drains. A custom house was built in 1801.[37]

As well as freight the river was used to convey inland passengers, in 1805 the poet John Clare travelled from Peterborough by Dutch canal boat to travel the 21 miles to Wisbech to visit his uncle Morris Simpson.[38]

The greatest shipowner was Richard Young (1809-1871), who had at various times 43 boats operating from the port.[39] The port of Wisbech could accommodate sailing ships of 400 tons, but its prosperity declined after 1852 when extensive river works impeded navigation.[40]

In 1859 'The Battle of the Dams,' took place when some of the citizens of Wisbech destroyed dams at Waldersea and Guyhirn and burned the remnants on the two market places.[41]

In 1883 the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway opened.

The Wisbech Canal cut to allow narrow boats to connect with the river, no longer does so as parts have been filled in.[13] Narrow boats continue to access inland waterways via the river Nene.[42]

In 1931 A concrete bridge was built to replace the previous town bridge.[43]

In 1971 an additional bridge was erected over the river. Plans to build additional homes and a new school on the west of the town will increase traffic on the existing bridges, and there is a long-term plan to add a third bridge.[44]

The yacht harbour on the river provides 128 berths on the marina, and the nearby Crab Marshboat yard operates a 75-tonne boat lift.

In 2000, a ship grounding further down river stopped river traffic.[45]


The various road bridges at Wisbech allowed travellers between Lincolnshire and Norfolk to cross the river without using ferries or risking the incoming tides.

In 1831 the construction of a lifting bridge at Sutton Bridge finally provided a means to travel directly between Norfolk and Lincolnshire.[46]

The town stood at the crossing of two Class A roads: from Peterborough to King's Lynn (A47) and from Ely to Long Sutton (A1101). The A1101 now crosses the river at the newer 'Freedom bridge' taking some traffic away from the older 'Town Bridge'. The A47 now bypasses the town. The old part of the A47 inside the town (Lynn Rd and Cromwell Rd) is now the B198.


Wisbech once had three passenger railway lines, but they all closed between 1959 and 1968:

There were also harbour quay lines either side of the River Nene – M&GN Harbour West branch and GER Harbour East branch.[47] The freight line remained in operation until 2000.[48]

There is an active campaign to reopen the March–Wisbech Bramley Line as part of the national rail network, with direct services to Cambridge and possibly Peterborough. It is supported by Wisbech Town Council and subject to reports commissioned by the county council in 2013.[49] The line is currently at GRIP 3 study stage.[50] A report published in 2009 by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) indicated that this was viable.[51] The line has been identified as a priority for reopening by Campaign for Better Transport.[52]

Buses and coachesEdit

In 1796 Wisbech had a daily mail coach service to London leaving at 4 pm and returning at 10 am and a stagecoach service three times weekly. Another service ran three times weekly from Lynn through Wisbech to Spalding and Boston.[53]

Wisbech is located on the excel bus route between Peterborough and Norwich, operated by First Eastern Counties. The town is also served by buses operated by Stagecoach East and Lynx, the latter including the 46 and X46 services between King's Lynn and Three Holes.


Parish population 1981
Wisbech 22,932 24,981 26,536 31,573 33,933


As of 2016 the population of Wisbech was 33,933, of whom 16,800 were male and 17,133 female. 6,748 were aged under 18 and 7,156 over 65. [55]

In 2014 it was reported by The Sun that of the town's 28,000 population 5,000 (about 18%) were Lithuanians.[56] Several official places (libraries, surgeries, local council) provide translations into Lithuanian, as well as Polish, Latvian, Russian and Portuguese.[57]


Before the draining of the Fens was completed animals were grazed on the common land and were marked to identify their owners, this was also the case with swans which were usually marked on their bills.[58] The riverside location and fertile soils surrounding Wisbech allowed the town to flourish. A number of breweries existed in the town, the last one remaining is Elgood's on the North Brink. Established in 1795 and remaining a family owned business, the brewery and gardens are a popular location for tourists to visit.[59]

The first half of the 19th century was a very prosperous time for the town and an annual average of 40,000 tons of goods passed through the port, consisting mainly of coal, corn timber and wine, the surrounding land producing large quantities of sheep and oxen as well as wool, hemp and flax.[60] Such was the trade with Denmark a consul was based in North Terrace in an attractive Queen Anne House sometimes called the Danish House.[61] In 1851 the population was 9,594. It decreased to 9,276 in 1861 and 9,395 in 1891. The 1931 census was 12,006 and the National Registration of 1939 showed 17,599.[62]

The Wisbech Produce Canners (formed in 1925) on Lynn Rd, was the first in England to produce frozen asparagus, peas and strawberries. It was renamed Smedley's Ltd in 1947 and later taken over by Hillsdown Foods and is presently owned by Princes. The site was once served by a rail line whose track came across the town between the park and Townsend Rd.[63]

The Metal Box company established their largest manufacturing unit at Weasenham Lane in 1953. The site provides processed food cans for fruit,vegetables, soups, milk and pet foods. The workforce grew to over 1,000 before reducing as a result of automation and redundancies. Steel was brought from Welsh steelworks and also overseas. The site had its own rail yard before the Wisbech to March line closed.

English Brothers Ltd another long established company Wisbech are another importer - of timber brought in at Wisbech port. [64] During WW2 they produced wooden munitions boxes.[65] Shire Garden Building Ltd based in Wisbech and Sutton Bridge have been manufacturing wooden buildings since the 1980s.[66]

In 2010 Dutch based Partner Logistics opened a £12M frozen food warehouse on Boleness Rd employing over 50 staff. The 77,000 pallet, fully automated 'freezer' centre had contracts with Lamb Weston, Bird's Eye and Pinguin Foods.

In recent decades the closure of the Clarkson Geriatric hospital (1983), Bowthorpe maternity hospital (c1983), Balding & Mansell (printers) (c1992), Budgens store[67](formerly Coop) (2017) and horticultural college (2012),[68] Bridge Street post office (2014) as well as gradual reductions in workforce by CMB indicate a decline in the economy. Small family businesses such as Bodgers (2013),[69] Franks butchers(2015)[70] and local bakeries have given way to the supermarkets.

The larger employers in Wisbech include Nestle Purina petcare, Cromwell rd[71] and Princes, Lynn Rd.[72]

May 2017 the new Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority announces new investment into the area.[30]

In 2016 the Wisbech High Street project was awarded a £1.9M grant to bring back into use empty properties on the High Street. The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will run until 2021.[73]

April 2018 plans for £8M redevelopment of the hospital are announced.[74]

Plans for an additional 1,500 homes were announced in the press in May 2018.[75]

It was announced by local M.P. Steve Barclay that Fenland schools would receive £250,000 towards recruiting more teachers.[76]


National Trust property Peckover House and gardens attracts tourists and locals. The Wisbech and Fenland museum draws in visitors to see the Charles Dickens manuscript, Thomas Clarkson memorabilia or other exhibits. The Octavia Hill Birthplace House also attracts those interested in the National Trust, army cadet force or social housing. An annual Rose Fair, music festival, music concerts at the Bandstand in the park and the theatre and two cinemas also attract audiences from outside the town. Wisbech port and marina attracts boating enthusiasts. The Castle which has now opened to the public after being unavailable for a number of years is starting to attract visitors to its program of events and activities.[77]

Religious sitesEdit

The Anglican Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul in parts dates back to the 12th century. The tower contains the 3rd oldest full peal of 10 bells in the world, cast by William Dobson in 1821 and are still in use.[78]

The Octagon church was erected in 1827 as a chapel of ease, the lantern became unsafe owing to defective foundations and in 1846 was replaced with a battlement but demolished later. The site became a bank and is currently a vet's.[79]

The Anglican St Augustine's church on Lynn Rd was erected in 1868-9 and consecrated on 11 May 1869. An associated school building is now the Robert Hall scouting hall. In 1997 a new parish centre was created when the church was linked to its nearby hall.[80]

Our Lady & Saint Charles Borromeo Church has been the church of Roman Catholics since 1854.

The Ely Place Baptist church was opened on 23, March 1873 on the site of a previous chapel. It was pulled down in the 1970s and replaced by the new library which opened in 1975.[81]

Baptist, Hill St, Society of Friends, North Brink, United Reformed, Castle Square, King's Church, Queens Rd, Jehovahs Witnesses, Tinkers Drove, Trinity Methodist, Church Terrace, Salvation Army, West St & Spiritualist, Alexander Rd.[82]

Various denominations met at other locations many of which have been demolished or used for other purposes.[83]


Wisbech Grammar School on North Brink.

Wisbech's two secondary schools (11–18) are the state-funded Thomas Clarkson Academy (previously the Thomas Clarkson Community college and formerly the Queen's School, which itself was the amalgamation of the Queen's Girls' and Queen's Boys' schools), and the independent Wisbech Grammar School, which was founded in 1379, making it one of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom. Magdalene House is the Preparatory school of Wisbech Grammar School.

Primary schools in Wisbech include; Clarkson Infants School, St Peters CofE Aides Junior School, Orchards CofE Primary school, Peckover Primary School, The Nene Infant School, Ramnoth Junior School and Elm Road Primary School. There are also specialist schools, Meadowgate School, Wisbech School, The County School & Trinity School. There is also a further education centre: the College of West Anglia formerly the Isle of Ely College.[84]

Plans for a new £23M 600 pupil school to open in 2020 were announced in the Wisbech Standard.[85]


The local non league football team is Wisbech Town Football Club, nicknamed The Fenmen.[86] Wisbech Town Cricket and Hockey Club are based on Harecroft road as are Wisbech Rugby Union Football Club, Wisbech Lawn Tennis Club and Wisbech & District Squash Club.

Notable buildings and monumentsEdit

  • Wisbech Castle and grounds leased by Wisbech Town Council from Cambridgeshire County Council.
  • Former New Inn, Union St dating to about 1500.[87]
  • Rose and Crown hotel, located on the market place is an early C17 coaching inn. A date of 1601 and trumpet and pheasant are visible on the exterior of the building. It is listed grade II* by Historic England.
  • Peckover House (1722); owned by the National Trust and in the grounds of which can be found the remains of the white cross.
  • Ely House an early 18th century farmhouse. A grade II listed building.
  • The Angles Theatre, a typical Georgian playhouse built in 1793
  • Wisbech General Cemetery contains an old chapel (recently restored) and a number of commonwealth war graves. It is an early nonconformist cemetery now no longer in use and is a pocket Park.
  • Thomas Clarkson Memorial (1881)
  • Mill Tower formerly known as Leach's Mill, located on Lynn Road is remarkable on account of its height and age. Built on a mound and 8 story's in height it had 8 sails. It dates to at least 1778 although the initials SH and 1643 are reputed to have been on a beam inside the mill. The last miller used it in the 1930s. The adjoining flour and provender roller mill suffered a fire in the 1970s.

The mill minus the sails is now used as a residence. None of the other dozen or so mills survive.[88]

The Thomas Clarkson Memorial in Wisbech 2013
The Octagon Chapel in Wisbech Old Market, demolished in 1952

Notable peopleEdit

In order of birth:

  • Richard Huloet, lexicographer and author.
  • John Alcock (bishop), (c1430-1500) appointed to the see of Ely on 6 October 1486 he died in The bishops palace in Wisbech and is buried in Ely Cathedral.
  • John Feckenham, (c1515-1584) Abbott of Westminster, imprisoned in Wisbech castle from 1580 until his death in October, 1584. At his own cost he arranged the repairs of the road and erected a market cross in the town.
  • Robert Pygot a painter from Wisbech and William Wolsey a constable of Welney, Upwell & Outwell were tried at Ely sessions for heresy and later burnt at the stake on 16 October 1555.
  • John Thurloe, MP (1616-1668), Solicitor-general, Lord Chief Justice, Secretary of State and lawyer.
  • Sir Philip Vavasour, High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire. Knighted in 1761. Lived on South Brink, Wisbech.
  • Thomas Herring, MA (1693–1757), Archbishop of Canterbury (from 1747), was educated at Wisbech Grammar School.
  • Jane Southwell, (aka Lady Jane Trafford)(?-1809), heiress of Wisbech Castle, married Sir Clement Trafford (aka Clement Boehm),they had two children Sigismund & Jane. Separated by 1768 and changed her name back to Southwell by an Act of Parliament in 1791. Buried at Orsett. Essex.
  • Joseph Medworth, (born in Wisbech, 1752–1827) was a builder who developed castle estate into a circus including "The Crescent" in Wisbech and redeveloped "Thurloe's Mansion" into the current villa on the castle site. He died on 17 October 1827.
  • Kelham Whitelamb, born c1760 in Wisbech was 2' 10" tall. His portrait by Samuel Ireland (1744-1800) is in the Royal Collection.
  • William Godwin the elder, (born in Wisbech, 3 March 1756 – 7 April 1836) was an English political writer and novelist, considered an important precursor of utilitarian and of liberal anarchist thinking. He first married Mary Wollstonecroft. A daughter of theirs, Mary Wollstonecroft Godwin, became Mary Shelley, famed author of Frankenstein.
  • Thomas Clarkson MA, anti-slavery campaigner, was born in Wisbech in 1760 and educated at Wisbech Grammar School. The Clarkson Memorial was built to commemorate his life's efforts to end slavery in the British Empire on 25 March 1833. Two local schools and a road are named after him.
  • Lieutenant John Clarkson RN (1764–1828), younger brother of Thomas, was another key figure in the British abolitionist movement. As governor of Sierra Leone he organised voluntary migration of former slaves freed by the British under a deal to reward their loyalty during the American War of Independence.
  • Sir Charles Wale KCB (1765-1845) attended Wisbech Grammar School.
  • William Skrimshire, (born in Wisbech, 1766–1829) was a surgeon and botanist. A walkway 'Skrimshires Passage'is named after him.
  • Rear-Admiral Spelman Swaine (1769-1848), Chief Bailiff of the Isle of Ely. He sailed the world in 1795 on Endeavour with Capt. Vancouver. He died in Wisbech on 13 January.[95]
  • Lt Col William Watson, DL FAS (1770-1834) died on 31 March 1834. Lawyer, brewer, banker, soldier, magistrate, town bailiff, chief bailiff of the Isle of Ely and author of 'A history of Wisbech'. He is buried in Wisbech.
  • Samuel (Philosopher) Smith (1802-1892), merchant and pioneer photographer. A director of Wisbech Gas Light and Coke company and a member of the Palaeontographical Society of London. His photos taken in the 1850s and 1860s record the development of the town. Collections can be seen in the Science Museum, London and Wisbech & Fenland Museum. He is buried in Wisbech General cemetery.
  • William Peckover F.S.A.,(1790-1877) philanthropist son of Jonathan Peckover. President of Wisbech & Fenland museum. Died 12 May.[96]
  • Elizabeth Dawbarn (died 1839) was a religious pamphleteer who addressed children and adults.
  • Rev. Chaucer Hare Townshend M.A.(1798-1868), philanthropist and owner of property in Wisbech. He was a friend of Charles Dickens and the writer's manuscript of 'Great Expectations' given him by Dickens was left to Wisbech and Fenland museum.[37]
  • Alderman Richard Young (MP) JP DL (1809–1871) for Cambridgeshire was a ship owner, five times Mayor of Wisbech (1858–62), JP for the Isle of Ely and Norfolk and a sheriff of the city of London & Middlesex in 1871.[97] He was born on 22 March in Scarning, Norfolk, the son of John and Mary Younge. He owned more than 40 ships at different times. He died on 15 October, only two days after being made Sheriff.[98]
  • Professor Thomas Craddock (1812-1893), writer and academic. Coauthor of a History of Wisbech, later professor of Literature, Queen's College, Liverpool. Died 9 April 1893 in Liverpool.
  • Alexander Peckover 1st Baron Peckover FRGS, FSA, FLS (1830-1919) British Quaker banker and philanthropist. Born in Wisbech 16 August 1830. Died 21 October 1919. He married Eliza Sharples and had three daughters.
  • Sir Thomas George Fardell BA, MP (1833-1917), English politician and lawyer, born on 26 October 1833 he was the youngest son of Rev Henry Fardell, vicar of Wisbech. He dies 12 March 1917
  • Priscilla Hannah Peckover (1833 – 1931), Quaker, pacifist and linguist; she founded the Wisbech Local Peace Association, which grew to have 6,000 members.
  • William Digby CIE, (born in Wisbech, 1 May 1849 – 29 September 1904) was an English writer, journalist and liberal politician, and first secretary of the National Liberal Club.
  • Rev. William Hazlitt,(1737-1820) who was minister at the Presbyterian meeting house here in 1764–66, became an influential Unitarian minister. He was father of the essayist William Hazlitt and the portrait painter John Hazlitt. While resident at Wisbech he married Grace Loftus.
  • Sisters Miranda (1836-1910) and Octavia Hill (1838-1912), born at Wisbech, founded the Kyrle Society, a progenitor of the National Trust, of which Octavia became co-founder.
  • W. H. Jude (1851-1922) composer and organist attended Wisbech Grammar School .
  • Lilian Ream (1877-1961) photographer. Lilian was born in West Walton, Norfolk. The youngest child of John Thomas and Louise Pratt. She married Sydney Ream in 1905, they had a son Roland 1907 and daughter Mary in 1911. Aged 17 she became photographic assistant to William Drysdale and went on to dominate the local photographic business. After her retirement Roland took the studio and it continued until it eventually closed in 1971. Over 10,000 negatives have survived to form the 'Lilian Ream collection'. This may be the most comprehensive record if it's kind in England. In April 2013 the Wisbech Society erected a blue plaque at 4 The Crescent in her honour.[99]
  • Philip Vassar Hunter CBE (1883-1956) engineer was born in Wisbech.
  • Arthur Artis Oldham (1886-1980), historian and writer was born in Wisbech. Titles included A History of Wisbech River (1933), Wisbech Bridges, Inns and Taverns of Wisbech (1950), Wisbech Windmills, Windmills around Wisbech, The Inns & Taverns of Wisbech (1979) and Windmills in and around Wisbech (1994). He married Ellen (Nellie) Fewster and had two children. He retired to Norwich where he died in 1980.[100]
  • John Muriel (1909-1975), born in Hadleigh, Suffolk, aka as John St Clair Muriel, John Lindsey or Simon Dewes, was an author who taught at Wisbech Grammar School. His father was John Muriel (1859-1946) a[101] Novels, autobiographies and short stories include: Molten Ember (1930), Voice of One, Still Eastward Bound (1940), Suffolk Childhood (1959), Essex Days (1960) and When All the World was Young (1961). One of his pupils was John Gordon, who also went on to become an author.
  • Rev. W. Awdry OBE (15 June 1911 – 21 March 1997), creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, was Vicar of Emneth in 1953–65.Toby the Tram Engine, one of Awdry's characters, was similar to the small steam trams that ran farm produce on the Strawberry Line between Wisbech and Upwell.
  • Fl Sgt Charles William Hall Cox MM, (3 September 1913 - 1997), airman and shop owner. Born in March, Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire he married in Wisbech in 1935 and as an airman was a key member of Operation Biting aka as the Combined Operations Bruneval Raid that successfully obtained German radar equipment located on the French coast. Subsequently he received the Military Medal. After the war he opened C.W.H.Cox electrical shop in Little Church St, Wisbech.
  • Jesse Pye (1919–1984), professional footballer, scored two goals in the 1949 FA Cup Final, and played for England, before becoming a player-manager for Wisbech Town F.C. in 1960–66.
  • Norman G Jacobs MBE (1923 - 2016). Promoter and cinema owner.
  • John Gordon (1925–2017), attended Wisbech Grammar School and after leaving the Royal Navy became a journalist and later a young-adult fiction writer and author of The Giant under The Snow, its sequel Ride the Wind, The Ghost on the Hill and other stories. The town and the surrounding fens inspired many of his novels, including The House on the Brink (Peckover House) and Fen Runners.
  • Russell Arthur Missin FRCO (1922-2002), was born at Gorefield, near Wisbech) was organist and master of choristers at Newcastle Cathedral.
  • James Crowden CVO (1927 - 2016). Chartered surveyor, Olympian, Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely. Wisbech J.P. Born 14 November in Tilney All Saints, died 24 September.
  • Brian Hitch (1932-2004), diplomat, academic and musician was born in Wisbech.
  • Anton Rodgers (1933–2007), actor, was born in London on 10 January 1933 and moved to Wisbech during the war.
  • Professor Sir Harry Kroto FRS (1939–2016), born in Wisbech October 7, 1939 son of Heinz Fritz Kroton and Edith Kathe Dora Kroto was the 1996 Nobel Laureate in chemistry, for the discovery of fullerenes.
  • Mick Walker (1942-2012), born 30 November 1942, Wretton, Norfolk. Following 10 years in the RAF he became a sealer, importer and race sponsor. After running his motorcycle business he became assistant editor of Motorcycle Enthusiast magazine and an author of over 100 books. He died on 8 March 2012 and was survived by his wife Susan and son Steven.
  • Malcolm Douglas Moss MA, (born 1943, Lancashire) politician, was a Wisbech Town councillor and later conservative MP for North East Cambridgeshire from 1987 until retirement at the 2010 general election. Made an Honorary Freeman of Wisbech.
  • Mike Stevens (born 1957) is a musical director, session musician and record producer.
  • Joe Perry (born 13 August 1974 in Wisbech) – is a snooker player.
  • Jody Cundy (born 14 October 1978 in Wisbech) is a Paralympian.
  • George Russell (racing driver), (born February 1998)

Film and televisionEdit

The North Brink by the River Nene in Wisbech
The Brinks, depicted in 1851

A 1924 film recorded a day at the North Cambs hospital in the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA).[102]

1926 street scenes filmed to be shown at the local Electric Theatre. EAFA.[103]

North Cambs hospital in the 1930s. EAFA.[104]

‘Approaching Wisbech’ an amateur film of a simulated road traffic accident made in the late 1930s. EAFA.[105]

1932 The 'Capital of the Fens' is brought to a standstill as crowds fill the streets to catch a glimpse of Prince George as he receives the Loyal Address from the Mayor.[106]

1957 The BBC filmed Mrs Chester's Little Theatre Group performing in the grounds of Grammar school house, South Brink.[107]

1961 The Wisbech to Upwell Tramway. EAFA.[108]

In 1963 Anglia TV recorded a film report on Wisbech Castle. This is also available to download on the East Anglian Film Archive.[109]

'The Flood' a 1963 drama filmed using boats from Wisbech.[110]

1975 Anglia TV report about the first purpose-built traveller site in GB. EAFA.[111]

'A Passage to Wisbech'(1986) a BBC documentary on the coaster ships which work around the shores of Britain, followed the voyages of the Carrick, a 30 year old ship owned and skippered by Rick Waters.[112]

Wisbech is noted for its unspoilt Georgian architecture, particularly along North Brink and The Crescent. It has been used in BBC One's 1999 adaptation of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield[113] and ITV1's 2001 adaptation of Micawber, starring David Jason.[114]

In 2000 BBC One's The Antiques Roadshow was hosted and recorded at the Hudson Leisure centre.[115]

A "Wisbech Rock Festival" appears in the 1998 British comedy film Still Crazystarring Stephen Rea, Jimmy Nail, Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall, Bill Nighy, Juliet Aubrey, Helena Bergstrom and Bruce Robinson.[116]

The 2008 feature film Dean Spanley starring Peter O'Toole was largely filmed in Wisbech.[117]

In February 2010 the effect of immigration on the town was featured in the BBC documentary "The Day the Immigrants Left", presented by Evan Davis. The programme looked at jobs in the town reported to have been "taken over by migrants". In the programme, several local unemployed persons were given the chance to try such jobs.[118][119][120]

2009 Channel 5's reality TV series ‘The Hotel Inspector’ starring Alex Polizzi featured The Rose and Crown hotel.[121]

2018 'Celebrating Nestle Communities - Wisbech' was released in September 2018. This is one of a series of films showcasing communities around the UK and Ireland where Nestle operate.[122]

In December 2018 the American TV Channel "The Late Late Show" with British star James Cordon featured a giant inflatable Santa blocking Cromwell Road. This Father Christmas had broken free from its fixings in a garden and it took several hours to catch.[123]

Other mediaEdit

Isaac Casaubon recorded in his diary his visit to Wisbech on 17 August 1611. He accompanied Lancelot Andrews, bishop of Ely from the episcopal palace at Downham.[124]

Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary his trip to Parson Drove on Thursday 17 September 1663 in order to accompany his uncle and cousin to go to Wisbech in connection with his uncle Day's estate. At Wisbech on Friday 18 September he visited the church and library.[124]

In 1778/1779 Italian author and poet Giuseppe Marc'Antonio Baretti (aka Joseph Baretti) (1718-1789),took up residence with a family living at the castle for about a fortnight. Afterward he published a series of letters "Lettere Familiari de Giuseppe Baretti" in which a description of his Wisbech visit is featured. He attended horse races, the theatre, public balls, public suppers and assemblies.[125]

Wisbech and its river port are mentioned by Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), M.P. who dined at the Whyte Harte hotel, North Brink.[126]

Wisbech was one of eight towns featured in ‘Old Towns Revisited’ published by Country Life Ltd in 1952.[127]

There are two free newspapers distributed within the town, the Wisbech Standard (owned by Archant) and the Fenland Citizen(owned by Iliffe Media).

Two free local magazines are published monthly - ‘The fens’ and ‘Discovering Wisbech’.[128]

According to a study looking into immigration patterns, Wisbech was once identified as the seventh "most English" town in Britain by Sky News However, on 16 February 2008 a report in the Daily Express titled "Death Of A Country Idyll" wrote about how the influx of Eastern European immigrants may have caused the increase of crime and other illegal activities. Then on 20 February 2008 The Fenland Citizen contained an article opposing the Daily Express article.[129]

In 2011 Wisbech featured in The Guardian 'Let's Move to... column. Tom Dyckhoff highlighted the Georgian streets, cinemas, local community groups and the poor rail links in the Saturday edition 14 May 2011.

In June 2018 Country Life magazine ran a feature on Wisbech. Market towns - Wisbech. [130]

In November 2018 Wisbech featured in an article in the Daily Telegraph by Jack Rear entitled "The spirited English town with some of Britain's best forgotten history".[131]


Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Wisbech experiences an oceanic climate, but Cambridgeshire is one of the driest counties in the British Isles along with Essex. February is the driest month, whilst October is the wettest. In temperature terms, both January and December are the coldest months, whilst August is the warmest.

Climate data for Wisbech
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.5
Average low °C (°F) 2
Average precipitation cm (inches) 4.5
Average precipitation days 18 15 15 14 13 12 12 12 13 16 17 17 174
Source: World Weather Online[132]

Twin townEdit

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Ed by P.Reynold (1958). The Wisbech Stirs. Catholic Record Society.
  • Sir William Dugdale (1651). History of Imbanking and Draining of the divers Fens and Marshes both of Foreign Parts and this Kingdom.
  • John Smeaton (1768). The report of John Smeaton, Engineer, conerning the drainage of the North level of the Fens, and the outfall of the Wisbech river.
  • Lt-Col Louis Tebbutt (1914). Cambs & Isle of Ely Territorial Recruiting Week Souvenir. Cambridge Chronicle.
  • William Watson (1827). An historical account of the ancient town and port of Wisbech. H.&J.Leach.
  • anonymous (1833). The History of Wisbech. William Watts.
  • Thomas Craddock & Neil Walker (1849). The History of Wisbech and the Fens. Richard Walker.
  • Frederic John Gardiner (1898). History of Wisbech & neighbourhood during the last 50 years - 1848-1898. Gardiner & co.
  • Mann Hutchesson (1791). Introduction to the Charter of Wisbech. W.Nicholson.
  • Arthur Artis Oldham (1933). The History of the Wisbech River. AA Oldham.
  • Cyril Swinson (1949). Wisbech Charter Celebrations 1549 - 1949. Balding & Mansell.
  • Rodney Tibbs (1969). Fenland River: The Story of the Great Ouse and its tributaries. The Lavenham Press Ltd.
  • William Taylor (1971). with the Cambridgeshires at Singapore. T.A.Bevis.
  • Edward Storey (1971). Portrait of the Fen Country. Robert Hale Ltd. ISBN 0-7091-2443-0.
  • Michel Millard and Brian Coe (1974). Victorian Townscape: The Work of Samuel Smith. Ward Lock Ltd. ISBN 0-7063-1855-2.
  • AK Parker & K D Pye (1976). The Fenland. David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-7296-3.
  • Trevor Bevis (1990). A Pocket Guide to The Fenland. T.A. Bevis. ISBN 0-901680-33-8.
  • Ellen Gibson Wilson (1992). The Clarksons of Wisbech and the abolition of the slave trade. Wisbech Society & Preservation Trust. ISBN 0-9519220-0-9.
  • John Gordon (1992). Ordinary Seaman. Walker Books. ISBN 0-7445-2106-8.
  • Dorothy Thurman, with illustrations by Derek Abel (1998). Wisbech: Forty perspectives of a Fenland town. The Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd. ISBN 0-9519220-5-X.
  • Arthur Oldham (1950). Pubs and Taverns of Wisbech (out of print).
  • Ellen Gibson Wilson (1992). The Clarksons of Wisbech and the abolition of the slave trade. The Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd. ISBN 0-9519220-0-9.
  • Peter Clayton (1993). Octavia Hill 1838–1912 Born in Wisbech. The Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd. ISBN 0-9519220-1-7.
  • Roger Powell (1996). Richard Young of Wisbech 1809–1871. The Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd. ISBN 0-9519220-3-3.
  • Madeline G H McReynolds (1994). The Peckovers of Wisbech. The Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd. ISBN 0-9519220-2-5.
  • compiled by Kim Bowden & David Rayner (2004). Wisbech: Images of England. The History Press. ISBN 0752407406.
  • George Dunlop (2007). Wisbech Fire Brigade 1845-1949. G Dunlop. ISBN 0955598419.
  • George Dunlop (2008). Wisbech Fire Brigade 1950-1979. G Dunlop. ISBN 0955598435.
  • E.J.S. Gadsden (1966). The Wisbech and Upwell tramway. Branch Line Handbooks.
  • F.A. Reeve. Victorian and Edwardian Cambridgeshire from Old photographs. BT Batsford Ltd. ISBN 0-7134-3079-6.
  • Arthur C Ingram (1979). Branch lines around Wisbech. Middleton Press. ISBN 9781901706017.
  • Andrew C Ingram (1983). The Wisbech and Upwell tramway Centenary album. Becknell Books. ISBN 0907087205.
  • Vic Mitchell; et al. (1995). Branch line to Upwell including the Wisbech canal. Middleton Press. ISBN 1873793642.
  • Chris Hawkins & George Reeve (1982). The Wisbech and Upwell tramway. Wild Swan publications ltd. ISBN 0906867096.
  • John Gordon (1970). The House on the Brink. Childrens Book Club. ISBN 0060220287.
  • John Gordon (2009). Fen Runners. Orion Childrens. ISBN 1-84255-684-3.
  • A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4: City of Ely N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds. 2002.
  • W.J. Reader (1976). Metal Box. Heinemann. ISBN 0434625000.
  • Raymond Brown (1992). The story of Balding & Mansell. Balding & Mansell.
  • Arthur Artis Oldham & Robert Bell (1994). Windmills in and around Wisbech. Spindrift.
  • D Hall (1996). The Fenland project No 10:Cambridgeshire Survey:The Isle of Ely & Wisbech. EAA.
  • Wim Zwalf (1997). The Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul, Wisbech. The Wisbech Society & Preservation Trust Ltd. ISBN 0-9519220-4-1.
  • Peter Hewett (200). Fenland: A Landscape made by Man. The Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust. ISBN 0-9519220-6-8.
  • Robert Bell (2001). Wisbech: A photographic history of your town. Black Horse Books.
  • John Ellis (2011). To Walk In The Dark. the History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-6023-9.
  • Mark Hinman & Elizabeth Popescu (2012). Extraordinary inundations of the sea: Excavations at Market Mews, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. EAA.
  • Mike Osborne (2013). Defending Cambridgeshire. the History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-9330-5.
  • Charlotte Mahoney (1970). A short history of Wisbech High School. Miss M Whitlock.
  • Rex Sly (2003). From punt to plough. Sutton publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-3398-8.
  • Wim Zwalf (2006). The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Wisbech. Nordic Press.
  • Rex Sly (2007). Fenland Families. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-4327-7.
  • Rex Sly (2010). Soil in their Souls: A history of fenland farming. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-5733-8.
  • anonymous (2011). The catalogue of the library of the Wisbech museum. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1108031188.
  • Trevor Bevis (2011). Cromwell: Lord of the Fens. TA Bevis. ISBN 0-901680-85-0.
  • William P Smith (2014). Pictorial Journey Down The Wisbech Canal. Carrilson Publications. ISBN 978-0-9543997-3-3.
  • Diane Calton Smith (2018). Webbed feet and wildfowlers - an early history of Wisbech and the Fens. New Generation Publishing. ISBN 1787193217.
  • Diane Calton Smith (2019). Plague, Flood and Gewgaws - Wisbech and the Fens in Tudor and Stuart Times. New Generation Publishing. ISBN 978-1-78955-496-0.
  • anonymous (2019). Wisbech: Official Town Guide and Map. Local Authority Publishing Co.Ltd.


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External linksEdit