Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for WISBEACH

WISBEACH, a town, a parish, a district, and a hundred, in Cambridge. The town stands on the Old Nen river, at a convergence of railways, contiguous to Norfolk, 13 miles SW of Lynn; was known to the Saxons as Wisebec; was given, in 1000, by Oswy, son-in-law of Brithnoth, to Ely abbey; acquired a castle, in 1071, from William the Conqueror; was inundated by the sea, rushing to it over the sands, in 1236, 1255, 1437, and 1614; witnessed the burning of two martyrs in the time of Mary; was fortified by Oliver Cromwell; suffered an earthquake-shock in 1750; underwent great improvement in 1816 and subsequent years; is a municipal borough, first chartered by Edward VI., and now governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors; is also a seat of petty-sessions and quarter-sessions, and a polling place; communicates, by a buoyed passage of 6 miles through the sands, with a harbour called W. Hole, so as to be a head port; communicates also, by a canal 6 miles long, formed in 1794, with inland navigation at Outwell to Cambridge, Hertford, and London; publishes two weekly newspapers; carries on ship and boat building, machine-making, iron-founding, timber-working, rope-making, tanning, brewing, tobacco-pipe-making, and other departments of industry; comprises several handsome modern streets; and has a head post-office,‡ a r. station with telegraph, two banking offices, three chief inns, council-rooms, a sessions-house, a police station, a house of correction with capacity for 65 male and 10 female prisoners, a public-hall, a corn exchange, a custom-house, four news-rooms, a museum, a mechanics' institute and library, a working-men's institute, public baths, an early Norman and later English church, recently repaired at a cost of £4,200, a chapel of ease, eight dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, two cemeteries for respectively churchmen and dissenters, a grammar-school with £92 a year from endowment, and with 4 bye-fellowships and 6 scholarships at Cambridge, two other endowed schools with £230 and £180 a year, three suites of alms houses, a workhouse, aggregate charities £1,408, a weekly market on Saturday, and three annual fairs. The castle was visited, in 1216, by King John; in 1469, by Edward IV.; was rebuilt, in 1478-83, by Bishop Morton; became then an episcopal residence; was restored, in 1609-17, by Bishop Andrews: was the death-place of Bishops Alcock and Watson; and was taken down in 1816. The quays were extensively improved, by the construction of new wharfing, by the erection of a wide-spanned revolving iron bridge, and by other means, in years following 1852, at a cost of about £60,000. The vessels belonging to the port, at the beginning of 1868, were 9 small sailing-vessels, of aggregately 372 tons; 31 large sailing-vessels, of aggregately 5,036 tons; 2 small steam-vessels, of jointly 38 tons; and 5 large steam-vessels, of aggregately 2,458 tons. The vessels which entered, in 1867, were 2 British sailing-vessels, of jointly 708 tons, from British colonies; 57 British sailing-vessels, of aggregately 10,737 tons, from foreign countries; 77 foreign sailing-vessels, of aggregately 13,364 tons, from foreign countries; 213 sailing-vessels, of aggregately 11,430 tons, coastwise; and 15 steam-vessels, of aggregately 1,365 tons, coastwise. The amount of customs, in 1862, was £2,613. The chief commerce is in farm-produce, wool, bones, hides, coal, and timber. Acres of the borough, 6,432. Real property, with W.-St. Mary, £61,249; of which £635 are in canals, and £300 in gasworks. Pop. in 1851, 10,594; in 1861, 9,276. Houses, 2,076. The decrease of pop. was caused partly by depression in the shipping trade.

The parish bears the name of W.-St. Peter, and is conterminate with the borough. The head living is a vicarage, and that of the chapel of ease is a p. curacy, in the diocese of Ely. Value of the former, £944;* of the latter, £350. Patron of the former, the Bishop of Ely; of the latter, Trustees.—The district contains 6 parishes e1ectorally in Cambridge, 13 electorally in Norfolk, and two partly in Cambridge, partly in Norfolk; and is divided into the sub-districts of Wisbeach, Leverington, Walpole, Terrington, Walso ken, and Upwell. Acres, 131,585. Poor rates in 1863, £22,609. Pop. in 1851, 36,215; in 1861, 33,323. Houses, 7,483. Marriages in 1866, 251; births, 1,025,-of which 99 were illegitimate; deaths, 622,-of which 204 were at ages under 5 years, and 26 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 2,609; births, 11,892; deaths, 7,658. The places of worship, in 1851, were 24 of the Church of England , with 11,087 sittings; 4 of Independents, with 1,104 s.; 7 of Baptists, with 1,760 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 100 s.; 15 of Wesleyans, with 3,299 s.; 19 of Primitive Methodists, with 2,706 s.; 6 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 1,120 s.; 1 undefined, with 160 s.; and 1 of Roman Catholics, with 60 s. The schools were 23 public day-schools, with 2,353 scholars; 66 private day-schools, with 1,493 s.; and 60 Sunday schools, with 4,425 s.-The hundred contains 9 parishes. Acres, 37,135. Pop. in 1851, 10,089; in 1861, 11,624. House's, 2,469.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a district, and a hundred"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Wisbech St Peter AP/CP       Wisbech Hundred       Wisbech PLU/RegD       Cambridgeshire AncC
Place names: WISBEACH     |     WISEBEC
Place: Wisbech

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