The history of The Admiral Wells pub in Holme, Peterborough
Walking through the bar area, you will not fail to notice the many photographs telling a story of years gone by in the village and surrounding area.
Who was the Admiral Wells?
The Wells family were renowned shipbuilders in Kent dating back to the 17th Century. It was William Wells (1729 - 1805), a prominent member of the firm, who inherited the Holmewood estate from his wife's family circa 1760. The couple would have lived in Holmewood House, and their three sons were all born there, the eldest of which was Vice Admiral Thomas Wells (1759 - 1811).
Joining the Navy in 1774, Thomas Wells worked his way through the ranking system at the time - three squadrons of Red, White and Blue in an ascending order of seniority, each with an Admiral, Vice Admiral and Rear Admiral. It is believed that Vice Admiral Wells progressed from Rear Admiral of the White to Vice Admiral of the Red in 1808, and would have been promoted to the highest rank of Admiral of the White in June 1814, had he not have died aged 51 on 31st October 1811.
During his naval career his commands were: Swallow (1781), Fury (1782), Champion (1782 - 1783), Iris (1790 - 1792), LaConcorde (1793 - 1794), Melampus (1794), Defence (1794 - 1798) ad Glory (1799- 1804). In 1805 Vice Admiral Wells was a pallbearer at the funeral of Lord Horatio Nelson.
Delightful old pictures of past residents of the village (many of whom still have descendants living here today) and pictures showing how the area has changed over the years adorn the walls.
Nearby is the village of Conington, home to Conington airfield which was used during the war (when it was called Glatton to avoid confusion with Coningsby in Lincolnshire) and was home to B-17 bombers and nearly 3000 personnel. Wartime photos of the airfield, craft and servicemen are on display in the front bar. Today the airfield is a flying club and is within walking distance of the pub.
The lowest pub in the British Isles
In the late 1840s, grandson of Vice Admiral Wells, William Wells IV (1818 - 1889) led the way in draining Whittlesey Mere - once England's largest lake south of Windermere and a haven for wildlife. William and a group of wealthy men realised that draining the mere to turn the land to agriculture would be very profitable. After several failed attempts, they eventually succeeded by using a huge pump and in 1852 the Mere was dry.
As the saturated peat dried out it shrank and to measure the rate of shrinkage William Wells sunk a massive iron post into the ground (taken from Crystal Palace) at Holme Fen. At the time the top of the post was at ground level, but now just over 150 years later the top of the post is more than 13 feet above ground due to erosion and continued draining of the land. The surrounding land is the lowest point in Britain.
A few years later to celebrate his new found fortune, he built the pub and named it after his grandfather The Admiral Wells, making us the lowest pub in the British Isles. It was also William Wells who built the current Holmewood Hall after the previous house was destroyed by fire.