North brink wisbech.jpg
North Brink
Wisbech is located in Cambridgeshire
Wisbech shown within Cambridgeshire
Population 31,573 (2011)
OS grid reference TF4609
Civil parish
  • Wisbech
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town WISBECH
Postcode district PE13, PE14
Dialling code 01945
Police Cambridgeshire
Fire Cambridgeshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°39′50″N 0°09′36″E / 52.664°N 0.160°E / 52.664; 0.160Coordinates: 52°39′50″N 0°09′36″E / 52.664°N 0.160°E / 52.664; 0.160

Wisbech (/ˈwɪzb/ WIZ-beech) is a market town, inland port and civil parish in the Fens of Cambridgeshire, England. It had a population of 31,573 in 2011. The town lies in the far north-east of the county, bordering Norfolk and only 5 miles (8 km) south of Lincolnshire. The tidal River Nene running through the town centre is spanned by two bridges. In 2011, Wisbech was the second largest town in Cambridgeshire, after Cambridge. Before the Local Government Act 1972 came into force in 1974 Wisbech was a municipal borough.


The name Wisbech is believed to mean "on the back of the (River) Ouse", Ouse being a common Celtic word relating to water, and the name of a river that once flowed through the town.

During the Iron Age, the area where Wisbech would develop lay in the west of the Brythonic Iceni tribe's territory. Like the rest of Cambridgeshire, Wisbech was part of the Kingdom of East Anglia after the Anglo-Saxon invasion.

The first authentic reference to Wisbech occurs about 1000, when Oswy and Leoflede, on the admission of their son Aelfwin as a monk, gave the vill to the monastery of Ely.[1] In 1086 Wisbech was held by the abbot, there may have been some 65 to 70 families, or about 300 to 350 persons, in Wisbech manor. However, Wisbech, which is the only one of the Marshland vills of the Isle to be mentioned in the Domesday Book, probably comprised the whole area from Tydd Gote down to the far end of Upwell at Welney.[2]

Wisbech Castle was built by William I to fortify the town, and during the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I, it became a state ecclesiastical prison for incarcerating Catholics, many of whom died there owing to the insanitary conditions.[3] Among those held there were John Feckenham, the last Abbot of Westminster, and later two of the key participants in the Gunpowder Plot, Robert Catesby and Francis Tresham. The castle was rebuilt in the mid-17th century, and again in 1816 by Joseph Medworth, who also developed The Crescent, familiar as the setting in numerous costume dramas.

Peckover House on North Brink by the Nene in Wisbech

Peckover House, with its fine walled garden, was built for the Quaker banking family in 1722 and is now owned by the National Trust. Formerly known as Bank House, the Peckover Bank later became part of Barclays Bank.

In the 17th century, the inhabitants became known as the "Fen Tigers" for their resistance to the draining of the Fens, but the project turned Wisbech into a wealthy port handling agricultural produce. At the time Wisbech was on the estuary of the River Great Ouse, but silting caused the coastline to move north, and the River Nene was diverted to serve the town. The Wisbech Canal joining the River Nene at Wisbech was subsequently filled in and became the dual carriageway leading into the town from the east (now crossing the bypass). The port of Wisbech now houses a large number of berths for yachts adjacent to the Boathouse development.

On 27 June 1970, the heaviest point rainfall was recorded in Wisbech, when 2 inches (50.8 mm) fell in just 12 minutes during the Rose Fair.[2]

On 21 September 1979, two Harrier jump jets on a training exercise collided over Wisbech; one landed in a field and the other in a residential area. Two houses and a bungalow were demolished on Ramnoth Road, causing the death of Bob Bowers, his two-year-old son Jonathan Bowers and former town mayor Bill Trumpess.[4]

The five-mile (8 km), £6 million A47 Wisbech/West Walton bypass opened in spring 1982.

On 19 January 2012, BBC Look East reported growing tensions in the town, where one-third of the population were said to be East European immigrants.[5]

The town's traditional market days are Thursday and Saturday, but the town council now runs markets seven days a week. The Sunday market runs alongside a car-boot sale.



Before the Beeching closures of the 1960s, Wisbech had three railway lines: the 1847/48–1968 GER March to Watlington (junction), Norfolk (on the Ely to King's Lynn main line) via Wisbech East (Victoria Road); the 1866–1959 M&GN Peterborough to Sutton Bridge via Wisbech North (on Harecroft Road); and the 1883/84–1966 GER Wisbech and Upwell Tramway. There were also harbour quay lines either side of the River Nene – M&GN Harbour West branch and GER Harbour East branch.[citation needed]

The Wisbech and March Bramleyline heritage railway would like to restore and reopen the remaining March to Wisbech line as a tourist line similar to the Mid-Norfolk Railway at Dereham. The Wisbech branch is Network Rail property and is still classed as a fully functioning goods line, although the last goods service was in the summer of 2000, and so the heritage railway would lease the track from NR for 99 years. When the line had fully re-opened, after HM Rail Inspectorate approval, rail services would run between March Elm Road (a new station next to Elm Road crossing) and Wisbech East (a new station in Weasenham Lane). It is hoped that a new station would be built at Coldham, on the site of the old station's down (Wisbech-bound) platform, with another at Waldersea for visitors, where the group hopes to have a depot.[citation needed]

There is also an active campaign to reopen the March–Wisbech line as part of the national rail network, with direct services to Cambridge and possibly Peterborough. A report published in 2009 by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) indicated that this was viable.[citation needed] It is supported by Wisbech Town Council and subject to reports commissioned by the county council in 2013.[citation needed] The line is currently at GRIP 3 study stage.[6]. The Bramblyline Heritage Railway could still to operate over it, even if the plan went ahead.[citation needed]


Wisbech is located on the excel bus route between Peterborough and Norwich, operated by First Eastern Counties. The town is also served by buses operated by Stagecoach East and Lynx, the latter including the 46 and X46 services between King's Lynn and Three Holes.



Wisbech 22,932 24,981 26,536


In 2014 it was reported by a popular national newspaper that some 18% of town's population (5,000 people) were Lithuanians.[7] Several official places (libraries, surgeries, local council) provide translations into Lithuanian, as well as Polish, Latvian, Russian and Portuguese.[8] Many small businesses in the town relate to Lithuanian and Eastern European food supplies.

There are two Lithuanian basketball clubs in Wisbech, currently participating in Britain's Lithuanian Basketball League: Wisbech Wizards and Wisbech Bullets.[9] Both play at Thomas Clarkson Academy.


The Angles Theatre[10] is a professional theatre run almost entirely by volunteers and backed by leading names including Derek Jacobi, Jo Brand and Cameron Mackintosh. It also runs a theatre school for children called Ratzcool.[11] The amateur dramatic group Wisbech Players has been performing for over 50 years. It currently appears twice a year in spring and autumn at the Angles Theatre.[12]

Amateur dramatic group, the Wisbech Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, have been providing musicals to the town since 1905 and a yearly pantomime since 1975. The society's home is at the local Thomas Clarkson Community College, where rehearsals and performances take place.[13]

Every summer a "Rose Fair" is held in aid of St Peter's Church. The church is decorated with floral displays sponsored by local organisations and businesses. A parade of floats forms up in Queens Road and circuits the town. Strawberry and cream teas are served and stalls raise funds for local charities. Coaches bring visitors from a wide area.[14]

The Luxe cinema in Alexandra Rd screens films in a former Women's Institutes hall.[15]

Local youth organisations include the Army Cadet Force, Air Training Corps, Sea Cadets, Girls Venture Corps Air Cadets, Fire Cadets and St John Ambulance Cadets. There are numerous Scout and Guide groups for boys and girls.[citation needed]

Wisbech Citizens' Patrol, a voluntary group launched in April 2016 to patrol the town and help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, is currently in abeyance.[16]


A colour photograph of an unusual Victorian house with a small spire on the top. To the left is a set of old fashioned schoolrooms with large sash windows. In front of the house is a small lawn, covered in snow.
Wisbech Grammar School on North Brink.

Wisbech's two secondary schools (11–18) are the state-funded Thomas Clarkson Academy (formerly the Queen's School, which itself was the amalgamation of the Queen's Girls' and Queen's Boys' schools), and the independent Wisbech Grammar School, which was founded in 1379, making it one of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom.

Primary schools in Wisbech include; Clarkson Infants, St Peters Juniors, The Orchards, Peckover, Nene Infants, Ramnoth Junior School, Leverington Primary School and Elm Road Primary School. There is also a school for children with special learning needs, Meadowgate School. There is also a further education centre: the College of West Anglia formerly the Isle of Ely College.


The local football team is Wisbech Town Football Club, nicknamed The Fenmen. Other sports clubs include Wisbech Rugby Union Football Club, Wisbech Hockey Club, Wisbech Tennis Club, Wisbech Cricket Club (who have an annual fixture with the MCC, Wisbech Squash Club, Wisbech Swimming Club, and a number of martial arts clubs.

The "Nine Mile River Swim" between Wisbech and Sutton Bridge in the River Nene was won four times in the 1930s by Ernie (Bunny) Bunning. When the swim was moved to the swimming pool as a 220-yard race, David Bunning, his son, won the cup four times in the 1960s.

Notable buildings[]

The Clarkson Memorial in Wisbech 2013
The Octagon Chapel in Wisbech Old Market, demolished in 1952

Notable people[]

In order of birth:

Film and television[]

The North Brink by the River Nene in Wisbech
The Brinks, depicted in 1851

Wisbech is noted for its unspoilt Georgian architecture, particularly along North Brink and The Crescent. It has been used in BBC One's 1999 adaptation of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield and ITV1's Micawber, starring David Jason. A "Wisbech Rock Festival" appears in the film Still Crazy. The 2008 feature film Dean Spanley starring Peter O'Toole was largely filmed in Wisbech. The effect of immigration on the town was featured in the BBC documentary "The Day the Immigrants Left", presented by Evan Davis. The programme looked at jobs in the town reported to have been "taken over by migrants". In the programme, several local unemployed persons were given the chance to try such jobs.[24][25][26]

Wisbech in the news[]

There are two free newspapers distributed within the town, the Wisbech Standard (owned by Archant) and the Fenland Citizen.

According to a study looking into immigration patterns, Wisbech was once identified as the seventh "most English" town in Britain by Sky News However, on 16 February 2008 a report in the Daily Express titled "Death Of A Country Idyll" wrote about how the influx of Eastern European immigrants may have caused the increase of crime and other illegal activities. Then on 20 February 2008 The Fenland Citizen contained an article opposing the Daily Express article.[27]

In January 2012 the Daily Mail ran a story following the murder of Alisa Dmitrijeva, a Latvian teenager and resident of Wisbech, whose body was found on the Queen's Sandringham estate. The article alleged that the quintessentially English town had been taken over by a sinister Eastern European drug and crimes ring nicknamed the "Baltic Mafia" who were terrifying local residents. The article reported that there had been five murders within the Eastern European community from Wisbech within the last two years.[28]

On 28 August 2012 there was a serious incident when police were called because of people reportedly on the roof of Wisbech District Hospital. Two local officers of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Wisbech Policing Team answered the call. On arrival they found one of the hospital's doctors had been assaulted by the group. As the two officers split up to search the hospital, one of the suspects, a woman armed with an axe, returned to the hospital making threats to kill, one police officer tackled the woman, disarming her and restraining her on the floor. Her colleague joined her and assisted in detaining the woman until help arrived.

The woman detained was arrested and in November 2012 pleaded guilty to numerous offences at Cambridge Crown Court, including burglary, assault, public order offences and racially aggravated harassment. Both police received formal commendations for their actions.[29][30][31][32]

Another officer of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, Wisbech Policing Team also made the news when on Friday 12 November 2013, when he was struck off his bike on Churchill Road by a shoplifting suspect he was chasing. Despite suffering a broken ankle he remounted his bike and chased the suspect for 20 minutes before cornering him in Prospect Place. Despite the man attempting to escape by climbing a fence PCSO McCormack kept hold of the man detaining him, even as he violently resisted, until help arrived. The suspect was arrested.[33]


Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Wisbech experiences an oceanic climate, but Cambridgeshire is one of the driest counties in the British Isles along with Essex. February is the driest month, whilst October is the wettest. In temperature terms, both January and December are the coldest months, whilst August is the warmest.

Climate data for Wisbech
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.5
Average low °C (°F) 2
Average precipitation cm (inches) 4.5
Average precipitation days 18 15 15 14 13 12 12 12 13 16 17 17 174
Source: World Weather Online[34]

Twin town[]

See also[]

Further reading[]


  1. ^ J. Bentham, Hist. Ely, 87.
  2. ^ [Wisbech: Manors', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4: City of Ely; Ely, N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds (2002), pp. 243–245.]
  3. ^ http://www.wisbech-society.co.uk/castle.html The Wisbech Society & Preservation Trust, The Castle
  4. ^ BBC Archive
  5. ^ BBC: Migrants singled out by attackers in Wisbech
  6. ^ GRIP process explained: Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  7. ^ Little Lithuania: Population 28,000 (5,000 are Lithuanian)
  8. ^ Ką reikia dėti į atliekų dėžes? (Lithuanian)
  9. ^ BLKL Wisbech
  10. ^ Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  11. ^ The Angles Theatre, Wisbech Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  12. ^ Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  13. ^ Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  14. ^ Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  15. ^ Luxe Cinema Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  16. ^ Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  17. ^ This church's page at the Cambridgeshire Churches website
  18. ^ This church's page at the Cambridgeshire Churches website
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Foxe, John (1838). Seymour, Michael Hobart, ed. The Acts and Monuments of the Church; containing the history and sufferings of the martyrs. London: Scott, Webster and Geary. pp. 820–821. 
  21. ^ Blakeman, Pamela (1990). The Book of Ely (Limited no. 589 ed.). Barracuda Books. p. 131. ISBN 0-86023-466-5. 
  22. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-32315803
  23. ^ http://www.willmillard.com/
  24. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00r3qyw
  25. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/cambridgeshire/hi/people_and_places/newsid_8530000/8530168.stm
  26. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbq_2dai4Hk
  27. ^ Wisbech: blighted by crime? – Fenland Today
  28. ^ Drugs, the teenager found murdered on the Queen's estate and how the Baltic Mafia is terrorising one of Britain's oldest market towns
  29. ^ http://www.elystandard.co.uk/news/heroic_pcso_who_disarmed_axe_wielding_woman_at_wisbech_hospital_to_receive_bravery_award_tomorrow_1_3011868
  30. ^ http://www.police.uk/cambridgeshire/Fenland_Wisbech/
  31. ^ http://www.police.uk/cambridgeshire/Fenland_Wisbech/team/pcso-lisa-mann/
  32. ^ http://www.police.uk/cambridgeshire/Fenland_Wisbech/team/
  33. ^ http://www.cambstimes.co.uk/news/heroic_psco_chases_down_man_who_knocked_him_off_his_bike_despite_suffering_a_broken_ankle_1_2979185
  34. ^ "Wisbech, United Kingdom Weather Averages". World Weather Online. Retrieved 1 September 2017. 

External links[]