One of the best pints I know of....
Wisbech has been blessed by the gods in the beer department.
The Elgoods brewery on North brink churns our some great real-ales, and still holds true to being a small regonal brewer. It has about 50 or so tied pubs where you can sample the delights of its brewmasters.
The brewery itself now run brewery tours (Tues-thurs) during the summer months. There is also an impressive four acre garden at the rear of the brewery that can be enjoyed.
I've sunk a few of it's wares over the years, but the brewery visit remains a must for another day. I'll report on it more extensively when I do. Still, beer is the thing - you don't need to admiring the mantlepiece when your stoking the fire !
- Beer Tasting
One forminable lady....
Not to be confused with Fanny Hill, Octavia Hill was a lady of extreme Victorian worthiness. Sometimes referred to (somewhat clumsily) as the 'Florence Nightingale of Victorian social housing', this lady certainly led a very full life.
As one of the co-founders of the National trust, her house has now become a museum to both her and the organisation she worked hard to bring into existence.
Entry is a couple of quid - and you are supporting a very worthwhile charity.
Reallly lovely gardens
Sourbugger is not exactly the sort of man who gets excited about gardens. His idea of gardening is the use of a petrol-driven stimmer and a cement mixer - just to keep the weeds back. Any, hey, anyway - arn't weeds just plants in the wrong place at the wrong time ?
Having said that, the grounds of Peckover house on North brink are a wonderful oasis. The house itself, a National trust property, is Georgian mansion - but it is the grounds that really lift the place.
They don't appear overly formal, as various plants, fruit trees and other such green stuff congeal to present a very 'natural' setting within the walled enclosure. The converted barn also lends itself well to being a good little cafe - I would recommend the homemade soup.
The centre of town is a very quiet circle, now called The Crescent. The centre of The Crescent is the location of the original Wisbech Castle, now long disappeared and now home to Castle House, an interesting building in its own right. The castle was originally built by the Normans in 1072, but by the late 17th Century, it had been replaced by an elegant mansion for a local dignitary; in turn this was demolished in 1816 although some garden walls remain.
The facades of the buildings around The Crescent are marvellous: a rather unique Georgian facade from the 1790s, spoilt only by the staggeringly bad architecture of the Wisbech Library at one point. The little gardens at the north end form a quiet place for a picnic, although the large palm tree is a little incongruous here in the Capital of the Fens!
On the other side of the castle, in front of the Wisbech Museum and in front of the church is a small square, again with elegant buildings. It must be one of the prettiest little areas of East Anglia.
There are two town history trails, both of which take about an hour to complete. They can also be combined for an afternoon's history-seeking.
Pick up a brochure (it also doubles as a town map) from the Tourism Information Bureau in the square by the bridge. Note that this map is also very handy if you are using Pevsner's Cambridgeshire to explore the town.
The Clarkson Memorial
It is always easy to walk past memorials and statues - they were erected long ago to dead people - but it is well worth stopping at the Clarkson Memorial on Bridge Street.
If the Peckovers are the first family of Wisbech, then the most admired son is Thomas Clarkson, who was at forefront of the campaign to abolish slavery in the late 18th Century. His essay "Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting?", submitted while he was at St Johns, Cambridge, was taken up and publicized by the Quaker movement who had already been actively campaigning for the abolition of slavery. Eventually that campaign was to end with slavery being abolished in Britain and, more importantly, in all Britain's colonies as well. Nearby Ely has Oliver Cromwell, but Wisbech people are justifiably proud of Clarkson, and the monument in the centre of town, by the bridge, is a fitting tribute to the man who set the whole ball rolling.
The memorial was built in 1881 to a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott and most appropriately, it was on the site of the old Custom House.
Appropriately, one of the best parts of the Wisbech Museum is the set of rooms dedicated to the Abolition of Slavery, in which Clarkson's essential role is detailed. As a little additional snippet, one of Clarkson’s descendants is still active in the Anti-Slavery society.
One of the most notable local legend concerns the lost treasure of King John. He travelled widely around his kingdom and in those days it took some time to get around, so for security, the crown jewels and national treasures were carried around with the king.
When visiting Norfolk in 1279, his baggage train, complete with all the treasure, was following the causeway and ford alongside the River Nene at Wisbech. The train was crossing the Wellstream on the ford when the tide turned trapping and eventually washing away the wagon train with all the treasure.
many searches have been launched over many centuries to recover this treasure: not a single piece has ever been found.
Unlime many towns and cities, Wisbech tends to turnits back on the River Nene: no pavement cafes and boat rides here. It is difficult because, as in London with The Thames, the river is tidal and the tidal range is substantial. This means the river rises and falls inside its fixed channel and the river walls need to be high enough to keep out the very highest storm tides.The river is, therefore, always 'down below' and out of sight for most of the time. In Wisbech, having the River Nene lapping at your feet would be cause for very serious fear rather than a cappucino and croissant.
Over the centuries, the quayside below the Town Bridge was developed for loading and unloading ships. Warehouses were built all along the banks, and several survive, notably just downstream of the bridge on both banks of the river. The two most substantial buildings are now converted into apartments.
The port moved over the years to the north of the city and currently the main industrial port is about 1km away, but it doesn't take much imagination to picture all those sailing ships moored up - there was room for 40 of them at any one time - just below the Town Bridge.
Wisbech Museum is a bit of an oddball place: the ladies at the enrance very sternly warn you not to take photographs. "Hello to you too, dear".
There is a staggeringly huge selection of artefacts in the museum and it is all very interesting, but there is just too much to take in. There seem to be thousands of labels - all very interesting and educational but all very Victorian (with everything in glass cabinets as well). While I was there some teenagers came and went through the museum in just two minutes, not stopping anywhere, which is sad.
Peckover House, built in the 1720s, was home to one of the town's most distinguished families, the Peckovers. The house, sitting on The North Brink, overlooking the River Nene as it sweeps through the town, is both attractive but also austere, with dark bricks. The front garden is edges with wonderful iron railings and a small garden - behind the house is a couple of acres of beautiful gardens.
The Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul
This is a fine example of parish church architecture. Parts of it date back to the 12th century, while others were completed during the 15th. The stained-glass windows are Victorian. The surrounding gardens are as beautiful as the church itself.
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Resembling the more famous Crescent in Bath, this row of 19th century houses partly encircles Wisbech Castle. Like the Castle, is was built by Joseph Medworth in 1816. It is one of Wisbech's most prominent features.
Like so many buildings throughout Europe, this is not the first to occupy the site. In fact, the original castle was built by the Normans in 1087. The second building was a Tudor palace for the bishops of Ely. The third one was built for John Thurloe, who served as Oliver Cromwell's chief of intelligence and Secretary of State.
The present structure was built by Joseph Medworth in 1816, using materials from the Thurloe house. So it's the fourth building here on this site--and still called Wisbech Castle.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
PECKOVER HOUSE GARDENS
Many visitors to Peckover House come solely to see the gardens, amazingly for a town centre property the gardens cover two acres, and are surrounded by a wall
there are several `rooms` or seperated gardens with interesting planting, and a beautiful orangery, there is also a 16th century reed barn, now housing a coffee shop
there are several events throughout the year focusing on the garden, including a seed hunt in late September where you can gather seeds from the plants and try to recreate the gardens at home
- Historical Travel
this wonderful Georgian house with a large walled garden was built in 1722. there are several rooms open for public viewing, and although none of the furniture is original to the house it has been sympathetically furnished with period pieces, and the room stewards are helpful and enthusiastic about the property and well versed in its history
in the library are photograph albums from the family which give interesting glimpses of life in the 19th century, at one time a small bank was owned and managed by the owners before the offices were moved further along the street, the bank after several mergers became part of Barclays bank, weekend visitors may be lucky enough to time their visit with that of a lady who comes in and plays the lovely grand piano in the library
Peckover House is owned and run by the National Trust, there may be limited opening times, so check the website for current information, also for details of the various events that are held at the house during the year
entrance to the house and gardens costs £9 for adults, there is limited parking on North Brink, but the house is well signposted from the towns car parks
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits