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Alfred Caleb Taylor and the First X Ray Machine...

1896

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Alfred Caleb Taylor was born in Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire in 1861 and came to Peterborough aged ten. He worked at the Peterborough Infirmary on Priestgate from 1880 as a dispenser. He also served as Secretary of the Infirmary from 1889 until his retirement in 1926. Mr Taylor had a keen interest in photography and chaired the Peterborough Photographic Society. This carried over into an interest in X-rays being an early advocate of X-ray technology. In 1896 he designed and built his own equipment under the stairs in the infirmary. This device, the first X-ray machine in the United Kingdom outside London, was powered by accumulators. They were recharged at a local flour mill as there was no public electricity supply at that time. When an electricity supply was available in Peterborough, Mr Harry Cox, from London, was consulted regarding a larger installation. Many people made donations towards the new x-ray apparatus; Mr Andrew Carnegie, Peterborough’s first Freeman kindly donated £125 towards the installation.  As with the photography of the time the images produced by the X-ray machines were positives rather than negatives.

Radiography

As the science of radiography was so new, the danger of exposure to X-rays was unknown.  Taylor worked with the x-rays so often, that it badly affected his health.  He contracted radiation poisoning resulting in the loss of four fingers, three on the left hand and one on the right. Despite this he never expressed any regrets and said, “I have only done my duty, and if I have sacrificed bits of my fingers so that I am not able to tie up my shoes laces, I feel I have been compensated, for I have loved the x-ray work and its excitements. For all the trouble I had at the beginning I have been more than compensated by your appreciation, and although I have lost bits of fingers, I would still do the same if I had my life to come again.” Alfred Caleb Taylor died on the 6th of July 1927, a pioneer and martyr.  





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Opening of Ferry Meadows

1978

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Nene Park’s centrepiece, Ferry Meadows, was opened on 1 July 1978 by the broadcaster and environmentalist David Bellamy. In its first year of opening, the Park received 90,000 visits and is now one of the most visited country parks in the UK.





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Eccentric Astronomer Dies

1974

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Astronomer William Granger was best known by locals as the man who walked around with a cat on his shoulder,  however, he should be better known for his astronomical work. A member of the British Astronomical Association from the 1940s, he took such a great interest in astronomy that he built his own observatory in his back garden in Priory Road. He also ran an astronomy club at Orchard Street School, where he was a teacher, and turned his bathroom into a darkroom to develop astrological photographs. William's wife Ethel was famous for her record-breaking 13 inch waist, which many people have attributed to William's fetish for wasp-waisted women. They appeared as quite an eccentric couple, William walking around with a ginger cat named Treacle Pudding on his shoulder, next to Ethel with her miniscule waist, piercings and extreme high-heels, however they were spoken of fondly by the people who knew them. William died in 1974 aged 72.





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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Dr T.J. Walker Appointed Surgeon of the Infirmary

1862

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Dr Thomas James Walker was a second generation doctor. He had a thriving practice in Westgate, and in 1862 he was appointed to the post of surgeon  at the infirmary, a post he held until 1906. He had other interests, notably local history and his archaeological finds and acquisitions formed a base for the Peterborough Museum Society collection, and he became the society's president in 1892. He was also interested in the Napoleonic prisoner of war camp at Norman Cross and wrote a book on its history, published in 1913. In recognition of all his contributions to Peterborough and its inhabitants, on his 80th birthday in 1915, he was granted the Freedom of the city, the first native born Peterborian to be so honoured.    





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Edward Thurlow Leeds and the Ashmolean Museum

1877

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Edward Thurlow Leeds was born in 1877 at Eyebury Grange near Peterborough. His father was the geologist Alfred Nicholson Leeds who had also been born at Eyebury. Born in Peterborough, he was educated at Uppingham School before heading to Cambridge. He had started his career in China, but returned to England following ill health. Whilst recovering he returned to Eyebury where his interest in archaeology was ignited by digging in the archaeologically rich area. He accepted a position at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in 1908 and quickly found himself progressing to the role of Assistant Keeper of the Department of Antiquities. There he remained until his retirement, becoming head Keeper in 1928. Edward Thurlow Leeds left a legacy of not only papers but also artefacts at the museum. His work on the Anglo Saxon period is one of his best known achievements. He was honoured with a gold medal by the Society of Antiquaries in 1946. During his life he published many works including The Archaeology of the Anglo Saxon Settlements in 1913. He died in 1955 at the age of 78. His works can be viewed at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Photo credit: © N Chadwick (cc-by-sa/2.0)