John Clare – the Helpston poet – appears to have had little direct involvement with the nearby Peterborough apart from a brief time with the Militia at Norman Cross. However, he does make passage through Peterborough on this day Friday 23rd July 1841.
In 1837 he had been admitted to the High Beach Asylum in Epping Forest. On Tuesday 20th July 1841 he left of his own freewill to walk the 80 miles home to Northborough, close by Peterborough. This morning he leaves his ‘overnight stop’ in Stilton and, after seeking directions, headed toward Peterborough. Before he reached Peterborough a man and woman passed him in a cart. They ‘hailed’ him as they passed and John recognised them as people from Helpston – his home village. He told them his story and that he had nothing to eat or drink since he had left Essex. John later said that ‘I told them that I was knocked up received 5d in return. They did not offer him a lift home!
John, however, called ‘at a small public house near the bridge’ and had ‘two half-pints of ale and two penn’oth of bread and cheese.’ Feeling quite refreshed, but with feet more crippled than ever but ‘half ashamed to sit down in the street’ he forced himself to keep on the move and ‘got through Peterborough better than I expected’. He ‘passed Walton and soon reached Werrington’. There he was met by his wife Patty and taken home to their house in Northborough.