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Cambridgeshire - Wisbech

North & South Brinks Wisbech

From its name and its setting, it might be in Holland but it is, as Nikolaus Pevsner says, 'one of the most perfect Georgian streets in England'. Wisbech has been a seaport since ancient times and at one time it was close to the mouth of the fenland River Nene. It has long prospered from the reclamation of the marshland and the canalising of its rivers even though the sea is now 12 miles away.

On the North Brink a splendid row of merchants' houses which shows Wisbech was particularly prosperous in the 18th century. The jewel in this particular crown is Peckover House. The *Peckovers were East Anglian Quakers who came into prosperity and prominence in the mid-18th century and purchased Peckover House which had been built in 1722. Its exterior has the simple but imposing elegance of the period stemming from the Classical proportions of its facade, three storeys, five bays wide, under a panelled parapet, and the texture of its brickwork, East Anglian yellow brick with red brick dressings. This simple exterior conceals a wealth of elaborate interior decoration in plaster and wood in the tradition of the best 18th century craftsmanship. The house is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the poblic. In the middle of the terrace is No. 11, an early 18th century warehouse. The bow-windowed houses are late 18th century and the stonefronted house dates from about 1750. The North Brink Brewery built circa 1790, was to be found on the bend of the river.

The South Brink is a perfect foil to the North Brink, although it is of the same character, with houses the same size, it is more subdued and less ambitious. One house worthy of note, although in later times it became two, was built in the early 18th century of brown brick, with eight bays and three storeys, which had a curious clock, dated 1720, built into the wall under the first staircase landing. This house belonged to Sir Philip Vavasour and Octavia Hill was born in it, 1838.

*Peckovers - further reading 'The Peckovers of Wisbech' by Madeline G.H. Mc Reynolds, published by Wisbech Society & Presevation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 2 5.

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North Brink, Wisbech

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The Parish Church of St. Peter & St. Paul, Wisbech

The church of *SS. Peter and Paul is not as impressive as its size would expect. It is a stone building in the Early Norman and Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, double nave, lady chapel, north and south aisles, south porch and a large embattled tower at the north-west angle containing a clock, erected in 1866 by Mr. James Dann of Wisbech, and 10 fine-toned bellsIn the chancel floor is a very large brass to Sir Thomas de Branstone, constable of Wisbech Castle, died 1401, with an effigy in armour and mutilated inscription in Norman French. A memorial window was erected to the Rev. H. E. H. Watts, a former vicar, and Mr. H. Farrow, churchwarden in 1911: there are several other fine modern memorial windows, including, one to the Rev. John Scott M.A. hon. canon of Ely and vicar from 1867-86. The church was restored in 1858, and the organ reconstructed and enlarged in 1873.

*SS. Peter and Paul - further reading 'The Parish church of St Peter & St Paul' by Wim Zwalf, published by Wisbech Society & Presevation Trust Ltd., ISBN 0 9519220 4 1.


Unloading timber in Wisbech docks early 20th century

WISBECH is a seaport, municipal borough, market town. the head of a union and county court district, with stations on the Midland and Great Northern Joint railway and London and North Eastern railway, 87 miles foam London, 40 north from Cambridge, 116 from Birmingham, via Peterborough and Blisworth, 22 east from Spalding, 63 from Northampton, 34 from Stamford, 23 from Ely, 73/4 from March, 21 from Peterborough, 151/2 west-south-west from Lynn and 64 from Norwich, via Lynn, in the hundred, petty sessional division, liberty of the Isle of Ely, rural deanery and archdeaconry of Wisbech and diocese of Ely; it is also the seat of the January and July quarter sessions for the liberty of the Isle of Ely, and of the petty sessions for the hundred, and is on the borders of Norfolk, within a few miles of the sea, to which it has access by the navigable river Nene, which intersects the town, the larger portion being on the south side of the river; the banks were strengthened with piling, during the year 1890-91, at a cost of 20,000. The thoroughfares facing the river are known chiefly as the "North and South Brinks." By the Wisbech canal, the town has also water communication by the Ouse with Cambridge, Hartford and London.

Vessels of 3,000 tons can enter the port.

Fishing boats and their implements are distinguished by the letters W.I. Since 1852 the quays have been much improved by the erection of new wharfage, at an expense to the town of about 60,000, and an iron bridge erected, which spans the river in the centre of the town.

The chief trade is in importing timber and general merchandise. The chief exports are coal, corn and general merchandise. In the surrounding district both flowers and fruit are largely grown, the latter consisting chiefly of strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries. apples, pears and plums; potatoes, asparagus and mustard seed are also grown. There are planing and sawing mills, breweries and printing offices.

[These extracts are from Kelly's Directory - Cambridgeshire - 1929]

Norfolk Street, Wisbech - early 1900's


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Last Updated on: 12 October 2000
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