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Legends and traditions of Huntingdonshire online

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In April, 1853, a married woman named Wilkinson,
living at Eynesbury, and who had been totally blind
for 20 years, fell down stairs. The shock caused to

Legends, etc., of H^mtingdonshire.


the system by this fall resulted in the complete re-
covery of the woman's sight.


In October, 1863, a novel mode of ejectment was
resorted to by the Trustees of the Charities in Ramsey,
a thatcher was ordered to remove the thatch from two
cottages occupied by three aged widows, who were
consequently compelled to seek shelter elswhere.

Qtmttv XXV*


In Strype's Memorials, Vol. III., there is "An
account of Cardinal Poles' Visitation of the Diocese
of Lincoln, in 1556, to enquire whether Catholic
doctrine and ritual were duly observed in every
Church." The account contains several presentments
referring to the County of Huntingdon.

"One HuUock, curate of All Saints', in Huntingdon,
administered the sacrament to several persons without
auricular confession, using only a general confession
in the English tongue, such as was accustomed in the
time of the schism. He was cast into gaol, then
injoined pubhc penance; and that being performed,
he was discharged from ministering any more in the
Diocese of Lincoln, and so he departed,"

Legends^ etc., of Huntingdonshire. 2 1 3

The people of Huntingdon, under the persecutions
to which those who held to the old faith had been sub-
jected, had grown lax in the observance of the fasts,
for the account says : — " Several in Huntingdon for
eating flesh in lent, ivitJiout a dispensation, were cast
into prison, and enjoyned to carry faggots two several
days." It is noticeable that they were not condemned
for eating flesh, but for doing so " without a dispensa-

" The Vicar of Spaldwick, was presented for carry-
ing in his arms his child, which he had in wedlock in
the time of the schism, to the scandal of others. He
was enjoyned to carry it no more, and he made a re-
cantation in the church."

"One Burneby, of Brampton, when vicar of the
church, on Palm Sunday, opened the doors of the
church with the staff of the cross, and said in sport
' what a spore have we towards ? Will our vicar run
at quintine with God Almighty ' ? He submitted
himself and was enjoyed public penance."

"Three of St. Ives, who had fled because of religion,
now appearing, submitted themselves, and recanting
the heresies which they held, and being absolved from
their excommunication, were put into prison and after-
wards carried faggots."

" The Vicar of Steukly gave the sacrament to some
not confessed, and to some that desired auricular con-

214 Legends^ etc.y of Huntingdonshire.

fession be denied it. He was cast into prison, and
made a recantation before his parishioners."

In the year 1562, representations were made to
Parliament on behalf of those engaged in the fishing
trade to the effect that since the change in religion,
fasting and abstinence days had been unobserved and
consequently that there had been a great decrease in
the sale of fish, and those engaged in that industry
had seriously suffered in consequence. With a view to
remedying this an Act of Parliament was passed con-
verting Wednesday into what had previously been called
an abstinence day. On fast days only one meal in the
day was allowed, that not before noon, and no meat
to be eaten. Abstinence did not limit the quantity,
but the quality, it imposed fish diet instead of meat.
By the Act 5 Elzth. Cap. 5, Wednesday was made an
abstinence day, and it was to be so observed on pain
of fine.

In the Parish Register of Eynesbury, the following
license is registered in 15G8 : — " Whereas by a statute
made in the 5^^ yeare of the Queene's Maiestyes
Raygne, that now is called the Statute of Navy-
gacion, yt is graunted that Persons not notoryouslye
sycke maye be lycensed by the Parson of the Paryshe
where the partyes dwell, to enjoy the benefyt of eat-
ynge of Fleshe on the Dales prohybyted by the saide
Statute, for the recoverynge of theyre Healthe: (yf yt

Legends, etc, of Huntingdonshire. 215

pleasithe God :) Let yt be knowne to the seere hereof
that lohn Burton, of the Paryshe of Eynesbury in the
Countye of Huntingdon, being verye sycke, ys ly-
censyd to eate Fleshe for the Tyme of his sycknes,
soo that he enioyeinge the benefytt of the Lycense
his syckness contynewinge viii dayes do cause the
same to be regestered into the Regester Booke in
the same Paryshe, accordynge to the tenor of the
Statute in that behalfe : and this Lycense no longer
to endure than his sycknes doth laste: by me Wyllyam
Samuell, Parson of Eynesburye."

A few extracts from the Act referred to may be read
with interest : — After enacting that on " every Wed-
nesday in every week throughout the whole yeare . . .
no manner of person shall eat any flesh on that day,"
and that offending against this, a penalty will be in-
curred of Three Pounds for every time or else three
months close imprisonment without bail or main-
price," the Act goes on to say : "XVI. and every
person or persons within whose house any such of-
fence shall be done, and being privy or knowing
thereof, and not effectually punishing, or disclosing
the same to some public officer having the authority
to punish the same, for every such offence to forefeit
40/-." "With regard to the licenses, which had pre-
viously been granted of the Parish Parson when there
was sufl&cient need, and for which no money was al-

2i6 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

lowed to be taken by the priest, he was unable to
grant such dispensation for insufficient reason without
being subject to the control of his ecclesiastical su-
periors. But now Parliament had taken the matter in
hand and had ruled that no one need fast who had the
money to purchase a license, for the eighteenth section
provided thus : " Every license made to any person or
persons being of the degree of a Lord of Parliament,
or of their wives, shall be upon condition that every
such person, so to be licensed shall pay to the poor
men's box within the parish where they shall dwell, or
remain, six and twenty shillings and eight pence,
the same to be paid within one month on pain
of forfeiture of every such license ; and every
license to any person of the degree of a Knight
or Knight's wife shall be upon condition, and
every such person shall so licensed shall pay yearly
thirteen shillings and fourpence, to the use afore-
said, and in form aforementioned ; and every license
to any person or persons being under the degrees
abovesaid shall be upon condition, that every such
person so licensed shall pay yearly six shillings
aud eightpence to the said use and in form afore-
mentioned." The section, however, which refers to
the Alconbury license is as follows: — "That all
persons which by reason of notorious sickness shall
be enforced for recovery of health to eat flesh for the

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 2 1 7

time of their sickness shall be sufficiently licensed by
the Bishop of the Diocese, or by the parson, vicar, or
curate of the parish where such person shall be sick,
or of one of the next parish adjoining, if the said
parson, vicar, or curate of his or their own parish
shall be wilful, or if there be no curate within the
same parish; which license shall be made in writing
signed with the hand of the Bishop of the Diocese, or of
the parson, vicar, or curate, and not to endure longer
than the time of the sickness : and that if the
sickness shall continue above the space of eight days
after such license granted, then the license shall be
registered in the Church Book, wich the knowledge of
one of the church wardens, and the party licensed
shall give to the curate fourpence for the entry
thereof." The Act further regulates how many
dishes or kinds of fish are to be put on the table
at a meal, and what kinds of flesh those who are
licensed may eat, and then comes the following
explanation : "XXXIX. And because no person shall
misjudge of the intent of this Estatute, hmiting orders
to eat fish, and to forbear eating of flesh, but that the
same is purposely intended and meant politickly for
the increase of Fishermen and Mariners, and repairing
of Port towns and Navigation, and not for any
superstition to be maintained in the choice of meats.
XL. Be it enacted that whosoever shall by preaching.

2i8 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

teaching, wi-iting, or open speech notify that any
eating of fish or forbearing of flesh mentioned in this
Statute, is of any necessity for the saving of the soul
of Man, or that it is the service of God, othewise than
as other Politick laws are and be; that then such
persons shall be punished as Spreaders of false news
are and ought to be."

mmttv xxvu.


Francis White, born at St. Neots. His father, who
was a minister, had five sons, all of whom became
clergymen, and two of them eminent. Francis was
educated at Cains College, and afterwards appointed
first Dean, then Bishop of Carlisle, Bishop of Norwich,
and finally Bishop of Ely. He died between 1630 and
1640. He was the author of several works.

Henry Saltry, was born in the county, and became
a Cistercian Monk in the Abbey of Sawtry. He wrote
a very learned work on the Catholic doctrine of Pur-
gatory. He died in 1140.

Gregory of Huntingdon, so called from the place of
his nativity, became a Benedictine Monk at Ramsey,
and is said by Fuller to have been appointed prior or

2 20 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

vice abbot, " a place which he deserved, being one of
the most learned men of that age for his great skill in
languages," He died about 1280. He is said to have
enriched the Abbey library with a large number of
Hebrew works.

Hugh, of St. Xeots, was born in the town of that
name. He wrote many Works and Commentaries,
and died in 1340.

William Ramsey, born in Huntingdonshire, became
Abbot of Crowland. He wrote in Poetry the lives of
St. Guthlac, St. Neot, and St. Edmund. He died 1180.

Henry, of Huntingdon, conferred a lasting honour
on the town and county by his great work of the
History of the Saxon Kings. He was a secular
priest ; i.e., not attached to a monastery. He died
about 1260.

Roger, of St. Ives, was very active in preaching
and writing against the Lollard heresy, and wrote a
work in refutation of Sir John Oldcastle's opinions.
He flourished in 1420.

John Young, a monk of Ramsey at the time of the
dissolution, is known chiefly for the efforts he made to
save a portion of the magnificent library from de-

John White, brother to the Bishop of Ely, was born
at St. Neots, and became chaplain to King James.
He died in 1615. He was the author of several Works.

Legends, etc.^ of Huntingdonshire. 221

Sir Robert Cotton, Knight and Bart., son of John
Cotton, Esquire, was born at Connington, and became
one of the most famous antiquarians in the kingdom.
The Catholic Church, which has always been the
nursery of learning, endeavoured to secure at his
death his valuable archasological library, to be added to
the immense library at the Vatican, but the overtures
were never completed. He died in 1631, in the 61st
year of his age.

Stephen Marshall, was born at Godmanchester, and
was famous for nothing but a frequent desertion of
principle. Fuller says of him : *' he was so supple a
soul that he brake not a joynt, yea sprain not a
sinew, in all the alteration of times." He died in


Richard Broughton, was born at Great Stukeley, at
the time when the penal laws were in operation against
the Catholic Church, and was compelled to fly from
his native country. He was ordained priest at
Rheims. He wrote a book on English Ecclesiastical
History, which is a valuable and learned work.

Ambrose, son of John Nicholas, was born at Need-
ingworth, and was apprenticed to a Salter. He
became Lord Mayor of London in 1576, and founded
twelve almshouses in London.

Sir Wolstan, son of Thomas Dixie, was born at
Catworth, and was apprenticed to ^ skinner. He

22 2 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire,

became Lord Mayor of London in 1585. He gave
large sums in charity.

Eichard Fishborn, was born at Huntingdon, and
gave away in charity £10,700. He died 1625.

Sir Oliver Cromwell, born at Hinchingbroke, died

Robert Fox, F.S.A., the historian, of Godmanchester,
was born at Huntingdon in 1708. He was a surgeon
at Godmanchester, and several times filled the office of
bailiff to the Corporation.

Sir John Gedney, son of Mr. William Gedney, was
born at St. Neots, and became Lord Mayor of London
in 1427 and again in 1447.

Sir Robert Drope, born at St. Neots, was Lord
Mayor of London in 1474.

Rev. B, Hutchinson, F.R.S., of St. Ives, pubhshed
" Proposals for a History of Huntingdonshire."

Mr. Pratt, of St. Ives, was the author of '' Gleanings
in England."

Nayborn, who was punished for blasphemy in 1656,
pilloried, burnt through the tongue and branded with
a B, died at Holme in 1660.

Wm. Johnson, D.D., Rector of Warboys, was the
author of a book, entitled "Deus Nobiscum, or a
sermon preached upon a great deliverance at sea,
1648, with a narative annexed," in which it is said
that he was " twice shipwrackt, and that he lived four

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 223

days without any sustenance, and lay two nights and
two days upon a rock in the deep, several times all
hope of life being taken away." He had been
chaplain and sub-almoner to Charles II., and when
he died in 1666, he was Archdeacon of Huntingdon.

Samuel Pepys, Secretary to the Admiralty in the
reisrns of Charles II. and James II., was born at
Brampton. He collected a large number of valuable
manuscripts, and left a diary, which has shed a
brilliant hght upon the manners and customs of
society in that time. He died in 1703.

John Dryden, a relative of the poet, bequeathed
large sums of money in charity to various places in
the county.

Rev. Fr. Faber, who was one of the originators of
the Tractarian Movement, held for some time the
rectory of Elton, which he resigned to enter the
Catholic Chureh. He afterwards published a number
of Theological Works, which have been extensively
translated and circulated in almost every country in

Beaumais, Bishop of London in the time of Henry
I., is believed to have been born at Sawtry. He held
the offices of warden of the Marches of Wales and
governor of Salop. He died in 1127.

Dr. Olinthus Gregory, LL.D,, F.R.S., the famous
mathematician, was born at Yaxley, in 1774. He

2 24 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

started in London as a bookseller, and at the same
time gave lessons in mathematics. Finding the latter
the more remunerative of the two, he gave up the
business and applied himself wholly to mathematics.
He became professor at the Royal Military Academy
at Woolwich, and was editor of " Pantalogia," &c.
He died on February 2nd, 1841.

The Rev. G. C. Gorham, of St. Neots, wrote a very
learned Work on the History of that town. The
volume is now very scarce. A copy was recently sold
by auction at St. Neots for £20.

Richard Southgate, the learned antiquarian, was
appointed rector of Woolley in 1754, the living then
being worth about £120 per annum. The circum-
stances attending this preferment are too honourable
to Mr. Southgate to be omitted. The living had be-
come vacant during the ministry of Mr. Peacocke,
who was the patron, and was himself intended for the
Church, His guardians, not being able to agree as to
the person they should present, suffered it to lapse to
the Bishop. The Bishop mentioned these circum-
stances to Mr. Southgate when he presented him to
the living, and although the Bishop left him entirely
clear of any promise or restraint respecting it, as soon
as Mr, Peacocke had taken orders, Mr. Southgate went
to the Bishop and resigned the living, 1761 or 1762.
The Bishop said "you have done Richard what I knew

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 225

you would do, you have behaved like a cliristian and a
good man, and I have this additional motive for think-
ing myself bound to provide for you." This obliga-
tion, however, appears to have been forgotten, for al-
though the Bishop lived until 1766, and had many
opportunities of fulfilUng his promise, Mr. Southgate
received no other promotion from him. Mr. Southgate
was curate in several parishes in the county, and
finally was appointed to the valuable living of Warsop,
in Nottinghamshire.

chapter XXVM-



John Kilbrow, a person well known to many gentle-
men of the turf as a bit seller and an attendant at
most of the races in the kingdom, died in 1797, in
very reduced circumstances at Waternewton. A con-
temporary notice of him says : " He had undergone
vicissitudes in life ; had been a horse dealer of some
eminence, and in that line had travelled in France
and other foreign parts ; returning to England poor,
he entered into several militias, and was at one time a
sergeant in the Huntingdonshire regiment, but his
predilection for horses and the turf occasioned his get-
ting rid of that situation." At a town in Bedford-
shire, some years ago, he was, according to a turf
phrase, "quite broken down." It was in harvest

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 227

time, the weeK before Richmond races, near which
place he was born, and to reach there in time for the
races he hit upon the following expedient. He applied
to a blacksmith of his acquaintance to stamp on a
padlock the words " Richmond Gaol," which with a
chain was fixed to one of his legs, and he composedly
went into a corn field to sleep. As he expected, he
was soon apprehended, taken before a Magistrate, who
after some deliberation, ordered two constables to
guard him in a carriage to Richmond. No time was
to be lost as Kilbrow said he had not been tried, and
hoped they would not let him lay while another
assize. The constables on their arrival at the gaol
said to the keeper : " Sir, do you know this man ?"
" Yes, very well," replied the keeper ; " Its Kilbrow,
I have known him many years." " We suppose,"
said the constables, '* he has broken out of your gaol,
as he has a chain and padlock on his leg with your
mark ; is not he a prisoner ?" " A prisoner !" ex-
claimed the keeper, " I never heard any harm of him
in my life." "Nor," said Kilbrow, "have those
gentlemen either ; they have been so good as to bring
me home out of Bedfordshire, and now I will not give
them any further trouble ; I've got the key of the
padlock, and I'll not trouble them to unlock it. I
thank them for their good usage." The distance he
thus travelled was about 170 miles.

2 28 Legends^ etc., of Huntingdonshire.


Thomas Beckett, died at Woodstone, in October,
1800, at the age of 93. In his will he bequeathed a
cottage to his grandmother during her life. He oc-
cupied a farm, the rental of which was £10 per
annum, but by industry and perseverance he was able
to amass a fortune of £6,000.


Charley Strickson was a Stanground oddity. He
is described as being a remarkably lean man, with a
hungry look. To be stout, corpulent, rotund, heavy
weighted, or anything else in that direction was his
last wish, and about the last thing he could realise even
if he had wished it. Although a shoemaker by trade
he came of noble stock — at least so he boasted.
His chief peculiarity was an abhorrence of all
that tended to embonipoint that it is said he
would seek to pass by on the other side any
portly resident, whilst he was never to be seen on
the Long Causeway at Peterborough when the fat stock
fair was being held there. It may thus be imagined
he was thin, so thin indeed that his tailor made special
bargains with him, the boys of the place made fun at
him, and the ordinary passer-by turned his head to
take a second glance. Amongst his eccentricities
especially to be noticed was a peculiarity in his dress,

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 229

No ordinary attire would do, and he would conse-
quently be seen dressed in a cutaway coat, and
a pair of black trowsers which had shrunk up
to within a few inches of his knees, leaving his
spindle legs poking through and terminating in
a pair of low shoes and buckles. On his head
was a beaver top hat — he would wear no other —
and he stood five feet eight inches in his boots.
These exterior qualifications, together with his ab-
normally slender proportions, even had they been un-
accompanied, would have entitled him to a place in
the gallery of oddities. No one particularly knew
his antecedents, had not his earnest asseverations as to
a high born genealogy been to the contrary. It mat-
tered little to his patrons; he was a good cobbler,
and was a first-class shoemaker; his charges
were reasonable, and that for ordinary purposes
was sufficient, especially as he had been the family
workman, possibly, for years. Although in his
rounds he wore his cutaway coat, his beaver hat,
and his black trowsers, and had high notions of his
antecedents, yet he was never above his trade, and his
shoemaking apron always hid his waistcoat. A great
peculiarity in it was a hole at the breast, which, how-
ever often it was replenished with a new one, would
assuredly make its appearance. This, it subsequently
transpired, was not by accident but was purposely cut

230 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

by our hero himself, and was regarded by Charley
with a superstitious reverence. Though noticed by
all, for years the why and wherefore remained a pro-
found secret. It was rumoured that it was to per-
petuate the assassination of an ancestor of some two
or three generations back ! Winter or summer the
eccentric shoemaker would be found with a flower in
his button hole, and more frequently than not in
summer it would be a common nettle, which he would
carefully explain, " Stroke it the right way, sir, and it
won't sting, neither will a Strickson." For many
years he followed an old custom of retailing frumenty
(or firmity) on Good Friday mornings. The receipt
for this ancient "mess of pottage " he always declared
had descended through his family for generations,
which he alone considered indisputable testimony of
its quahty. About the year 1848 Strickson's wife
was found drowned in a drain at Newark, into which
she had accidently fallen, before it was railed off aa at
the present day. The oddity, however, never married
again, and died some nine years after, and was buried
in Stanground Churchyard, aged 70.


A Huntingdonshire oddity has given his name to
a part of the river Nene. A gravelly shallow, near
Overton Longueville, which deepens into a hole is

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 231

known as " Eaveley's Hole," and is familiar to anglers
and bathers. Somewhere between the decade of 1840 and
1850 there went to Peterborough a tall, thin, lanky, half-
silly youth, about the age of 16. He had no occupa-
tion, and no means of subsistance. He could give no
account of himself, not even of his name. If he had
auy parents — and it is not to be supposed that like
Topsy he "growed" — he did not know them, and they
were ignorant of him. In place of a better, the
public of Peterborough awarded him the name of
" Jack " for a christian name, and as he was supposed
to have come from the village of Eaveley he had that
added for a surname. Whatever objections there may
be to this manner of fixing names it has at least some
show of reason, and was not by any means so
arbitrary as the rule adopted by Mr. Bumble.
The absence of an hereditary name, however, never
seemed to weigh heavily on the mind of Eaveley.
He settled down very comfortably under the name
chosen for him by the popular voice of Peterborough^
and he answered to it readily. His oddities and ec-
centricities made him familiar in the town and a butt
for the wit and humour of the young men. He was
accustomed to account for any imperfections in the
upper story by declaring that going one day a little
too near the Town Mill, which at that time stood
upon the Thorpe-road, nearly opposite the present

232 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

Gaol, one of the sails struck him on the head, and ever
afterwards his understanding became cloudy. It is
probable, however, that his intelligence was not of the
brightest previous to that time, or he would have kept
further away from the mill sail. Amongst his many
peculiarities he is said to have been an exceedingly

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