Five places in Huntingdonshire with a fascinating history, including a pub ghost!

An early photograph of flying on Portholme Meadow. Date unknown, but probably 1910.

An early photograph of flying on Portholme Meadow. Date unknown, but probably 1910. - Credit: CAMBRIDGESHIRE ARCHIVES

The area of Huntingdonshire with its links to Oliver Cromwell, the Tudors and Samuel Pepys has some fascinating history. Here, in the first part of a new feature, we look at some of the area's rich historical roots.

1: Buckden Towers and Katherine of Aragon: Formerly known as Buckden Palace, which was built in the 12th Century, but most of the remains are 15th Century. The historic towers were famously used to hold Katherine of Aragon in exile between July 1533 and May 1534 during King Henry VIII's Great Matter as he sought an annulment to his marriage. Katherine was later transferred to nearby Kimbolton Castle where she died in 1536 and then buried at Peterborough Cathedral. Notable visitors to Buckden, include Henry III in 1248; Edward I in 1291 and Richard III in 1483. 

Buckden Towers famously housed Katherine of Aragon.

Buckden Towers famously housed Katherine of Aragon. - Credit: BUCKDEN TOWERS

2: The Ferryboat Inn, Needingworth: Legend has it that a young girl named Juliet took her own life in the time of Edward the Confessor. The story is, she was jilted by her lover, the local woodcutter, and was buried on the banks of the Great River Ouse at the ferry crossing point in AD 1050. It is claimed the Old Ferry Boat Inn pub was built on top of her grave. A stone slab can still be seen set into the floor on the south-west side of the pub, which is said to mark the spot where she died. During a seance, she apparently identified herself as Juliet Tewsley and that the local woodcutter was named Thomas Zoul. However, no records have ever been found to support this claim. According to tradition, on the anniversary of her death (March 17), her ghost is said to appear as a spectral figure slowly moving towards the river bank. 

3: Papworth Everard TB Colony: On February 12, 1918, 17 patients arrived at Papworth Hall, many of them were discharged soldiers from the battlefields of France and Belgium. The Papworth settlement was more than just a sanitorium, it was a whole scheme designed to provide good housing and jobs as well as treatment.
Fresh air and light work were believed to be central to recovery – even in winter - and  early photographs shows TB patients’ beds on one of the hospital’s balconies. Wooden huts were also built in the grounds and these were used to house patients and aide their recovery. 

TB patients in beds on the balconies at Papworth in 1932.

TB patients in beds on the balconies at Papworth in 1932. - Credit: PAPWORTH HOSPITAL

4:  As unlikely as it may seem now, Portholme Meadow, near Godmanchester, was at the centre of the aviation fever which was gripping the country in the early part of the 20th Century. In 1910, the relatively new concept of flying reached Huntingdonshire. Portholme’s 300 acres with no hedges or ditches made it an ideal airfield. An ambitious plan was launched in March, 1910, to build a course for aircraft on Portholme Meadow. While the plan was never realised, aircraft did continue to use it as a makeshift airfield.
In April, 1910, Bedford man James Radley flew in his three-cylinder Anzami-engined Bleriot monoplane, and circled around the meadow. He completed 16 miles in 23 minutes. Hundreds of local people turned out to watch and cheer him on. 

The Black Bull at Brampton has a long history. 

The Black Bull at Brampton has a long history. - Credit: ARCHANT

5: Samuel Pepys Treasure at Brampton: Brampton has associations with the diarist and naval administrator Samuel Pepys - with legend having it that his fortune is buried somewhere in the village. It is said that during the panic caused by the Dutch raid on the Medway in 1667 he buried his gold in the garden of Brampton House and was never sure how much of it he had succeeded in recovering. Brampton was the home of his uncle, Robert Pepys, elder brother of the diarist's father, whose house still stands.  Samuel Pepys is known to have stayed there and at the Black Bull Inn in the village. After Robert's death in 1661, a bitter legal dispute arose over the Brampton inheritance, was settled out of court. 

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