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Legends and traditions of Huntingdonshire online

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had their origin in a "Fairy Morgana." Similar
legends prevail in Warwickshire, and at Caistor castle,
in Norfolk. At Lindisfarne, they speak of a spectral
troop of " goatriders, cowled, black, short, and hideous,
with gibing faces."

(JDI&apter XXI^*


The Christian world was celebrating the great
festival of the Epiphany, in the year 1536, when
Lady Willoughby started from London to ride along
the road, infested with robbers, into Huntingdonshire.
The reason of her journey was that Queen Catharine,
the true and lawful wife of Henry VIIL, was lying
ill extremis, in Kimbolton Castle, and Lady Willoughby,
a former attendant of Her Majesty, had been com-
missioned by the contemptible Henry to visit her.
Lady Willoughby was a Spaniard by birth, with a
heart full of love for the Queen, and full of indigna-
tion at the wrongs which had been heaped upon her.
She no sooner heard of the Queen's illness than, dis-
regarding all formalities, braving all dangers, she
journeyed along dangerous and almost impassable






Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 173

roads until she arrived within sight of Kimbolton
Castle. At that time it was " a very strong place in
a cross country valley, guarding the road from St.
Neots into the north-west and from Bedford to Hunt-
ingdon, a house buried in wood, with an open upland
to the east and west, each knoll of which was crowned
with either abbey tower or village spire. It was a
gi'een bright country, full of deer and birds, and fen
waterfowl, but open to the marsh winds, and asking
for its dwellers, who would keep in health, a good
deal of exercise on horse and foot." It was at the
principal gate of this castle that Lady Willoughby
knocked for admittance. But Sir Edmund Beding-
field, who, with Sir Edward Chamberlain, had been
appointed one of the keepers of the injured Queen,
required the King's authority, for he had been com-
missioned to admit no one to the castle except they
brought with them a written authoritv from the
bigamous King. Lady Willoughby had no snch
authority. If she had ever had it, in her haste to get
beside her beloved mistress, she had come away with-
out it. What was Sir Edmund Bedingfield to do ?
Night was fast closing around. He could not turn
Lady Willoughby away, and leave her to find her way
back to London as best she could. He resolved to
risk the King's displeasure, and admitted her to Queen
Catharine's chamber.

174 Legends, etc., of Htmtingdonshire.

Shortly after this Cardinal Chappius, bearing with
him the King's written authority arrived, and he also
was admitted to the Queen's apartments. The visi-
tors at once perceived that the good, the beautiful,
the pious, the Catholic Catharine was fast sinking.
The Cardinal hastened to give her all the consolatory
rites and privileges of the venerable church of
which he was a minister. He stayed by her side
rendering her all the aid in his power to assist her in
her last agony. He heard her confession, gave her
absolution, gave her the holy viaticum of the Body
and Blood of Christ, gave her extreme unction,
anointing her as the holy Scriptures say the ministers
of the Christian church should anoint the sick
Avith holy oil accompanied by prayer, and Queen
Catharine expired amid the tears of her beloved at-
tendants, the Cardinal, Lady Willonghby, and her
two keepers. Sir Edward Chamberlain and Sir Edmund

She had not dwelt long at Kimbolton Castle— only
two short years. When King Henry put her away from
him,* she went to live at Buckden palace, built after

^Heurj-'s plea was that she had been the loift of his Brother
Arthur, and his conscience was too delicate to allow him to
remain her husband. The canon law forbids a man to marry
his deceased brother's wife. There was, however, the clearest
proof that Catharine's marriage with Arthur, who had died
at the age of 14, had never been consummated, therefore in the

Legends, etc., of Hun iingdofis hire. 175

the style of Hampton Court, but she afterwards de-
sired a different residence. Three places were offered
her, one was Fotheringhay Castle — which had not
then been stained by the blood of another Catholic
Queen — a second was the palace of the Bishop of
Ely at Somersham, and the third was Kimbolton
Castle. It is perhaps difficult to say why she selected
Kimbolton. But having selected it, she removed
there in 1533, with such of her attendants and
servants as Henry allowed her to retain.

Shortly before her death she begged that she might
see her daughter Mary. It was the dying request of
a mother to see her only child. King Henry had the
inhuman cruelty to deny his wife this last request,
and she died without seeing her child. She had
begged that she might be buried in one of the
churches of the Observantine Monks, but Henry dis-
regarded this request also, and her remains were re-
moved to Peterborough Cathedral. A plain slab, with

strict sense of the word she had never been the wife, of the
King's brother. Upon this evidence — and it must have been
conclusive to have satisfied the Sovereign Pontiff — a dispen-
sation was issued and the marriage between Henry and
Catharine took place. ** What God hath joined together let
no man put asunder." The Pope caonot and does not claim
to grant dispensations from the Divine law. It was there-
fore impossible for him to accede to King Henry's plea. The
Catholic church knows of no such thing as divorce so that
the divorced parties can marry again. Marriage is indis-
soluble, except by death.

176 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

a little bit of brass about one inch wide and six inches
long, with an undecipherable inscription, except that
the word " Catharine " may be discerned, is the only
monument which marks her grave. It is — or rather
was, for when the present restoration of the Cathedral
is completed, it may not be so— at the north door of
the choir. Everybody entering the choir by that
door was obliged to walk on the tomb. Surely the
grave of an English Queen, who was also a virtuous
and pious lady, whose life might be taken as a model
for every English wife and English mother of the
present time, deserves a little more respect than it has
hitherto received.

" The east side of this county," says Camden, " is
adorned with the Castle of Kinnibantum, now Kim-
boltou, anciently the seat of the Magnavilles, after-
wards of the Bohuns and Staffords." Then it came
into possession of the "Wingfields. Sir Richard
Wingfield, K.G., 12th son of Sir John Wingfield, of
Letheringham, in Suffolk, Knight and Chancellor of
the Duchy of Lancaster, married the daughter of
Earl Rivers and widow of the Duke of Buckingham,
after whose attainder he obtained a grant of Kim-
bolton Castle, and lordship from Henry VIIL, with
whom he was highly in favour. He was sent to Spain
as an Ambassador for the English Court, and died
whilst he was there, being buried at Toledo. His son,

Legends y etc., of Hunti7igdonshire. 177

Sir James Wingfield, sold Kimbolton Castle to Sir
Henry Montagu, who was afterwards created Earl of
Manchester, and his lineal descendant, the present
Duke of Manchester, is now the owner. The family
of Montagu did not, however, have its origin at that
time. It claims descent from the illustrious family of
that name who were powerful Barons at the time
of the Conquest, and were anciently Earls of
Salisbury. The grandfather of Sir Henry Montagu,
who purchased Kimbolton Castle, was a descendant of
an old Northamptonshire family, being the son of
Thomas Montagu, who is buried at Hemington, near
Oundle. He was born at Brigstoclc, and became a
famous Lawyer, Judge, and Speaker of the House of
Commons. It is related of him that the Commons
refused to pass a Bill granting subsidies to Henry
VIII. The Monarch sent for Montagu, aud when
the Speaker appeared and knelt before him, he ex-
claimed, " Ho, will they not let ray Bill pass?" and
laying his hand on the head of Montagu he added,
" Get my Bill to pass by such a time to-morrow, or
else by such a time this head of yours shall be off."
Sir Edward, considering the danger in which he stood,
worked so assiduously that the Bill was passed. He
was Knighted, as also was his son by Queen Elizabeth
in 1567. The Sir Henry Montagu who purchased
Kimbolton was the son of the last named. He be-


178 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

came, like his grandfather, a great lawyer, and in
1620 was created a Baron by the title of Lord
Montagu of Kimbolton and Viscount Mandeville,
" those titles being chosen by him because he was
then in possession of the Castle and Lordship of
Kimbolton, which many ages before had belonged to
the family of Mandeville." Five years afterwards he
was advanced to the dignity of Earl of Manchester.
He is represented as being a remarkably vigorous
man, so that when nearly 80 years of age he was as
active as a young man. His eldest son, Edward,
succeeded to the Castle and estates on the death of
his father, and he was the celebrated Parliamentary
General. In 1641 he was accused at the instigation
of the King of having been guilty of high treason,
five leading members of the House of Commons being
implicated with him. A series of troubles followed,
and he took the side of the Parliament, being given
the charge of the associated counties of Essex, Hert-
ford, Cambridge, Norfolk, SuflFolk, Huntingdon, and
Lincoln, and his army, which consisted of 4,000 or
5,000 men, was supported by the estates of the
Royalist gentry in those counties which had been
seized by the Parliamentarians. He had the com-
mand of a regiment in the battle of Edge Hill, and
was strong enough to reduce King's Lynn, Horncastle,
Lincoln, and other towns which had been holding out;

Legends y etc., of Huntingdonshire. 179

iu loyalty to the King. Credit is given to him for
having been one of the principal agents in obtaining
the victory of Marston Moor. But although he thus
fought valiantly, it appears that he was not a man
after Cromwell's heart. He was not a canting
hypocrite like Cromwell, ready to pillage and murder
with the right hand while he held the Bible in his
left. We consequently read that although much of
the success which had attended the forces of the
Parliament soldiery was due to him that " he was
removed from all trust." Indeed it is pretty certain
that the Earl took no pains to conceal his hatred and
detestation of the many wanton cruelties and barbari-
ties perpetrated by Cromwell. He denounced the
murder of the King and the brutal manner in which
so many excellent men were butchered in cold blood.
If he did not openly acknowledge his regret that he
had taken any part in the rebellion he went a long
way towards it, and he laboured as strenuously for the
restoration of the Monarchy as he had at first fought
for the Commonwealth, When the restoration was
happily effected, the King at once received him into
his favour. His grandson was appointed to an office
in the Court of King James the II,, but resigning
his position, he became a supporter of William, Prince
of Orange, and secured the generalship of the County
of Huntingdon, by raising a body of horse whilst the

i8o Legends y eic.^ of Huntingdonshire.

Prince was landing. He assisted at the coronation of
the Prince, and went to Ireland with him and fought
at the battle of the Boyne. He was creatsd Duke of
Manchester by George I., and since that time there
has been little to disturb the peace of the family.

The origin of the Castle is lost in the vistas of
time. It is conjectured that a fort or military station
stood on the spot during the Roman occupation of
Britain. Leland says of it, " The Castle is double
diked, and the building of it metely strong, it longed
to the Mandevilles, Erles of Essex. Sir Richard
"Wingfield built new fair lodgyus and galleries upon
the old foundation of the Castle. There is a plotte
now clene desolated, not a mile by west from Kim-
bolton, called Castle Hill, where appear ditches and
tokens of old buildings." Brayley says : " Henry
first Earl of Manchester expended large sums in
making it a comfortable residence, and Robert his
grandson the third Earl, made further and very con-
siderable alterations, and many additions." There
are tombs of many of the Montagu's in the Church.


©fjaptcc XXM.


In the ages of faith, when England was called the
Insula Sanctorum, the County of Huntingdon con-
tributed several names to the calendar which, although
now almost forgotten by people in England, and only
remembered in their native County by the places
which are still called by their names, as for instance,
St. Ives, St. Keots, Bottle Bridge, &o., are however
still venerated in all parts of the globe where the
Catholic Church is to be found.


Bottle Bridge, near Peterborough, was the home of
St. Botolph. In the seventh century, there were two
English brothers, Botolph and Adulph, who became
converts to the Catholic faith, and were received as

1 82 Legends, etc., of Huntingdortshire.

inmates of Monasteries in Belgic-Gaul. Adulph be-
came a Bishop, and is at the present day honoured in
France as a Saint on the 17th June ; St. Botolph,
however, had a burning desire to carry to his fellow-
countrymen the same advantages which he possessed.
He returned to England and begged of King Ethel-
mund some barren spot of ground on which to found
a Monastery. The King gave him the wilderness of
Ikanho,now called Bottle Bridge, in Huntingdonshire,*
where he built an Abbey, and where he taught a large
number of disciples the Catholic faith and rules of a
devout life. The spot where the Abbey stood was
afterwards occupied by a parish Church, of which
however nothing now remains but the foundations and
one solitary gravestone. The late Rector of Overton
Longueville (Rev. J. Watson) informed the writer that
the stones which constitute the pavement in the south
aisle of that Church are the gravestones taken from
the old Churchyard of Bottle Bri-lge, and placed with
the inscriptions downwards, and that the whole of
the south aisle of the Church was built by materials
which were brought from the ruins of Bottle Bridge.
St. Botolph died in 655. His Monastery having been
destroyed by the Danes, his relics were carried to the

*Dr. Hickes is of opittion that St. Botolpli lived at Boston,
but the weight of evidence and of probability is in favour of
Bottle Bridge.

Legends, etc, of Huntingdonshire. 183

Monastery of Ely, some to Peterborough, and some
to Thorney. St. Edward the Confessor afterwards
bestowed some portion of them on his own Abbey at
Westminster. Few EngUsh Saints have been more
lionoured by our ancestors. Four parishes in London,
and innumerable others throughout the country, bear
his name. One of the old churches in Huntingdon
was also dedicated to his honour. St, Botolph was
buried at Thorney, and pilgrimages were made to his
Shrine. Some of the relics of the Saint were pre-
served at Peterborough until the Reformation. Fol-
card, a Monk of Thorney, wrote a life of St. Botolph,
which is still preserved in MSS. in the Cottonian


One day, in the tenth century, a fisherman, who
earned his living by fishing in Ramsey Mere, was un-
able to catch any fish. He laboured hour after hour,
but all in vain; either there were no fish to be caught
or the fisherman could not catch them. "Wearied out,
he lay down in his boat and fell asleep, and he was
then visited by a vision of St. Benedict, who told him
as soon as dawn should break to spread his nets once
more and he would secure an abundant supply of fish.
The largest one would be a " Hacaed," which the
fisherman was to carry to his master, Ailwin, as a

184 Legends, etc.^ of Huntingdonshire .

present from St. Benedict, and to tell him that out of
his resourcos and abundance of goods he was to erect
a religious house. The site of the building was to be
indicated in the following manner. Ailwin was to
closely observe how the animals in the Island laid down
when they were weary, and at the spot where a bull
should tear up the ground with its foot that was to be
the site of the altar of the Church. As a sure indi-
cation, Ailwin, who had for many years been dis-
stressed with severe chronic gout, should find himself
quite well, and, to convince him of the truth of the
message, St. Benedict bent the little finger of the
fisherman, telling him that Ailwin would be able to
straighten it again should he seek for a certain sign.
The fisherman, who appears to have had several men
on the boat with him, awoke before day break and
watched for the dawn of day. As soon as the first
streaks of daylight gilded the eastern sky, he com-
manded the men in the boat to lower the nets, and, as
St. Benedict had slated, the net became filled, so that
it was with difficulty dragged to land. The largest
fish was selected and placed in a box, and the fisher-
man carried it to Ailwin and told him all that he had
heard, and, of course, requested him to straighten his
crooked finger to convince him of its truthfulness.
Ailwin heard the story with interest, and found that
he was able to straighten the little finger. Being

Legends y etc., of Hu7itingdonshire. 185

fully convinced that he had received a supernatural
commission, he thanked God and St. Benedict for the
honour conferred upon him. He immediately ordered
his servants to bring him his horse, and rode off to
see in what direction his cattle were lying. He took
a boat and was rowed to the Island. As he landed on
the shore the disease in his feet, with which he had
been distressed for so many years, entirely left him,
and he saw his cattle all lying down at rest in the
form of a cross, and a bull was in the middle. The
latter, rising up, struck the ground three hard blows
with his hoof. This fulfilment of the fisherman's
story fully convinced Ailwin of the truth of the
message, and he at once set about to build a
Monastery, so that within five years of the event, on
Nov. 8th, 974, Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury,
and Oswald, Archbishop of York, consecrated the
Church and dedicated it to the Mother of God and
St. Benedict. From that time until the 1 Gth century
the Church was the home of a Benedictine congrega-
tion, whose great learning and piety made the Abbey
of Ramsey famous throughout the whole country.
Several learned writers were nurtured within its walls,
and its library, which was scattered and destroyed by
those who called themselves Reformers in the 16th
century, is said to have been almost unequalled for its
many valuable MSS.

1 86 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

"stealing" the relics of ST. NEOT.

Mr. Gorham, in his " History of Eyncsbury and
St. Neots,'' gives some details of what he calls
" Stealing " the relics of St. Neot out of Cornwall.
It is unfortunate for Mr. Gorham's work, which is in
most respects a valuable contribution to the History
and Antiquities of the County, that he has allowed
religious prejudice to lead him into several palpable
absurdities. This story of " Stealing " the relics of
the gi'eat St. Neot is one of them, and his record
carries its own refutation.

To St. Neot is generally ascribed the glorious
project of our first and most noble University, in
which he was King Alfred's first adviser. Oxford
University was founded by the King at St. Neot's
suggestion. The Saint himself was of noble parent-
age, and according to many Authors was related to
the King. In his youth he took the Monastic habit
at Glastonbury, and pursued his studies with great
application, until he became one of the greatest
scholars of his age, but was yet more admirable for
humility, piety, and devotion. He well understood
the science which has always characterised the spirit
of the Monks, that it is the first duty of a man to
save his soul, whether his vocation be the common
one of remaining in the world or a call to the
monastic state. His vocation M'as the latter, and he

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 187

lead a life of solitude, piety, devotion, and good works
in Cornwall. All Monks led laborious lives ; in
almost all the orders the greater part of the day was
spent in manual labour, and St. Neot was no ex-
ception to the rule. People travelled great distances
to be instructed by him. King Alfred, who him-
self was all but a Saint, fre(]uently visited him, and
by his discourses was inflamed with fresh ardour in
the practice of virtue. St. Neot's counsels were also
of gTeat use to him in regulating the government of
his Kingdom. Then the Christian Church in
England was in communion with Catholic Christendom,
and recognized the supremacy of the Apostolic See.
St. Neot particularly recommended to the King the
advancement of useful and sacred studies, and advised
him to repair the schools of the English founded at
Rome, and to establish others at home. Both which
things the King did. Some historians make St Neot
to have been the first Professor of Theology at
Oxford, but this is doubtful. The Saint died
about the year 887 or 888, on the 31st July, on
which day his principal festival was kept. After-
wards his festival was observed on October 28th, the
day of the translation of his relics from Cornwall in-
to Huntingdonshire, and he is still venerated on that
day in the calendar of the Universal Church.

Alban Butler thus briefly records the translation of

1 88 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

the relics : " His body was first buried in his own
Church in Cornwall, where certain disciples to whom
he had given the Monastic habit had founded a little
Monastery. His relics, in the reign of King Edgar,
were removed by Count Ethelric and his famous lady
Ethelfleda, out of Cornwall into Huntingdonshire,
and deposited at Einulfsbnry, since called St. Neots or
St. Neads, where an Abbey was built by Count Alfric,
which bore his name. When Osketil was the ninth
Abbot of Croyland, his sister Leviva, to whom the
Manor of Einulfsbury belonged, caused these relics to
be transferred to Croyland, but they were afterwards
brought back to the former Church, which from that
time took the name of St. Neots."*

Mr. Gorham's account is that the body of St. Neot
was stolen out of Cornwall and brought into Hunting-
donshire. The thieves were a King, a Bishop, an
Abbot, and a nobleman. About the year 97-1, the
precise date being uncertain. Earl Alric, a powerful
nobleman in Huntingdonshire, and his Countess
Ethelfleda, founded and endowed a Priory at Eynes-
bury, subordinate to the recently established Monastery
at Ely. The interest of Brithnod, the first Abbot of
Ely, and the influence of Ethel wolde, Bishop of
Winchester, having been obtained, the sanction of

* Butler's "Lives of the Saiuts," Vol. x., p. 677.

Lege7ids, etc.^ of Huntingdo7ishire. 189

King Edgar immediately followed. "A patron Saint,
however, was wanting," crudely says Mr. Gorham,
"for the Monastery, and they therefore decided to steal
one," but he does not know why they selected St. Neot.
The Saint-stealing combination found no difficulty in
receiving from St, Xeot-stoke in Cornwall the sacred
deposit. The management of the " theft " was com-
mitted to the official Warden of the Shrine, who
secretly decamped with the treasure of which he had
received the trust. He absconded from Neot-stoke
on Nov. 30th. The inclemency of the wintry storms,
which happened to be very severe, impeded not his
journey, and he reached Eynesbury in safety. The
body remained for a short time under the roof of the
nobleman, the Monastery not having been yet built.
In the mean time the inhabitants of Neot-stoke having
understood that the Warden was missing, and having
suspected the fraud, flocked to the Shrine of the
Saint to inspect the sacred chest. On finding
that the invaluable treasure was gone, they were filled
with self-reproach at their own carelessness, and with
indignation at tlie infidelity of their servant. Having
armed themselves with such weapons as they could
procure, they sought the fugitive amongst the neigh-
bouring woods, hills, and villages ; after much waste
of time and fruitless labour, having obtained informa-
tion respecting the road by which he had fled, a party

iQO Legends, etc., of Huntiiigdonshire,

of the principal inhabitants traced him to Eynesbury.
Restoration of the stolen property having been a vain
demand, their rage became excessive. From bribes

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