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Knights and a Castle

1071

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William I imposed the living of sixty knights onto Peterborough Abbey and its monastic estates in 1071. He ordered the construction of a motte and bailey castle on the north side of the monastic precincts. This  was a Norman Castle of timber and earth. The motte remains today in the Deanery Gardens as Tout (Tower) Hill, whilst many of the manors in the area given to the knights now bear their names in the villages – Helpston, Longueville, Waterville and so on.





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John Clare, Poet

1793-1864

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John Clare, the poet, was born in Helpston on 13th July 1793 and became one of our leading environmental poets. Despite having had little education he went on to write over 3500 poems. His poems are very descriptive of the wildlife, the people and the way the people lived in the rural 19th century villages. The works were created by a man who lived and worked in that environment and was able to relate to his surroundings. His first book of poems, 'Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery' was published to great acclaim in 1820, he went on to have three more books printed. He left Helpston in 1832 to go to Northborough, from where he went into High Beech mental asylum in Epping in 1837. He walked home, back to Northborough in 1841, taking 4 days. Later in 1841 he was sent to Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, now St Andrews, in Northampton. This is where he died in 1864. His body was brought back to Helpston, where he is buried in the churchyard.





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John Clare Mural Unveiled

1997

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Hundreds of motorists each day drive along Werrington Parkway between the roundabouts at Papyrus Road/Davids Lane and A15/Glinton Road B1443 (McDonalds). How many realise they travel over this mural to John Clare, unveiled on 11 September 1997. Walk along the Hurn Road heading west and before passing under the Werrington Parkway bridge you can view this artwork. Before the parkway was built, you would have been looking towards Helpston and John Clare’s open fields.







Resources

The Siege of Woodcroft Castle

1648

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Woodcroft Castle near Helpston was built in the 13th century as a fortified manor house with a tower and moat. During the English Civil was it was occupied by Dr Michael Hudson. He was a priest who had been the chaplain to King Charles I and was a staunch Royalist. In 1648 Hudson garrisoned Woodcroft Castle with Cavalier soldiers and attempted to get Stamford to rise up against Parliament but he failed. He was chased back to Woodcroft Castle by a troop of Roundheads. They attempted to storm the castle but they were driven off with the loss of several men. The besiegers were then reinforced by a full regiment of Roundheads who were determined to win the castle. Hudson and his men resisted bravely but it was stormed after the gates were blown in using gunpowder. The defenders retreated to the tower and Dr Hudson ended up dangling from the ramparts. When the Roundheads found him dangling they cut off his hands sending him plunging into the moat below. He was then dragged from the moat and disembowelled and his tongue cut out. His body was buried at Denton, Northamptonshire. As a grisly postscript his tongue was paraded around local towns as a trophy and a warning not to oppose Parliament!





Deer Park Created at Torpel Manor

1198

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The remains of Torpel Manor sit on the Western edge of Helpston on King Street. It is thought the first building was a wooden ring-work castle or fortified manor house, built by Roger Infans. He owned huge areas of the local countryside, but liked his house by the hamlet of Torpel the most, so he became Roger de Torpel. The early wooden building was surrounded by ditches, which still remain. There is some suggestion that it was once a motte and bailey construction, but this has been debated. The wooden building would have had a commanding position on King Street, with views over the Welland valley. It was later replaced by an impressive stone building made using local stone and slate. There was also a large deer park too, which was an important sign of wealth. The deer park was created in 1198; we know this because Roger de Torpel had to ask permission to create the park and pay a lot of money. Only the wealthy were allowed to create or own deer parks. They were built to provide a source of food and entertainment for the owners. The ability to hunt on your own land was a status symbol and a way for the rich to show off to their friends. Little remains of the buildings that were once on the grassy mounds, but there have been a number of recent projects to discover more about Torpel. This included a project with the department of archaeology and York University. The site is scheduled, but is accessible to visitors from either Helpston or Ashton along the Torpel Way route. This site should not be confused with the building remains SW of Torpel Manor, which have been referred to as Torpel Manor, Castle and hunting lodge.
References
Timeline for Torpel Manor Field and The Story of Torpel PDF both accessed from http://langdyke.org.uk/torpel-manor-field/ Photo credit cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Michael Trolove - geograph.org.uk/p/3252955