A pleasant little market town, on the western edge of the Fens, known for its brick-making and McCain's frozen potato products.
Whittlesey Market Square © Travel About Britain
It has a vibrant market place with several striking buildings of historic interest, including the 18th-c George Hotel and a 17th-c Buttercross (known locally as The Stones), which was the scene of lively auctions during the 1800s.
The church of St Mary, behind the square, is noted for its elegant flying buttresses that support one of the tallest spires in Cambridgeshire. There are also many fine houses from the Georgian period plus a few old coaching inns. Another key property of interest in Whittlesey is the Grade II listed Grove House (circa 1680), constructed of rendered rubblestone and dressed Ketton limestone - originally built as a hunting lodge for the Earl of Leicester.
The town is the scene of a peculiar winter custom, the Straw Bear Festival. An ancient plough boy's custom, celebrated every January with a three day festival. The Bear (a person dressed in straw) is paraded around the town, followed by a troop of dancers and musicians, who stop off to perform at all the pubs along the route.
The Briggate River Drain (part of the Nene-Ouse Navigation), flows alongside Manor Field Park to the south of the town, providing attractive boat moorings and pleasant riverside walks.
The Black Bull Inn and Town Hall © Travel About Britain
Whittlesey Mere, to the south-west, was at one time the largest natural lake in southern England, until it was drained in 1851. Before drainage began the mere was famous for its winter speed skating races against the Dutch. It is believed that two sons of King Canute (990 - 1035) were drowned in the mere, during a rough crossing. Due to this unfortunate incident he had a new canal cut to bypass the mere, which is still called Kings Dyke to this day.
Nene Washes, to the north, is a large floodplain developed during the 18th-c - partly to make up for the loss of Whittlesey Mere. This remote area of grassy meadows and wetlands is now a haven for birds and wildlife. Currently run as a nature reserve by the RSPB, it is home to large flocks of over wintering wildfowl, such as Bewick and Whooper swans and many nesting birds including black-tailed godwit and snipe.
Located in the old Town Hall, this small social history museum contains a mixture of artifacts and historical finds from the local Cambridgeshire Fens. There is a good collection of old agricultural tools, including an eel spear (see image) used to fish for the eels that were once very common in this area.
In the foyer is a display of watercolours by local artist and architect Patrick Kearney.
Opening times: Fri
2:30–4:30pm, Sat 10am–12pm, Sun 2:30–4:30pm
Location: Town Hall, Market St, Whittlesey, Peterborough PE7 1BD
Tel: 07706 132437
Complete prehistoric dwellings and rare log boats were discovered buried deep in the peat marshlands just a few miles west of Whittlesey. Archaeologists at the site are learning more amazing facts about the every day life or our ancestors as the dig continues. Although the site is not open to public, exhibits from the site are occasionally on display in Peterborough Museum.