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Wisbech

[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868]
by Colin Hinson ©2013

"WISBECH comprises the parishes of St. Augustine, St. Mary, and St. Peter. It is a seaport, municipal borough, and market town, in the hundred of the same name, Isle of Ely, county Cambridge, 25 miles north of Ely, and 40 from Cambridge. It is situated in the Fens, on the river Nene and Wisbech canal, near the Norfolk border, and is connected by several branch lines of railway, with the Great Eastern and Midland lines. In the Saxon times it was called Wisbec, and was given by Osway in 1000 to Ely abbey. The Conqueror built a castle here in 1071, which was rebuilt by the bishops of Norwich, who made it their palace in the fifteenth century. On several occasions it has been inundated by the sea, and was shaken by an earthquake in 1750. It was first chartered by Edward VI., and was fortified by Cromwell. Under the Municipal Reform Act it is divided into the north and south wards, including part of Walsoken, and is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, with the style of "burgesses of the borough of Wisbech."" (There is more of this description).

"MURROW, (or Morrowe) a hamlet in the parish and hundred of Wisbech, Isle of Ely, county Cambridge, 6 miles south-west of Wisbech. (see also Southea with Murrow Parish pages)

"THORNEY TOLL, a hamlet in the parish of Wisbech, county Cambridge, 4 miles east of Thorney. (This was formerly a toll gate on what is now the A47)."

[Transcribed and edited information from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868]

Archives and Libraries

  • Wisbech and Fenland Museum
    Museum Square
    WISBECH
    Cambs
    PE13 1ES

    Telephone:- U.K. 01945 583817, Overseas +44 1945 583817
    Fax: - U.K. 01945 589050, Overseas +44 1945 589050

Bibliography

  • "Medicine in Wisbech and the Fens" edited by Jane Arthur, Curator and librarian, Wisbech and Fenland Museum, published by Seagull Enterprises, ISBN 0 948147 00 8.
  • "The Parish Church of St. Peter & St. Paul, Wisbech" by Wim Zwalf, published by the Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 4 1.
  • "The Clarksons of Wisbech and the abolition of the slave trade" by Ellen Gibson Wilson, published by the Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 0 9.
  • "Octavia Hill 1838-1912 Born in Wisbech" by Peter Clayton, published by the Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 1 7.
  • "Richard Young of Wisbech 1809-1871" by Roger Powell, published by the Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 3 3
  • "The Peckovers of Wisbech" by Madeline G H McReynolds, published by the Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 2 5

Cemeteries

  • "There is a cemetery of about 4 acres, belonging to and situated near the church, and another of 6 acres on the Leverington road, known as the Wisbech General Cemetery which is the property of a private company, each has a mortuary chapel, and grounds planted with shrubs and evergreens: a third, formed by Town Council acting as a Burial Board, was opened the October 31, 1881, at Mount Pleasant, and contains an area of 11 acres and a mortuary chapel."
  • "The parish church and churchyard, part of the church cemetery and the Unitarian burial grounds were closed against interments by Order in Council, May 25, 1855."
    Kelly's Directory - Cambridgeshire - 1929

Census

Charities

  • "The Wisbech charities comprise the following:-
    • Thomas Parke, by will, in 1628, gave his house, in Ship lane, Wisbech, for the poor of the parish. The endowment now consists of £1,362 17s. 11d. Consols, and2 acres of land in Wisbech, producing a yearly income of about £49: the net income is appropriated to the purchase of clothing for the poor.
    • In the year 1638, William Holmes gave £400 to the burgesses of Wisbech, to be invested in land, and the rest applied for the iuaintenance of two scholars at St Mary Magdalene College in the University of Cambridge and for binding out poor children apprentices; and by his will, in 1656, directed that the whole yearly income of the said land, after payment of 20s annually to the said college, should be paid yearly towards the maintenance of the said scholars. The estate now consists of £7,252 Stock and farmhouse and buildings, with 46 acres of land in Holbeach, Lincolnshire, called the Clays Farm. The income, amounting to about £300 forms part of the endowment of the Wisbech Grammar School, under a scheme of the Charity Commissioners, November, 1878.
    • In the year 1656, William Holmes gave by will £300 to the capital burgesses of Wisbech, to be lent out in income sums of £10 each to poor tradesmen, free of interest, upon their giving good security for repayment. This has been invested, the income amounting to about £23.
    • John Crane, by will, in 1651, gave to the town of Wisbech his house called "the Black Bull," one half of the revenue to amend the schoolmaster's wages, and the other moiety to be laid out in the purchase of corn and to be given to the poor about Christmas or New Year's Day. In the year 1802 the Corporation sold the estate and invested the proceeds. The charity estate now consists of £1,659 Stock and 8 acres of land in Wisbech High Fen. The gross income is about £65, one moiety of which forms part of the endowment of the Grammar School, and the other moiety is distributed in flour and coals to the poor on or about St. Thomas' Day, annually; he also directed his executors to buy lands, which he gave to the five corporations therein mentioned (Wisbech being one), the revenue every fifth year to he bestowed on honest poor men in prison for debt, or old women, or the relief of poor men in want, or to relieve them out of prison for debt: the charity estate consists of an estate in Fleet, Lincolnshire, consisting of 176 acres of land, Wisbech receiving about £55 net annually for its one-fifth share of the rents: he also directed his executors to buy lands, the revenues whereof, every fifth year (until it amounted to £300 Stock), he gave to the town of Wisbech, to be lent freely to young men to help to set them up, in sums of £20 free of interest.
    • John Baxter, by his will, in 1793, gave to the capital burgesses of Wisbech all the interest arising from his property in the English funds to allow annually £10 each to a poor old man or woman totally incapacitated for labour, with an injunction that they attend divine worship every Sunday. The estate consists of £1,428 Stock, and produces an income of £35 14s. 4d. and there are four annuitants, each in receipt of £10 yearly from this and other sources.
    • The Shambles Estate, in the Market place, Wisbech, was granted by Queen Elizabeth, lady of the manor, for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Wisbech. The capital burgesses, in the year 1810, for the purpose of improving the town, purchased the estate; the purchase money was invested in £500 Stock, the income thereof being distributed annually in clothing to the poor.
    • The King's Dole.-By the governing charter of the town of Wisbech, granted 21st Car. II. it was ordained that the capital burgesses should distribute annually amongst the poor inhabitants of the town £3 15s. out of the rents of their estates.
    • Bartholomew Edwards, by his will, 1583, gave £10, and John Williamson, by will, dated 1599, gave £40, to the Body Corporate of Wisbech for the use of the poor.
    • Margaret Bende, by will, 1605, gave £50 to the Body Corporate of Wisbech for the use of the poor: of the income, amounting to £1 5s. 4d., is paid to the poor of Leverington, Parson Drove, and the remainder to the poor of Wisbech St. Mary.
    • John Thurlue, in the year 1656, gave £150 to the Corporation of Wisbech, the interest thereof to be applied in putting out three apprentices annually.
    • Lord Saye and Sele, in the year 1656, gave £100 to the Corporation of Wisbech, the interest thereof to be applied in clothing poor people yearly.
    • Richard Boyce, by will in 1669, gave 15 acres of land in Wisbech High Pen to the capital burgesses for clothing poor widows; the rent is now £28 yearly.
    • Richard Loake, by will in 1701, gave £200 to the capital burgesses of Wisbech, the interest of £100 to be annually expended in clothing five poor widows or housekeepers, and of the other £100 to be distributed by the churchwardens amongst the poor. The income amounts to £5 yearly.
    • William Scottred, by will dated 1603, gave 10 acres of land in Wisbech St. Mary, the rent, amounting to £26 a year, to be paid to the churchwardens for the use of the poor.
    • The Rev. Abraham Jobson D.D. in the year 1827, gave to the Body Corporate of Wisbech £1,000, the interest to be applied to the purposes and objects of the Wisbech Dorcas Society; the income, about £25 5s. 8d. yearly, is paid over to the treasurer of the society.
    • Elizabeth Stevens, by will dated 1835, gave to the Corporation of Wisbech £500 to be invested, and the interest to be paid to 15 poor widows : the endowment consists of £498 14s. 11d. Stock : the income, now £12 9s. 4d. yearly, is distributed accordingly. John Johnson, by a codicil dated 3rd July, 1841, gave the sum of £200 to be invested, and the distributed annually upon St. Thomas's day, in sums of 5s. each, to poor widows belonging to or residing in the borough of Wisbech, who are judged to be most deserving of such relief. The money was invested in Consols, and the income amounts to £4 13s.
    • There are 12 almshouses in Wisbech, erected by the Corporation, containing upper and lower rooms, for 24 aged persons.
    • Elizabeth Wright, spinster, by will in 1732, gave to trustees certain estates in Wisbech and the adjoining parishes of Leverington, Parson Drove, Sutton, Gedney, Wisbech St. Mary and Tydd St. Mary, the rents and profits thereof to be applied, partly in support of the charity schools, and partly for distribution amongst poor women living in good credit and reputation and attending at church. The income, amounting to about £312 yearly, is applied according to the directions of the will.
    • Judith Mayer, spinster, by will in the year 1811, gave to trustees £500 to erect a building to be used as an asylum, to be called after her name, for the reception of such poor persons of Wisbech afflicted with palsy, rheumatism, gout, blindness or other complaints, as a lasting token of her good wishes and regard for the town and its inhabitants; she also gave to the capital burgesses and to the vicar and churchwardens the sum of £1,200, to be invested and the dividends applied towards the support and repair of such building, as well as for the use and benefit of the occupants and for the purchase of coals annually. The trustees, in 1815, built an asylum, consisting of 5 tenements; each occupant receives £10 a year and an allowance of coals."
      Kelly's Directory - Cambridgeshire - 1929

Church Records

  • There is an index containing roughly 1978 baptisms, 1868 burials and 1211 marriages cross referenced under both the groom's and bride's name. This make a total for this index of roughly of 6281 names. The index is filed in strict alphabetical order by both Surname and First Names and is called The Wisbech Index.

  • For other church records please look under the relevant parish.

Description and Travel

  • "The Corn Exchange, Cornhill, is now also the Town Hall. The Cattle Market on the Chapel road, formed at a cost of £2,300: the Corn Market day is Saturday: cattle markets are held on Thursdays and Saturdays weekly, and fairs on the Saturday after the end of Lynn, February 14th fair, which lasts seven days ; the second Thursday in May and July 25th for horses and the first Thursday in August for beasts the third Wednesday in September for hiring. There is an annual fat-stock show, held in December.
  • The Custom House for the port, with a customs officer, is in York row.
  • The "United Good Fellowship" (No. 809) Lodge of Freemasons, to which there is a Chapter attached, hosts its meetings at the Rose and Crown hotel, on the 4th Wednesday in the months of Oct. Nov. Jan. Feb. March and 1st Wednesday in May (Installation).
  • The Fire Brigade possesses two motor pumps, one fire engine, one motor lorry and a fire escape ; the engine house is in Lower Hill street, keys being kept in a box over the door at the Fire station, 7 Lower Hill street a maroon is fired on the outbreak of a fire.
  • The Museum and Literary Institution, in Museum square, is open from 10 to 5 in summer and 10 to 4 in winter. The Literary Institution was established in 1780, and the Museum in 1835, and they were amalgamated in 1877: the collections include Egyptian antiquities, flint and bronze implements, Romano-British British querns and urns and Anglo-Saxon fibulæ, besides a valuable collection of ceramics bijouterie, articles of vertu and coins bequeathed to the museum in 1869 by the Rev C H Townsend: in British ornithology the collection comprising many rare Fen birds, is nearly complete; the specimens of marine and fresh water fish taken in the river and in the Wash are extensive and curious, there are also some fine mineralogical and geological specimens and collections of natural history and autographs, and a beautiful collection of Staffordshire figures.
  • The North Cambridgeshire Hospital, adjoining and overlooking the park is a structure of brick with lodge and detached nurses home built and furnished by the munificence of Miss M B Trafford Southwell, of Honington Hall, Grantham, at a cost of about £8,000, and opened October 2nd, 1873: a new wing and balconies were added in 1914 at the expense of Frank Mills esq. and a children's ward and balcony were presented by Mr. R. W. Green in 1926. The foundress endowed the hospital with a sum of £6,000, which was augmented by donations to the amount of £10,000: there are beds for 50 patients and an outpatients' department, opened in 1904.
  • The Working Men's Club and Institute, Lower Hill street, originally a private dwelling house, was opened January 5th, 1864, and subsequently enlarged; a new smoking room was added in 1891; attached is a tower of brick and stone, 100 feet high, containing an illuminated clock and chimes, with 24 bells playing 26 tunes, erected by Mr. James Dann, of this town: the building comprises a lecture hall, reading, smoking, conversation and class rooms, library of about 5,000 volumes, gymnasium and a residence for the hall keeper; in connection with the institute are horticultural, fur and feather, coal, holiday and Christmas clubs, as well as clubs for cricket, football, gymnastic exercise, draughts and chess; various educational classes are also held here there were in 1929, 1,583 members.
  • The memorial to Thomas Clarkson M.A. the indefatigable advocate for the abolition of the slave trade, was erected at a cost of £2,035, raised by subscription from the designs of the late Sir George Gilbert Scott R.A.: the first stone was laid 28 Oct. 1880, and the memorial unveiled 1 Nov. 1881: it consists of a statue, mounted on a platform above which rises a canopy, terminating in a spire, the whole being 68 feet high: on three sides of the base are carved bas-reliefs, representing respectively Wilberforce, Granville Sharp and a manacled slave in a beseeching attitude: the fourth side tears an inscription to this distinguished philanthropist, who was born at Wisbech 26 March, 1760, and died at Playford Hall, near Ipswich, 26 Sept. 1846.
  • In the Crescent is a Celtic cross of Aberdeen granite erected in 1921 at a cost of £1,036, in memory of the men of Wisbech who fell in the Great War, 1914-18. A fund was also instituted for the benefit of the children of the fallen, this being vested in trustees.
  • A park, with pleasure grounds, comprising an area of it acres, planted with shrubs, flowers and evergreens, was opened in 1870, at a cost of £3,769 18s. 10d. of which sum the land cost £2,400, the remainder being expended in enclosing and ornamenting: the memorial column erected in the park in 1871 to Richard Young esq. M.P. blown down and shattered by a storm in December 1883, was repaired at a cost of £117, raised by subscription."
    [Kelly's Directory - Cambridgeshire - 1900]
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Historical Geography

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Maps

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Military History

Names, Geographical

  • "WALDERSEA is a district consisting of about 5.040 acres, the whole of which is drained into the river Nene by an engine of 120 horse power; the engine house is on the South Brink, about 3 miles from Wisbech.
  • NEW WALSOKEN, in the county of Norfolk, is an eastern portion of Wisbech, and is separated from it by the Wisbech canal, over which are bridges connecting the two places. The names of residents in the New Walsoken are given in Kelly's directory of Norfolk."
    Kelly's Directory - Cambridgeshire - 1929

Names, Personal

  • A book entitled "The Clarksons of Wisbech and the abolition of the slave trade" by Ellen Gibson Wilson, published by the Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 0 9, details the Clarkson's family's fight against the slave trade.
  • A book entitled "Octavia Hill 1838-1912 Born in Wisbech" by Peter Claytonn, published by the Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 1 7, details Octavia Hills life.
  • A book entitled "Richard Young of Wisbech 1809-1871" by Roger Powell, published by the Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 3 3, details the Richard Young's rise from sluicekeeper to sheriff.
  • A book entitled "The Peckovers of Wisbech" by Madeline G H McReynolds, published by the Wisbech Society and Preservation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 2 5, details the the times of the Quaker banking family.
    Kelly's Directory - Cambridgeshire - 1929

Schools

  • Wisbech Grammar School was founded in 1379 by the Guild of the Holy Trinity and is thus one of the oldest schools in the country. Its origins are enshrined in the school badge. For more than six hundred years the school has played its part in the life of the town, and its presence was the vital factor in the granting in 1549 of a Charter for Wisbech.
  • The first scholars met in 1379 in a small room over the south porch of the Church of St Peter and St Paul. The school has occupied a number of sites in the town, but by 1898 it was located in premises on the South Brink of the River Nene. In 1905 Wisbech High School was established in Harecroft House on the North Brink, formerly a home of the Peckover family. The High School provided the same educational opportunities for girls that the Grammar School offered to boys.
  • For sixty-five years the two schools developed along parallel lines and in 1970 they were amalgamated. The boys moved across the river to share extended premises on the North Brink, and the new school has continued to build upon the traditions of both former establishments.
  • On 12 January 1983 the Secretary of State for Education and Science granted Independent Status for the school with effect from 1 September 1983.