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TRISH TAKES FIVE: The colourful history of Holbeach

I wasn't born and bred in Holbeach, but I'm becoming fascinated in the social history of the town I've lived in for nearly 25 years.

A few weeks ago I listened intently to Linden Secker as he shared some harrowing stories attached to the graves at the Holbeach Cemetery Chapels. His passion for the town was evident again as he gathered together a large amount of archive material for the Holbeach History Open Weekend.

The exhibition was organised by Linden and Jean Bird from the Old Holbeach Facebook group, together with other individuals and local organisations. The idea was to bring a small portion of the collected archives and put them on show to the public at the Women's Institute Hall in Park Road.

One of the displays
One of the displays

Death and intrigue were still on the agenda as I read about the Holbeach murder in 1863 when Thomas Bloom was stabbed by John Franks in a pub fight which began with an argument over Frank's drinking out of a quart mug. The doctor's description of Bloom's wounds was very lurid: no detail spared in the court report.

Franks was found guilty and shipped off to Australia. Linden managed to track him down and discovered he had kept out of trouble in the colony, dying in 1925 at the ripe old age of 92.

The other tale that caught my eye was the hideous death of 22-year-old Thomas Bingham at the hands of the workhouse master, Walter Brydges Waterer. Bingham had been left for too long in a sulphur-burning cabinet designed to treat scabies. His screams were eventually heard but he died from extensive burns.

Postcards encouraging people to Holbeach
Postcards encouraging people to Holbeach

Thankfully, the rest of the exhibition had many lighter moments. I loved reading the postcards encouraging visitors to Holbeach: "Time somehow seems to fly at Holbeach - come and test it."

My love of the theatre drew me to the postcard advertising the American tour of Mr Albert Chevalier's Recitals, including Miss Flossie Behrens as 'whistling soloist'.

I now know the history of Joseph Farrow and his famous mushroom ketchup. This developed into a huge industry making mustard and canning peas. Farrow's marrowfat peas are still on the supermarket shelves today.

a (11190977)
a (11190977)

It was good to see lots of other interested residents at the event, leafing through old newspapers and almanacs, or looking at old photographs showing how the town has changed over the years.

I was particularly fascinated by the court rolls, large tomes with each legal transgression carefully scribed on each page. In 1927 there were many people fined for riding a bicycle without a light. Other common misdemeanours were being 'drunk and incapable', allowing cows to stray and trespassing in search of game.

Dougie and I both thoroughly enjoyed dipping into our town's history. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the event. Let's hope it can be repeated in the future or even find a more permanent home for such valuable insights into Holbeach's colourful past.

You can read Trish's blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk


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