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Notorious Highwayman Hanged

1605

Information

On this day the notorious highwayman Gamaliel Ratsey was hanged. He was born in Market Deeping, the son of wealthy Richard Ratsey. Unfortunately  as a young boy he went off the straight and narrow. In 1600 he enlisted in the army which accompanied Sir Charles Blount to Ireland but his time fighting did not cure him of his wicked ways. On his return to England in 1603 he robbed the landlady of an inn at Spalding. He was caught but escaped from prison, stealing a horse. He entered into partnership with two well known thieves named George Snell and Henry Shorthose and went on to commit many acts of highway robbery in Northamptonshire (which at the time included Peterborough). Ratsey’s exploits were notorious but were also characterised by humour, generosity to the poor and daring. On one occasion, near to Peterborough, he robbed two rich wool merchants then ‘knighted’ them as Sir Walter Woolsack and Sir Samuel Sheepskin. On another, whilst robbing a Cambridge scholar he extorted a learned oration from him. He usually wore a hideous mask leading him to be called ‘Gamaliel Hobgoblin’. Ben Jonson wrote in The Alchemist (Act I, Scene 1) of a “face cut….worse than Gamaliel Ratsey". Due to his generosity to the poor and the tales surrounding him, he became something of a folk hero and was the subject of several ballads. Sadly for Gamaliel, within two years his partners betrayed him to officers of the law and  on the 26th of March he was hanged in Bedford.





An Immense Icy Flood

1795

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In February 1795 a large flood affected many parts of the country, due to a combination of thawing snow, ice and torrential rains. Peterborough's story reads like something out of a Hollywood movie: "We learn from Peterborough that the flood in that neighbourhood is so immense as to threaten several villages. The ice had formed a complete bank across the coast, from the South bank to the North bank, and consequently stopped the current of water. A gentleman there, however, at the risk of his life, contrived to dispel the ice by gunpowder, contained in oilskin bags, in the execution of which he was assisted by two barges; but he had the misfortune to be left upon a large shoal of ice; the boats being driven away, it was impossible for any person to render him assistance, and in this dangerous situation, with the momentary apprehension of the ice separating, he floated down to Whittlesea bridge, and then jumped to one of the pillars, which was expected every minute to give way. From this situation he was released by some men who put off in a boat to save him. Soon after this the South bank gave way; and so terrific was the effect, from the shrieks of the multitude near it, and the explosion so tremendous, that the noise was heard by persons stationed four miles below the spot. The number of lives lost has not been ascertained: the damage exceeds calculation."1 Other information relating to the flood suggested that 30,000 acres of Deeping Fen were flooded and that many bridges had been damaged or destroyed, including those of Wansford and Northborough which 'blew up'! Peterborough's wooden bridge was saved.
  1. Northampton Mercury, Saturday 21st February 1795, p3, column 4






An Eye for an Eye

1786

Information

On the 13th May 1786 Mr Robert Shelston was found dead in his yard in Eye. An inquest revealed his death had been caused by a fatal blow to the head: he had been murdered. After an investigation and conversation with several witnesses, the conclusion was made that Henry Love, also of Eye, was the perpetrator. Henry Love was found playing ninepins in Market Deeping. He was arrested and taken to the Angel Inn in Peterborough, where he confessed to the murder quite freely. (1) He went before Justice of the Peace Robert Blake on 12th July, where he was sentenced for execution on Borough Fen common the week after. Love was described as 'most astonishingly illiterate and of a sanguine disposition.' He'd also confessed to planning to rob and murder farmer Mr Richardson, also of Eye, before he'd been arrested. (2) On Friday 21st July, Henry Love walked the five mile journey from the gaol in Peterborough to Borough Fen via Eye. He was attacked by angry villagers as he entered Eye. Henry was so badly beaten that he needed support to walk to the execution tree. He was hanged from the tree and from there his body was taken to an out building overnight in Peterborough. His body was used for dissection by doctors. (3)
References
(1) Stamford Mercury, Friday 19th May 1786, p3, column 3 (2) Stamford Mercury, Friday 14th July 1786, p3, column 3 (3) Stamford Mercury, Friday 21st July 1786, p3, column 3





Waldram Hall Recorded on a Map

1543

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Situated on a turn in the River Welland to the east of Peakirk and Northborough, Waldrum or Waldram Hall has long disappeared. It was once an important hall and was owned by William Cecil and the Fitwilliams. There is believed to have been a building on the site since the twelfth century. There are several references to the hall over the centuries, in parish records and poll books. It is also located on a map of 1543 which is stored in the National Archives. The hall's position on the Welland was at a good crossing point. A ferry service was provided by the hall across the river and up to Crowland too. This would have been the only crossing point in this vicinity on the Welland before the bridge was built in Deeping St. James. The route was said to have been used by pilgrims heading to Walsingham as this document from Northamptonshire Archives states: 'the ferme of Waldranhall above mencioned is an Inne somtime greatly frequented by pilgrymes passing to Walsingham.' (1) The hall was still in use in the first half of the Twentieth Century, when pictures and personal accounts exist. By this time the hall was an unprepossessing stone house, regarded as no more than a farm house. After the building of two bridges in the Deepings in the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the ferry at Waldram Hall fell out of use and the building was no longer a decent source of income. The construction of the railway loop line to Lincoln effectively cut off the building rendering it useless.
References
  1. Northamptonshire Records Office F (M) Charter/2287
D. Price, River Welland, Amberley Publishing, 2012





Death and Pillaging From Maxey Castle

1450

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On the first of April 1450 Lord Welles gathered a large group of men at Maxey Castle. Lord Welles, also known as Lionel or Leo, 6th Baron Welles, had been in conflict with the people of Spalding and Pinchbeck. He gathered over 100 of his armed tenants at the castle and went to Spalding and Pinchbeck to cause chaos. His tenants damaged many properties, injured lots of people and even killed a man named John Ankes. The attack was part of a long-running dispute between the people of Deeping and Maxey, and Spalding and Pinchbeck. Both sides disputed the boundary of fen land between the two areas. They continued a tit-for-tat argument involving riots and violence over many years. People from both sides would sneak on to opposing land to steal cattle or destroy turves, which were a vital fuel in an area with few trees. Lord Welles' second wife was Margaret Beauchamp, mother of Lady Margaret Beaufort. Lady Margaret later inherited the castle and lands when her son became King Henry VII. Picture Credit: CC Coat of Arms of Sir Lionel de Welles, 6th Baron Welles, Rs-nourse, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_de_Welles,_6th_Baron_Welles#/media/File:Coat_of_Arms_of_Sir_Lionel_de_Welles,_6th_Baron_Welles,_KG.png





Lolham Bridges Rebuilt

1642

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Lolham is a tiny hamlet close to Maxey and West Deeping. The few houses that exist sit close to King Street, a Roman road, which runs North to South through Lolham. King Street passes over Maxey Cut, The Welland and a few ditches at this point, which has meant several bridges were needed. Lolham Bridges are grade II* listed structures. There are five bridges in the listing, the earliest of which has the date 1642 on the Western side. An inscription reads: 'These several bridges were built at the general charge of the whole County of Northampton in the year 1652.' (1) However, the inscription might be slightly misleading because a record in Northamptonshire Archives references 'a trial about the responsibility to repair Lolham Bridge in 16668/9' (2). They were later restored in 1712 and 1916 (1), suggesting either flood damage or poor workmanship. Given that people would have been using that route for nearly 2,000 years it is not surprising that there are earlier references to bridges at Lolham. Indeed, one of the earliest references is in 1408 in a writ in which 'a meadow to the west of Lolham Bridge' was valued at 11s 8d (11 shillings and 8 pence) (3). Lolham Bridges are accessible from the north on a one-way road. However, there are no parking places close-by, or footpaths, so accessibility is challenging.
References
(1) Listing number 1365654, https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1365654 (2) Northamptonshire Records Office QSR 1/52 http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/378e675e-7c49-4751-8f3c-3cf992aba85b (3) J. L. Kirby, 'Inquisitions Post Mortem, Henry IV, Entries 603-654', in Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem: Volume 19, Henry IV (London, 1992), pp. 215-234. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/inquis-post-mortem/vol19/pp215-234 [accessed 26 November 2018]. Photo credit: Stone bridge at Lolham, near Bourne, Lincolnshire cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Rex Needle - geograph.org.uk/p/4436905