Village Focus Holywell-cum-Needingworth - Holy water and ghostly goings-on!

The old ferryboat inn Needingworth

The old ferryboat inn Needingworth - Credit: THE OLD FERRYBOAT INN

Needingworth lies approximately seven miles east of Huntingdon and is in the civil parish of Holywell-cum-Needingworth and the population is 2,517, according to the 2011 Census.

The two parishes of Needingworth and Holywell date back to 1,000 AD and are linked by a single road. Holywell was given to the monks of Ramsey by Alfwara, who died in 1007 and was buried at Ramsey and the church and the land were added by Gode, the priest of Holywell, on his death. 

Holywell-cum-Needingworth sign

Holywell-cum-Needingworth sign - Credit: ARCHANT

Needingworth is said to have been bought from King Edgar by StOswald (c. 969) in order to bestow it on Ramsey Abbey, but realising its distance from the abbey, Oswald exchanged it with the king for Kingston or Wistow

The church of St John the Baptist is situated at the eastern end of Holywell. There has been a church here since AD 990; the current building, however, is Grade I listed and dates from about 1250.

St John the Baptist Church, Holywell

St John the Baptist Church, Holywell - Credit: ELY ANGLIAN

Legend has it that a young girl named Juliet took her own life near the church 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 public house 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.

seance was conducted in the 1950s, during which the participants claim to have contacted the spirit of the young girl. During questioning, she apparently identified herself as Juliet Tewsley and that the local woodcutter was named Thomas Zoul. However, no Norman records have been found to support this claim. During a second seance the following year, the date moved forward to the 15th century.

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. Occasionally the apparition has been witnessed within the Ferry Boat Inn.

The inn, and other buildings in and around Holywell, were the subject of paintings by the watercolour artist W. F. Garden who lived at the Old Ferry Boat from 1904 until his death in 1921. The pub is thought to be one of the oldest pubs in the country.