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ANCIENT TOWN AND PORT
WIS B E CH,
IN THE ISLE OF ELY, IN THE COUNTY OF CAMBRIDGE,
AND OF THE CIRCUMJACENT
TOWNS AND VILLAGES,
THE DRAINAGE OF THE GREAT LEVEL OF THE FENS,
ORIGIN OF THE ROYAL FRANCHISE OF THE ISLE OF ELY, &c.
WILLIAM WATSON, Esq. F.A.S.
Sic toties versa s fortuna locorum
Ovid's Met. X. 261.
PRINTED BY AND FOR H. AND J. LEACH.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF HARDWICKE, K.G.
LORD LIEUTENANT AND CUSTOS ROTULORUM OF THE
COUNTY OF CAMBRIDGE,
· HIGH STEWARD OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE,
ONE OF THE MEMBERS OF THE HONOURABLE CORPORATION
OF BEDFORD LEVEL, F.R.S. AND A.S.
Your Lordship, it is well known, has at all times taken a lively interest in the welfare and improvement of the Fens in general, and particularly of the Town of which the History is attempted in the following pages. The owners and occupiers of this country are under great obligations to your Lordship for your peculiar attention to their interests on all occasions, and they duly appreciate your recent exertions in Parliament, whereby they will in future be relieved from many heavy burthens to which they were formerly liable, in carrying through the two houses the requisite bills for the drainage and security of these uncertain Districts,
Under what more appropriate auspices, therefore, than your Lordship’s patronage, could this humble endeavour meet the public eye?
The favours received from your Lordship in earlier life confirm the propriety of the dedication of this volume to your Lordship, and duty and inclination alike influence me.
I thankfully acknowledge your Lordship’s condescension, in becoming the patron of an undertaking which stands but too much in need of powerful protection. I shall ever venerate the public and private virtues by which you are as much distinguished as by your noble birth ; and earnestly wishing for a long continuance of health and felicity to your Lordship, I have the honour to subscribe myself, with the utmost respect and attachment,
and most obedient Servant,
WILLIAM WATSON. PREFACE.
ALTHOUGH topographical histories are in general dull and uninteresting, still for some readers they have a sort of relish belonging to them, which is to be attributed rather to the love we feel for the place of our birth or łong residence, than to any real value in the narrative. All ranks and conditions of men naturally wish to know something of the first state of scenes endeared to them by habit and many pleasing recollections, and if fixed by providence in situations remote from the home of their earlier years, every account of what were once the haunts of their youth speaks at once to the inmost feelings, and with magic influence revives associations which time and distance had repressed but not destroyed. No person has hitherto, to my knowledge, given himself the trouble of inquiring into the ancient history of the town of Wisbech, which undoubtedly is a place of considerable antiquity, and in former times could boast of being dignified with a castle. The condition of places we know is subject to continual vicissitudes, ebbing and flowing in regard to trade, extent of buildings, and number of inhabitants, which the History of Wisbech will exemplify. Having lately held the chief annual