Saturday afternoon turned out to be quite pleasant after the storms that we had in the Fens during the morning, torrential rain and lightning had looked set for the day. But as if by magic the storms abated and out came the sun. At lunch time we went off to the other side of Peterborough to have a pub lunch and met some friends, in a village we had never been to before, Marholm, which has a lovely church. Unfortunately the church was locked but it did have some nice headstones.
When we arrived and said we had come the long way around through really beautiful green countryside, our friends said, did you see Woodcroft Castle…..no…..what castle. It would seem we had missed a big castle, so on the return journey, all eyes peeled for this Castle. It took two trips before I glimpsed it through the trees and then realised the gates were open and you could see more. The castle is a private house, which is really quite a shame as parts are 13th century.
The main photo was taken by Andrew Kerr and I think it was some time ago because the trees have grown rather large, as seen in my photos, and when you look through the gates the trees somewhat hamper any clear photos. But what a find, I was amazed, with its walls of smooth Barnack stone and bold circular corner tower, Woodcroft Castle appears to have followed the same plan as Edward 1’s mighty Harlech Castle built in the 1280s, though on a much more modest scale. There is a debate to whether the castle was ever finished as there is only the one tower which you can see, there was a Tudor conversion which retained the front, tower and gatehouse. Although the castle is moated it is hardly fortified, as in places it is only 2 feet deep. The castle has eight bedrooms and the upper floor is Victorian, and in one room there is a medieval fireplace. I can not find any interior photos of the house, which is a shame as I would love to see the interior of the round tower.
The history of the house is very sketchy as it changed counties over the years, but now is firmly in Cambridgeshire. The castle is named after the Woodcrofts who held the manor from the 12th to the 14th century. A family called Peston were listed as sub tenants from 1300. In 1545, Lord Fritzwilliam of Milton bought the castle and it remained in the family for the next 450 years and was sold in 1988.
We now come to the best part of Castle Woodcrofts history……..the haunting and this is what I found….
In 1648, England was in a civil war between Cromwell’s Roundheads and the Kings Cavaliers. Michael Hudson was the doctor who lived in nearby Woodgate castle, he was a supporter of the King and so organised a group of men to launch a surprise attack against the Roundheads who were in the area. This did not go according to plan however, when the Roundheads began attacking, Hudson and his men retreated to Woodgate Castle where the Roundheads laid siege against the castle. Hudson surrendered and pleaded for mercy, in return for surrendering the Roundheads promised Hudson ‘Safety’ in Woodcroft Castle.
Hudson moved into Woodcroft Castle but he soon began plans to attack the Roundheads again. This time however, the Roundheads heard about his plans before he had the chance to carry them out and so they attacked Woodcroft Castle. Hudson’s men tried to fight off the soldiers in and around the castle as Hudson retreated to the roof. The Roundheads managed to fight their way up to the roof and Hudson tried to hide from them by dangling off the ramparts at the side of the roof. The Roundheads saw him however, and using their swords they cut of his fingers and sent him falling into the moat below. The soldiers on the ground pulled Hudson out of the moat and killed him.
Michael Hudson’s ghost is said to haunt Woodcroft Castle today. Sometimes you can hear him shouting or begging for mercy or screaming. It is said that his ghost likes to rein-act his death and is sure to do so during the month in which he died, June.
(A new photo I found, as the castle came up to sale in 2015, after I had taken my photos)
So for a glimpse through the trees, I found a new castle for my collection and a haunting…..not bad for a days work, oh and on the way home I managed to explore another two churches, which I’m happy to say were open.