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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.

Wisbech
North brink wisbech.jpg
North Brink
Wisbech is located in Cambridgeshire
Wisbech
Wisbech
Location within Cambridgeshire
Population33,933 (2016)
OS grid referenceTF4609
Civil parish
  • Wisbech
District
Shire county
Region
CountryEngland
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWISBECH
Postcode districtPE13, PE14
Dialling code01945
PoliceCambridgeshire
FireCambridgeshire
AmbulanceEast of England
EU ParliamentEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
UK
England
Cambridgeshire
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

HistoryEdit

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] A wide range of spellings are found in newspapers, books, maps and other documents e.g. Wisbich [2] until the Town name spelling was fixed by the local council.

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.[3] 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[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

A castle was built by William I to fortify the site. At the time of Domesday (1086) the population is that of a large village. Some were farmers and others fishermen.[7]

Richard I gave Wisbeach/Wisbech a charter. 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.[8]

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.

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).

Edward IV visited Wisbech in 1469.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11] In 1588 it is claimed that Robert Catesby and Francis Tresham were committed to Wisbeach Castle on the approach of the Spanish Armada.[12] Among those held there was John Feckenham, the last Abbot of Westminster. The palace was demolished and replaced by John Thurloe in the mid-17th century, and Thurloe's mansion demolished in 1816 by Joseph Medworth, who also developed The Circus, familiar as the setting in numerous costume dramas.

In 1620 a former Wisbech resident Dorothea Bradford (née May) sailed on the Mayflower to the New World with her husband William Bradford (governor) later to be Governor Bradford.[13]

Across the Eastern Counties, Oliver Cromwell's powerful Eastern Association was eventually dominant. However, to begin with, there had been an element of Royalist sympathy within Wisbech. Bishop Matthew Wren was a staunch supporter of Charles I but even in 1640 was unpopular in Wisbech, after discovering his absence from a 'Commission of Sewers' meeting at the Castle, a crowd of soldiers plundered shops of some of his supporters. The town was near the frontier of the Parliamentary and Royalist forces in 1643. The Castle and town were put into a state of readiness and reinforced. A troop of horse was raised. Locally based troops took part in the Siege of Crowland in 1642. The town controlled the route from Lincolnshire to Norfolk particularly during the Siege of King's Lynn in 1643 as it prevented reinforcements by land of the Royalists holding the Norfolk port.[14]

A town library was founded c. 1653.[15]

In 1656 the bishop's palace was replaced by Thurloe's mansion however after the Restoration the property reverted to the See of the bishop of Ely.[16]

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.[17]

 
Peckover House on North Brink by the Nene

Peckover House, with its walled garden, was built in 1722 and purchased by the Quaker Peckover banking family in the 1790s. It 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 1781 Wisbech Literary Society was formed at the house of Jonathan Peckover.[18]

In 1797, a corps of volunteer infantry was formed. A light infantry company was added in 1807.[19] Major William Watson was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel-commandant of the Third Cambridgeshire Regiment or Wisbech United Battalion of Volunteer Infantry.[20]

Late ModernEdit

The Borough of Wisbech was an Assize town (it alternated with Ely and in 1807 a 15-year-old boy from Whittlesey was tried, convicted and hanged on 13 July for the murder of another boy George Burnham. [21]

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

Wisbech Regatta was first held in 1850.[22]

June 1858 The Russian Gun. —During the past week a brass plate has been added to the Russian Gun, bearing the inscription:— "This trophy "of the late Russian War, presented by Queen Victoria to the Burgesses of Wisbech. Thomas Steed Watson, Mayor, 1858."[23]

The Isle of Ely and Wisbech Advertiser was founded in 1845.[24]

The new Wisbech and Fenland museum building opened in 1847 and continues to collect, care for and interpret the natural and cultural heritage of Wisbech and the surrounding area. [25]

On 1 March 1848 Eastern Counties Railway opened Wisbeach (sic) station (later renamed Wisbech East railway station). It closed on 9 September 1968.

In 1848 there were 2 deaths per 1,000 while in London it was 1 in 3,000 reported the ‘’Lincolnshilire Chronicle’’ on 15, September 1854. The scarcity of water was thought to be one cause of the continued prevalence of the disease.

In the 1853-54 cholera epidemic 176 deaths were reported in the town in 1854.[26] The Wisbech death rate (49 per 10,000) was the fourth highest in the country. The following year saw £8,000 expenditure on sewerage works and £13,400 on water supplies. [27] In 1859 the Rev.Henry Jackson and others met together to start the formation of a volunteer unit - the Wisbech Rifle Corps. 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. The following year the Wisbech Working Men's Club and Institute was formed with Jonathan Peckover becoming its first President.[18]

On Sunday 29 June, 1857 a mob entered the town and broke the Corn Merchants windows and seized corn and demanded money from shopkeepers. On July the gentry and traders by beat of drum recruited about 500 men and went to Upwell and took 60 and placed then in irons. On 4th September a Report was made to the Lords Justices of 14 malfactors condemned at Wisbech for a riot, when 2 were ordered for execution the following Saturday and twelve for transportation.[28]

In 1864 the Castle estate was purchased by Alexander Peckover. In 1932 his descendent Alexandrina Peckover gave to the Borough council a piece of land to be laid out as an ornamental garden adjoining the War memorial. [29]

In April 1875 the 2nd Cambridgeshire Rifle Corps based at the Corn Exchange parade on Mondays, the band on Tuesdays and recruits on Wednesdays and Fridays. Weapon inspections also take place at the Sessions House.[30]

The British Archaeological Association's 35th Annual Congress was held in Wisbech in August 1878. Its president was the then Earl of Hardwicke[18]

In August 1883 Wisbech and Upwell Tramway opened. It eventually closed in 1966 (passenger services finished in 1927). The steam trams were replaced by diesels in 1952.

The Wisbech Standard newspaper was founded in 1888.[31]

As well as 2nd Cambridgeshire Rifle Corps forerunners of the Cambridgeshire Regiment based in Wisbech there was a detachment of D Squadron, King's Own Norfolk Imperial Yeomanry, Congham House, Kings Lynn parades at Cornhill, Wisbech on Fridays 6:30pm. [32]

On 30 October 1913 the Riot Act was read by the mayor in response to civil unrest in response to the death of the popular surgeon Doctor Horace Dimock. He had been arrested on charges of criminal libel on the information of Dr.Meacock. On hearing that Dimock had taken his own life a crowd formed and smashed the windows of Meacock's residence on the North Brink. The police charged the crownds and cleared the streets.[33]

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).[34]

Wisbech War Memorial was unveiled on 24 July 1921.[35]

In 1929 The Wisbech Pageant was held at Sibalds Holme Park on 4-5 September. The Pageant Master was Sir Arthur Bryant who had experience with the Cambridgeshire Pageant 1924, Oxfordshire Pageant 1926 and London Empire Pageants of 1928 and 1929. The Wisbech total attendance was estimated in excess of 25,000 people.[36]

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.[37] Ring's End was transferred from Wisbech to Elm.[38]

The port of Wisbech now houses a large number of berths for yachts adjacent to the Boathouse development.

In 1939 Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust was founded to safeguard the history and heritage of Wisbech.[39]

In 1949 the Borough celebrated the 400th anniversary of receiving its charter. The Pageant in Sibalds Holme Park, Barton Road featured over 600 performers.[40][41]

In 1950 Queen Elizabeth and her daughter Princess Margaret visited St.Peter's church, Wisbech & Fenland museum and Peckover House. [42]

The first Wisbech Rose Fair was held in 1963 when local rose growers sold rose buds in the parish church in aid of its restoration.[43]

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.[44]

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.[45]

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 area of Walsoken, Norfolk into Wisbech.[46]

ContemporaryEdit

In 2009 Oxford Archaeology East (OAE) organised a dig at Wisbech Castle to search for remains of the Bishop's Palace.[47] 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).[48]

In April 2011 the Princess Royal visited Wisbech and opened the new education centre and library at Octavia Hill's Birthplace House.[49]

In 2011, the Wisbech magistrates court closed.[50]

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.[51]

In 2015 in his first week with the East Anglian Air Ambulance, Prince William came to Wisbech.[52]

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. [53]

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.[54]

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited Wisbech in November 2018.[55]

In 2019 the town received Gold Award in the large town category in the RHS Anglia in Bloom completion. Waterlees was ‘Best in Group’ and Gold Award in Urban category and St.Peters Gardens a Gold Award in the Small Parks category.[56]

GovernanceEdit

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 I.[57]

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[clarification needed] until after 1832.[58]

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.[59]

The Wisbech Town Council elects a mayor. The town council of 18 councillors is elected every four years. The town has seven electoral wards: Clarkson, Kirton, Medworth, Octavia Hill, Peckover, Staithe and Waterlees village. The town council is responsible for allotments and the market place.[60] In 2018 the council took a lease on Wisbech Castle.[61]

The town also elects councillors to Fenland District Council and Cambridgeshire County Council. Wisbech is within the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.[62]

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'.[63]

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

The official blazon is:

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/meaningEdit

The arms were officially granted on 11 November 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 15th century into a palace for the bishops of Ely.

TransportEdit

WaterwaysEdit

Wisbech sits on either side of the River Nene although in the past, before drainage schemes, it sat on the Well stream, the confluence of the rivers Great Ouse and Nene.[64]

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 "WI" code is still displayed by those boats registered to the port.[65]

In 1631 Sir Cornelius Vermuyden built the Horseshoe Sluice at Wisbech at a cost of £8,000.[66]

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.[67]

In 1720 the corporation was licensed to buoy the channel for the first time.

The heavy rains and floods of 1734/5 were severe. The Caledonian Mercury carried a copy of 'Wye's letter' of 21 January, 'Tis remarkable that the late Land Floods have opened the River of Wisbech 15 Foot; so that the Ships come up to the Town boldly as they used formerly'[68][69]

In 1751, in a dry year, one could 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.[18]

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. [70]

In 1820 the Peterborough and Wisbech Old Passage Boat was advertised as sailing from Peterborough on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10am and from Wisbech on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 9am.[71]

The greatest shipowner was Richard Young (1809-1871), who had at various times 43 boats operating from the port. [72] The port of Wisbech could accommodate sailing ships of 400 tons, but its prosperity declined after 1852 when extensive river works impeded navigation.[73]

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.[74]

The Throttle obstructing the river was removed in September 1862.[75] In July 1863 the new screw steamer Speedwell commenced a service from Wisbech to Hull every Thursday. [76]

In 1883 the Wisbech and Upwell Tramway opened.

By 1911 the river Nene between Wisbech and Peterborough was so silted up that barges filled with corn were taking 28 days to travel the distance that had previously taken a day. [77]

Ferries operated on the River Nene below Wisbech. A passenger ferry operated between North End and Nene Parade. [78]

The Wisbech Canal was cut to allow narrow boats to connect with the river, but no longer does so as parts have been filled in. [34] Narrow boats continue to access inland waterways via the river Nene.[79]

In 1931 A concrete bridge was built to replace the previous town bridge. [80]

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. [81]

In the 1970s a former WW2 motor torpedo boat (one of the last of its type) came up the river and was moored alongside Nene Quay between the town's two bridges. Moored at high tide on short mooring ropes it sank as the tide fell and the moorings failed. Despite a number of salvage attempts, the wreck remained in situ for a number of years until it was eventually removed. [82]

In 1978 one person was drowned in Wisbech as a result of a storm surge that overwhelmed the river flood defences. The water reached low lying properties some distance from the river including Kenlan Rd, the higher Lynn Road stopping its spread. [83]

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.[84]

In December 2013 the town's river flood defences were tested when an unusually high tide threatened to top the recently improved walls and flood gates.[85]

Schemes to connect the River Nene and the River Welland are proposed allowing boats a fresh water connection.[86]

BridgesEdit

References to 'repairing the bridge of your town of Wysebeche' are made in a 1326 letter from the king to the bishop of Ely.[87]

ShipsEdit

In April 1737 Mr. Joseph Southgate, Commander of the Sloop in the Service of the Customs, having met with a smuggling boat near Fosdyke, Wash, which were loaded with Tea and other prohibited Goods, whereof John Ransford of Wisbech Master...seized ...and Master and men committed to Norwich Castle. [88]

In July 1740 a coasting vessel, laden with 1,400 quarters of barley, bound for Calais from Wisbech, was seized and brought into the Port of London, sufficient proof having been made that the said barley was designed for sale in foreign parts. [89]

On 1 November, 1740 the Four Sisters, bound from Wisbech to London, was lost in the storm near Wells, Norfolk, the Master of whom, Robert Smith, and his Mate drown'd.[90]

Escape of local prisoners of war held in the city of Lugo in Galicia, captured on the Ellen master Peter Raoul, of London taken on 17 March, 1741. Robert Johnson and Robert Harrison of Wisbech, Samuel Sanders of Lynn and other sailors made their escape on 6 June, 1741.

11 October, 1747 the Middleham, Capt. Peter Harper,of 120 Tons and but two Carriage Guns; en route with coals from Sunderland was attacked about two leagues off Scarborough by a French Privateer. Considerable damage from cannon and boarders was sustained.[91]

In 1824 the Peterboro' and Wisbech Nene Packet was advertised as running leaving the city on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the town Wednesdays and Sundays.[92]

In 1826 as a result of the bankruptcy of James Hill the elder and James Hill the younger, their shares in vessels were put up for sale: The sloops Liberty, Eagle, ‘’Rambler’’, Thuristoneand Exchange.

In 1840 the sloop Rover was put for sale as a result of the bankruptcy of James Hill and Thomas Hill. Shipbuilding took place on the banks of the river below the bridge.

In September 1841 the schooner ‘’Huzza’’ property of Richard Young, was wrecked off Hartlepool in a heavy gale, all hands were saved. In 1844 the launch of a sloop named the Bounty of Providence took place from Bannister's shipyard.

In July 1848 the schooner Bagnall master Mr.Yorke, was reported lost off Blakeney en route to London, all were saved except the captain and his wife. [93]

In January 1849 the schooner Britanniacaptain Horsfield, on a passage to Sunderland laden with iron and carrots wrecked.[94]

In March 1850 the schooner Violet was wrecked off Hartlepool. [95]

Three Wisbech vessels were lost with all hands in the gale of 25 September 1851, the sloop Brothers, George Waddingham, master; Charles and William, William Good, master; Rose in June, Joseph Plant, master. [96]

In 1855 Richard Young's barque the Nene Valley captain Mr.Robert Baldwin was run ashore in Northumberland Bay, Australia with all sails set on 19th October. The captain, passengers and crew except four were saved. [97]

In November 1855 Richard Young's vessel, the Hebe captain James Burton, bringing coals from Sunderland sprang a leak and was beached without loss of life. [98]

In September 1856 the schooner Redstart was launched from Hinson's yard and a week later, the schooner Imperial Prince of Messrs. Hayley and Buckley was launched from the yard of Mr.T.Meadows. [99]

In October 1858 Richard Young's vessel SS Great Northern fired its guns before leaving port and smashed house windows on both sides of the river. [100]

In 1859 Richard Young's brig Sutton Bridge, Charles Fox, master laden with timber from Memel to Wisbech, grounded at Bornholm, the master, mate and one hand drowning and five hands saved. Richard Young himself was nearly killed in a cab crash in London, reported in the same paper. [101]

Ridlington's schooner Blue Jacket was launched from Mr. John Henson's yard in May 1860. [102] July 1860 The sloop Union(the property of Mr Noah Pinder, harbourmaster) foundered but all saved. [103]

The barque Richard Young foundered without loss of life in 1864. [104] The Wisbech Chronicle reported on the death on 2 January 1862 of Captain Daniel Rowe, of Richard Young’s brig ‘’Robert James Haynes’’ died at Lynn of natural causes. In 1865 the Wisbech barque City of Peterborough was lost with all hands in a gale off the Cape of Good Hope. [105]

The Julia was wrecked in the Firth of Forth without loss of life in 1869. [106]

RoadsEdit

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.[107]

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.

BicycleEdit

Wisbech has a number of cycle routes passing through the town. National Route 1 (North Sea Cycle Route) between King's Lynn and Boston via Wisbech and Holbeach. National Route 63 between Oakham and Wisbech via Stamford, Peterborough and March.[108] In addition there are a number of local cycle routes and guides available in hard copy or to download. <https://www.visitcambridgeshirefens.org/cycling>

Walks, Footpaths and BridlewaysEdit

  • Wisbech and the Fens provide miles of walks, footpaths and bridleways.[109]
  • Wisbech family geology trail was produced by Wisbech and Fenland Museum and the Queens School.[110]
  • Two trails - The Town Trail and The Brinks Trail are provided on this leaflet available as a hard copy or to download.<https://www.visitcambridgeshirefens.org/documents/walks/Wisbech_Mini_Guide.pdf>
  • The Wisbech Great War Walk was created in 2014 to connect thirteen sites connected with WWI. It is available as hard copies and downloads.[111]

The Wisbech Merchants' Trail was relaunched in 2019.[112] The updated trail is available in hard copy, download and as an app <https://www.appsinbox.de/app/1469870302/wisbech-merchants-trail>

RailwaysEdit

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.[113][114]

It was not long before the tramway had its first fatalities.[115] In 1894 a porter was accidentently killed on the Wisbech to March line.[116] The freight line remained in operation until 2000.[117]

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.[118] The line is currently (2019) at GRIP 3 study stage.[119] A report published in 2009 by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) indicated that this was viable.[120] The line has been identified as a priority for reopening by Campaign for Better Transport.[121]

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.[122] An 1823 Wisbech coach is shown in the background of a Chatteris skating match illustration by George Cruikshank.[123] In February 1859 a new 12 hour coach service from Wisbech via Cambridge to London commenced.[124]

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.

Air TravelEdit

There are a number of nearby small airfields used by gliding clubs, hang gliders, parachuting clubs and other light aircraft. Since the discontinuance of services at Cambridge International Airport the nearest available small international airport is Norwich Airport.

DemographyEdit

Parish population 1981
1991
2001
2011
2016
Wisbech 22,932 24,981 26,536 31,573 33,933

[125]

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. [126]

In 2014 it was reported by The Sun that of the town's 28,000 population 5,000 (about 18%) were Lithuanians.[127] Several official places (libraries, surgeries, local council) provide translations into Lithuanian, as well as Polish, Latvian, Russian and Portuguese.[128]

EconomyEdit

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.[129] 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.[130]

In 1834 the Annual Horse and Cattle Fair was changed to the Thursday preceding WhitSunday in lieu of the second Wednesday in April. [131]

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 produced large quantities of sheep and oxen as well as wool, hemp and flax.[132] Such was the trade with Denmark that a consul was based in North Terrace in a Queen Anne house sometimes called the Danish House.[133] In 1851 the population was 9,594. It decreased to 9,276 in 1861 and picked up to 9,395 in 1891. In 1853 the Wisbech and Isle of Ely Permanent Building Society was established.[134]

Rope making took place at the Rope Walk and tent making also took place in the town at W.Poppleton's, Nene Parade. Customers included the visiting J.W.Myers circus in 1881.[135]

The Wisbech Fruit Preserving Company Ltd was wound up in 1894.

In October 1906 the first of the annual mustard markets of the year took place where the harvest of 'brown' and 'white' seed took place. Regular annual Buyers included Messrs Coleman of Norwich.[136][137]

Liptons had one of their jam factories in the town.[138]

Samuel Wallace Smedley bought the old Crosse and Blackwell jam making factory. The Wisbech Producer canners in 1931 became part of the National Canning Company. Princes Group are now (2019) the owners.

The Wisbech Chamber of Trade inaugural meeting took place on 14th February, 1927.[139]

The 1931 census population was 12,006 and the National Registration of 1939 showed 17,599.[140]

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. It 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.[141]

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 from overseas. The site had its own rail yard before the Wisbech to March line closed.

English Brothers Ltd, another long-established company in Wisbech, are importers of timber brought in at Wisbech port.[142] In 1900 they manufactured wooden troop hits for the war in South Africa.[143] During World War II they produced wooden munitions boxes.[144] Shire Garden Building Ltd based in Wisbech and Sutton Bridge have been manufacturing wooden buildings since the 1980s.[145]

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 (c. 1983), Balding & Mansell (printers) (c. 1992), Budgens store[146] (formerly Coop) (2017) and horticultural college (2012),[147] 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),[148] Franks butchers (2015)[149] and local bakeries have given way to the supermarkets.

The larger employers in Wisbech include Nestle Purina petcare, Cromwell Rd[150] and Princes, Lynn Rd.[151]

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.[152]

May 2017 the new Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority announced new investment into the area.[62]

In April 2018 plans for an £8m redevelopment of the hospital were announced.[153]

Plans for an additional 1,500 homes were announced in the press in May 2018.[154]

It was announced by local MP Steve Barclay that Fenland schools would receive £250,000 towards recruiting more teachers.[155]

Banks and Building SocietiesEdit

In the summer of 1814 Sneath & Watson's Wisbech Bank suspended payments.[156]

On Friday 13 February 1818 the Wisbech Savings Bank was established. [157] The financial crisis of the 1820s saw the failure of the Wisbech bank of James Hill and son in 1825 and the sale of their estates in 1826.[158]

The National Provincial Bank were seeking premises to open a Wisbech branch in 1834.[159]

Mills and MillingEdit

The town had a number of wind powered and other mills.

Mr William Barley offered for sale the 7 years remaining of a lease of a post wind-mill on May 21, 1793 in the ‘’Stamford Mercury’’.

In November, 1883 a storm most of the windmills in the area were damaged. Brook’s mill on Lynn Rd had most sails damaged, the Leverington Rd 4-sail mill had two main sails damaged.

Public UtilitiesEdit

Water

Cholera was a significant cause of illness and deaths until the water supply was piped from Marham, Norfolk. The Wisbech Waterworks Company was formed in 1862. The supplies from Marham reached Wisbech on 22, July, 1865. At the 9th Ordinary General meeting in 1869 it was reported that they supplied 841 customers (538 in town - about a third of households) and 21 were on meters.[160]

Sewerage

It took from 1874 until the end of 1877 for a 12-inch main sewerage system to be installed.[18]

Gas

On 27 August 1833 the town Bailiff Mr Ollard laid the foundation stone of Mr. Malam's Wisbech Gasworks. The Wisbech Gaslight and Coke company took over the contract to supply gas to the town's 200 street lights in 1859, the same year the coke works was sold, at which time it was in a poor state.[161] The Gas Act 1948 created 12 regional gas boards.

Electricity

A WW1 U-boat engine was acquired to power the generator at the Sandyland Power Station in 1920. A picture of the engine is held at the Wisbech & Fenland Museum. The Wisbech Electric Light and Power Company became part of Eastern Electricity Board (EEB) in 1948 as part of the electricity industry nationalisation by the Electricity Act 1947.

TourismEdit

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 and 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 has now opened to the public after being unavailable for a number of years, and is starting to attract visitors to its programme of events and activities.[162]

Religious sitesEdit

The Anglican Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul dates back in part to the 12th century. The tower contains the third oldest full peal of 10 bells in the world, cast by William Dobson in 1821; the bells are still in use.[163]

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 this was demolished later. The site became a bank and is currently a veterinary practice.[164]

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.[165]

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.[166]

Other places of worship are: 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; and Spiritualist, Alexander Rd.[167]

Various denominations met at other locations, many of which have been demolished or used for other purposes.[168]

EducationEdit

Schools and CollegesEdit

 
Wisbech Grammar School on North Brink.

Wisbech has two secondary schools (11–18) and a third presently under construction (2019).

The independent Wisbech Grammar School, which was founded in 1379, making it one of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom. Since its early days in St.Peter's church it has moved sites, having been in Hill St and then South Brink until its merger with the High School after which it moved to the present North Brink location. It has at various times provided boarding places. This was the case when the Rev John Clarkson was headmaster and his sons John and Thomas Clarkson pupils. During WW2 the Stationers' school staff and pupils (including Barry Took)[169] were evacuated and relocated to share the Grammar School site (at that time on the South Brink) with grammar school staff and pupils one of which was John Gordon (author).

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).

St. Audrey's Convent School (a day school for boys aged 4-11 and girls 4-16) run by the Sisters of Providence of the Institute of Charity, closed in 1979. The Grammar school then opened Magdalene House as the preparatory school for Wisbech Grammar School.

Primary schools in Wisbech include: Clarkson Infant and Nursery School, St Peters Church of England Junior School, Orchards Church of England Academy, Peckover Primary School, The Nene Infant School, Ramnoth Junior School and Elm Road Primary School. There are also specialist schools, Meadowgate Academy, Cambian Wisbech School, The County School & Trinity School.

In 1864 the Wisbech Working Men's Club and Institute was founded. This provided opportunities to learn, socialise and participate in activities. Once one of the largest and most successful organisations of its type, it still provides a base for fitness training and other clubs.[170]

In 1956 the Isle of Ely College and Horticultural Institute opened, the horticultural station later operated in several guises. It became the Cambridgeshire College of Agriculture and Horticulture, and more recently was combined with the College of West Anglia (CoWA). It closed in 2012 after which horticultural students would attend the college's campus in Milton.[147]

There is also a further education centre: the College of West Anglia formerly the Isle of Ely College.[171]

Plans for a new £23m 600 pupil school to open in 2020 were announced in the Wisbech Standard.[172]

Other institutionsEdit

The town has a number of branches of other institutions including the U3A and Worker's Educational Association (WEA).

SportEdit

AnglingEdit

Fishing for eels and other fish has been carries out for thousands of years. Eel and fish traps have been found at Fenland Archaeological sites such as Must Farm. In the 19th and 20th centuries large numbers of anglers visited the area by train and later by car.[173]

BowlsEdit

Bowls was being played by 1842 when a challenge was laid down by 12 gentlemen to any side within 30 miles.[174]

Hare CoursingEdit

Prior to 2015 when hare coursing was made illegal in England, it was carried out in the area. Wisbech High Fen was used for coursing.[175] The Waldersea Club (Wisbech)established in 1863 organised meets on Boxing Day as early as 1868.[176]

Cock FightingEdit

Prior to 1835 when Cock fighting was made illegal in England, it was an organised sport and held frequently in the town, therewere three days of cock fighting advertised to take place at the Rose & Crown in December 1722.[177] [178] 'Cocking' was advertised in the Stamford Mercury to take place at the Rose & Crown during the Wisbech Races of 1769.

RacingEdit

Racing was advertised to be run from at least 1728 'To be Run for on Wisbeach New-Course in the Isle of Ely, on Tuesday the 17th of this instant August, a Purse of Twenty Pounds. Regular horse racing at Wisbech took place until at least 1782 and [179] appears to have lapsed towards the end of the 18th century.[180] After a lapse of nearly a century, racing took place on Wednesday, 27 June, 1866 on a course near the Peterborough Rd, followed by a dinner at the White Hart. Annual events followed in the next two years, it then moving to a course near the turnpike off Barton Lane. A ball and concerts at the Corn Exchange and Bowling Green followed the 1869 race day.[181][182][183][184][185]

SailingEdit

A regatta was held as early as 1850.[186] In 1955 Wisbech Yacht Club opened their new clubhouse at Lattersley Pit, Whittlesey.[187]

CricketEdit

One of the earliest records of the sport of cricket in the area is to a local match. ‘On Monday the 4th of June next a Cricket Match will be play’d on March Common, in the Isle of Ely, between the Gentlemen of March and the Gentlemen of Wisbeach, Eleven of a Side, for five Pounds a Man, when it is expected there will be a very numerous Meeting of the best Fashion.” Northampton Mercury, 28 May 1744.’[188] County sides played matches in Wisbech from the 19th century, a Cambridge v Yorkshire match took place in 1867.[189][190]

Bull runningEdit

Stamford and Wisbech were once famous for their annual Bull-running through the streets. The practice was abolished at the end of the 18th century.[18][191]

CyclingEdit

Cycling has long been a popular organised activity in the area, Wisbech Bicycle Club was formed in 1878 and offered a wide range of competitions. [192][193][194] Wisbech Wheelers was formed in 1924.[195]

Motor CyclesEdit

The Wisbech and District Motorcycle Club dates back to 1955, and since those early days it's nickname has been the Fen Tigers.[196]

Greyhound RacingEdit

Greyhound Racing took place at the Wisbech Greyhound Stadium until its demolition in 2007.

Stock car racingEdit

also took place until the stadium closure.

FootballEdit

The town had a number of sides in the 19th century and there was fierce rivalry between Walsoken Victory and Wisbech.[197] Wisbech Nene Rovers held Cambridge Swifts in the inaugural final of the Cambridgeshire Junior Cup in March 1898 played in Cambridge. In the same year Wisbech met Irthlingborough in a replay of the 1-1 Hinchingbrooke Cup competition final, Wisbech lost the replay 5-0. [198] The largest local non league football team is Wisbech Town Football Club, nicknamed The Fenmen the club now plays in a new ground on Lynn Road. [199] In 1932 they are Peterborough League champions with a game to spare.[200] As United Counties champions,Wisbech join the enlarged Eastern Counties League in 1949.[201]

Cricket and HockeyEdit

Wisbech Town Cricket and Hockey Club are based on Harecroft Road.

Tennis and SquashEdit

A form of tennis was being played in the town before 1571, as a great storm and inundation in this year 'a tennis place and a bowling allie, walled about with bricke worth £20 by the year to the owner, was quite destroyed by the water'.[202] Wisbech Lawn Tennis Club and Wisbech & District Squash Club.

Rugby Union FootballEdit

Wisbech rugby club dates back to the late 1940s. Wisbech played Boston on 25 September 1948.[203] Early opposition included Kesteven.[204]

Wisbech Rugby Union Football Club House is on Chapel Road.

CultureEdit

TheatreEdit

Wisbech Theatre presents ‘’The Battle of Hexham’’ and ‘’The Touchstone of Truth’’ for the benefit of Mr & Mrs Miller on the last night Friday, 20th May, 1791 advertised in the ‘’Stamford Mercury’’.

The Georgian theatre was built by James Robertson in 1793 as part of the Lincoln circuit. On Friday 26, April the last benefit of this season, a performance of the new comedy Every One Has His Fault followed by a pantomime Don Juan; or The Libertine Destroyed were given. In 1808 the celebrated Young actor Master Betty aka ‘The Young Roscius’ performed between 3rd and 8th June, The venue was used by amateur companies as well, on 24, August 1815 a production of the 'Poor Gentlemen'was staged.[205]

The Shakespearean actress Sarah Booth gave five performances in the role of Juliet in May, 1827. William Cobbett gave a lecture to about 200 farmers in March 1830. On 27 June, 1834 the theatre came to the end of its month run. On Monday 13, June 1836 William Macready performed in the first of four nights of Shakespeare productions. A school was built in front of the theatre in 1837. The 1839 players included Miss Cooper and Mr Young. Under Mrs T. Robertson the theatre opened in June 1834 for a short season. The 1839 season featured Henry Compton (actor). In March 1840 the theatre was again opened for its five week season. The 1842 season finished with ‘Knowles’ ‘’Love’’, ‘’Shipwrecked Manner’’ and the farce ‘’Mrs.White’’. In 1843 Mrs. Robertson resigned her management to her nephew, Mr. W.Robinson. The theatre was advertised to be auctioned on 6th November 1843. [206] The 1844 season ended with a benefit for Mrs. W. Robertson, ‘’Every One Has His Fault’’. In 1846 the venue was used for concerts and a performance by Ojibbeway Indians in native costume. The theatre lease was sold and a performance was put on to benefit the former lessee Mrs. T.Robertson on 3 June,1847 by Mr.Davenport's company as part of their 5/6 week season.[207] Under Mr.Davenport, lessee of the Norwich circuit, the season commenced with ‘’Richard III’’, ‘’Hercules, King is Clubs’’ and ‘’Juliet’’.

In 1977 the two buildings were re-opened to form the Angles Theatre. The president of the theatre council was Anton Rodgers. [208] The Angles on Alexandra Road is now used by community theatre groups and touring companies. The theatre is run by the Wisbech Angles Theatre Council a registered Charity.

On 3 March, 1859 a very elegant theatre opened.[209]

In 1862 Douglas's theatre on Lynn Rd was putting on different shows each day of the week.[210]

In July, 1864 the lessee Mr John Douglas and his company put on productions that drew good size audiences. The band of the Wisbech Rifle company attended to provide music.

‘’The Era’’ of 9, February, 1901 advertised Miss Ethel Greythorpe’s production of ‘’Facing the Music’’ at Selwyn Theatre. On 1 August, 1907 the Selwyn Theatre advertised in for ‘Good Companies’ for the summer and Christmas season’

On 29 April, 1915 the Alexandra Theatre (late Selwyn Theatre) Prop. H.Bancroft advertised in ‘’The Era’’ for ‘Star Attractions’. The capacity was 800.

On 20 September 1916, The Electric Theatre advertised in ‘’The Era’’ for two musicians.

In 1920 the Alexandra Theatre was used to auction the late Lord Peckover’s estates.

On 23, August 1923 the Alexandra Theatre advertised in ‘’The Stage’’ for dramatic artists.

CinemaEdit

On 29 July, 1931 it was announced in ‘’The Bioscope’’ that plans had been drawn up by Ward & Woolnough the architects, to replace Racey’s Arcade with the ‘Empire Cinema’.

The town which had been without a cinema for decades was again showing films from 2009 when The Luxe single screen cinema opened in the former Women's Institute (WI) hall in Alexandra Road. The cinema changed ownership in 2017 and is one of eight cinemas run by the Picturedrome Electric Theatre company.

A newly built multi-screen cinema The Light on the Fens, Cromwell Road was opened in 2015 by the Light Cinemas company.[211]

MuseumsEdit

The town has several buildings dedicated to the preservation of artefacts and documents. Wisbech and Fenland Museum, Museum Square opened on its current site in 1847. The Castle was donated to the Isle of Ely County Council by the family of the former education director and is now run by the town council. It is used as a community asset and hosts educational and other activities. The contents include furnishings, books and other items of interest. Octavia Hill's Birthplace House opened with the purpose of housing items linked to the various philanthropic activities of Octavia Hill and her family. The Wisbech Working Men's Institute and Social club's origins date back to 5 January 1864. [18]

Wisbech Working Men's InstituteEdit

In 1864 Johnathan Peckover founded the Wisbech Working Men's Institute, it later moved to Hill Street.[212]

Inns, Taverns, Breweries and Beer FestivalsEdit

The town's licenced premises have a long history of providing leisure facilities from bowling greens and skittle alleys to darts, cards, chess and other board games as well as other social events. In 1853 the 'Wisbech Brewery' (Phillips, Tidbits and Phillips) on the riverside owned 20 pubs and hotels in the town and about 30 outside.[213]

Festivals and EventsEdit

The town hosts annual festivals and events.

The Wisbech Mart Fair is held in the town every March.

The Wisbech Rose Fair parades and flower show in St Peters church have been held annually in July since 1963.

The Arles Festival celebrated the twinning of the two towns.

Wis-beach day is held every year in June on the market place. The seaside comes to the town for the Sunday and donkey rides, Punch and Judy shows, sand, beach chairs and amusement rides fill the centre of the town.

On Armed Forces Day in June the marketbplace is taken by military vehicles and units and veterans associations. A Sunday service is held with a parade and march past.

Wisbech Rock Festival is held in Wisbech Park and is run by the town council.

Friends of Wisbech Park Bandstand host a series of musical events at the bandstand on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.

In August many local gardens are open to the public as part of the National Garden Scheme Open Days.

In September the town participates in Heritage Weekend when many buildings are open to the public for tours.

Wisbech Statute Fair is held every September.

The Elgoods Beer Festival takes place each September when musical events accompany the wide range of drinks on offer.

Christmas Lights Switch On takes place on the market place in late November.

A Christmas market and Fayre takes place in December.[214]

PoetryEdit

The town nearly added the poet John Clare to its residents when he visited for a job interview. Fen speak ran a series of events funded by the Arts Council, Metal Culture and John Clare Cottage. More recently the town has hosted Fenland Poet Laureate awards (2012 - Elaine Ewerton; 2013 - Leanne Moden; 2014 - Poppy Kleiser; 2015 - Jonathan Totman; 2016 - Mary Livingstone; 2017 - Kate Caoimhe) and 'Wisbech Words' events at the castle. The Awards were relaunched with funding from the Arts Council in 2019 with the results to be announced in the autumn.[215]

Crime and JusticeEdit

The Castle was used as a prison for felons and religious prisoners. Later cells were located in the Sessions House.

Convicted prisoners could receive corporal punishment as well as prison terms and fines. The use of stocks, pillory, gallows and gibbett all took place.

Two highwaymen were committed to Norwich Castle for a robbery on the Highway near Wisbech on Tuesday 2 January 1728.[216]

On 24 August 1736 Thomas See was hanged for horse theft. On 13 September 1740 two rioters Thomas Higgins and William Organer were hanged.[217]

June 30, 1740 a mob 'have almost pulled down one house, broke the windows of three or four more, broke into three or four granaries....carried off 20 Last of wheat...extracted sums of money...the damage is computed at £500-600.[218]

On 18 June 1742 one Rigglesworth, alias Smith was committed to Newgate by the Aldermen Billers and Rouse,for robbing the Mail of the Wisbech Bag,and taking out several Bills of Exchange and Bank Notes; one of which was taken upon him.[219] 12 August 1740, at Wisbech Assizes fourteen rioters were tried, Richard Blanchley found guilty of all charges, Organer and Higgins guilty of a riot and taking cash, all three condemned to be hanged, Beales and Denison guilty of taking cash, and nine others found guilty of the riot only , were ordered for transportation; but there were six acquitted. Two rioters are to be executed next Saturday at Castle-Hill, Norwich.[220] Transportation to the American penal colonies ceased when the American War of Independence broke out in 1775. In August 1780 two highwaymen William Smith and Michael Moore robbed a number of travellers near Swaffham and were pursued, Moore was taken and the next day Smith was captured in Wisbech. They were committed to Norwich castle for trial.[221] In 1787 transportation started to the first penal colonies in Australia. In 1795 William Marriott was murdered, four men were tried, convicted and hanged for the crime on 24 October. These were Thomas Markin and Thomas Quin however two, James Cully and Michael Quin were also gibbeted in chains.[222]

15 July 1819 Israel Garner, and Jas. Coleback, convicted of burglary and highway robbery, at the Isle of Ely Assizes, were executed at Wisbech.[223]

In 1821 James Cooper and William Pool, two members of a gang of ten shoplifters, were sentenced to be severely whipped on market days, twice in Wisbech and once on Ely market places and serve two months in prison.[224]

James Anderson and Robert Salisbury escaped from Wisbech Prison on Monday, 22nd March, 1824. Five pounds reward was offered for the recapture of each.[225]

Wisbech Gaol was opened in 1846.[226]

On 19 October,1858 the post boy carrying mail from Lynn to Wisbech was stopped stopped by a footpad near Lynn, who presented pistol to him and robbed him of the letters. Jos. Been, inhabitant of Lynn, on being apprehended confessed to the Robbery. He escaped, but was retake.[227]

At Ely Assizes on 29 January, 1860 Wm.Sampson, aged 55, and Wm.Bares, aged 21, convicted of sheep stealing, the former to be executed at Ely on Feb.12 and the latter at Wisbech on 21st.[228]

The Rifle Volunteers had been allowed to store weapons and gunpowder in the Sessions House. In 1865 the Clerk of the peace was instructed to write to the volunteers to request that they remove the powder.[229]

In 1868 it was reported 'that there were certified cells for fortytwo males and ten females, and two punishment cells. The cost of Wisbech gaol, exclusive of the site, was £7,780. The sessions house was ten minutes drive from the prison, and prisoners were conveyed to and fro in an omnibus without trouble. The duty of task master was left to a warder, and the cooking was done by a male prisoner'.[230] Despite walls 20 feet high there were prison escapes. In 1875 two escaped prisoners were recaptured after setting fire to a hay stack.[231] Following the Prison Act 1877 that led to the closure of Wisbech gaol, it was sold by auction for£2,100.[232]

Notable buildings and monumentsEdit

  • Wisbech has over 250 listed buildings and monuments[233]
  • Wisbech Castle and grounds leased by Wisbech Town Council from Cambridgeshire County Council.
  • Former New Inn, Union St dating to about 1500.[234][235]
  • Rose and Crown hotel, located on the market place, is an early 17th century 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; in its grounds are the remains of the white cross.[236]
  • 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 formally opened in April 2019) and 11 Commonwealth war graves.[237] It is an early nonconformist cemetery now no longer in use, and is a pocket park.[238]
 
The Thomas Clarkson Memorial in Wisbech 2013
  • Thomas Clarkson Memorial, Bridge St (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 eight storeys in height, it had eight 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.[239]
  • Richard Young MP Memorial (1871) sited in Wisbech Park (1870).[240]
  • Drinking fountain erected to the memory of Mr & Mrs G. D. Collins in the Old Market in 1897. Relocated to Lynn Road.[18]
  • Grammar School for boys, South Brink opened in January, 1898 to replace the old Grammar School for boys in the ancient town hall in Hill Street.
  • Parish Church of St Peter and Paul. (Restored in 1858 and a clock added in 1866). There are some pictures and a description of the church at the Cambridgeshire Churches website.[241]
  • Our Lady & Saint Charles Borromeo Church(1854)
  • St Mary's Parish church,[242] also on the Cambridgeshire Churches website.[243]
  • Octavia Hill's Birthplace House; the family later moved to London.[244]
  • Wisbech & Fenland Museum (1847); extensive collections of local records and other items. Notable artifacts include: Napoleon's Sèvres breakfast service, said to have been captured at the Battle of Waterloo; Thomas Clarkson's chest, containing examples of 18th century African textiles, seeds and leatherwork which he used to illustrate his case for direct trade with Africa; and the original manuscript of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations.
  • Elgood's Brewery;
     
    Elgoods Brewery on North Brink in Wisbech
    The brewery was founded in 1795 and bought soon afterwards by the Elgood family.
 
The Octagon Chapel in Wisbech Old Market, demolished in 1952

Notable peopleEdit

In order of birth:

PastEdit

  • John of Wisbech was in charge of the erection of the Lady Chapel at Ely Cathedral in the first half of the fourteenth century.
  • 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 The Bishop's palace 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.
  • Mathias Taylor JP, linen draper, Capital Burgess and appointed Constable of the Castle in 1631.
  • Jane Stuart (c1654-1742), a daughter of James II joined the Society of Friends and lived on the Old Market and died aged 88 in Wisbech on 12 July and is buried in the Friends’ graveyard.[18]
  • 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 Regency 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.[18]
  • 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.
  • Rev.William Ellis (missionary) (29 August 1794 – 9 June 1872) and pioneer photographer, was brought up and went to elementary school in Wisbech. He later went to Magdalene college (then in London) and became a missionary, this coupled with his writing and photographic skills led him to become the author of 'History of Madagascar' (1838), 'Polynesian Researches' and 'History of the London Missionary Society' and other publications.
  • 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.[18]
  • Elizabeth Dawbarn (died 1839) was a religious pamphleteer who addressed children and adults.
  • Charles Boucher (died 1866), Brewer lived at 'The Castle and owned the Union Brewery and 44 public houses.
  • 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.[18]
  • 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.[18] 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.[245]
  • James Hill (c1800-1871) a Unitarian, social reformer, newspaper editor, merchant, ship owner and banker. His children included Octavia Hill and Miranda Hill.
  • 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.
  • Caroline Southwood Hill (née Smith)(1809-1902), writer and educationalist. Eldest daughter of Dr. Southwood Smith. Became third wife of James Hill on 21 July, 1835. Mother of Octavia Hill. Died aged 94 on 31 December, 1902.
  • Lt Robert Pate, Jr (25 December 1819 - 1895) was a British Army officer, remembered for his assault on Queen Victoria on 27 June 1850.
  • Edward Johnson (1822-1907), photographer. His photographs of local churches were published in three volumes by Leach & son.
  • Alexander Peckover 1st Baron Peckover LL.D., FRGS., FSA., FRGS., 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.
  • Johnathan Peckover (1838-1882), Quaker and philanthropist. Born 16 June and died 8 February. Son of Algernon and Priscilla Peckover. He founded the Wisbech Working Men's Institute in 1864.[246]
  • Algerina Peckover (1841-1927), Quaker, philanthropist and plant collector who donated a collection of Madagascan ferns to Wisbech Herbarium in 1904.[247]
  • 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.
  • G.Francis Pattrick (c1840-1896) former Wisbech Grammar School pupil, later Maths don at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. Charles Stewart Parnell was one of his students.[248]
  • W. H. Jude (1851-1922) composer and organist attended Wisbech Grammar School .
  • S.W.Smedley (1875-1958) merchant and food processor.
  • 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.[249]
  • Philip Vassar Hunter CBE (1883-1956) engineer was born in Wisbech.
  • Sir Frank Arthur Stockdale, GCMG, CBE, FLS (24 June 1883 – 3 August 1949) a pupil at Wisbech Grammar School became an agriculturist and colonial agricultural administrator.
  • 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.[250]
  • Lt John Neville Dennis MC, (1895-1917). Son of John and Florence Amy Dennis. A former Wisbech Grammar School pupil. Officer in 41st Company, Machine Gun Corps. Aged 22, died of wounds received in action 15 October 1917. Memorials in Magdalene College, Cambridge, St.Augustines Church and Wisbech.
  • 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[251] 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.[252]
  • 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.
  • Gerald Fleming (1919-2019) a D-Day soldier also serving with 8th Army, awarded the Freedom of Wisbech in 2017 and ‘Ordre National de la Legion d’honneur’.
  • 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.
  • John Barrie (snooker player), (1924-1996) snooker and champion billiards player. Born William Barrie Smith on 30 June, Wisbech and died 20 April aged 71.[253]
  • 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 7 October 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.

PresentEdit

  • 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.
  • Dennis Savory, Olympian (born 13 June 1943) and member of Wisbech Archery club. Two years after picking up a bow, Dennis competed in the 1980 Moscow Olumpics. In the early stages he was in fourth place and finished a creditable 13th.
  • Victoria Gillick (born 1946 Hendon), activist and campaigner.
  • 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 OBE, (born 14 October 1978 in Wisbech) is a Paralympian.
  • George Russell (racing driver), (born February 1998)
  • Henry Plume (cricketer), (born October 2006) best youth player in the past 10 years

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).[254]

1926 street scenes filmed to be shown at the local Electric Theatre. EAFA.[255]

North Cambs hospital in the 1930s. EAFA.[256]

‘Approaching Wisbech’ an amateur film of a simulated road traffic accident made in the late 1930s. EAFA.[257]

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.[258]

1957 The BBC filmed Mrs Chester's Little Theatre Group performing in the grounds of Grammar school house, South Brink.[259] It was broadcast as part of ‘’Maypole and Melody’’ on April 26, 1958.

1961 ‘The Wisbech to Upwell Tramway’. EAFA.[260]

In 1963 Anglia TV recorded a film report on Wisbech Castle. This is also available to download on the East Anglian Film Archive.[261]

'The Flood' a 1963 drama filmed using boats from Wisbech.[262]

1975 Anglia TV report about the first purpose-built traveller site in GB. EAFA.[263]

'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.[264]

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'[265] and ITV1's 2001 adaptation of 'Micawber', starring David Jason.[266]

In 2000 BBC One's ‘The Antiques Roadshow’ was hosted and recorded at the Hudson Leisure centre.[267]

A ‘Wisbech Rock Festival’ appears in the 1998 British comedy film Still Crazy starring Stephen Rea, Jimmy Nail, Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall, Bill Nighy, Juliet Aubrey, Helena Bergstrom and Bruce Robinson.[268]

The 2008 feature film Dean Spanley starring Peter O'Toole was largely filmed in Wisbech.[269]

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.[270][271][272]

2009 Channel 5's reality TV series ‘The Hotel Inspector’ starring Alex Polizzi featured The Rose and Crown hotel.[273]

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.[274]

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.[275]

Wisbech ‘2019 Made in Minecraft: A different point of view’ was released. It shows parts of the town in a Minecradt format. [276]

Other mediaEdit

In More English Fairy Tales collected and edited by Joseph Jacobs the tale of Tom Hickathrift and his battle with the Wisbeach (Wisbech) Giant is retold.[277] In other versions the protagonist is described as The Wisbech/Wisbeach Ogre [278]

Isaac Casaubon recorded in his diary his visit to Wisbech on 17 August 1611. He accompanied Lancelot Andrewes, bishop of Ely, from the episcopal palace at Downham.[279]

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 Wisbeach in connection with another uncle Day's estate. At Wisbeach on Friday 18 September he visited the church and library.[279]

Daniel Defoe (c1660-1731) toured the Eastern Counties of England in 1723 and commented about Wisbech as a seaport. He had visited the Isle of Ely in 1722 and observed: "That there are some wonderful engines for throwing up water, and such as are not to be seen any where else, whereof one in particular threw up, (as they assur'd us) twelve hundred ton of water in half an hour, and goes by wind-sails, 12 wings or sails to a mill".

"Here are the greatest improvements by planting of hemp, that, I think, is to be seen in England; particularly on the Norfolk and Cambridge side of the Fens, as about Wisbech, Well, and several other places, where we saw many hundred acres of ground bearing great crops of hemp ". [280]

John Howard (prison reformer) came to Wisbech to visit the ‘Wisbeach Bridewell’ on 3 February 1776 and found two prisoners locked up in it. He described it as having two or three rooms. No courtyard. No water. Allowance a penny a day; and straw twenty shillings a year. Keeper's salary £16: no Fees - This prison might be improved on the Keeper's Garden.[281]

In 1778/1779 Italian author and poet Giuseppe Marc'Antonio Baretti (also known as Joseph Baretti; 1718-1789) took up residence with a family living at the castle for about a fortnight. Afterwards he published a series of letters Lettere Familiari de Giuseppe Baretti including a description of his Wisbech visit. He attended horse races, the theatre, public balls, public suppers and assemblies.[282]

William Macready arrived in Wisbech on 13 June 1836 and performed in Hamlet and Macbeth. He recorded his visit which was later published in 1875 in ‘Diaries and Letters’.[18]

Charles Kingsley's 1850 novel Alton Locke has a character Bob Porter referring to the gibbeting of two Irish reapers at Wisbech River after trial for murder. Wisbech and Fenland Museum has a headpiece that was used with the gibbet in a similar case in the 18th century.[283]

Wisbeach and its river Nene(or Nen), wooden piling and riverport, two stations are mentioned by Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) who dined at the Whyte Harte hotel, North Brink.[284]

Wisbech was one of eight towns featured in Old Towns Revisited published by Country Life Ltd in 1952.[285]

Wisbech features in John Gordon's 1992 autobiography.[286]

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

Several free local magazines are published and distributed monthly: The fens, Discovering Wisbech, The Wisbech Post and the quarterly Fenland Resident [287]

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 an increase in crime. Then on 20 February 2008 The Fenland Citizen contained an article opposing the Daily Express article.[288]

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

In June 2018 Country Life magazine ran a feature on Wisbech.[289]

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".[290]

Wisbech Merchants' Trail was updated and released as a map and booklet and as a free mobile app in August 2019. There are 17 brass plaques at historical sites around the town.[291]

The town council produces an annual Official Town Guide and Map published by Local Authority Publishing Co Ltd. There is also an online version.[292]

ClimateEdit

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
(45)
8
(46)
11
(52)
13
(55)
16
(61)
19
(66)
21
(70)
22
(72)
19
(66)
15
(59)
10
(50)
7
(45)
14
(57)
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.5
(40.1)
5
(41)
7
(45)
9
(48)
12
(54)
14.5
(58.1)
16.5
(61.7)
17
(63)
14.5
(58.1)
11
(52)
7
(45)
4.5
(40.1)
10.2
(50.5)
Average low °C (°F) 2
(36)
2
(36)
3
(37)
5
(41)
8
(46)
10
(50)
12
(54)
12
(54)
10
(50)
7
(45)
4
(39)
2
(36)
6
(44)
Average precipitation cm (inches) 4.5
(1.8)
3
(1.2)
3.3
(1.3)
4
(1.6)
4.6
(1.8)
4.4
(1.7)
4.8
(1.9)
5.2
(2.0)
5.3
(2.1)
5.6
(2.2)
5
(2.0)
4.4
(1.7)
54.1
(21.3)
Average precipitation days 18 15 15 14 13 12 12 12 13 16 17 17 174
Source: World Weather Online[293]

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 and Neighborhood, During the Last Fifty Years - 1848-1898. Gardiner & Co. Retrieved 3 October 2019 – via archive.org.
  • 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 (2000). 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.
  • Andrew Ingram (2002). Wisbech 1800 - 1901. Middleton Press.
  • 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.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ A.D.Mills. Dictionary of English Place-names. 1998. ISBN 0-19-280074-4.
  2. ^ "Caledonian Mercury". www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  3. ^ ed JJ Wilkes and CR Elrington (1978). A history of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely vol VII. OUP.
  4. ^ Bridget Holmes (2010). Cemeteries, Graveyards And Memorials. The Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd.
  5. ^ J. Bentham, Hist. Ely, 87.
  6. ^ [Wisbech: Manors', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4: City of Ely; Ely, N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds (2002), pp. 243–245.]
  7. ^ "Wisbech". Local Histories. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  8. ^ Shirley Carter (2018). The mystery of King John’s treasure.
  9. ^ Lysons, Samuel (18 August 2018). "Magna Britannia;: Being a Concise Topographical Account of the Several Counties of Great Britain". T. Cadell and W. Davies. Retrieved 18 August 2018 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Salzman, LF (1967). The Victoria History of the count is of England: Cambridge and the isle of Ely vol II. Dawson's of Pall Mall.
  11. ^ "The Wisbech Society & Preservation Trust, The Castle". Wisbech-society.co.uk. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  12. ^ Lucy Aikin (1822). Memoirs of the court of James I. Longman.
  13. ^ "Mayflower passenger list". Mayflower 400. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  14. ^ George Anniss (1977). A history of Wisbech Castle. EARO.
  15. ^ "Special Collections". Cambridge University Library. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
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