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and threats they were about to proceed to violence,
and blood vrould have been shed had not the Royal
authority interposed to quell the disturbance. King
Edgar sent an armed force to Eynesbury, with full
powers to drive the Cornish men out of the village,
and to put them to the sword in case of resistance ;
so great was the wrath of the Sovereign that he would
scarcely give permission for their return without
punishment. No sooner were the remains of St. Neot
safely deposited at Eynesbury than Earl Alric raised
over them a Chapel, and converted the Palace of Earl
Elfrid into a Monastery, which was dedicated to the
Saint. The site of these i-eligious ediftces was on the
east bank of the Ouse, on the north side of the present
town of St. Neots. In honour of the Saint the name
of the place was changed to Neotbury.

This, in eflFect, is the story as told by Mr. Gorham.
His authorities are the "Life of St. Neot," MSS.,
Bodley, 535, and Thomas, a Monk of Ely. He ac-
knowledges, however, that the latter does not support
his case, and with regard to the former he confesses
he has had to remove some " varnish " to enable him
to arrive at his conclusions. The story, therefore,
does not rest on very satisfactory foundations,

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 191

But it will not bear criticism. Mr. Gorham starts
with the assumption that it was necessary to obtain a
body of a Saint from somewhere in order that the
dedication of the Monastery might take place. " A
patron Saint was wanting," he says, but " by what
circumstance the choice was directed to St. Neot it
would be fruitless to conjecture." But the Monastery
might have been dedicated to St. Neot without
fetching his body out of Cornwall. A little re-
flection might have satisfied Mr. Gorham that all
the Churches dedicated to St. Peter did not possess a
body of that Saint, or all the Churches dedicated to
St. John did not possess his body. It is absurd then
to suggest that there was any necessity to get a body
of a Saint from somewhere, by hook or by crook, in
order that he should become the patron of the new
Monastery. There was existing at that time, as there
is now, a canon law which regulated Church dedica-
tions, and no one will say that that canon law
provides that a body of a Saint must be obtained
before a dedication can take place.

As to the " theft," Mr. Gorham's own story upsets
this. At whose disposal would be the body of St.
Neot? Surely the heads of the Church; the Bishops
would have absolute control and authority over such a
matter. And this is exactly what we find. Ethel-
wolde, Bishop of Winchester, and Brithnod, Abbot of

192 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

Ely, directed the relics to be translated from Cornwall,
having obtained the necessary licence of the King to
enable the removal to take place on the King's roads.
Their object was not, as Mr. Gorham suggest, " be-
cause a patron Saint was wanting," but because the
new Monastery in Huntingdonshire would be a more
suitable resting place for the sacred relics on account
of its superior dignity to the obscure Shrine
of Neot-stoke, and because the latter was an out-of-
the-way place for those who desired to visit the Shrine
of the Saint to beseech his prayers and intercessions
with God. A translation which had sound reason and
common sense on its side, which was carried out in a
regular and formal manner, and by the proper and
legal authorities cannot be termed a " theft."

No doubt the Cornish men did not like to lose
from their midst the relics of their Saint. Mr. Gor-
ham has only a sneer for their veneration, and dubs
it " superstition." No doubt the Warden of the
Shrine did not publish the instructions he had re-
ceived to remove the sacred treasure. This, Mr.
Gorham considers absconding. And no doubt the
Cornish men did their best — short of resorting to
violence — to endeavour to regain the wardenship of
the body of their native Saint.

A more minute examination of the details of Mr.
Gorham's story might reveal further discrepancies

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 193

and absurdities, but sufficient has been said to shew
that his relation must not be accepted without con-
siderable distrust.

ST. ivo.
The following is extracted from Alban Butler's
Martyrology : " St Ivia, or St. Ivo,* was a Persian
Bishop, who preached the faith in England about the
same time with St. Augustine, in the seventh century,
and having for some time prepared himself for his
last passage by solitude, watching, prayer, and fasting
at Slepe, now St. Ives, in Huntingdonshire, he there
died and was buried. His body was found by a
ploughman, in a pontifical habit, and entire, in 1001,
on the 24th of April. By the fame of miracles per-
formed at his relics, many resorted to the place, and a
Benedictine Priory was built there, though the Saint's
body was soon after translated to the great Abbey of
Ramsey. Whitman, the third Abbot at Ramsey,
wrote a book of the miracles wrought at his tomb,
which was afterwards augmented by Goscelin, a Monk
of Canterbury, about the year 1096. Pope Alexander
V. granted a licence to build a Church to his honour
in Cornwall, where his name was famous, and is given
to a parliamentary borough."

* He is called Ivia by Dr. Brown Willis, and in the best
manuscript records, but most historians, by giving hia name
a Latin termination, pronounce it Ivo.


194 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.


" Elfled, daughter of Ethelwolde, Earl of East
Angles, founder of the Monastery of Ramsey, was
preferred Abbess of Ramsey, and confirmed by King
Edgar therein. She is reported to have excelled in
austerity and holiness of hfe. When her steward
complained to her that she had exhausted her coffers
by the profuseness of her charity, she had recourse to
prayer, and in answer to her petitions the coffers were
recruited to their former fulness. When the taper by
which she was reading the lesson in choir one day
casually went out, there came such a brightness from
her fingers of her right hand that it lighted up the
whole Church. She died in the year 992, and was
buried in the Lady Church at Ramsey with great

* Fuller.



chapter XXIfifi-


The pretty village of "Woolley, with the tall taper
ing spire of the church rising from a forest of foliage
has obtained some celebrity from the fact that a
Russian Prince held the rectory for nearly 50 years-
A Manuscript, containing the following particulars,
has been supplied to the author by the Rev. G.
Finder, of Godmanchester : —

"Alphery (Mikipher) born in Russia, and of the
Imperial line (Walker's " Sufferings of the Clergy,"
Part ii., p. 183), when the country was torn to pieces
by the intestine quarrels in the latter end of the 16th
century, and the royal house particularly was so
severely persecuted by impostors (" Introd. a 1' Histoire
d' Europe par Puffendorf," Vol 4, p. 411, edit. 1732),

196 Legends y etc., of Huntingdonshire.

this gentleman and his two brothers were sent over to
England, and recommended to the care of Mr, Joseph
Bedell, a Russian merchant. Mr. Bedell, when they
were of age fit for the University, sent them all three
to Oxford, where, the small pox unhappily prevailing,
two of them died of it. "We know not whether this
surviving brother took any degrees or not, but it is
very probable he did since he entered into Holy
Orders, and in the year 1618 had the rectory of
WooUey in Huntingdonshire, a living of no very
considerable value, being rated at under £10 in the
King's books ("Liber Valor and Decim, 1728," p. 179).
Here he did his duty with gTeat cheerfulness and
alacrity, and notwithstanding he was twice invited
back to his native country, by some who would have
ventured their utmost to have set him on the throne
of his ancestors, yet he chose rather to remain with
his flock, and to serve God in the humble station of a
parish priest. In 1643 he underwent the several
trials from the rage of the fanatics, who, not satisfied
with depriving him of his living, insulted him in the
most barbarous manner. For, having procured a file
of musketeers to pull him out of his pulpit as he was
preaching on a Sunday, they turned his wife and
small children out into the street, into which also
they threw his goods. The poor man in this distress
raised a tent under some trees in the churchyard over

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 197

against his house, where he and his family lived for a
week. One day, having gotten a few eggs, he picked
up some rotten wood and dry sticks, and with these
made a fire in the church porch in order to boil them,
but some of his adversaries, to shew how far they
could carry their rage against the church, for this
poor man was so harmless they could have none
against him, came and kicked about his fire, threw
down his skillet, and broke his eggs (From a letter
written by the Rev. "VV. Peter Phelips, minister of
Woolley, to Wm. Clavel). After this, having still a
little money, he made a small purchase in that neigh-
bourhood, built himself a house, and lived there some
years. He was encouraged to this by a presbyterian
minister who came in his room, who honestly paid
him the fifth part of the annual income of the
living, which was the allowance made by Parliament to
ejected ministers ; treated him with great humanity,
and did him all the service in his power. It is a
great misfortune that this gentleman's name is not
preserved ; his conduct in this respect being the more
laudable because it was not a little singular. After-
wards, probably on the death or removal of this
gentleman, Mr. Alphery left Huntingdonshire and
came and resided at Hammersmith, till the restoration
put him in possession of his living again. He returned
on this occasion to Huntingdonshire, where he did

198 Legends^ etc., of Huntingdonshire.

not stay long, for being upwards of 80 years old and
withal very infirm, he could not perform the duties of
his functions. Having therefore settled a curate, he
retired to his eldest son's house at Hammersmith,
where shortly after he died, full of years and of

" Mrs. Alphery, the last descendant of the family,
married a Mr. Johnson, a cutler, at Huntingdon.
She was living in 1764, and had eight children. By
her the facts mentioned above were confirmed to Lord
Sandwich, and they were likewise known to be true
by old people in the neighbourhood. His Lordship
informed Dr. Campbell that such was the respect paid
this woman on account of her illustrious descent that
no person, let their stations be what it would, chose
to be seated in her presence if she was standing."*

The Biographia Britannica (Vol. L 164) says :
" The circumstance of a Russian Prince having been
a beneficed clergyman in the English Church is a very
extraordinary but well-established fact. The Eev.
Nicephorous Alphery, who held the rectory of
Woolley, circa 1618, was born in Russia, and of the
Imperial line."

The following is a list of the rectors of Woolley,

* From " Mr. Wharton's notes of a conversation which the
late Dr. Campbell had with the Earl of Sandwich in 1764."

Legends y etc., of Huntingdonshire. 199

supplied by the Rev. George Finder, the register
dating from 1576 : —
1618 ffranciscus Coulthrop.

1618 Alphery Mikipher, descended from the Imperial
line of Russia.

1643 Great Rebellion, Mikipher Alphery dispossessed,

[Mr. B the Presbyterian, who paid

Alphery his fifths, most probably Edward
Beale, whose children's baptisms are recorded.]

1660 Mikipher Alphery restored,

1679 Mr. Taylor, Rector, died, and Peter Phelips
[Magister Artii e Coll. St. Joan Bapt. Oxon]
was presented to y*' Rectory of WooUey by
Edward Bedell, Esq., (after the death of Mr.
Taylor), and had institution and induction to it
Septemljer 23, in the year of our lord 1679.

1714 Peter Phelips still living ("Walker's SufTeringa of
the Clergy.")

1735 Jos. Weedon, Rector, married Martha Rust, widow,
of Ramsey, 1739.

1741 Herbert Wakeman, curate, 21 years.

1746 Josh. Weedon died, aged 46.

1754 Rd. South gate, a learned Divine and antiquary,

1762 Samuel Peacock, Rector.

1763 Thos. Wagstaffe, curate.

1764 Thos. Ham, curate.

1788 Wm. Peacock, Rector.

The following register of the baptisms of the
children of Mikipher Alphery is taken out of the
Register of WooUey : —

Mikipher, son of Mikipher and Joanna, Baptd. A.D.
his wife Oct. 7, 1619

Robertas Dec. 18, 1620

200 Legends, etc., of Hunhngdonshire.


July 21, 1622


March 30, 1624


Jan. 6, 1625


Dec, 27, 1628


18, 1630


Sep. 7, 1636

Marriage of Robertus Alphery and
Agnes Poulton, daughter of Thos.

Feb. 27, 1639

Robertus, son of Robert Alphery ... Aug. 1, 1641

Burial of Joana, daughter of Mikipher

and Joana AJphery Jan. 23, 1640

Joana, wife of Mikipher Alphery ... Jan. 17, 1654

ffif)apter XXiiF.



The Earl of Huntingdon, husband of the famous
Christian Countess of Huntingdon, had a strange
dream. He was a man of singular serenity of mind
and of habitual good health, and had rarely dreamed
in his life before. He dreamed that he saw a skeleton
that appeared at the bed's foot, and, after standing
awhile, untucked the bed clothes and crept up under
them to the top of the bed, and lay between him and
the Countess, who was fast asleep. He awoke, but
did not disturb her. In the morning he told her the
dream, of which she appeared to make light, but the
Earl died in about a fortnight in a fit of apoplexy.

202 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.


Henry, of Huntingdon, says" that while Geoffrey de
Mandeville occupied Ramsey Abbey as a castle, having
first expelled all the monks, the walls of the church
and the cloister adjoining, streamed plenteously with
blood, witnessing the Divine indignation, and prog-
nosticating the destruction of the Impious." The
historian adds that the marvel was seen by many, and
that he himself was a witness of it.

Judge Doddridge, at the Assizes held at Hunting-
don, in 1618, censured the Sheriff for impannelling
men not sufficiently qualified by rank for serving on
the grand jury, and the Sherriff being a humorist,
resolved to ''fit the Judge with sounds at least."
Therefore, at the Assizes in 1619, on calling over the
following names and pausing emphatically at the end
of the christian instead of the surname, his lordship
began to think he had indeed a jury of quality.



of Toseland



of Godmanchester



of Somersham



of Stukeley



of Hartford



of Bythorn



of Newton


etc, of Huntingdonshire. 203



of Kimbolton



of Buckden



of Waresley



of VVinwick



of Stukeley



of St. Neots



of Old Weston



of Paxton



of Easton



of Ellington



of Stukeley



of Spaldwick



of Graffham



of Catworth

The Judge,

it is said, was

highly pleased with the

practical joke,

and complimented the Sheriff on his



In the History of Huntingdon by " R.C.," the
following anecdote is related : " In 1624, according to
Rider'' s British Merlin, ' the bailiffes and York, the
constable of Huntingdon, seized Sir Robert Osborne's
nagged colt for a sturgeon.' This singular notification
is not a Httle puzzling, and would seem to point out
the origin of the vulgar, contemptuous appellation,

204 Legends^ etc.^ of Huntingdonshire.

'Huntingdonshire Sturgeons.' The tradition, how-
ever, is, that after a heavy inundation of the Ouse,
several of the inhabitants of Huntingdon, Grodman-
chester, and Brampton, were standing together watch-
ing the subsiding of the waters, when they observed
a dark heavy substance come floating towards them,
but at a great distance down the river. Instantly
every mind was set to work to conjecture what this
might be. Imagination invested it with a thousand
diflbrent forms, till at last it was settled by the
Huntingdonians to be a sturgeon — by the men of
Grodmanchester to be a black hog — and by those of
Brampton to be a donkey. By this time the object
of their wonder had reached the beach, and on drag-
ging it ashore, behold to prove the sagacity of th9
heros of Brampton, a drowned donkey was revealed !
In derision, the terms ' Huntingdon sturgeons ' and
' Godmanchester black hogs ' were applied to the
others, and in time became indiscriminately used
towards the inhabitants of the respective places."


In 1655 the plague visited Ramsey, and, as appears
by the Register, destroyed 400 of the inhabitants.
It was brought to the town by Major Wm. Cromwell,
who caught the infection by wearing a coat, the cloth

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 205

of which came from London ; the tailor who made
the coat and all his family also perished.


The following legend is taken from " The complete
English Traveller, 1770." After a sketch of the local
history of Godmanchester, the writer says : — " There
is a tree near this town called the Beggar's Bush, but
on what account it first obtained that name is not
certainly known ; only we are told by Doctor Fuller
that King James I. and the great Chancellor Bacon,
being on a progress through Huntingdonshire, as they
passed by Godmanchester his Majesty took an oppor-
tunity of reproving the Chancellor for his extrava-
gance, and told him if he went on at that rate he
would soon come to the Beggar's Bush. Whatever
truth may be in that story, this is certain, that when
people see a man wasting his substance in prodigality
and debauchery they say, 'he will come to the
Beggar's Bush.' "


During the time when soldiers were being raised all
over the country to oppose the Pretender and his
forces, in 1745 — G, Huntingdon and St. Ives both
contributed a detachment. The St. Ives men pro-
ceeded to Huntingdon, and the two bodies commenced

2o6 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

the march northwards. The Huntingdon men took
the lead, but the St. Ives detachment being the most
numerous, considerable dissatisfaction was felt by the
latter that they were not allowed to occupy the fore-
most place. They urged that their detachment was
the most important, and that the town they repre-
sented was a more populous and more important place
than that of Huntingdon. On the other hand, the
men of Huntingdon alleged that though their detach-
ment was not so large still they represented the
county town and the only borough in the county, and
they were therefore entitled to priority. They had
got no further than Alconbury when it appeared that
there was no possibility of settling the dispute. The
commander of the St. Ives detachment therefore made
a stand opposite the Wheat Sheaf Inn at Alconbury,
and refused to advance forward unless the first place
was given them. This the Huntingdon men firmly
refused to accede, consequently the St. Ives men
turned back and marched homewards by way of
Wood Walton. The retreat of the rebels shortly
afterwards made it unnecessary for either the
Huntingdon or the St. Ives men to re-offer their
services to their country. The county subscribed on
this occasion a sum of £2,059 13s. lOd.

Legends^ etc., of Huntingdonshire. 207


An extraordinary incident occurred at St. Ives on
Jan. 5th, 1801, A bullock walked into a passage of
the Eoyal Oak public house in that town, and the
staircase door being ojDen, it went upstairs into the
dining room, and ran with such violence against the
front window (which was a sash) as to drive the whole
of the window frame into the street, where the animal
fell also, a distance of more than 20 feet. It received
no material injury, but was so much terrified that it
ran with great precipitancy down to the bridge, and
being stopped there, it leaped over the side into the
river, where it was carried down the current so rapidly
that it was never afterwards heard of.


In 1810 a man named Seaton went to a pond at
Sawtry to fetch water, when he fell in and was
di'owned. Eleven years later, in 1821, his brother
also fell into the same water and was drowned ; and
four years later, in March, 1825, another brother,
Samuel Seaton, fell into the same pond and was


A fine little girl, ten years of age, the adopted
daughter of Mrs. Barnes, of St. Ives, met a strange

2o8 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

death on January 20th, 1816. While walking with
some of her companions she dirtied her shoes, and she
said she would go and wash them. AVhile so employed,
she told the others who had approached the river with
her, hand in hand, that she felt the ground giving
way under her feet, and desired them to let go their
hold, or she must drag them all into the water. This
they had no sooner done than the bank caved in with
her, and the unfortunate girl was drowned.


An extraordinary discovery was made at Godman-
chester by a traveller on Feb. 16th, 1816. His re-
sources being at a low ebb, he had been indulged with
a lift in the "pass-cart," and went to the vagrants'
lodgiug-house to pass the night. In course of the
evening, observing some writing of an objectionable
character on the front of the chimney, he took his
hat and while flapping the brim in order to erase the
offensive words, a paper was observed to drop from it,
which en examination proved to be a hundred pound
note of the Bank of England. The discovery
naturally excited some comment, and the explana-
tion the man gave of his coming into possession of the
hat was, that being extremely destitute he begged it
from a brother soldier in the Guards, who told him
he had picked it up on the field of Waterloo. The

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 209

note was forwarded to London, and afterwards re-
turned to the poor man with the gratifying intel-
ligence that it was a genuine one. The story, which
is an absolute fact, has been taken to illustrate a
temporal reward for virtue, for had it not have been
for the poor man's observance of the great law of
purity, he would probably never have obtained the


On the 17th Nov., 1834, Mr. Mite of G-odmanchester,
died, at the age of 90. He is said to have always ex-
pressed a hope that he should not be a day ill before
his death, and this desire was singularly fulfilled, for
he died after a few hours confinement to his bed. He
is said to have possessed a very remarkable memory.


A Cambridge paper of January, 1838, contains the
following : " There is at this time a young woman,
aged 18, residing at Needingworth, near St. Ives,
Hunts., who has been in a trance asleep for 12 days.
She keeps quite warm, except her feet, and they are
cold and stiff. Last week her father brought her
downstairs into a warmer room, thinking it might be
the means of rousing her, but it had not the desired
effect. On Monday she opened her eyes and made a

2IO Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

motion with her hand for something to drink, which
being given her, she became convulsed for a time,
and then sank into her former state of torpor, in
which she has continued ever since."


On the 22nd September, 1840, a vendor of toys, a
stranger to the district, visited St. Ives, for the
purpose of selHng his goods, and in the evening set
out for Fenstanton. The night was very dark and
stormy, and not knowing the place, he accidentally fell
into the stanch pit. He sank twice and then seized
the iron-work with his hand, by which means he sus-
pended himself until three o'clock the next morning.
When the stanch keeper came to wind up the locks, he
discovered the unfortunate man in a state of great ex-
haustion, still clinging to the iron-work frame, with
the water almost up to his chin.


In January, 1845, a dwelling house at Little
Bedford, Hunts., was sold for eleven shillings.

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