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Legends and traditions of Huntingdonshire online

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picion, but Mr. Lang declining to swear to his being
one of the robbers, he was set at liberty.

On Aug. 17th, 1818, the Glasgow Mail was over-
turned about four miles from St. Neots. None of the
passengers were hurt, but the guard was so seriously
injured that he was conveyed in a precarious con-
dition to Eaton.

On 19th April, 1820, between seven and eight
o'clock in the evening, Mr. John Pale, draper, of
Oundle, was stopped between Xorman Cross and
Kate's Cabin by two highwaymen, who robbed him of
£12 in bank notes, 2os. in silver, a silver watch, and
part of his clothing.

On Saturday, 18th of October, 1823, "as John
Smith, between 60 and 70 years of age (who was a
few years since a farmer and grazier at Somersham,
but who now, through the depression of the agricul-
tm-al interest, is obliged to keep a small day school,
which scantily supports him in his declining days)
was returning from Cambridge to Somersham, by St.
Ives afoot, he was met by a strong young fellow,
within a mile and a half from home." The young

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 53

man accosted Mr. Smith with the customary formula
used by highwaymen "Stand and dehver!" "Dehver
what ? " asked Smith. "All you have " said the man,
and he instantly wrenched the stick with which Smith
was walking from his hand, and struck him a violent
blow on the forehead. Smith staggered and fell, and
the robber threw himself upon him. " Do you mean
to murder me ? " asked Smith. " I mean to have all
you have " replied the robber. Smith then seized
fast hold of the highwayman's hair and a fierce
scuffle ensued, during which both rose from the
ground together. Smith still retaining hold of his
assailant's hair, told him he would have to go back
with him. The highwayman refused. " Then," said
Smith, "you shall go forward with me," and im-
mediately changing his hold from his hair to his
collar, he forced him about half a mile on the
road until they reached a cottage, when Smith called
up a man of the name of Savage, who assisted in
conducting the highwayman to Somersham, where
he was given into the hands of the constables,
and was afterwards convicted at the Huntingdon

On 31st Oct., 1823, in the evening, while the
Regent down Coach was standing at the Inn, at
Huntingdon, waiting for the passengers who were at
dinner, the horses which had just been yoked to, were

54 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

alarmed by the passing of the Highflyer coach, and
in spite of the efforts of the horsekeeper to restrain
them, set off without the coachman, and proceeded
tliree miles before they were stopped. Although it
was dark and the coach passed a post chaise and a
van, through a flock of sheep, and down a steep hill,
before the person who pursued on horseback overtook
it, not the slightest accident occurred. The only
person on the coach at the time was a soldier, who
sat behind, and it was not until the horses were
stopped that he knew he was travelling without a

Mr, Pcttinger, of Godmanchester, was driving home
from St. Neots on the evening of December 17th, 1834,
and when near to the cross roads a man accosted him
and asked for a ride. Mr. Pettinger knowing that
this was a dodge often adopted by highwaymen, and
having regard to the darkness of the night, at once
refused the request and applied the whip. But
another man instantly sprang into the gig from
behind, knocking off Mr, Pettinger's hat and covering
his face with his hands ; a second villain also sprang
into the gig, and a third, seizing the horse's head,
backed it violently, so that the gig went into the
ditch. Mr. Pettinger was then dragged out, and a
brown net silk purse, containing seven or eight
shillings, and his watch were taken from him ; the

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 55

chain and seal of the latter were found at the bot-
tom of the vehicle on his arrival at home. Only
one of the ruffians spoke, and he merely said

"D you, hold your tongue." The men leaped

out of the vehicle and were quickly lost in the

A severe encounter with highwaymen took place
near Ripton in April, 1840. Mr. Edward Masters, of
Great Raveley, was riding homeward on his way from
Bedfordshire, when he was stopped by three men
near the way post on the Ripton road. It was dusk,
and Mr. Masters, who had a considerable sum of
money in his pocket, struck the man who had seized
the bridle a heavy blow on the head, which felled him
to the ground in an apparently lifeless condition.
The other two, however, immediately sprang at him
and endeavoured to unhorse him. After a violent
struggle Mr. Masters succeeded in laying another of
the robbers insensible on the road, and then striking
spurs into his horse, galloped ahead. In the struggle
half his coat was torn oflF, and fortunately it was not
the pocket containing the money. He had changed
the money only half an hour before, on passing
through Huntingdon.

In October, 1840, the Rising Sun Coach was
proceeding from Huntingdon to Ely, when, about six
miles from the former place, it came in contact with a

56 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

gig which it dashed to pieces ; the driver and horse
fortunately escaped without serious injury. The
coach itself, from the enormous quantity of luggage
piled upon the roof, was observed to rock fearfully in
its progress, and about three miles from Cambridge
it upset, and buried the ten outside passengers (half
of whom were Cambridge students) under the luggage.
Although all were terribly injured, none of them were

(zrjaptei* Fit,


The following inscriptions are taken from tomb-
stones in St. Neots church yard : —

On the tombstone of Adam Love :
" Why wonder we that man no more
Is by affection led,
AVhen this sad stone declares to all

Alas, that Love is dead ? "
Why, that the history of the past

Is cruelty and pride,
When the same monument records
That Love with Adam died."

On the tombstone of Edis :

" Praises on tombs are vainly spent ;
A man's good life is the best ornament."

58 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

"In Memory of Philip Fairey, who died March

7fch, 1818, Aged 57 Years.

Beneath this Stone the Ashes rest,
Of him who wealth nor wit possess'd ;
On whom the Almighty Arbiter
AVas pleased few Talents to confer.
HEADER, if more to thee are given,
By the rich boon of bounteous Heaven,
Thy Talent to improve take care ;
For the great Day thyself prepare.
This Stone was set up by Subscription as a mark of

respect For a reward of Industry."

On a tombstone in Bluntishara church yard is the
following inscription on Adrian Lucas, a celebrated
prize fighter and wrestler, who died in May, 1G71 : —
" Here l^^es the conqueror conquered,
Valiant as ever England bred,
Whom neither art, nor steel, nor strength,
Could e'er subdue, till death at length,
Threw him on his back ; and here he lyes,
In hopes hereafter to arise."

In the north aisle of St. Ives parish church is the
following : —

•' Near this place lies Dingley Askham, late of this
town, gent., and Frances his Avife. He was the

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 59

youngest son of Jolm Asldiam, of Boston, Lincoln-
shire, esqr., by Mary his wife, who was one of the
daughters of Sir WilHam Bury of Grantham, in the
said county, Knt. ; she was one of the daughters of
Robert Clarke, late of this town, gent,, deceased, by
Frances his wife, who was one of the daughters
of George Benson of Towcestcr, in the county of
Northampton, gent., deceased, left issue, Dingley
Robert ; he departed this life 9th Jany 1728 ; she
15th Jany 1728."

Until a few years ago there was a tombstone in
St. Ives church yard, on the body of a man, who, in
his life, had been an enthusiastic admirer of the game
of "All Fours." The only inscription on the stone
was the following : —

" Here lies the body of All Fours,
"Who spent his money and pawned his clothes ;
If any one should ask his name,
'Tis High, Low, Jack and the Game."

On the east wall of All Saints' Church, Hunting-
don, in the grave yard, is the following inscription :
" This monument is erected to the memory of Thomas
Getherell, late of this town, maltster and corn mer-
chant, who died on June 22nd, 1778. He was an
example of piety during his life, and of honesty at his

6o Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

death; and although bankruptcy brought his character
for a while under a cloud, his religion inspired him
with sentiments, at least, to dissipate it, by bequeath-
ing all his after acquisitions, which were considerable,
to his creditors, to whom his conscience only could
determine them due. That if he scandalized the
world by some miscarriage, he hath instructed it by
repairing them to the utmost of his power ; who
chose rather to leave his relations in want than
transmit to them a patrimony of malediction, and to
give them an example of equity rather than the fruit
of injustice. Go thou and do likewise."

In the chancel of St. Mary's church, Huntingdon, is
a Avell executed tablet to the memory of Mary Eliza-
beth, wife of Rear-admiral Montagu, the following
being part of the inscription : " With a mind most
pure and delicate in its texture, and with a disposition
peculiarly sweet, at an early age undertook the
arduous and sacred duties connected with the state of
matrimony ; and passed the short remainder of her
days in zealous endeavours to fulfil them."

In Alwalton church yard there is a gravestone to
John Head, who died in 1835, and the first line of
the epitaph is " This languishing 'head' is at rest."

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 6i

There is also in the same church yard, a gravestone
to Ambrose Hill, a boy of 1,3, who fell into the Nene
and was drowned, with the following epitaph : —
" Upon my way I met pale death.

The rapid stream soon closed my breath.

This fatal accident you see

My gracious God alotted me,

My tender years did not aford (sic) me care,

I lost my life before I was aware ;

Dear parents be comforted.

Grieve not for me

Por I am the Lord's,

And was but lent to ye."

In Ramsey church yard there are several curious
inscriptions : —

One stone records the case of Mark True, of Stan-
ground, who was killed by "a murderous stroke," so it
is recorded on the stone. On the 22nd day of July,
1780, in the 27th year of his age, he lost his life at
Ramsey Fair.

"To the memory of Dagald McDonald, a native of
Argylshire, Scotland, late hospital assistant-surgeon to
her Majesty's forces, September 21st, 1817, aged 30
years." Dugald had wandered away from his native
hills, and laid him down to rest on the borders of the

62 Legends, etc., of Htmtingdonshire.

"A yonng man's life may well compared be
Unto the blossom of some fruitful tree,
Which one day seems so pleasant, fair, aud gay.
And on the morrow fades and dies away."

In St. Ives church yard there is a curious in-
scription, the first two lines being : —

" A crumb of Jacob's Dust lies here below,
Richer than all the mines of Mexico."

The following is on the gravestone of three infants
in the same church yard : —

" Bold Infidelity turn pale and die !
Beneath this stone three infants' ash(;s lie.
Say — Are they lost or saved ?
If death's by sin they sinned because they're here
If heaven's by works in heaven they can't appear.

Reason — ah, how depraved !
Review the Bibles sacred page the Knot's untied,
They died for Adam sinned — they live for Jesus died."

(JEIjaptec vrm.


Strange storms were by no means unfrequenb on
"Whittlesey Mere, doing great damage to the boats and
nets of the fishermen. For instance, Holland says: —
The lake "does sometimes, in calms and faire weather,
sodainely rise tempestuously, as it were into violent
earthquakes, to the damage of the poore fishermen,
by reason as soma thinke, of evaporations breaking
violently out of the bowels of the earthe;" and Mr.
Spencer says : — " These lakes or meres are subject to
great convulsions, and often appear as agitated in the
same manner as the sea, which has been generally
ascribed to wind confined up in the bowels of the
earth, when bursting out with a furious explosioii
occasions that agitation which often resembles an

64 Legetids, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

On Aug. 24th, 1465, it if? recorded that hailstones,
measuring eighteen inches in circumference, fell at
St. Neots.

In 1597 the town of St. Neots experienced a dis-
astrous flood, which is thus discribed by Stowe in his
Annals: — "In September and October fell great winds
and raging floods in sundry places of this realm, and
wherethrough many men, cattele, and horses, were
drowned. The town of St. Edes in Huntingdonshire
was overflown suddenly in the night, when all men
were at rest. The waters broke in with such violence,
that the town was almost all defaced, the swans swam
downe the Market place, and all the towne about the
boats did float."

In 1636, on the 4th of November, "in the night
tyme," a furious hurricane raged in the district of
Huntingdon, doing immense damage to house property
in the borough and the surrounding country. The
south-west and north-east pinnacles of St. Mary's
church, which had then only been re-built about 30
years, were blown down ; and the storm passed over
the fens to the sea, carrying devastation in its course,
and inflicting gi-eat injury on shipping.

In 1741 the village of Bluntisham and the sur-
rounding district suffered severely from a most extra-
ordinary storm. About 12 o'clock, mid-day, a mist
was seen to gather, and it rolled along the ground in



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d ^ q ^M K •o'!a ^ Us: wj > :?,

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 65

a south-westerly direction with a noise that is de-
scribed as thunder. Accompanying it was a driving
wind, which rapidly increased in violence, until it
attained such an extraordinary velocity that it laid a
large portion of the village in ruins. All the barns in
the district, the village ale house, the vicarage, and
12 other houses in the parish were all wrecked. The
trees in the surrounding country were torn up by
their roots in hundreds, wind-mills were deprived of
their sails, and birds caught in it were dashed against
buildings and trees and killed.

In September, 1797, a terrible flood occurred at
St. Ives, said to be the greatest ever known. Farmers
in the district suffered considerably, haystacks were
washed away, and cattle and sheep drowned in large
numbers, the water rising so rapidly that they were
unable to be rescued, A drover, contrary to the
advice of his landlord, persisted in leaving his flock of
sheep, about 500 in number, in a close near to the
river. He suffered for his temerity, nearly 200 of
them being drowned. A post chaise travelling towards
Cambridge was washed off the road, and the post boy
with difficulty saved his life.

On Wednesday, June 15th, 1814, about two o'clock
in the morning, the people of Huntingdon and God-
manchester were alarmed by one of the most frightful
thunder storms ever recorded. At the latter place the


66 Legends, etc., of Htmtingdonshire,

electric fluid entered a house by the chimney, and
taking an oblique direction, left traces of its course
within a few inches of a person in bed ; it then passed
through a room on the ground floor, scattering a
parcel of knives around in all directions, which hung
wrapped up in sawdust against the wall ; from thence
it passed through a window, leaving a hole like that
made by a bullet, and powdering the surrounding
glass with a sulphuric substance. The storm was
accompanied by a deluging rain, which flooded many
of the roads. The water was so deep at Alconbury
Weston that the Glasgow mail coach had to go round
by Huntingdon.

On September 2nd, 1816, it is stated there was an
extraordinary depth of snow at Huntingdon and
Cambridge, and the frost was so severe as to destroy
all the crops of cucumbers, French beans, &c., growing
in the market gardens round the city of Ely. Such
weather was never experienced in harvest time before.
But two days afterwards it was followed by a fearful
thunder storm, accompanied with hail. At Alcon-
bury Weston the damage done to the corn was
very extensive, some sheaves standing in the
field being scorched by what is described as a "fire

During a memorable gale, on 5th Feb., 1817, the
wooden framework of a building was blown down at

Legends, etc, of Hmithigdonshire. 67

Alconbury on a carpenter's apprentice named Good-
win, killing him on the spot.

In October, 1823, after unusual storms, there were
great floods. At Alconbury Weston, from the low
situation of their dwellings, the inhabitants had to
take shelter from the water in the parish church.
The Glasgow mail on Saturday night got stuck fast
in Tempsford bridge, the crown having been broken
by the force of the water ; and the guard with the
mail bags, and the passengers, were compelled to
alight, and wade a considerable distance mid-deep in
water. The coach from London to Oundle was only
able to travel 23 miles of its distance. The storms
were accompanied by a furious gale, which blew a
house down at Oundle, another at Elton, and another
at Warmington. " Indeed," concludes the writer,
from whom the above particulars are taken, " so great
and so rapid was the flood that scarcely a village in
this neighbourhood but has suflfered damage more or
less, the inmates of many of the houses being com-
pelled to seek refuge in their top rooms." Another
writer, speaking of the same serious storms, says :
" Although St. Neots is very liable to inundation
from any unusual fall of rain, so rapid and destructive
a flood is not remembered by the oldest inhabitant.
At eight o'clock in the evening of Oct. 30th, when
the flood was at its highest, not a house in the town

68 Legends, etc., of Hzmtingdotishire.

but was inundated to a considerable depth ; in many
the water ran over the shop counters, and in some it
was more than five feet deep ; indeed, in one or two
instances, it was up to the ceiHng. Mr. Inkersole
sustained damage to the extent of £1,200, and Mr.
Burdell, grocer, to the extent of £500. One poor
woman, who had been compelled to take refuge from
the flood in the garret, remained from Saturday night
to Monday morning without any food, it being im-
possible from the low situation of her dwelling to
afford her any assistance ; persons were rowing about
the Market-place in boats and brewing tubs, en-
deavouring to render aid ; and, amongst other things
swept away by the destructive element, a pig-stye was
seen floating down the streets. The walls of the
town bridge were burst down by the impetuosity of
the flood and the force of the tempest, and the arch
was injured. At Eaton Socon a poor man was
rescued from his dwelling in a boat only a minute be-
fore the house was overwhelmed. The Regent coach,
from London to Stamford, was stopped in the flood,
the horses swimming, and the passengers, 14 in num-
ber, had to be conveyed into St. Neots in boats for a
distance of half a mile. The bridge next the mill
was completely torn to pieces, and Mr. Towgood
suflPered to the extent of many hundreds of

Legends, etc., of Huntingdo7tshire. 69

On Sep. 23rd, 1831, a severe tempest occurred be-
tween four and five o'clock, during which Mr. Ralph
Newton, of Sawtry, had four fine horses killed, a fine
beast, and three sheep.

The town of Huntingdon and the neighbourhood
were visited by a very heavy storm of thunder,
lightning, hail and rain, on the 17th of Aug., 1837.
The storm lasted for an hour in the morning, and the
atmosphere continued heavy and sulphurous until
the afternoon, when the most frightful tempest ever
remembered broke over the town, which was for the
time enveloped in darkness. The rain fell in such
ton-ents that in one house it reached five feet in the
kitchen, putting out fires, and floating the furniture.
The engine of the Royal Exchange had to be used to
get the water out of the houses.

On Sept. 30th, 1848, the whole district was visited
with alarming rains and floods, " the Hke of which,"
says a private diary, "have not been known for 47
years. The water ran over the top of Peterborough
town bridge."

On Feb. 28th, 1860, a dreadful storm of wind arose
at about half-past 11 o'clock in the morning, and
continued until about half -past two in the afternoon,
which did more damage to property than any wind
storm for 30 years. It was a west wind, and the
force of it was so great that water was blown out of

70 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

the rivers Nene and Ouse similar to heavy showers
of rain.

July, 1868, was the driest and hottest season ever
experienced in this district. A great deal of barley
had no rain from sowing to gathering. Nearly all
the wheat was cut and carried in July.

CJjaptev }^M$:.


Hail Weston was for about two centuries celebrated
for two mineral springs, the medicinal properties of
which were looked upon as being exceedingly effica-
cious in the cure of various diseases. From an old
document it appears that these springs were first dis-
covered in 1579, the water being looked upon as
a certain cure for scrofula, eruptions, dimness of
sight, etc. A notice, posted up at the time, says:
*' The springs are open from seven in the morning till
10 at night, the following being the charges :
Admission for using and drinking the s. d.

waters per month 5

Non-subscribers 6

Taking any quantity away from the

wells, per quart 6

72 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

Hail Weston springs were first noticed in the reign
of Elizabeth, as appears by the following passage in
Holmstead : '* The fift place of baths or medicinable
Welles is at an Hamlet called Newton [i.e. AYeston] a
little from St. Neots, or (as we pronounce it) St.
Needs .... where two springs are knowne to be,
of which the one is verrie sweet and fresh, the other
brackish and salt ; this is good for scabs and leaperie
(as it is said), the other for dimnesse of sight. Verrie
manie also doo make their reparie vnto them for
sundrie diseases, some returning whole, and some
nothing at all amended, because their cure is without
the reach and working of those waters. Never went
people so fast from the Church, either vnto a faire or
market, as they go to these wels .... discovered in
this 1597 of grace."

Michael Drayton alludes to the Holy Wells of
"Harlweston" in his "Poly Olbion," published in the
year 1613, as follows, speaking of the Ouse: —
" The Muse, Ouze from her Fountaine brings
Along by Buckingham and sings :
The earth that turneth wood to stone.
And t'holy Wells of Harlweston."
After describing the course of the Ouse and remarked
that it

" Shoots forward to St. Neots, unto these nether

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. ']2>

Towards Huntingdon, and leaves the loved Bed-

fordian bounds,"
He proceeds : —

•* Scarce is she entered yet vpon this second sheere
Of which she soveraigne is, but that two fountains

At Harlwcston neere hand, th' one salt, the other

At her first entrance thus her greatnesse gently


Once we were two fair Nymphs who

fortunately proved
The pleasures of the woods, and faithfully beloved.
Of two such sylvan gods, by hap they found vs

For then their sylvan kind most highly honoured

When the whole country's face was forresty, and we
Liv'd loosely in the weilds which now thus peopled


And quoth the saltish spring, 'as one day

Muse and I,
Set to recount our loves, from his more tender eye
The brinish teares dropt downe on mine unpeared

And instantly therein so deeply were imprest
That brackish I became. He finding rqe deprived

74 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

Of former freshness quite, the cause from him de-

Oa me bestowed this gift, my sweetness to requite,

That I should ever cure the dimnesse of the sight !
'And' quoth the fresher spring, Hhe
wood-god me that w^oo'd,

As one day by my brim surprised with love he

On me bestowed the gift, that ever after I

Should cure the painful itch, and loathsome

The historian Fuller observes in his humourous
style : — " The very name soundeth somewhat of sana-
tiveness therein : so much may the addition of what
is no letter alter the meaning of a word ; for 1,
Aile, signifieth a sore or hurt, with complaining, the

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