Famous Person or Ghost
John Clare Cottage,
12 Woodgate, Helpston,
The John Clare Trust purchased Clare Cottage in 2007, preserving it for future generations. They are developing the cottage into an environmental and educational centre of excellence, writers' retreat, and visitor centre. In addition to enriching people's knowledge of the lyrical and scientific wonder of the countryside, the centre will set the creative benchmark for education and environment training. The Trust will be active locally, regionally and nationally. (Photograph by Peter Moyse)
John Clare was born in Helpston near Peterborough in 1793, the son of a thresher. After leaving school early he worked as a ploughboy and pot boy in his native village, followed by work in the gardens of Burghley House in nearby Stamford. While trying to find a publisher for his poems he became a lime-burner in Rutland in 1817. 'Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery' was published in 1820. Returning to Helpston, he acquired the patronage of several local gentry, including the Lord Fitzwilliam and Lord Burghley. The next collection of poems, 'The Village Minstrel' was published in 1821, followed by the 'Shepherds Calendar' in 1827.
Temporarily famous and feted by London literary society, his popularity waned, and in 1832 the year of his greatest collection of poems, 'The Midsummer Cushion', unpublished in his lifetime - he moved to a small holding in nearby Northborough. He began increasingly to suffer attacks of depression, including delusions about Mary Joyce, his childhood sweetheart, and after a spell in a private asylum in Epping Forrest in Essex, in 1841 he was finally committed to an asylum in Northamptonshire, where encouraged by a very enlightened staff, he continued to write poetry until his death in 1864.
Clare is buried in Helpston churchyard. In 1989 a plaque commemorating John Clare was placed in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. John Clare is now acknowledged internationally as a major figure in English Literature.
A series of John Clare circular walks can be purchased from the Peterborough Tourist Information Centre. For further information please contact 01733 452336.
The John Clare Society invites you to join the John Clare Festival in Helpston Village, near Peterborough - Annually in July.