Helpston, Cambridgeshire

Place: Helpston, Cambridgeshire

Book: The Poet's Wife

Author: Judith Allnatt

Date visited: April 2016

We've been reading 'The Poet's Wife' and have visited the villages mentioned in the book. This is the part two of our place review. To read part one, please go here.




Now known as Helpston, originally this village was 'Helpstone' and is where John Clare was born. 


Clare was fond of his home village and it's not hard to understand why. Traditional thatched cottages stand in English gardens surrounded by drystone walls, and a quiet serenity prevades. Contemporary life has not overtaken but has been merely superimposed on earlier times.


John Clare was a potboy in 'The Blue Bell', the pub which is still in operation next to his family home.

John's family lived in this house (below) and he and Patty moved here after their marriage.

The cottage has been restored by the John Clare Trust. It houses a museum which illustrates his life and works and includes a gift shop and cafe. However, it is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Due to bad planning on my part, we visited on a Thursday and were, unfortunately, unable to enter. But we highly recommend you visit. Even from the outside, it's charming.

We walked to the village centre along Woodgate, where a memorial to John Clare stands.

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Yes, there are four sides to this memorial. Yes, there are four inscriptions. Yes, we forgot to include the fourth side. Whoops. Haha. But then that just gives you more reason to visit and let us know what the fourth side says.

St Botolph’s, the village church is just to the side of this memorial so that was our next stop.

Again, like St Benedict at Glinton, the church remembers the poet with the memorial in the church vestibule and inside the church itself.

Above is an information board which details the life of John Clare.  It stands inside the church.


Although John died in Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, his remains were returned to his birthplace and he has a gravestone outside in the churchyard.

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Strolling back through the village, we found the pub and went inside. The pub itself is stylish but still in-keeping with the locality. Accompanied well-behaved children are welcome and the staff are friendly. We settled here with drinks of lemonade and the novel. 

After this, we continued on towards Northborough, another place from 'The Poet's Wife'. Continue on the journey with us in Part 3. 

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