Northborough, Cambridgeshire

Place: Northborough, 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 three of our place review. To read part one (Glinton), please go here or part 2 (Helpston), follow the links above.



After our sojourn in the pub in Helpston, we travelled the couple of miles to Northborough but we didn't stay long. And we only took a few photos.

Although Patty had no problem adapting to living in the village when they moved there in 1832, John found it distasteful. As far as it can be seen, this village is just as pretty as the last two. John, however, was not convinced of this.

In the novel, it is John's reoccurring regret that they moved there.

Their parish church was St Andrew's. Not as pleasing to the eye as the other two churches in Glinton and Helpston, but quite dramatic nevertheless. Regrettably, the church was not open which is unusual as most Anglican churches provide access.

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Patty Of The Vale


'A weedling child on lonely lea 
My evening rambles chanced to see; 
And much the weedling tempted me 
To crop its tender flower; 

Exposed to wind and heavy rain, 
It's head bow'd lowly on the plain; 
Hand silently it seem'd in pain 
Of life's endanger'd hour. 

And and wilt thou bid my bloom decay, 
And crop my flower, and me betray, 
And cast my injured sweets away?- 
Its silence seemly sigh'd 

'A moment's idol of thy mind! 
And is a stranger so unkind 
to leave the shameful root behind, 
Bereft of all its pride?' 

And so it seemly did complain; 
And beating fell the heavy rain; 
And low it droop'd upon the plain, 
To fate resign'd to fall: 

My heart did melt at its decline, 
And ' Come,' said I, ' thou gem divine, 
My fate shall stand the storm with thine;' 
So took the root and all.'

The poet's wife, Patty, was buried in Northborough after her death in 1871. John had been admitted to the insane asylum after five years in this village, but Patty lived here until her death.  we found this out once we had left the village and so were unable to visit her grave or to at least see if there was one with a marker. Foresight is a good thing.  


Patty was not John's first love and perhaps not his true love, but nevertheless he wrote a poem about her called Patty of the Vale.

John, suffering from mental illness, spent most of his later life in an asylum. Patty was left alone to bring up their seven children (two had died in infancy). Instead of a husband, poverty was her companion.


Patty had much to contend with and her struggles are highlighted in Judith Allnatt's book. In contrast to these villages which, with almost worshipful devotion remember John, Allnatt chooses to investigate Patty's side of events.


With great empathy and insightfulness, 'The Poet's Wife' seeks to uncover what life was like for her.


The novel aims to describe Patty's position as the wife of John Clare 'peasant poet, genius, madman' (book synopsis) . Why not read the book review?  

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