Standing on Wisbech's North Brink, overlooking the River Nene, stands Peckover House. It exhibits all the features of a Georgian town house - symmetry, clean lines and elegant proportions. It was given to the National Trust together with its garden by the Peckover family in 1943. Shall we look at the garden first?
The garden is a glorious mix of the formal and informal, winding paths, hidden gazebos and, this summer, some interesting small sculptures. Let the garden speak for itself....
Now it's time to go inside the house, though I actually took rather more garden photos than I've shown you here; they may well surface on "By Stargoose And Hanglands" some time during the depths of winter.
The house was actually built in 1722, before there were any Peckovers in Wisbech. Jonathan Peckover came to the town in 1777 with the aim of establishing a small grocery business. He soon acquired a reputation for honesty and reliability which led to other businesses trusting him to take care of their takings. He became a sort of unofficial banker in a town that, at that time, lacked banks.
He soon realised that banking could become a profitable venture and set up a more business-like enterprise. During the 1790s he bought Peckover House from which he also operated his bank. The building was known as Bank House for many years.
Like many successful businessmen of that era, the Peckovers were Quakers. Their religious beliefs disqualified them from many other professions. The Quakers had no paid clergy, so religion offered no avenue for their skills. The military was not open to them as they were pacifists. Since they disagreed with the Church of England many professions such as Law and Medicine were also no go areas. That left business. And their reputation for fairness and honesty meant that many succeeded in that field.
Subsequent generations of the family supported many institutions in Wisbech including the Museum and the Working Men's Institute. Their philanthropy also extended to the campaign to abolish slavery, pacifism and the provision of educational facilities in the town.
In the 1890s the family sold off their banking interests but continued living in the house till 1943 when Alexandrina Peckover, the last descendant of Jonathan Peckover, gave the property to the National Trust. Unfortunately much of the best furniture was sold or given away and the Trust has had to re-furnish the rooms in the style of the day.
"Below stairs" though, most of the kitchen equipment was thought of as of little value so it remained in place. I was impressed with the fine kitchen range, which must have been, excuse the pun, top of the range in its day. Many of the surfaces were enamelled which must have made it easier to clean, though the many controls and dampers must have taken time to master.
And finally the Butler's pantry with its leaded sink. And so farewell to Peckover House and to Wisbech. For the time being at least.