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Death of Variety Star Nosmo King

1949

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Mr Vernon Watson was born in Thorney in 1885, in his youth, a clerk  at Barclays Bank in Peterborough. His interest in the stage began with performances at smoking concerts and when, in 1911, he appeared at the old Empire, Leicester Square, he became an overnight success. He took part in many subsequent productions there and as a single turn on the music halls. At first he relied entirely on his voice in his imitations of the popular comedians of the day. His imitation of Wilkie Bard - exact in every way - was as remarkable a piece of virtuosity as the variety stage has produced. Among his favourite subjects were Harry Champion, Fred Emney and Frank Tunney.  His stage name Nosmo King was inspired by seeing two open doors at a music hall which had split the notice 'No Smoking' into Nosmo King.  He was later assisted by 'Hubert' - his son (Petty Officer Jack Watson) He appeared at the Embassy in Peterborough in April 1947 as Colonel Blimp in a G.I. Bride farce 'For the Fun of it' Though it was 39 years since he had been a clerk at Barclays, he still remembered his old friends in and around Peterborough. Mr Watson died at his home in Chelsea on January 13th 1949. His funeral was held at Thorney Abbey and he is buried at Thorney cemetery, with 'Nosmo King' on his headstone.    





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The Smallest Waist in the World

1967

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Ethel Granger holds the record for having the smallest waist in the world. Her waist was recorded as 13 inches/33 cm in 1967, a feat that was achieved by wearing a specially designed corset to gradually decrease her waist. Ethel became an icon for tight-lacing and her story and images continue to be popular today due to the extreme lengths she went to in order to shape and style her body with her specially-made corsets, flamboyant piercings and excessively high shoes. She even inspired a Vogue Italia fashion shoot in 2011 using Stella McCartney's clothing. Ethel lived in Priory Road Peterborough with her husband William, a local teacher, and their daughter Wilhelmina. The family were well-known astronomers and Ethel was a keen beekeeper, becoming president of the Peterborough, Oundle and District Beekeepers Society. She died in 1982.





A Spy in Our Midst

1982

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Peterborough has hosted several production companies for a variety of film and television productions, two of which were for James Bond films. The first, filmed in 1982, was Octopussy with Roger Moore, where Nene Valley Railway transformed into Karl-Marx-Stadt and formed the backdrop to a thrilling carriage-top fight through the local countryside. The second, in 1995, was Goldeneye with Pierce Brosnan. The film crew utilised the old British Sugar sugar beet factory in Woodston and again the Nene Valley Railway near Castor.





Peterborough’s Bird Man: Walter Cornelius

1923

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Looking up at the wind vane above the Lido, you might be confused by the shape. The weather vane commemorates the life of Walter Cornelius. He is possibly best known in the city for his comical attempts to fly over the rive Nene and for his amazing strength. The reason his likeness sits above the Lido is because he was a swimming instructor there in the 60's and 70's. He taught thousands of children to swim and as a lifeguard kept them safe. The weather vane was created after calls to commemorate the life of such a well-known man. Born in Latvia in 1923, Walter was quite the entertainer and successfully broke many world records. He was a strongman and daredevil too. He won the world sausage eating championship in 1966 and pushed a pea along the ground with his nose for three miles. Thankfully Walter was recorded on television. Videos of him showing his amazing strength can be found on youtube and at the East Anglian Film Archive.
Picture Credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Paul Bryan - geograph.org.uk/p/4950166






Pennies For a Puppet Show

1628

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The account books of the Peterborough Feoffees declare all of the money received and paid out by the administration. Most of the accounts refer to rent collection and payments to the ill and poverty-stricken. However, some of the details tell us about Stuart hospitality and even entertainment. 1628 a payment was made to 'Mr Joanes the player, for sheweinge of his puppites, and for sheweinge tricks in our common hall.' (1) Translated: 'Mr Jones the player, for showing of his puppets and for showing tricks in our common hall.' He was paid the princely sum of 12 pence, which was around half a days wages for a skilled labourer. The account had been included been October and December, so it was possibly a Christmas treat. Glove puppets and shadow puppets were very popular at the time. We can only guess as to the tricks played by Mr Joanes. Did he actually perform at Halloween and is the first refence to trick or treating in the city? A player was a term used in the past to mean actor. The 'common hall' referred to is very likely to be the Moot Hall, an arcaded wooden building which stood where Miss Pears Almshouses were built. The building was well-positioned on the corner of Cumbergate and Exchange Street and overlooking the market.
References
(1) W.T. Mellows (ed), Minutes and Accounts of the Feoffees and Governors of the City Lands, with Supplementary Documents, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1937, p48





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Ernie Wise Took His Final Bow

1999

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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.





Woodstons Fair

1268

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Its position abutting the Nene has provided Woodston with both fertile growing land and access to and from the water. This access has made it desirable as a place to disembark if travelling from the west, for the Peterborough toll could be avoided. It is possible that Wharf Road was the toll road used. The Abbot of Thorney had been granted the right to hold a regular market in Yaxley by William the Conqueror. Goods and people travelling there would disembark in Woodston, which was also in the possession of Thorney Abbey. The abbot asked for a market to be held in Woodston on the day before Yaxley market in 1268. In the same year the abbot requested a fair to celebrate 'the vigil and feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist'. Woodston fair would fall on the 29th August, despite sounding like something more appropriate for 31st October! There is no evidence that this fair ever took place, but a fair to celebrate a beheading must have been an interesting sight. Reference: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hunts/vol3/pp233-236 Picture Credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Nigel Cox - geograph.org.uk/p/2782710