St Neots People

Here you can read the stories behind a selection of celebrated people with links to St Neots.   

John Bellingham

John Bellingham, a merchant born in St Neots in 1776, hit the headlines in a big way in 1812 by becoming the only person ever to have successfully assassinated a serving UK Prime Minister.

 

He claimed he had been unfairly imprisoned in Russia after business contracts he had negotiated fell through. Upon his release, he became embittered with the UK government after being refused compensation by them.  He travelled to the House of Commons and shot dead the Prime Minister, Spencer Percival. Making no attempt to escape he was promptly arrested and then hanged with indecent haste less than a week later.

The Eynesbury Giant

James Toller, born in St Neots in 1795, became well known as the Eynesbury Giant because 'he could not stop growing'. By the age of 10, he had reached a height of 5ft 5in. At the age of 18, he joined the Army serving in the 14th Light Dragoons but was soon discharged for being too tall.

 

He then toured the country appearing as a giant in public exhibitions (being presented to, amongst others the King of Prussia and the Emperor of Russia) until ill-health forced him to retire back in Eynesbury. He died in 1818 and was buried in an unmarked grave inside the parish church for fear of grave robbers. On his memorial stone, his height is given as 8ft 1ins although there is no definitive proof of this.

 

St Neots Quads

In 1935 the first known live birth of quadruplets in the country propelled St Neots into the national spotlight. The Daily Sketch obtained exclusive rights to their story from their parents, Walter and Doris Miles.  Cow and Gate sponsored them in return for the rights to advertise their products with the 'St Neots Quads' as they became known.  Using the proceeds the family moved into a larger house in New Street with a specially built nursery so that people from far and wide could come and watch the quads at play. In 2005 the quads returned to unveil a plaque at their former home.

George Bower

George Bower, a 19th-century entrepreneur from St Neots, became famous for his innovations in the developing gas industry.  He invented and pioneered various gas-powered equipment from household appliances (including some of the first gas cookers ever produced - see right) to gas work systems for entire towns as far away as Queensland, Australia. 

 

Although he filed for bankruptcy in 1876 he managed to keep his enterprises going and was still patenting inventions as late as 1899 at the age of 73.

Other Celebrated Residents and Visitors

Otto Madden, raised and educated in Eaton Socon, became a top jockey winning the jockey championship 4 times between 1898-1904.  In 1898 he rode to success in the Derby on a horse called 'Jeddah' which, at 100-1, became the longest odds winner in the history of the race.

 

St Neots, and particularly Longsands Academy has connections with a number of contemporary sports people.  John Gregory former England footballer and Aston Villa player and the manager is a former Longsands pupil, as is Lee Philpott, Leicester City player and Olympic bronze medallist high jumper Robbie Grabarz.  Other St Neots Olympians include swimmer Mark Foster and fencer Graham Paul (4-time Olympic competitor).

 

Actress Rula Lenska and children's author Michael Lawrence were both born in St Neots.

Famous visitors to the town include the non-conformist preacher John Bunyan (1658), who was arrested in Eaton Socon for spreading Congregationalism, and the Methodist John Wesley (1775).  During the coaching era, a number of celebrated visitors frequented the inns of Eaton Socon including the authors Samuel Pepys (who complained about the 'plainness of the maids') and Charles Dickens (Wackford Squeers stayed in 'Eaton Slocomb' in Nicholas Nickleby) as well as Princess (later Queen) Victoria.  Former Prime Minister (and Huntingdon MP) John Major was a visitor to North Laurels House when it served as local campaign headquarters of the Conservative Party in the general election of 1998.