The election of Pope Francis I, the first Jesuit ever to head the papacy, brought to mind Wisbech’s traumatic link with the particular Order of the Catholic Church in the 16th Century. At the time of the Reformation a large number of Jesuits, whom I respectfully term super catholics, were imprisoned at Wisbech castle-cum-palace. Nationally, the Order was cruelly persecuted and the castle became the hot-bed of discussion between two factions of the eminently intellectual internees. Within the castle walls ideas were hatched by the prisoners to overturn the fledgling Protestant cause. The debating efficiency of the priests and their communicative methods went ahead of them and alarmed England’s Protestant authority. It became known countrywide as the Wisbech Stirs.
Very eminent churchmen died at Wisbech, some mysteriously it is said. They were buried on the site of the Castle now The Crescent, and some probably in the former churchyard of St Peter’s. The last Abbott of Westminster and the Bishop of Lincoln languished in cells at Wisbech Castle reputed then to be the most secure place in the kingdom, second only to the Tower of London. The Vatican was well aware of events there.