Check out some of Huntingdonshire's fascinating history

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

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. 

Buckden Towers and Katherine of Aragon: Formerly known as Buckden Palace, which was built in the 12th Century, but most of what remains is 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 was 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

Poltergeist activity at local pub: One of Huntingdonshire's oldest, and possibly, saddest ghost stories is the tale of Mary Ann Weems who is said to have haunted The White Hart pub in Godmanchester and also an area nearby at St Mary's Church where her remains are buried.

In his book, The Haunted History of Huntingdonshire, Mark Egerton, describes how he first became aware of the story in the mid-1970s, but there was an update in 1985, when the then landlord of the pub reported "poltergeist activity".

Thomas Weems married Mary Ann Dixon on January 3, 1818, believing she was pregnant with his child. It seems that later Thomas realised he had been tricked and, according to the records, on May 7, 1819, Thomas and Mary Ann stopped off at The White Hart to wait for a coach, but he murdered his wife at nearby Wendy.

Mary Ann's body was placed in an open coffin next to the window of the pub. This was to allow passers-by to view the body and pay their last respects. Thomas was found guilty, of murder and hanged in Cambridge on either August 6 or 7th, as records vary.

Mary Ann's gravestone is in St Mary's Church, Godmanchester. 

Mary Ann Weems gravestone in St Mary's Church, in Godmanchester.

Mary Ann Weems gravestone in St Mary's Church, in Godmanchester. - Credit: HUNTS POST

Flying at Portholme Meadow:  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. 

Flying was short-lived at Portholme Meadow.

Flying was short-lived at Portholme Meadow. - Credit: CAMBS ARCHIVES

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 and was settled out of court. 

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If you have any information on local history or photographs you would like to share with The Hunts Post, email: debbie.davies@archant.co.uk.

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