Wisbech: Wisbech and the civil war

Pages 253-254

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4, City of Ely; Ely, N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



The ship money controversy affected Wisbech to the extent that two journeys were made by members of the Corporation 'concerning the King's Majesties Shippinge' and 'about the Towne business to get abatement for the shippmoney', though the results are not recorded. (fn. 1) The town as a whole sided with the Parliament, though there were a few Royalists; after the war John Fisher was fined £80 for having been in arms against the Parliament, and Edward Buckworth and Thomas Wragg pardoned. (fn. 2) Bishop Wren as a staunch Royalist was unpopular in the town, and in 1640 was dissuaded from attending a Commission of Sewers in the castle. A crowd of soldiers however clamoured for him, crying: 'give us Wren, that damned Bishopp Ely, wee will have him or else fyer the town and cutt the throats of all the Commissioners'. On his absence being discovered the shops of some of his supporters were plundered. (fn. 3) During 1643 the castle and town were put into a state of defence. £11 12s. 6d. was spent on ironwork for the castle drawbridge. £7 17s. 6d. was spent on other fortifications, including an outpost at the Horseshoe, the object of which was to prevent the Royalists of South Lincolnshire from penetrating into the Eastern Counties. (fn. 4) The Parliamentary forces garrisoned locally took part in the siege of Crowland (1643), for which the capital burgesses granted them two barrels of beer. (fn. 5) The following year a mutiny occurred, for the suppression of which Captain Richard Le Hunt received a gratuity of £5. (fn. 6) In April 1643 Captain Dodson borrowed £100 from the burgesses to raise the Crowland force, which he commanded. This sum was still outstanding more than three years later and apparently was never repaid. (fn. 7) The effect of this and other loans is shown in 1656, when the burgesses presented a petition to the House of Lords. The town had raised a troop of horse for the Parliamentary army, (fn. 8) and it was claimed that Cambridgeshire had been overtaxed in comparison with neighbouring counties. The burgesses prayed to be exempted from arrears, especially since in the previous winter 14,000 acres in Wisbech, Elm, Outwell, and Upwell had been drowned by floods. (fn. 9) In answer to this petition the town received £170 from delinquents' estates in return for moneys lent during the war. (fn. 10)

The Restoration festivities cost £3, including £1 to the waits of Lynn, and 40s. was distributed in bread to the poor at the coronation of Charles II. (fn. 11)


  • 1. Corp. Rec. iv, 79a, 89a (12 Dec. 1634, 31 Oct. 1638).
  • 2. W. Watson, Hist. Wisb. (1827), 223. For an account of Buckworth's case see Cal. S.P. Dom. 1645-7, 37-38.
  • 3. Hist. MSS. Com., 12th Rep. App. iv, 522.
  • 4. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1644-5, 325-6; V.C.H. Cambs. ii, 407; Brit. Arch. Assoc. Proc. xxxv, 65; Corp. Rec. iv, 106b, 112b.
  • 5. Corp. Rec. iv, 107a.
  • 6. Ibid. 107b.
  • 7. Ibid. 103b, 115b.
  • 8. £250 was borrowed at 8 per cent. for its upkeep in 1648 (Corp. Rec. iv, 119a). This troop was still in existence in 1690, when £4 was voted for the expenses of a horseman to serve therein (ibid. 246b).
  • 9. Walker and Craddock, Hist. Wisb. (1849), 223, quoting L. J.
  • 10. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1655-6, 120.
  • 11. Corp. Rec. iv, 142b, 145a.