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Victorian Operating Theatre

1897

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The first purpose-built operating theatre was opened in 1897. It was built as an extension to Peterborough Infirmary. It provided state of the art care for the people of Peterborough, incorporating the most up to date medical ideas. These ideas included the use of anaesthesia and keeping the theatre meticulously clean.  So many things we take for granted in the twenty-first century were new ideas to the Victorians. However, these new ideas still save lives now. It was originally lit by gas lighting and had a glass roof to maximise light. The funds to build the operating theatre came from two Peterborough women who chose to remain anonymous, they went by the name 'Heliotrope'. The Victorian operating theatre is open to visitors to Peterborough Museum. It still contains many of its original features including the glazed white tiles. Replicas of the tools used in the past are also on show. A small case details some of the people who worked in the operating theatre.





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Founding of Perkins Engines

1932

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Perkins engineering was founded in a small office in Peterborough, UK, in 1932. It was founded by two men, Frank Perkins and Charles Chapman; Frank a superlative salesman and Charles an engineering genius. Their focus was on the diesel engine and their belief that it could revolutionise the motor industry with high performance and low running costs. Peterborough was the perfect place to start the business as it had excellent transport links and so could ensure rapid delivery of products. Its first high-speed diesel engine was the 4 cylinder Vixen followed by the  more powerful version, the Wolf. With its success in the motor industry it expanded into the agricultural industry. During the Second World War Perkins was instrumental n its production of diesel engines for the war effort. In 1947, production was moved to the Eastfield site in Peterborough.  





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When Cow Dung Fuelled the City

1698

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When Celia Fiennes travelled through the city in 1698 she noted that local people near 'Mrs St John's house' (Thorpe Hall) were using cow dung for fuel: 'as I passed the Road I saw upon the walls of the ordinary peoples houses and walls of their out houses, the Cow dung plaister'd up to drie in Cakes which they use for fireing, its a very offensive fewell (fuel), but the Country people use Little Else in these parts.'  Cow dung was a free and effective fuel for the people of rural Peterborough, but the smell would not have been popular! There had been a shortage of wood since the 1550's, so burning cow dung was a sensible alternative for the very poor who were unable to afford expensive wood supplies, or cut down their own wood. Other alternatives for fuel would have included peat, charcoal and coal, none of which were particularly pleasant on the eyes or lungs. Animal dung has been used as a fuel since prehistoric times, with evidence from the Ancient Egyptians using dung as fuel and even references to it being used in the bible. Many areas of the world use animal dung as fuel.





Creation of the Feoffees in the City

1572

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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.





Notes and Queries About the Fenlands

1889

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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.
References
(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





Cock Fighting at the Angel Inn

1768

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With supposedly medieval origins the Angel Inn was often the centre of proceedings in Peterborough. Owned by the abbey, the inn was possibly built to provide rooms for pilgrims. This would have enabled the abbey to earn yet more money from the devout visitors to the city. As well as bedrooms, the inn earnt money holding events, which ranged from grand balls to small meetings. It was also very well-known for the cock fights it staged. Cock fighting was particularly popular during the weeks when horse racing was happening in the city. People would travel from considerable distance to enjoy a variety of sports that could be bet on, including cock fighting. This curious advert from 1768 almost appears to be written in a different language: This is to give NOTICE, THAT there will be a Main of Cocks fought at the Angel Inn in Peterborough between the Gentlemen of Lincolnshire and the Gentlemen of Northamptonshire, for Ten Guineas a Battle, and a Hundred the Main ; to shew thirty-five each upon the Main and twelve Byes. The Cocking to begin the first Day of the Race, and end on Friday. N,B. An Ordinary each Day of the Cocking
References
https://www.peterboroughcivicsociety.org.uk/plaques_blue2.php#AngelInn Stamford Mercury, Thursday 9th June 1768, p4, col 1    





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Sennianus Fired a Mortarium

175

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A fabulous fragment of Roman pottery was discovered in Water Newton. It is a piece of a mortarium, which is kitchen ware used for grinding and pounding food. This piece is remarkable because of the painted text near the rim of the pottery. The text was likely to have been painted by the potter who made the pot. His name was Sennianus and he lived in Durobrivae. We know this because he painted 'Sennianus Durobrivis Urit', which is Latin for 'Sennianus of Durobrivae fired this.' This is a very valuable piece of pottery because there are very few references to the name Durobrivae. This is the only British example of the name Sennianus, but a German funerary stela also bares the name. The stone object was discovered in Cologne in 1650, is mid third century, and can be seen in the link provided. The height of the pottery making industry at Durobriave was in the late 2nd century (175-199AD). Pottery created around Durobrivae is known as Nene Valley Ware. The most common type of Nene Valley Ware is colour-coated ware, which has distinctive white decoration on a black coloured pot. However, the mortarium that Sennianus created was a light brown colour. It was designed to be used in the kitchen, so did not require elaborate decoration.  





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Cunoarus’ Stamped Mortarium

175

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The Roman town of Durobrivae sat on the south bank of the river Nene near Water Newton and Castor. On the northern banks of the river was a densely-packed industrial area which centred on pottery and iron production. The area produced grey wares, colour-coated wares and kitchen wares which included mortaria. The mortaria were much thicker pieces of pottery designed for pounding and grinding. They were used to grind food, but also paints, makeup and other items. Pestles were usually made from wood and therefore do not survive with the mortaria. One piece of Nene Valley mortarium was found with the stamp of its maker on the rim or flange. Stamped mortaria are very common and found in large numbers from locations including St Albans (Verulamium) and Vindolanda. What makes the stamped mortarium from Durobrivae important is that it refers to Durobrivae. The stamp reads 'Cunoarus Vico Duro' in Latin, which translates to 'Conoarus of the vicus of Durobrivae'. A vicus was a name used for a large village or small town in Roman Britain. No date has been given to the mortarium, but the height of the pottery making industry at Durobraivae was in the late 2nd century (175-199AD). A stamped mortarium can often be dated but Cunoarus does not have any other surviving stamped pieces that we know of.