After 1066, William the Conqueror established the mark of his authority in every important place, and the town of Wisbech, at that time on the sea, was deemed worthy of a stone fortress.
In 1236, both Town and Castle were swept away in a terrible inundation. The castle remained in ruins for the better half of a century, and then was rebuilt and became one of ten castles, palaces and manor houses attached to the See of Ely.
In the times of persecution, Wisbech Castle became a state ecclesiastical prison, incarcerating Catholics in the reigns of Elizabeth, James I and Charles I and Protestants in that of Queen Mary. Many were executed. It is possible even that the Gunpowder Plot was hatched at the Castle.
Since Wisbech was a Cromwellian area, the Castle, by now in a state of terminal dilapidation, was sold in 1658 to the Right Honourable John Thurloe, Cromwell’s Secretary of State. He had the ruined castle demolished and replaced it by a most elegant house designed by Peter Mills, a pupil of Inigo Jones.
At the Restoration, Thurloe’s Mansion reverted to the See of Ely and was occupied by members of the Southwell family over a period of a hundred and five years.
Then in 1792 it was put up for sale, and purchased by Joseph Medworth, a former Wisbech Charity boy who had succeeded in business. He offered it for sale to the Corporation for the use of the Grammar School, but they declined. Medworth had the Mansion demolished. Using much of the same materials, he managed to replace it with the regency villa, which stands today.
Until February 2018 the building was managed by Cambridgeshire County Council. The building had declined and there was a real chance it would be sold into private hands and lost to the people of Wisbech. Wisbech Town Council stepped in and the Leader of the Council, Councillor Samantha Hoy and the Mayor Of Wisbech 2017/18 Councillor Steve Tierney negotiated a long-term lease on a peppercorn rent, The Wisbech Castle Project was born and Wisbech Town Council and local volunteers seek to bring the building back into public use and retain it as a much-loved and wonderful asset for the people of Wisbech. This project has begun! If you would like to be a part of it, please get in touch.
The Castle can be visited with a guided tour. The Gardens are also open, weather permitting on selected dates throughout the year.