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Notes and Queries About the Fenlands



The journal 'Fenland Notes and Queries' was first published in April 1889 and printed in Peterborough by George Caster. The journal, published quarterly, was created to bring together facts and stories relating to the fens. The information was provided by a large group of contributors, many of them clergy, some women and some anonymous. The fenland area covered by the journal included the counties of 'Huntingdon, Cambridge, Lincoln, Northampton, Norfolk and Suffolk.' (1) Intended to be of interest to antiquarians, the journal also proved popular with 'others interested in the history and folklore of the district.' (2) The journal, or magazine as it was termed, was compiled into volumes, the first covering the years 1889 to 1891. In total seven volumes were created, the last completed in 1909. The first issues were edited by W. H. B. Saunders, who was succeeded by Rev. W. D. Sweeting of Maxey. Thankfully all of the volumes are available to read online and can be searched easily for places and people. There are many references to Peterborough and surrounding villages which can tell us more about life in the past. In Volume Seven the lyrics and notes are written relating to a May Day Garland Song which it was claimed was 'sung by the children when carrying the garlands round the city'. (3) The recording of songs is an often forgotten element of recording and one of the many features that makes the volumes so valuable.
(1) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol I, Ed W. H. Bernard Saunders, Publisher G. Caster, 1991, preface (2) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol I, Ed W. H. Bernard Saunders, Publisher G. Caster, 1991, p2 (3) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol VII Ed. Rev. W. D. Sweeting, Publisher G. Caster, 1909, p24-25

Internationally Famous Bell Born



Andy Bell is known around the world as one half of the pop group Erasure. He was born in Peterborough on 25th April 1964 in Thorpe Hall. He lived in Dogsthorpe and attended both Dogsthorpe Infant and Junior Schools, where he was a choir boy. His name features in the registration book for Dogsthorpe Junior School, which is held in Peterborough Archives. He moved to Kings School for his secondary education. In 1985 Bell met his Erasure partner Vince Clark and they had huge success as a pop duo. Together they sold millions of records around the world with hits which included 'Sometimes' and 'A Little respect'. He currently calls Miami home, but is still working and touring around the world. His has given mixed feelings of his time in Peterborough, claiming that he felt 'secure and safe' whilst at Dogsthorpe Junior School, but also complaining that Peterborough was one of 'the most scary places on the planet'. He is known as a gay icon for openly embracing his sexuality and discussing topics important to the gay community.
References Picture By Andrew Hurley (Flickr: Andy Bell, Erasure) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Award Winning Violin Maker



Mr Jeffrey James Gilbert was the son of Jeffrey and Eliza Gilbert from New Romney in Kent. Jeffrey senior was a watchmaker who played the Cello and was an amateur Cello maker. By 1871 Jeffrey junior was an assistant for Whatley Paviour, a watchmaker, along Narrow Street in Peterborough. As a young man Jeffrey studied the fiddle and decided that if his father could make a Cello, he should be able to make a fiddle. Jeffrey’s father did not encourage him, as being an amateur Cello maker he knew the pitfalls. Jeffrey, however, persevered; he located the finest sycamore from Czechoslovakia and began to make his first instrument. Jeffrey continued creating violins and gradually improved until, in 1884, at the International Exhibition at Crystal Palace he was awarded a silver medal for his first exhibit. Five years later he was awarded a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Edinburgh. Jeffrey Gilbert believed that to produce a beautiful violin, firstly, you required handsome wood; secondly artistic carving of the plates and scroll; thirdly a beautiful varnish and lastly, the tone of the instrument had to be good. He became a maker of national importance, many well-known musicians owned one of his instruments and praised the fine workmanship and beauty of the tone. Jeffrey was particularly proud of the beautiful varnish and continually experimented on improving it. Mr Gilbert is described in the Directory of Beds, Hunts and Northants, 1890, as a ‘Violin maker & repairer, unequalled for brilliancy of tone & artistic finish of Bridge-street Peterborough’. By 1901 he and his family were living at 2 New Priestgate where Jeffrey had his own business, this was nationally known as the ‘Gilbert Violin Studio’.

References: -

Peterborough Standard 24 August 1928. Posh Folk: Notable Personalities (and a Donkey) Associated with Peterborough by Mary Liquorice, 1991.



Ernie Wise Took His Final Bow



Comedian Ernie Wise OBE, one half of the legendary double-act Morecambe and Wise, died on 21st March 1999. He lived on Thorpe Road in Peterborough for many years with his wife Doreen, next door to singer Edmund Hockridge. Proud of his home, he often made references to Peterborough in sketches on the Morecambe and Wise Show. The show ran from 1968 to 1983 on BBC then Thames Television and featured some of the biggest celebrities of the day. Comedic sketches were interjected with dance and musical numbers, for which the pair are best known. The two outstanding sketches are Singin' In The Rain and The Breakfast Sketch. Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were honoured with OBE's in 1976 for their many years of service on television, radio and films. They won many awards during their careers, including 8 BAFTAs and Freedom of the City of London. During one of their Christmas episodes in 1977 the pair broke all previous viewing figures with over 20 million viewers. Both are remembered with statutes in Morecambe and Morley respectively.

Edmund Hockridge Peaks at the West End



Edmund Hockridge was born in Vancouver, Canada. He moved to England after the Second World War and became a huge West End star. He was a baritone singer best known for performing in the musical Carousel. He performed as Billy Bigelow for well over 1,000 performances, both in London and on the road. Hockridge's connection to Peterborough came with his second wife. He met Jackie Jefferson, a dancer, whilst both were performing in Carousel. After they had married they moved to Peterborough, next door to Ernie Wise, on Thorpe Road. Although his name is rather obscure at present, Hockridge was possibly the best known male lead in the 1950s. As well as performing in Carousel, he featured in Guys and Dolls, The Pajama Game and many others. He released 11 albums and sang with many other celebrities, including Cliff Richard and Suzi Quatro. His songs are still played on the BBC to this day. He died on 15th March 2009 in Peterborough and left behind his wife Jackie and several children. Reference:  

Bagley’s Bells of Castor



Castor Church sits in a commanding position over the Nene Valley. It has a rich history with enviable Roman, Saxon and Norman construction within the building. Evidence of the Roman Praetorium and Saint Kyneburgha's church are easy to identify. What is not as easy to see, but easy to hear, are the church bells. There are eight in total, six of which date from 1700. They were inscribed by the name of the bell founder Henry Bagley who lived in Ecton, Northamptonshire. Two bells declare 'Henry Bagley of Ecton Made Me 1700' and two repeat the statement in Latin. The other two are a mixture of Latin and English, the Tenor bell declaring 'I to the church the living call and to the grave do summon all.' Henry Bagley was a master bell founder and the second Henry Bagley. He also holds the honour of being the tutor of Henry Penn, Peterborough's well-known bell founder. The two newest bells were installed as millennium commemorations. One is inscribed 'Untouched I am a silent thing, but strike me and I sweetly sing.' We can imagine that Henry Bagley would be happy with that sentiment.