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Peterborough Under Water

165 million years ago

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Peterborough was much closer to the equator in Jurassic times and a shallow sea covered the area. Together with warmer global temperatures, the local climate would have felt as balmy as the Bahamas. In the 145 million years since the Jurassic Period, the continents have moved hundreds of miles. Ever since the Earth formed, the rocky plates on its surface have moved around very slowly, powered by the heat in the planet’s core. Today, the continents continue to move as they collide and separate very slowly. Peterborough’s Jurassic sea was packed with creatures of all sizes, from microsopic to monstrous. The small fish, ammonites and belemnites feasted on shoals of plankton. They in turn became food for larger creatures. At the top of the food chain were the large ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs and crocodiles. The shallow sea supported a huge variety of fish of all sizes and shapes, adapted for life at different depths in the water. Near the surface, shoals of fast-swimming Caturus hunted smaller fish. The vast Leedsichthys – the biggest fish ever known – cruised harmelssly among them, gulping in water and filtering plankton to eat. When these creatures died they sank to the bottom of the sea where some of them became fossilised. Peterborough Museum houses a magnificent collect of these fossils.





The “Great Drowning” of Thorney Fen

1770

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A large piece of Morton’s Leam, a proctective bank running along the River Nene south of Thorney, gave way leaving a gap 130 yards long and 36 feet deep.  Water rushed into the fen, and all the area for several miles was about six feet deep in water.  People fled for safety to the Abbey Church in Thorney, and also other buildings on the higher ground, and the whole area could not be farmed again until spring 1773.  It is recorded in Fenland Notes and Queries in 1893 by a local farmer, Samuel Egar.





Peterborough Shaken by an Earthquake

1884

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There was a large earthquake in Colchester, Essex, on 22nd April, which was felt in Peterborough and Crowland. It caused the chandeliers in houses on Lincoln Road to jingle.





John Speed’s Map

1610

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The earliest known map of Peterborough is that created by John Speed. The main city centre streets can be recognised, as can several buildings including Peterborough Cathedral and St John's church. The cross keys symbol on the top left of the map is still visible around the city today on buildings and lamp posts.





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An Immense Icy Flood

1795

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In February 1795 a large flood affected many parts of the country, due to a combination of thawing snow, ice and torrential rains. Peterborough's story reads like something out of a Hollywood movie: "We learn from Peterborough that the flood in that neighbourhood is so immense as to threaten several villages. The ice had formed a complete bank across the coast, from the South bank to the North bank, and consequently stopped the current of water. A gentleman there, however, at the risk of his life, contrived to dispel the ice by gunpowder, contained in oilskin bags, in the execution of which he was assisted by two barges; but he had the misfortune to be left upon a large shoal of ice; the boats being driven away, it was impossible for any person to render him assistance, and in this dangerous situation, with the momentary apprehension of the ice separating, he floated down to Whittlesea bridge, and then jumped to one of the pillars, which was expected every minute to give way. From this situation he was released by some men who put off in a boat to save him. Soon after this the South bank gave way; and so terrific was the effect, from the shrieks of the multitude near it, and the explosion so tremendous, that the noise was heard by persons stationed four miles below the spot. The number of lives lost has not been ascertained: the damage exceeds calculation."1 Other information relating to the flood suggested that 30,000 acres of Deeping Fen were flooded and that many bridges had been damaged or destroyed, including those of Wansford and Northborough which 'blew up'! Peterborough's wooden bridge was saved.
  1. Northampton Mercury, Saturday 21st February 1795, p3, column 4






On the Roman Road System

100-200AD

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The Antonine Itinerary was a catalogue of the road network in England and Europe during the second century. It recorded the names of important towns and the distance between them. This would have been useful information to anyone travelling through the country, in particular any military troops. Durobrivae, the Roman town at Water Newton, has its first reference in the Antonine Itinerary. It was part of Route 5, a journey from London to Carlisle. It was recorded as the stop between Cambridge and Ancaster, being 35 miles from Cambridge and 30 miles from Ancaster.





Mapping the Medieval World

1120

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Peterborough Abbey was the birth place of many great documents including the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, but a less well-known document in the Mappae mundi (world map) in the Peterborough Computus, also known as the Peterborough Map or Peterborough Diagrammatic Map. The map, dating from around 1120, attempts to explain the relation of counties, countries and cities within a large circle in a diagrammatic format that continues today in maps such as the London Underground map. Unlike modern maps, east is at the top of the map, with Jerusalem sitting at the centre of the world. Brittanaia (Britain) sits on the circle to the left of the circle; other recognisable names include Affrica, Roma and Nazareth. The map is held at the British Library in London and has been named as a sibling map to the Thorney Map, which in turn, was thought to have been a copy of the Ramsey Map from around 1016.  





Britain Leaves Europe!

8000 BC

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Britain's split from Europe began more than 200,000 years ago during an ice age. At this time Britain was a peninsula of northwest Europe. Melting water from vast ice sheets filled a giant lake in the southern half of the North Sea. It was held back by a chalk ridge stretching from the southeast of England to the northwest of France.
A Lot of Water
Eventually this glacial lake filled up with so much water that the dam burst at the Strait of Dover, unleashing vast torrents of water in an enormous flood. The flood was so violent it ripped through the chalk ridge and gouged a deep valley from the Dover Straits to past the Isle of Wight. That valley became a new waterway, the Channel. It drained the rivers of northwest Europe into the Atlantic and severed Britain from the mainland.
Britain Becomes an Island
The final division from Europe was settled about 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, when rising temperatures again melted ice sheets, sea levels rose and the plains (Doggerland) connecting Britain to Europe were flooded in what became the North Sea, while the Channel River became the Channel. Britain became an island separate from mainland Europe.





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Death and Pillaging From Maxey Castle

1450

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On the first of April 1450 Lord Welles gathered a large group of men at Maxey Castle. Lord Welles, also known as Lionel or Leo, 6th Baron Welles, had been in conflict with the people of Spalding and Pinchbeck. He gathered over 100 of his armed tenants at the castle and went to Spalding and Pinchbeck to cause chaos. His tenants damaged many properties, injured lots of people and even killed a man named John Ankes. The attack was part of a long-running dispute between the people of Deeping and Maxey, and Spalding and Pinchbeck. Both sides disputed the boundary of fen land between the two areas. They continued a tit-for-tat argument involving riots and violence over many years. People from both sides would sneak on to opposing land to steal cattle or destroy turves, which were a vital fuel in an area with few trees. Lord Welles' second wife was Margaret Beauchamp, mother of Lady Margaret Beaufort. Lady Margaret later inherited the castle and lands when her son became King Henry VII. Picture Credit: CC Coat of Arms of Sir Lionel de Welles, 6th Baron Welles, Rs-nourse, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_de_Welles,_6th_Baron_Welles#/media/File:Coat_of_Arms_of_Sir_Lionel_de_Welles,_6th_Baron_Welles,_KG.png