On the banks of the River Nene, in the heart of the North Cambridgeshire
Fenlands, lies the busy market town of Wisbech.
The unique atmosphere of the Fenlands is perhaps best captured in the
original manuscript of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. "The marshes
were just a long black horizontal line then, as I stopped to look after
him, and the river was just another horizontal line, not nearly so broad
nor yet so black, and the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and
dense black lines, intermixed. But except for these things and the
shudder of the dying day in every blade of grass, there was no break in
the bleak stillness of the marshes."
The history of Wisbech is closely linked with the reclamation of the
Fens for agricultural purposes. Once one of the least hospitable parts
of England, Wisbech rose to become a flourishing community. The town
grew up around its port, trading in medieval times but booming
commercially with the draining of the Fens in the 17th century. The
drained marshes led to tremendous growth and prosperity in Georgian and
Victorian periods as the produce of the most fertile farmland in England
flowed through its port. While the port has declined in importance,
Wisbech remains the market center for a large agricultural and
horticultural area, with 5,000 acres of orchard and garden land, making
it the richest fruit- and flower-growing area of East Anglia.
The Wisbech you see today is a prosperous Georgian town. The North Brink
and the Crescent and Museum Square are some of the finest examples of
Georgian street architecture in the country. The years between 1700 and
1850 witnessed tremendous growth, resulting in the rows of elegant
houses visitors so much enjoy. Facing each other across the River Nene,
South and North Brink make two of the finest Georgian streets in
One of Wisbech's most famous landmarks is Peckover House. Built in 1722
in the center of North Brink, Peckover House is one of the most
picturesque properties in Wisbech. It was bought at the end of the 18th
century by the Peckovers, a Quaker banking family. The house's exterior,
another impeccable example of fine Georgian architecture, gives little
hint of the wealth of wood and plaster decoration present inside.
Much of the interior is highly elaborate, with paneled walls and carved
mantels. The piece de resistance, located in the drawing room, is a
carved pine Rococo decoration hung over the mirror. Behind the house is
a two-acre Victorian walled garden, which nicely complements the house
with its own style. The garden includes a reed barn, summer houses, a
Victorian pond, and a wide variety of rare and interesting plants,
including an orange tree rumored to be over 300 years old. Peckover
House was presented to the National Trust of Great Britain in 1948 and
its many contents were put up for sale.
To learn more about Wisbech, visit: www.thisiswisbech.co.uk.