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24 September 2014

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Peckover House, Wisbech
Peckover House, Wisbech

Tourist in your own Town goes to Wisbech!

By Jan Reynolds
Known as 'the capital of the Fens', Wisbech is an inland port where trade really flourished in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Listen to Jan explore Wisbech:
audio Tourist in your own Town: Wisbech - Part 1 >
audio Tourist in your own Town: Wisbech - Part 2 >
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After strolling along the elegant crescent of Georgian townhouses, we reached Castle Square where the outstanding Wisbech Museum lies.

The Crescent in Wisbech
The elegant Crescent in Wisbech

Its treasures include the original manuscript of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, and Napoleon's breakfast service, captured at Waterloo - not dented and buckled pewter as you might expect but exquisite Sèvres porcelain for dining in style!

One of the most unusual exhibits is Thomas Clarkson's chest. The town's distinguished son spent a lifetime campaigning against slavery and the chest contains beautiful ethnic craft items which he used to argue a case for trading with Africans rather than enslaving them. 2007 will be the 200th anniversary of abolition.

Wisbech and Fenland Museum
Wisbech and Fenland Museum

Other displays include the contents of an old village post office and an enormous 10-foot-long punt-gun used for fowling.

This museum is a place for real nostalgia, with stock from old grocers' shops - packets of starch for collars and sweetie packs from the days of yore. Was it really so long ago? This is a place for the old and the young, as well as everyone in between.

For more information about the museum, including opening times, visit the website:
Wisbech and Fenland Museum >
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Thomas Clarkson memorial
Thomas Clarkson memorial

At the other end of the Georgian Crescent is the soaring memorial to Thomas Clarkson, and just along the way is the childhood home of Octavia Hill, co-founder of The National Trust and an early instigator of social housing. She moved to London and became a friend and pupil of John Ruskin but this very interesting house from her youth remains the national museum dedicated to her memory.

From the nearby bridge, the view opens to the grand sweep of the North Brink - a row of grand Georgian houses, whose merchant-owners could look out onto their ships moored directly below.

Elgood's Brewery in Wisbech
Elgood's Ales

Further along the Brink, Elgoods survives as one of the oldest breweries outside London, its frontage hiding a wonderful 4-acre garden with lake, maze and 200-year-old trees.

For more information about Elgood's, including details of their guided tours, visit their website:
Elgood's Brewery >
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

The elegant Peckover House, once owned by a local Quaker banking family, is now one of the National Trust's finest town houses, and its lawns have a croquet set if your own patch of green isn't quite flat enough. Quite the thing to finish off an afternoon of elegance... anyone for tea?

Visit the Peckover House website for more details:
National Trust - Peckover House >
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

If you have more time, seek out the Regency Villa on the site of the medieval Wisbech Castle, and the beautiful Church of St Peter and St Paul with its exceptional memorials - life-size painted figures from the early 1600s, in costumes of the day. Thespians will love the intimacy of the Angles Theatre - of Georgian origin and holding around 100 seats.

Find out more about 'Tourist In Your Own Town' with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire:
A Tourist in your own Town! >
last updated: 30/08/06
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