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Market Makes a Medieval New Town

1143

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King Stephen visited and stayed at the monastery in 1143, granting a market charter. This allowed Abbot Martin de Bec to create a new market area to the west of the monastic precincts. He was then able to bankroll the building of the new monastic church. The monks created new commercial streets around the outside, leading to the first ‘new town’ development in Peterborough and effectively the street plan which still exists as the city centre today. The market square was later infilled with St John's church and the Guildhall or Buttercross. This almost halved the market square, but provided a religious centre for the townspeople.





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Priestgate Explosion

1883

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On 4th May a large explosion occurred in Priestgate between the Phoenix Brewery and Angel Inn. Reports claimed that fumes from the Phoenix Brewery had mixed with sewer and coal gases. It's then thought these were accidentally ignited by a discarded cigarette.
The Explosion
The explosion was dramatic and affected both Priestgate and Narrow Bridge Street, but the effects were worse in Priestgate. Paving stones were thrown high up into the air and all of the windows were smashed in Priestgate, with more in Narrow Bridge Street. To make things worse the contents of the sewers, including thousands of dead rats, were thrown up against the buildings. People were particularly alarmed because there had been a recent threat to blow up the Cathedral. There were no records of any deaths, other than the rats, and no record of how long it took to get rid of the smell!





The Last Reading of the Riot Act

1914

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On Thursday the 6th of August 1914, just after the outbreak of World War I, a crowd gathered outside the Westgate butcher shop owned by the German Frederick Frank, shouting insults and singing patriotic songs. The next day, Friday 7th August things turned nastier and stones were thrown, breaking the shop windows. This developed into a riot and the shop was badly damaged and its stock scattered. The Chief Constable rang the mayor, Sir Richard Winfrey, who arrived on his bicycle and read the Riot Act. The police were assisted by the Northampton Yeomanry in restoring order. On Saturday the 8th of August the unrest continued and a public house on Long Causeway, the Salmon and Compass was attacked. Following this trouble 24 men were brought before the magistrates, 3 were jailed, others were fined, bound over to keep the peace or recruited into the armed forces.  





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Honey Hill in Use

c. 1300

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The name Honey Hill is still in use in Paston today, but its origins come from a post mill. The mill was situated on a large mound between Dogsthorpe and Paston, under what is now Bluebell Avenue and Heather Avenue. Often assumed to be a moated house, an archaeological dig in 1960 proved the mound was in fact a late 13th century millstead. Artefacts discovered included pottery, millstone remains and clay pipes, which showed that it was in use until the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. Two coins were found on the site, a farthing from the reign of Edward I (1302-1307) and a sixpence from 1568.





The Building of the Queensgate Centre

1978

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The Queensgate Centre was designed by Keith Maplestone the Development Corporation Architect and the main contractor was John Laing Construction Ltd. Initially there were two problems. For the project to proceed five major space users were needed and the contractor had to overcome the technical difficulties of constructing a basement with approximately 1 km of walling in an area of many old buildings. Eventually all the major space users were signed up: John Lewis Partnership, British Home Stores, C and A, Littlewoods and Boots, so the project could proceed. A special method was devised to provide the basement; it was called a diaphragm wall and consisted of piling 950mm diameter bores into the ground in panels approximately 10m long and going down 13m. On the completion the soil within the wall was removed and a concrete floor, service cores and a ramp was constructed. In the spring of 1978 the project started. The site which had been partly open car parks, old factory and shop buildings was now clear and flat. The site offices were constructed against the newly moved Bourges Boulevard roundabout. Dark green hoardings with a yellow band at the top were erected around the site. The excavators and cart-away lorries arrived and began to dig the site to level, and cart away thousands of M3 of spoil from excavations which were deposited on the south side of the Longthorpe Parkway adjacent to the rowing lake. This area is now wooded and is approximately 7m higher than its natural level. Queensgate consists of four buildings. John Lewis is a reinforced concrete building constructed separately from the rest of the centre. The Malls, central area and east end (Boots) structure is all founded on bored piles and pile caps. The car parks are reinforced concrete structures. The bus station is made of structural steel and glass. The Westgate elevation (John Lewis) is clad in Williamson Cliff hand made yellow bricks including many of special shape. Long Causeway Elevation is made of white Portland limestone cladding i.e. stone sheets fixed to the structure using metal ties. The basement was excavated and a temporary scaffold bridge was provided to allow pedestrians to pass from the Westgate Arcade to Cumbergate. Reinforced concrete columns rose and stair and lift towers appeared. The concrete upper floor slabs were poured onto moulds called waffles. Brickwork began to be built and gradually Queensgate took shape and became watertight, it was time for the fitting out to take place. The malls received a marble floor, ceilings went in and glass balustrades were erected around the balconies and escalators and lifts were installed. Queensgate was opened in 1982.





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The Queensgate Centre Opens

1982

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The Queensgate shopping centre was opened by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands on 9 March 1982. It has the capacity for over  90 stores and parking for 2,300 cars. At the time of opening the 'big name'  shops were John Lewis, Boots, British Home Stores, Littlewoods and C & A.





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Werrington Windmill: Sails Lost in a Storm

1912

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A mill on this site was possibly mentioned in the Doomsday book and later there is a mention of Werrington Mill in 1291. A new mill was erected about 1835 replacing a previous mill which burnt down. The original mill and its successors were wind driven; steam power was installed later. In 1912 a serious misfortune befell the mill when a pair of sails was blown off in a storm, the sails crashed through the stone boundary wall of the mill property. In 1920 the sail-less cupola was removed as it was considered dangerous. Today the mill survives as part of a private house, just off Lincoln Road, in a cul-de-sac called Sharma Leas. The cupola, on the top, was replaced in 1991 but there are no sails.

There is an interesting aside about Werrington Mill; in 1958 it was reported in The Peterborough Citizen and Advertiser that, "Post Office officials are reported to be searching for 'a village called Werrington which has a windmill'. The search began when a letter from Iowa, USA was delivered at the offices of Broadwoodwidger Urban Council, Devon. Inside was a drawing of an old mill with the caption 'The old windmill of Werrington, England, was leased in 1664 for 1094 years, It must be preserved at least until 2758'. The accompanying letter, from a Mr Wayne Harbour asked if this was correct. The Chairman of the Urban Council, Mr F Stanbury, has told the GPO that no such building has ever existed in his district, so the search is to be extended to Peterborough and Stoke-on-Trent. We can save the GPO further trouble. The Werrington is 'our' Werrington, where a mill appears to have been in existence since the reign of Richard 1; records tell of a mill and a court there in 1291, a matter of 667 years ago." Just why this letter was sent from America with a copy of the lease & photo of the mill seems a mystery. ( Rita McKenzie)

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The Phoenix Brewery Gets A Considerable Addition

1847

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The Phoenix Brewery was based at the eastern end of Priestgate, opposite the Angel Inn. It was managed by Fredrick Markby initially, before he became bankrupt. It was then sold in 1844 and continued by J. G. Atkinson, a solicitor. He advertised the sale of Guiness, as well as Stout, Pale Ale and Bitter made at the brewery, with a 25% discount given to 'The Trade'. (1) In 1847 a useful addition was made to the premises: 'a very considerable addition has been made to the brewery at Priestgate-Street, a large yard with stables and outbuildings, having been added thereto. This is an improvement in this part of the city which was much needed, and will add materially to the liveliness and business-like appearance.' (2) He continued to manage the business until it passed  to Charles Cutlack and his family. Many bottles marked with Phoenix and Cutlack have been found throughout the city and both names are synonymous with brewing in the city.
References
(1) Stamford Mercury, Fri 6th December 1844, p1, col 2 (2) Cambridge Independent Press, Sat 7th Aug 1847, p3, col 7





Death of Abbot Martin de Bec

1154

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Abbot Martin de Bec became abbot in 1135. He is the creator of Peterborough as we know it; he moved the town and its market from the east of the abbey, prone to flooding, to the west, he built the great West Gate of the abbey which stands today, and laid out the roads of the town in the pattern that still exists.  





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