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Legends and traditions of Huntingdonshire online

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from Mr. Slater and went to live at Stone, where she
continued until her death, which was occasioned by
her taking poison in the year 1793.

The defendant in the action, the alleged "stolen "
heir, lived to the age of 72, and died at his residence
at Hartford, near Huntingdon, on the 13th of March,

€iyaptn' $F.


In 1648 St. Neots was the scene of a short but
decisive battle between the Royalists and Round-
heads. Earl Holland, after some apparent hesitation
as to which side he should favour, finally threw in his
fortunes with those of the king.

In 1648 he called upon all loyal citizens of London
to rise with him in behalf of the King. But the
citizens of London had recently suffered very con-
siderably on behalf of the Apprentice Riots, and
there was no general desire to risk a repetition of
those scenes. About 500, however, responded to his
call, among them being Villiers, Duke of Buckingham,
the Earl of Peterborough, and others. The force
marched to Kingston on Thames, where they had an
engagement with the Round-heads. The engagement

34 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

was short, but Earl Holland's force was completely
overpowered. The Earl's followers fled in various
directions ; he himself, with about a hundred horse-
men, rode oflF in the direction of Northamptonshire,
but finding themselves hotly pursued, turned aside
and entered the town of St. Xeots. During the
march the Earl was joined by several Royalists, so
that, on reaching St. Neots, Earl Holland found him-
self again at the head of a body of cavalry number-
ing about 300 or 400. With the troop was Colonel
Dolbier, an old Dutch officer of experience and great
bravery, who had formerly served the Round-heads,
but who had now attached himself to the cause of the
Royalists. They arrived in St. Neots on Sunday
evening, July 9th, and the officers held a council of
war as to what should be done. Some of the officers
were for at once dispersing in different directions,
others for continuing with all speed further north,
but Dolbier advised that St. Neots was so situated,
and their forces so strengthened, since the retreat
from Kingston, that they could well meet their
pursuers, and, by obtaining a victory, turn the
fortunes of war in their favour. As he was the
most experienced soldier amongst them, his advice
was listened to with respect, and when he under-
took to secure the party against a surprise that night,
or meet the death of a soldier in the defence of

Legends, etc., of H^mtingdonshire. 35

the town, it was finally decided to adopt that

Messengers were at once despatched to the magis-
trates in the town and neighbourhood, and also to the
principal inhabitants of the town, who were informed
of the decision which had been come to, but assuring
them that their property, as far as the Royalists were
concerned, should not be touched, but should be held

The Duke of Buckingham spoke as follows : —
" Gentlemen, we come not hither to carry anything
from you, but have given strict orders that neither
officers nor soldiers carry what is now yours away.
Nor are our intentions to make a new war, but to
rescue the Kingdom from the arbitrary power of the
committees of the several counties that labour to con-
tinue a bloody war to destroy you. Our resolution
for peace is by a well-settled government under our
Royal King Charles, and we do bless God that he
hath made us instruments to serve the King, the
Parliament, and the Kingdom in the way of peace."
Earl Holland and the Earl of Peterborough equally
assured the inhabitants that every care should be
taken to secure them and theirs against loss or
violence, and they were faithful to their word.

Weary by their long and rapid march from King-
ston the various officers eagerly sought rest, Colonel

36 Legends, etc., of Huntmgdonshire.

Dolbier alone keeping watch. Quite early in the fol-
lowing morning, and some hours before day- break,
the pursuers came up to St. Xeots. Dolbier at once
gave the alarm. He was immediately in his saddle,
and his comrades were called by the general shout,
" To horse !" The Duke of Buckingham was the
only officer who had not slept at St. Neots. He
had gone to spend the night with a Huntingdonshire
gentleman, who lived two or three miles distant. A
messenger, however, was despatched for him, and he
galloped to the scene as fast as possible. According
to the reports of the Puritans — which can seldom be
relied upon — Earl Holland was in no hurry to put
in an appearance.

The Parliament forces came to Eatonford a little
before sunrise, probably about three o'clock in the
morning, and before the Royalists were ready to
receive them. Upon their attempting to pass over
the Bridge the engagement was commenced. As
only a very few Royalists had repaired to the scene,
those who were defending the Bridge retreated be-
fore the superior numbers. This was disastrous for
their cause, and also for the townspeople of St. Neots,
for the engagement, instead of taking place on the
outskirts of the town, was now fought out in the
streets, to the alarm of the peacefully-disposed resi-
dents, who appear to have been absolutely neutral.

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 37

The Royalists were now all aroused, and the remainder
of the Puritans entering the town, the engagement
became hot. Amongst those who fell in an early stage
was Dolbier. The best authenticated accounts speak of
him as having died fighting bravely and even heroic-
ally, but others state that when the alarm of the
approach of the Puritans was given, it was considered
that Dolbier had acted treacherously, and had led
them into a trap, and he was accordingly shot by
one of the Royalists as he was charging the enemy.
There is, however, no evidence of such a circumstance.
Colonel Leg and Colonel Kenelm Digby were also
killed, and about 14. other soldiers, some of these
latter being drowned in the Ouse in trying to escape.
On the Puritans' side the lieutenant-captain was shot
dead, as were four other soldiers, and three privates
were wounded.

The Earl of Holland, with a few who protected
him, fought their way to the gates of the inn, when
the Earl endeavoured to get inside with a view of
escaping. But to his chagrin, he found the landlord
had closed the gates as a measure of precaution. On
it being announced who it was who sought admission,
the landlord opened the gates, for the Earl had been
his guest the previous night. As soon as he had
passed through, however, they were again immedi-
ately closed. The Parliamentarians at once battered

38 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

the gates down, and, entering the inn, demanded
admission into the Earl's room. On this being re-
fused, the door was burst open, and the Earl faced
them, sword in hand, exclaimed, " I pray you let me
have quarter for my life. I am your prisoner, and
desire that I may be civily used, and that you will
shew yourselves soldiers and gentlemen towards me.
I offer no opposition, but surrender myself your
prisoner." He was at once seized and taken to
Colonel Scroop, who had him properly secured, and a
guard placed over him. The other prisoners, about
120 in number — with that distinguished feature in
the Puritan character of shewing the utmost dis-
respect to religious buildings — were lodged in the
Parish Church. The following day they were sent
on to Hitchin. The Earl of Holland was sent to
Warwick Castle, where he was kept a prisoner for the
six following months. The Duke of Buckingham
escaped, riding as far as Huntingdon, where he was
informed that a troop of Scroop's forces were in pur-
suit, he took to some bye ways, and returned to
London. The Earl of Peterborough also escaped,
and assuming the appearance of an ordinary country
gentleman, was after a time recognised by a company
of private soldiers and taken prisoner. But while
they were conveying him to London some people
m route succeeded in rescuing him from the guards.

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 39

At the expiration of six months, the Earl of
Holland was removed to London, and on Feb. 27th,
1649, was brought to trial on a charge of high
treason. He pleaded that his crime was not capital,
and he urged that he had surrendered at St. Neots on
condition that his life should be given him. On the
3rd of March he was condemned to death.

His brother, the Earl of Warwick, who had espoused
the Puritan cause, petitioned the Parliament for the
life of his brother. This petition was supported by
the Countess of Warwick, and numerous other gentle-
men and ladies of rank. But the Puritan Parliament
was incapable of mercy ; it divided on the question
whether the life of the Earl should be spared, and an
equal number voted each way. The Puritan speaker
then had a golden opportunity of exercising mercy
and clemency ; but he gave his casting vote in favour
of the death penalty. The execution had previously
been ordered to take place on March 7th, but in
consequence of the petition to Parliament it was
deferred for two days.

After this sentence of death had been passed upon
him, he spent the intervening time in a solemn pre-
paration for death. He refused to see his wife and
children, saying that it would " add too much to his
sorrow, and discompose his thoughts, which were now
only to be set on another world." They were times

40 Legends, etc., of HuntingdonsJiire.

of great religious excitement. The brutal laws, by
which the English people were robbed of their old
faith, were still in existence. Men were constantly
being brought to the scaffold for their adherence to
the old religion ; and priests and laymen were fre-
quently suffering martyrdom for their faith. The new
religion had not been in existence a century. Many
men, following the example of the founder of the
English protestant church, dared not die outside the
fold of the catholic church and without catholic
sacraments. It is not, therefore, surprising that the
Earl for several days after his sentence, was in gi-eat
perturbation about obtaining pardon for his sins. He
said he had no assurance of pardon for his sins, or of
the love of God for him. The minister who at-
tended him therefore had considerable difficulty in
persuading him that God Avould have mercy upon
him. He had not slept for several nights before the
day of his execution. But the night preceding he
slept soundly, so that when it was time to call him,
the guards hesitated to do so. He walked to the
scaffold unaided, and talked to the people for a time,
urging that when be surrendered at St. Neots, it was
upon the understanding that his life should be spared.
Pointing to a soldier, who stood near, he said " This
honest man took me prisoner; you little thought
I should be brought to this when I delivered myself

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 41

to you, on conditions." He then walked to tlie other
side of the scaffold and kneeled down to pray. After-
wards he took off his gown and doublet, having on
underneath a white satin waistcoat, and he put on a
white satin cap. He took his leave with much affection
of his servants, and told the executioner he forgave
him, and he might have what money was on his person,
which was £10. He then laid his head on the block,
said a prayer, and gave the signal for the executioner,
by stretching out his hand. His head was severed
from his body by one stroke of the axe.

C!)aptn- F*


The Great North Road runs through the county of
Huntingdon, dividing it nearly in two. This was
the chief highway of traffic between the North and
South in the coaching days. It was studded with
numerous posting houses, some of the principal and
most famous being at Buckden, Alconbury, Stilton,
Kate's Cabin, Wansford. It is only when we look
back upon the coaching days of 50 years ago that
we can realize the progress which has been made in
the 19th century. Fifty years ago stage coaches and
stage wagons were travelling on the Great North
Road through Huntingdonshire. An account of them,
written in 1833, says: *"The height of the postilions

* " Great Britain in 1833, by Baron D'Haussez."

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 4

(always chosen from amongst the smallest of men),
and their dress, consisting of a jacket, short breeches,
and half boots, are calculated to reduce to the smallest
compass the burden of the horses. Behind the coach
the guard is seated, with a blunderbus and a pair of
pistols before him. These coaches travel at the rate
of 10 miles an hour, but their small size (for the
English have little regard for their personal propor-
tions in the sizes of their carriages), and the short
time they stop to refresh, render them very unpleasant
modes of conveyance. Stage coaches arc very elegant
carriages, built to carry 15 or 18 travellers, and a
considerable weight in packets, and on admirable
roads. Without it the height of the carriages, the
arrangement of the whole of the luggage on the
imperial, and the lightness of the body and the axle-
tree, would give rise to frequent accidents. The ap-
pointments of an English coach are no less elegant
than its form. A portly, good-looking coachman,
seated on a very high coach-box, well dressed, wearing
white gloves, a nosegay in his buttonhole, and his
chin enveloped in an enormous cravat, drives four
horses perfectly matched and harnessed, and as care-
fully groomed."

But there were coaches running on all the other
roads in the county, to and from the various
towns and neighbouring counties. An old coaching

44 Legends, etc., of Hmttingdonskire.

list* gives the following coaches as running through
Huntingdonshire from Cambridge daily, in 1847,
viz. :

1. The Alexander, for Leicester, from the Hoop Inn,

bv Huntingdon and Stamford.

2. The Biucher, for Huntingdon, from the Hoop


3. The Oxford, from the Eagle Inn, by St. Neots,

Bedford, Leighton Buzzard and Aylesbury.

4. Tlie Ecifjle, for Leamington and Birmingham,

from the Eagle, by Bedford and Northampton
to AVeedon.

5. The Rising Sun, to Biraaingham, from the Hoop

Inn, by Huntingdon and Northampton to
Weedon station.

Similar lists might be compiled from every other
town of any size in the neighbouring counties.

The following circumstance serves to show the ex-
tent of the traffic on the North Road in Huntingdon-
shire. On Wednesday, Feb. 22nd, 1837, at a meeting
of the commissioners of roads held at Stamford, the
bar on the "Wansford road was let for nine months to
Mr. Wm. Headley, of Peterborough, for the sum of

Stangate Hole, on the Great North Road, near

* Published in the Antiquary, March, 1887.

Legends, etc., of Htmtingdonshire. 45

Alconbury Hill, was a favourite resort for "gentlemen
of the road." It was the scene of an adventure
related in Drunken Barnabffs Journal, and indeed,
the late Rev. Henry Freeman, notwithstanding his
extensive researches into the history of the county,
was unable to discover any other mention of the
locality. " Cuthbert Bede," (Rev. E. Bradley) in
Notes and Queries, has however furnished additional
information respecting the place. "An old man," he
writes " who in his youth served as ostler at the
Wheat Sheaf Inn, Alconbury Hill, tells me that ' some
folks said as how the highwaymen once kept their
horses in the cellars of that inn ! but I don't reckon
much of that myself and count it to be a tale. But
it's true what I am going to tell you, sir, that there
was an ostler at that inn as used to help to put in the
coach horses and then nip across the fields and come
round and meet the coach and rob the passengers,
aud if you believe me, his shiny barrelled pistol was
nothing more than an old tin cand'estick. I mind
the time when they lowered the hill and altered the
hole, and when they dug down they found a sight of
buns.' ' Buns ! ' I said. * Yes, sir, buns.' * What
sort of buns ? ' I asked. ' Christian buns,' he replied,
and while I was pondering over Grood Friday buns,
and the probable reason for burying them in that
locality, not far from Sawtry abbey, the old man

46 Legends, etc., of Htmtiiigdonshire.

dissipated this notion by saying * they was supposed
to be the buns of folks as had been murdered and
buried there by the highwaymen !' So I was made
aware that 'bones' in the Huntingdonshire vernacular
are converted into *buns.' "

On Monday, Dec. 10th, 1791, two post chaises —
in which were Mr. A. Wilson, of Glasgow, and some
friends — were stopped on the Great North Road, be-
tween Eaton and Buckden, about four o'clock in the
afternoon, by two highwaymen well mounted and
armed, with crape over their faces. From one lady
was taken a purse which contained several pieces of
gold coin, viz. : one of Mary Queen of Scots, 1753 ;
one of Henry VIII.; one of Ferdinand and Isabella,
of Spain ; one of Laudeshulus, King of Norway;
and three smaller pieces ; a stamped Johannes, value
£3 12s.; and a Louis'd'Or ; also four gold rings in
hair work.

On the 18th July, 179G, about 12 o'clock at night,
Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, of Orton, were driving home,
after having been at the Theatre at Peterborough,
when they were set upon by two highwaymen, armed
with bludgeons. One of the villains in trying to
seize the horse's head was knocked down by the shaft
of the carriage, and Mr. and Mrs. Roberts were thus

In December, 1796, the Stilton letter bag, with

Legends, etc., of Huntingdo7ishire. 47

several others, were stolen from the Mail Coach. A
reward of £50 was offered.

One morning in August, in 1797, one of the large
springs upon which the mail box rests, belonging to
the York Mail Coach, snapped in pieces, about a mile
from Wansford. The passengers were immediately
got out ; but while they were assisting the guard and
coachman to chain up the body of the coach, the
horses took fright, and ran off full gallop with the
coach for above a mile, and passed over a narrow
bridge before they were stopped, which was effected
by the coachman at the risk of his life ; for as soon
as the horses set off, he caught hold of the hind part
of the carriage and raised himself to the guard's seat,
to which he clung, till after they had crossed the
bridge, and were ascending a little hill, when he
crawled over the coach to the bos, and from thence
down upon the pole, where, getting hold of the reins,
he fortunately stopped their further progress, else in
all probability both coach and horses would have been
dashed to pieces.

In 1798, on the Yarmouth Coach arriving at

Huntingdon, it was found that the mail bag was

missing. Suspicion fell upon Stephen Gosling, the

guard of the Glasgow mail, and he was committed to


In December, 1811, the Cambridge Coach, while

48 Legends, etc., of H tint ingdo7is hire.

passing over the bridge between Huntingdon and
Godmanchester, was set upon by highwaymen and

On 21st Feb., 1812, in the evening, a young woman
of the name of Finch was " waylaid and stopt" by a
single robber, on Houghton Hill, near St. Ives, who,
after cuttiug her pockets, in which were notes and
silver to the amount of £37 from her side, allowed
her to proceed without further molestation. She had
been imprudent enough to mention, earlier in the
evening, previously to leaving St. Ives, that she was
afraid to go home alone because she had property upon
her to a considerable amount.

In March, 1812, Sergeant Ives, of the West Essex
militia, was stopped on the highway between Stilton
and Norman Cross by a number of fellows, who, after
having knocked him down and robbed him of his
money and watch, wrenched open his jaws, and with
savage cruelty cut off a piece of his tongue. It was
said that the Sergeant had been active in suppressing
the plat trade at Norman Cross barracks, revenge,
therefore, in all probability instigated the ruffians to
this atrocious act.

In May, 1813, Mrs. Northem, of Bicker, in the
county of Huntingdon, was riding in the Peterborough
stage waggon, which, whilst passing over Tempsford
bridge, was met by a post chaise. The waggoner, who

Legends, etc, of Huntingdonshh'e. 49

was in his proper place, called to the driver of the
chaise desiring him to stop, but he being asleep, his
horses kept on, and forced those of the waggon so
close to the side of the bridge as to overturn it.
There was besides the deceased, a woman and a boy
in the waggon, neither of whom received any serious
injury ; but upon searching for Mrs. Northern, im-
mediately after the accident, it was discovered that a
cask of liquor had rolled upon her, and she was found
dead with the cask lying en her chest.

In November, 1813, as Mr. William Clifton was
returning home from St. Ives market, he was stopped
on his way by two highwaymen, who demanded his
money. While he was resisting one of them the
other took his pocket book from him, but in the con-
fusion it came untied, and two £5 notes fell on the
ground unperceived by the robbers, who escaped with
a booty of £22.

On Sept. 14th, 1814, the new Boston Coach was
overturned whilst going down Stukeley Hill, near
Huntingdon, by which the guard was seriously in-
jured. The morning previously the old Boston
Coach was upset at Glatonbury Hill, about four miles
from Huntingdon, by which one passenger had his
arm fractured, and three ladies were very much
burned by the lamps being forced in ; the coach was
" dashed to pieces." The same morning the York

50 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

Mail, near Huntingdon, had a narrow escape, the
coachman being thrown from the box, and the coach
travelled five miles without a driver.

On July 17th, 1815, the Rising Sun Coach was
twice overturned, once in the streets of Huntingdon,
and again not far from Northampton, where one of
the passengers had his leg fractured, and two others
received slight injuries ; both accidents happened in
consequence of a wheel coming off.

On May ICth, 1816, William Xelson, the di-iver of
Deacon's "Wakefield and London "Waggon met his
death under the following circumstances : — As the
waggon was going southwardly on the road near to
Matcham's Gibbet at Alconbury, it was met upon the
bridge there by the Boston coach, at which the
waggon horses took fright, and drawing the waggon
close to the railing of the bridge, crushed the driver
between the shafts and the railing, and terribly in-
jured him. Another coach coming up, would have
taken him in, but at his own desire he was put into
the waggon and taken to Mrs. Travel's, at the
Brampton Hut public-house, in order to *' his having
immediate surgical aid." Mrs. Travel, however, with
great inhumanity, refused to take the sufiFerer in, and
on his being taken forward towards Buckden, he died
in the waggon before it reached that place. The
poor man earnestly entreated to be taken in at

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 5 1

Brampton Hut, and the passengers of the York
Nelson coach also besought Mrs. Travel to take pity
on the man. A pony was attached to the waggon,
and surgical aid could have been brought to Brampton
Hut in half an hour, and the death of the young
man, only 31 years of age, possibly prevented. At
the ensuing Quarter Sessions for the county of Hunt-
ingdon Mrs. Travel was arraigned, at the instigation
of the owner of the stage waggon, for a misdemeanor.
Counsel pleaded several circumstances in mitigation
of the landlady's conduct, and finally the matter was
settled by Mrs. Travel paying £25 to the family of
the deceased.

On 2nd March, 1817, the Rockingham Coach
was upset while going down the hill near Kate's
Cabin, by which several passengers v.-ere seriously
hui-t. The accident was occasioned by the very high
wind, which at the instant prevented the coachman
reining his horses to avoid a quantity of stones that
had been laid to repair the road.

On 6th Aug., 1817, about 12 o'clock at night, Mr.
Lang, an excise officer, stationed at Fenstanton, was
going from Godmanchester to that place, riding on a
donkey, when he was passed on the road by two
fellows, who soon turning round, aimed several blows
at him with bludgeons, which he parried. They then
pulled him off the donkey's back, and one of the

52 Legends, etc., of Htmtingdonshire.

villains kneeling on him, " ripfc " open his waistcoat,
and robbed him of £7 and a silver watch ; the other
meanwhile stood by, holding his blndgeon over Mr.
Lang's head, A man of questionable character, of
the name of Hart, was next day taken up on sus-

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