Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

River Great Ouse

The Great Ouse is one of the longest rivers in England, with a length of 160 miles.

Commonly known as the Ouse, pronounced "Ooze", it rises near Silverstone and flows through Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Norfolk before reaching The Wash.

Until the 13th century the lower course was a little to the West, and flowed through Wisbech. It has been considerably altered by works connected with drainage of the Fens.

The Great Ouse flows through or by an extraordinary collection of interesting towns and villages.

Brackley is an attractive market town, to which Magdalen College, Oxford, temporarily moved to escape from the Great Plague.

Buckingham, the original county town, was attractively rebuilt after a fire in the 18th century.

Stony Stratford is an old coaching town on Watling Street. Rivalry between the two major inns, the Cock and the Bull, led to the expression "cock and bull story".

Milton Keynes is an enormous New Town which could be better described as a New City.

Olney is most famous for its Shrove Tuesday pancake race. The museum celebrates William Cowper and his friend, the former slave trader John Newton, who after his conversion wrote hymns including "Amazing Grace".

Bedford has a large Market Place near the river, and was where John Bunyan wrote "The Pilgrim's Progress" while incarcerated in the gaol.

St. Neots was founded by Benedictine monks in the 10th century and named after the Cornish saint St. Neot, whose bones may have been appropriated.

Godmanchester was a Roman town on Ermine Street, and has an attractive Chinese bridge.

Huntingdon is a splendid old market town with a fine mediaeval bridge, and was the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell in 1599. There is a museum of his life in the Norman building where he and Samuel Pepys attended school.

Hemingford Grey has a Norman manor house, which is probably the oldest continuously inhabited house in England.

St. Ives (Cambridgeshire), subject of the rhyme "As I was going to St. Ives", has a rare mediaeval chapel on the bridge.

Ely is a small cathedral city with a beautiful Riverside. The outstanding Ely Cathedral is based on a monastery founded by St. Etheldreda in 673. Hereward the Wake used Ely as his base, and Oliver Cromwells House is open to visitors.

Downham Market, once famous for its horse fairs, is today chiefly known for its cast iron Clock Tower.

Kings Lynn is an outstanding maritime town, which formerly traded with the Hanseatic League. The Custom House on the waterfront is a particularly fine building, and the Tuesday Market Place is one of the largest in England.