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Longthorpe Tower

1260

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A manor house was built by the Thorpe family in what is now known as Longthorpe. The tower was a later addition (about 1300), now noted for its 14th century wall paintings, the best preserved medieval wall paintings in a domestic setting in Europe.





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Cross-Country Trade in Full Swing

4000-2000BC

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Although evidence of Neolithic people is light in Nene Park in comparison to other areas in the country, there are some tantalising clues to the lives of people who lived here several thousand years ago. During archaeological digs, knapped flints have been found, including some near to Longthorpe Roman fortress, suggesting that Longthorpe was considered an important place for people throughout a long period of time.   One particularly interesting insight into Neolithic people in the Nene Park area has been opened up by the discovery of an axe made out of greenstone, along with its polishing stone. In keeping with around a quarter of all Neolithic polished stone axes found in the UK, this one began its life at Langdale in the Lake District. This suggests that Neolithic Britain was more well-connected than we might first imagine.





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Early Roman Fortress

43-100AD

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Longthorpe Roman fortress sits underneath the present day Thorpe Wood Golf Course. It was built at the beginning of the Roman occupation in what appears to be a hurried way. This suggests that its purpose was to get Roman strength into the area quickly. It sat on a small ridge facing the river Nene, and could hold half a legion, in this case, the Ninth. Despite being built in a rush, it was the only Roman fort in western Europe to have an onsite pottery. It produced excellent quality wares a few metres east of the main fort. The Ninth Legion was sent to stop Boudicca’s rebellion at Camulodunum (Colchester) in around 60AD. The few soldiers who did return were unfortunately badly injured. With too few soldiers to sustain and defend the fort, it was redesigned to a much smaller scale. Archaeological evidence shows a later smaller fort built inside the first for the remaining soldiers.





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Bridging the Gap

1716

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Milton Hall was built in the 1590s to the west of Peterborough and periodic phases of work to the house and surrounding parkland continued until the 1790s. The bridge that straddles the Nene nearby was built in 1716 from Barnack stone and is a Grade II listed structure. It sits on the site of an old ferry crossing point (Gunnerswade Ferry) needed for the Barnack stone when local cathedrals were being built 900 years ago. The more modern bridge we see today, Milton Ferry Bridge, was an important transport link for those travelling onto the Great North Road from the south bank of the river, although there was a toll, with which Daniel Defoe was not pleased: “Near this little village of Castor lives the Lord FitzWilliams. His Lordship has lately built a very fine stone bridge over the River Nyne, near Gunworth, where formerly was the ferry. I was very much applauding this generous action of my lord’s, knowing the inconvenience of the passage there before, especially if the waters of the Nyne were but a little swell’d, and I though it a piece of publick charity; but my applause was much abated, when coming to pass the bridge (being in a coach) we could not be allow’d to go over it, without paying 2s. 6d. of which I shall only say this, That I think ‘tis the only half crown toll that is in Britain, at least that I ever met with.”





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Start of the Nene Park Story

1968

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Prior to the creation of Nene Park, there were very few recreational green spaces in Peterborough. In 1968, a year after the New Towns Act, the Peterborough Development Corporation was established and land from the Embankment in the city centre to Wansford, seven miles west, was purchased from landowners including Earl Fitzwilliam. Gravel extractors Amey Roadstone approached the Corporation and negotiations began to ensure that the resulting lakes were planned and landscaped carefully for the best possible visitor experience. Plans also included space for car parking, a water sports centre, a lake specifically for water sports and facilities including a café and shop.





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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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Trust in the Park

1988

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Ten years after the park’s opening, Nene Park Trust was formed to take stewardship of the park itself. The Trust remains a charitable company, using its income to manage and develop the park through nature conservation, education and events and managing its facilities.





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St Botolph’s Church Started

1262

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The construction of St Botolph's Church in Longthorpe is believed to have been started in 1262, in the same century as nearby Longthorpe Tower, built by the de Thorp family . The church does not have a tower, but has an external bell cote at the western end of the church. It contains memorials to the St John and Strong families who lived in Thorpe Hall and the Ketton Stone. Rumour has it that an earlier church was founded by St. Botolph in the seventh century, but there is no evidence of this. Some of the building, however,  is thought to contain parts of an earlier eleventh century church.





Thorpe Hall Built

1653

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Thorpe Hall is a Grade 1 listed building built during the Cromwellian era between 1653 and 1658, at a time when very few stately homes were built. Oliver St. John (pronounced Sinjun) commissioned the house to be built by Peter Mills, who later helped to rebuild London after the Great Fire in 1666. Oliver St. John was a judge, politician and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas to Oliver Cromwell, whom he was related to through his second wife Elizabeth Cromwell, said to be his favourite cousin. This connection might have been advantageous in securing the land to build Thorpe Hall on. The house was built in the shape of a cube, set amongst 6 acres of walled garden. Much of the interior of the house has changed over the years, but the wooden staircase is dated from the original house build and large fireplaces on the ground floor are worthy of merit. The house has changed hands many times over the years and was at one point a boys school and a maternity home. It was bought by Sue Ryder in 1986 to be used as a hospice, with an extension added in 2015 within the old walled orchard.





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Image of Thorpe Village

1902-1910

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This is an enchanting rural scene of Thorpe Village, showing a young girl watching the Postman on his rounds. Thorpe Village is now known as Longthorpe. This image has been produced from an original postcard of the time. Publisher Unknown. From the Jacqui Catling Collection  





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