Houses of Interest: Cambridgeshire

The entry for Camridgeshire is supplemented by the separate entries for Cromwell's House, the Cromwell Museum,and the entry for Cambridge itself.

St Andrews Church, Northborough is where Cromwell's widow, Elizabeth Cromwell is buried. Her memorial stone is all but worn away, little more than 'ell' remaining visible. A plaque dedicated to her by the Cromwell Association is on the wall nearby.

St Ives market place boasts a very fetching statue of Cromwell.

No cheating! All four Cromwell statues feature in ECWtravelogue posts - can you find them? No prizes I'm afraid, just a smug feeling of superiority

St Neots Market Square on the other hand, saw most of the action of the battle of St Neots in the Second Civil War. 1648 the Kent and Welsh uprisings have gone badly, Pontefract and Colchester are under siege; so the Earl of Holland decides to raise a force to take London while the New Modelled Army is distracted. Sadly he doesn't get the numbers of men that he was hoping for, and Holland's 400 horse were scattered by London's men in Surrey. Half their number regrouped at St Neots. Fairfax dispatched 100 horse under Colonel Scrope to make sure that the Royalists did not get a foothold in the midlands. Scrope attacked Holland's pickets in the wee small hours of the 10th July. Scrope's men quickly overwhelmed the defences and literally caught the majority of Holland's men napping in the market place. Holland was captured, many Royalists were killed in the fighting, and of those that fled several drowned trying to cross the River Great Ouse.

Wisbech Castle was once a motte and bailey castle that morphed over time into a bishop's palace, a prison, then into the building that now stands upon the site. The castle has recently been taken over by Wisbech Castle Project who hope to restore the much neglected building back to the community. It is possible to visit the Castle's café; for hire as a wedding venue; and guided tours are available by appointment.

The Castle was fortified and garrisoned for Parliament during the Wars; it was then rebuilt as a home for John Thurloe, Cromwell’s Secretary of State.

Peterborough declared for Charles in 1642, which seems a little odd as the County is readily associated with the Eastern Association, and some fellow called Cromwell. 

There are some very well preserved timber framed buildings on Cumbergate, which saw the events that unfolded in the town. 

The market square is dominated by the guildhall, dating from the 1670s; both Essex and Rupert are 'immortalised' on the facade of the Edwardian building that now houses Pizza Express.

I must confess that I wondered why Essex and Rupert appeared on a building in Peterborough; the Cromwell Museum informed me a little of the history of these figures. 'Essex' is modelled on the statute of Cromwell that stands outside Westminster, and 'Rupert' has more of a pssing resemblance to his uncle the King. The figures are incorrectly labelled - they should be Cromwell and King Charles (both of whom have a connection to Peterborough unlike Essex and Rupert). 

This up and coming Colonel Cromwell would take the town on the 18th April 1643. Cromwell was quartered in the house at the Vineyard (at the back of the Cathedral precincts) and his men in what is now the Cathedral. Symon Gunton reported that Cromwell was confined to bed for several days at the Vineyard after riding under a low gateway in the precincts and forgetting to duck. There is no public access to the Vineyard, tantalising glimpses of the property can be seen through the trees.

The Vineyard is there, I promise

The Cathedral was used as accommodation for his men. 

Looking through King's Lodging towards the Cathedral

They vandalised the perceived 'Papist trappings' of the Cathedral breaking almost all the stained glass; destroying the medieval choir stalls; demolishing the high altar, the cloisters and Lady Chapel. 

Some of the stained glass survived the destruction (most of the visible stained glass is Victorian)
The Orme family monument, damaged by soldiers

The mediaeval library and its contents were burnt, just one book being saved.

The saving of a book from the library, commemorated in stained glass in the Chapel of St Benedict

Another building in the Cathedral precinct had another role to play at the end of the War: The King’s Lodging reputedly played host to a captive Charles on route to Holdenby House.

A few miles outside Peterborough is Horsey Hill fort which is very well preserved, five bastioned sconce. Rather than the more usually seen four bastioned such as the Queen’s Sconce in Newark. The sconce is private property, and hidden by dense vegetation. It is best viewed from the road, approached from King’s Dyke layby/truckstop. This is a fast road, with no stopping or parking. The sconce gives up the briefest of glimpses of its shape and form. For the best views of the sconce (this is true for sconces and earthworks) visit satellite mapping apps such as Google Earth, occasionally drone footage is posted online.

Part of the ditch visible from the road - really doesn't do the site justice...

... my photo was taken roughly where the 'H' is on the plan

Horsey Hill from Google Earth 2008

Burghley House, one of England’s best surviving Tudor houses (house is a bit of a misnomer, palace might be more appropriate) was besieged in 1643.

29th July 1643 William Ingler, Certaine Informations:
“Out of Lincolnshire the Relation is come, that the Newarke Cavaliers with strong forces, were gotten into Burleigh House neer Stamford… But Colonell Cromwell being unwilling that they should nestle there, with all the strength he could get, came upon them, tookethe said House, and in it two Colonells, sixe Captaines, four hundred foote, and two hundred horse…”
What’s there now?
The damage caused by Cromwell’s cannon on the south frontage of the House was repaired by enclosing a gallery and inserting arched windows. Inside the House there are a number of interesting portraits (mostly after the style of Van Dyck) including a portrait of Charles, and there is a fine portrait of Cromwell. Highlight has to be the miniature of Queen Henrietta Maria.

After the taking of Burghley, Cromwell’s men took revenge upon many churches in the area (who had apparently aided the Burghley Royalists by sending messages): rectors were cleared from their positions and many churches were vandalised at St Peter’s in Yaxley they urinated in the font and baptized a horse.

March Sconce is accessible to the public. A popular dog exercising area might be best to watch where you walk. Sadly no easily distinguishable bastions, the site has had a confusing history: remains of strip farming and medieval occupation cloud the visible earthworks. Information boards and artist’s impressions help make sense of the site.

Tort Hill in Sawtry was the site of a gun emplacement that commanded the Great North Road (which it still does, even though it is now the A1(M)). Park at the local church and follow the footpath which heads north easterly towards the A1(M).

Upware Sconce commands the River access to the north of Cambridge, little to see on the ground or from satellite imagery, the site can be accessed from the car park at the end of Old School Lane.

Woodcroft Castle, now a private residence, and is hidden from view by mature trees (another site best viewed on the internet). Woodcroft was the setting for a desperate story during the Second Civil War: Parliamentarian forces led by Colonel Thomas Waite cornered Dr Michael Hudson, a Royalist commander, and fifteen of his men. Waite’s men made it into the castle after a 48 hour siege by successfully employing a petard, Hudson would not surrender and died on the castle’s roof.

Postcodes for SatNavs
St Andrews Church, Church St, Northborough PE6 9BN
Market Place, St Ives PE27 5AD
Market Square, St Neots PE19 2BQ
Wisbech Castle, The Crescent, Wisbech PE13 1ES
Cumbergate, Peterborough PE1 1YR
Peterborough Cathedral PE1 1XS
Vineyard PE1 1XU
King’s Lodging PE1 1XS
St Peter’s Church Yaxley PE7 3LH
Tort Hill (All Saints Church), Sawtry PE28 5RD
Horsey Hill Fort PE7 2PP
March Sconce, March PE15 9BW 
Upware Sconce, Old School Lane CB7 5ZR 
Woodcroft Castle, Peterborough PE6 7HA 

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  1. Replies
    1. Certainly if you can add one of (or both) Cromwell museums in, it would be a good day out.


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