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A Museum for Peterborough



When the infirmary moved to the newly completed Memorial Hospital in 1928 the Infirmary building was acquired by Percy Malcolm Stewart. He was Chair of the London Brick Company, who donated it to the Museum Society to house their collection. At that time it was known as the Natural History, Scientific and Archaeological Society. It was opened in 1931, with the art gallery added in 1939. Everything has been owned by the Council since 1968, when the Museum Society gave them to the city. In May 2010, management of the building and its collections was taken over by Vivacity.


The Praetorium at Castor



Underneath St Kyneburgha's Church, Castor are the remains of one of the biggest buildings in Roman Britain. Parts of its walls still can be seen in various parts of the village. The site has been explored over several hundred years with early antiquaries confused by what the mosaic floors and several bath houses all meant. We now know that the site was probably part of a vast Imperial Estate from where much of the fenlands was governed. The building appears to have been the administrative centre of this estate and was where a procurator would have held court and possibly lived. The building on the top of the rise, where the church now stands, would have been seen for miles as a symbol of Roman power and authority.


Opening of Peterborough Prison



HMP Peterborough was opened in March 2005 on the former site of the Baker Perkins engineering works. It is a local category B prison and is the country's only dual purpose-built prison for men and women. The prison also has a 12 place Mother and Baby Unit. The prison is operated by Sodexo Justice Services.  

Celia Fiennes Passed Through the City



Celia Fiennes was a prolific traveller who documented her journey around Britain on a horse. At a time when only the wealthy could contemplate travelling and when the majority of literature is written by men, Celia Fiennes' work is refreshing. Celia passed through Peterborough and much admired the cathedral and town. She wrote that the city 'looks very well and handsomely built, but mostly timber worke: you pass over a Long stone bridg. The streetes are very clean and neate, well pitch'd and broad as one shall see any where, there is a very spacious market place, a good Cross and a town Hall on the top (the Guildhall or Buttercross).' She continued her prose, describing the cathedral in great detail before her journey continued on to Wansford. Worth noting that she describes Peterborough as being in Lincolnshire and surrounded by the Lin (possibly mishearing Nin), suggesting that she hadn't taken a very good look at the city or spoken to the locals! All quotes from: Celia Fiennes, Through England on a Side Saddle,, 2016, pp130-131

Opening of Peterborough’s Library



Though a free public library had been open in the city since 1893, it was realised that a purpose-built library was required. Negotiations occurred in August, 1903 between the Mayor, George Keeble JP, and Andrew Carnegie, the Scots-American steel magnate, millionaire and philanthropist, which resulted in the latter contributing the “handsome sum” of £6000 towards a new, central library. A newspaper report stated that the new library “will almost certainly be built on the ‘Stanley’ property.” This could be a reference to a piece of land owned by William Proctor Stanley, a local businessman. The new building on Broadway was opened on May 29th.1906 by Andrew Carnegie, who was later entertained to lunch by the Mayor, Thomas C Lamplugh JP in “the spacious upper room” of the library. Carnegie was also given the Freedom of the City of Peterborough; the first person to receive that particular honour. In turn, the 1906 library was superseded by the current premises which opened on July 2nd. 1990. References: Peterborough Standard, August 1903; Peterborough Standard, June 1906; Peterborough Advertiser, June 1906.

Creation of the Feoffees in the City



Peterborough was, for many years, controlled by the abbey. However, the creation of municipal control started in 1572 when three local men, Robert Mallory, Thomas Robinson and Jeremy Green bought some of the church lands and offered them to the city. Income from the lands was used to help the poor and keep the roads, church and other buildings in good repair with the advice of the church wardens. 14 Feoffees were chosen to oversee these activities, working as councillors do in the 21st century.
The Men
The feoffees consisted of between 4 and 14 respectable, wealthy men. They worked together to keep the city in good order and to help those in dire straits. The account and minute books of the feoffees detail monies given to the poor. Money was provided for food or clothing and sheets to wrap up bodies if they died. Well-known feoffees included Humphrey Orme, Thomas Deacon and William Hake.
Feoffees Buildings
Evidence of the work of the Feoffees can be seen in the first almshouses, founded in 1722 in Cumbergate. They were also the driving force for the Guildhall or Buttercross in the marketplace, which was where they held their meetings. They originally met in the Moot Hall or Guildhall, which was on the corner of Cumbergate.

The Death of Thomas Deacon and the Birth of a S...



Thomas Deacon is best known by his eponymous school, but his story was one of charity. Born in 1651, Deacon was a wealthy man. He owned many lands including Willow Hall near Thorney and lived for a time in Boroughbury Manor. He was a wool merchant, as much of the gentry were in the city, profiting from wool or fleece produced in the area. As one of the Feoffees he offered wool to the poor to provide an income. The poor were able to gain money for spinning the wool, which helped them out of poverty. Upon his death in 1721 he left a gift of money known as a legacy, which would pay for an education for 20 poor boys. At that time only the rich could afford an education, so this was a generous gift.
Deacon's Legacy
Thomas Deacon's school was originally sited on Cowgate, where a blue plaque has been placed. The school remained there until 1883 when it moved to Deacon Street and later to Queen's Gardens off Park Road. Thankfully it now educates both boys and girls. The Thomas Deacon Foundation continue to offer educational opportunities in the form of scholarships at Thomas Deacon Academy. A large effigy of Thomas Deacon resides in Peterborough Cathedral amongst the good and great of the city.

Death of John Thompson, Builder and Renovator



The John Thompson saga starts in about 1820 when his father (also called John Thompson) came to Peterborough to carry our restorations to Peterborough Cathedral. With his stonework skill and his associate, Francis Ruddle’s woodworking skills the firm gradually took off.  He died in 1853 and John Thompson (Jr) took over and by 1860 he was constructing major buildings and restoring Cathedrals. At its peak the firm employed over a 1000 men. His success was such that he was Mayor of Peterborough four times! After his death the firm was carried on by his sons, so the John Thompson story involves more than just one man. In later years the firm of John Thompson (and associated companies) specialised in the provision of Church artefacts and furniture such as: altars, pews, lecterns, screens, war memorials, grave goods, organ cases, pulpits, clergy seats, desks, stools and alter rails, many fine examples of this work can be found in St Johns Church in Peterborough. The firm also built private houses and continued to build major projects but to a smaller scale (from about 1914) until in 1931 the firm went into voluntary liquidation and finally ceased trading in 1938. A quote from The Architect and Contract Reporter for 10th February 1888 says of the firm's work: ‘It is not only the structural work which is undertaken, but sculpture in wood and stone. Everything is done to ensure purity of style. Casts, photographs and drawings of the finest models are obtained, and the workshops at Peterborough are undoubtedly a most excellent art school’. The Peterborough archive houses the John Thompson archive, consisting of over 1400 photographs plus other documents. These clearly demonstrate the very special work of John Thompson and his associates. Projects include: Restorations of Cathedrals
  • Peterborough (Central Tower and West Front)
  • Lincoln
  • Rochester
  • Chester
  • Winchester (carried out major restorations including working with a diver to underpin the main walls which were about to collapse).
  • Hereford
  • Ripon
  • Litchfield
  • Bangor
  • Coventry (before it became a Cathedral)
Restoration of Churches
  • St Johns Peterborough
  • Paris: construction of the tower and spire to the American Cathedral
  • Orton Longville Church
  • Cromer Church: extending the Nave.
Plus many others New Build Churches
  • St Marks Peterborough
  • Tower of St Mary’s Church Peterborough
  • St Barnibus church Peterborough
  • St Pauls Church Peterborough
These are just the Peterborough churches, there are at least 50 others spread throughout the country Secular Projects
  • Glasgow University (two phases)
  • Selwyn College Cambridge
  • St Peters Training College Peterborough 1863
  • Extensions to the Infirmary (now Peterborough Museum)
  • Royal College of Music Kensington
  • Kings School Peterborough
  • Lonely Anzac Memorial
  (Research work done by Andrew Cole)  


The Loss of a Wonderful Image



Judith Image was the daughter of Reverend John Image and his wife Mary. She was baptised on 12th February 1775 in St. John's Church, Peterborough, by her father. She was one of at least seven children born to the Images, most of whom died in infancy. Her father was vicar of Peterborough, so the family lived together in the rectory, which was in Priestgate. Fortunately Judith, or Julia as she was often known, survived to adulthood and married well. Her husband was Thomas Alderson Cooke, who was originally from Salford in Lancashire. Together they had 12 children, 10 of whom survived into adulthood. The family are best known as the residents of what is now Peterborough Museum. Thomas commissioned the building of the house on the most impressive site in the city, which just happened to be opposite the old vicarage, Judith's childhood home.
Sadly Judith died after only a few months of living in the mansion. Her death was unexpected and a terrible loss to both her husband and 10 children. She was remembered in an inscription: Judith Cooke, wife of Thomas Alderson Cooke, Esq., and daughter of the late John Image, clerk, many years vicar of this parish, whose virtues she inherited, on the 15th February 1817 and in the 42nd year of her age, she was so suddenly snatched from a numerous and affectionate family, whose consolation under so heavy an affliction is the humble confidence that she is taken to a region where pain and sorrow are known no more. She was buried next to her children Mary Caroline and Thomas Henry, who both died at 6 months old in 1800 and 1806 respectively. She was joined later by Thomas' third wife Mary Joanna (died 1825) and Thomas himself in 1854. All of the Cookes were buried in Cowgate Cemetery which was located where the Crescent Bridge roundabout is now located. All the remains were moved to Broadway Cemetery.

The First Auction at the Bull Hotel



Situated on Westgate, the Bull Hotel is the oldest existing inn or hotel in the city centre and is grade II listed. It is believed to have been built in the late 18th century and was known as the Bull Inn. There is, however, a chance that an older structure exists within the present building. The main entrance to the building was originally an entrance for coaches and carts. The entrance led into a courtyard where there was also stabling for horses. The building has been enlarged and improved over the years, so the courtyard is no longer there. A story exists of a dog who was run over in the courtyard and whose spirit never left the hotel. The earliest reference found relating to the Bull Inn in the Stamford Mercury is from 1775. There was an advert relating to the sale of land and buildings by Simon Hubbard by auctions. Auctions were common at the Bull and items included property, furniture and animals. They also held meals and meetings for the aristocracy and other events. Many celebrities have stayed at the hotel, including The Beatles. The most infamous was possibly Archdeacon Wakeford who visited in 1920. He was at the centre of a court case claiming he had stayed at the Bull Inn on two separate occasions with a woman who wasn't his wife and therefore leading an immoral life. He was found guilty, later failing in an appeal.
Stamford Mercury, 3rd August 1775, p3