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Cherry Fair Founded



Cherry Fair was one of the oldest fairs in Peterborough, granted by a charter in 1189 by Richard I to Abbot Benedict. It was planned to be held on or around St Peter's Feast, on the 29th June, which is why the fair was also known as St Peter's or Petermas Fair and ran for eight days. In 1572 the date of the fair was moved from 29th June to 10th July. It was traditionally held in the Market Place (Cathedral Square), but in 1899 it was held in Broadway opposite the cattle market, after dwindling visitors and a lack of interest. By 1915 it was little more than a meat market.

The Building of the Queensgate Centre



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.


The First Auction at the Bull Hotel



Situated on Westgate, the Bull Hotel is the oldest existing inn or hotel in the city centre and is grade II listed. It is believed to have been built in the late 18th century and was known as the Bull Inn. There is, however, a chance that an older structure exists within the present building. The main entrance to the building was originally an entrance for coaches and carts. The entrance led into a courtyard where there was also stabling for horses. The building has been enlarged and improved over the years, so the courtyard is no longer there. A story exists of a dog who was run over in the courtyard and whose spirit never left the hotel. The earliest reference found relating to the Bull Inn in the Stamford Mercury is from 1775. There was an advert relating to the sale of land and buildings by Simon Hubbard by auctions. Auctions were common at the Bull and items included property, furniture and animals. They also held meals and meetings for the aristocracy and other events. Many celebrities have stayed at the hotel, including The Beatles. The most infamous was possibly Archdeacon Wakeford who visited in 1920. He was at the centre of a court case claiming he had stayed at the Bull Inn on two separate occasions with a woman who wasn't his wife and therefore leading an immoral life. He was found guilty, later failing in an appeal.
Stamford Mercury, 3rd August 1775, p3

The Phoenix Brewery Gets A Considerable Addition



The Phoenix Brewery was based at the eastern end of Priestgate, opposite the Angel Inn. It was managed by Fredrick Markby initially, before he became bankrupt. It was then sold in 1844 and continued by J. G. Atkinson, a solicitor. He advertised the sale of Guiness, as well as Stout, Pale Ale and Bitter made at the brewery, with a 25% discount given to 'The Trade'. (1) In 1847 a useful addition was made to the premises: 'a very considerable addition has been made to the brewery at Priestgate-Street, a large yard with stables and outbuildings, having been added thereto. This is an improvement in this part of the city which was much needed, and will add materially to the liveliness and business-like appearance.' (2) He continued to manage the business until it passed  to Charles Cutlack and his family. Many bottles marked with Phoenix and Cutlack have been found throughout the city and both names are synonymous with brewing in the city.
(1) Stamford Mercury, Fri 6th December 1844, p1, col 2 (2) Cambridge Independent Press, Sat 7th Aug 1847, p3, col 7

Peakirk Wildlife Park Opens



Peakirk Wildfowl Park was situated to the north of Peakirk. It owes its existence in part to a natural spring on the site and the building of the adjacent railway line. The spring had provided a wetland perfect for osier beds. In the 1840s the Lincolnshire Loop railway line was constructed next to the site. Gravel was extracted from the land in Peakirk for its construction. As the gravel was extracted, small islands were left behind in the main lake. This allowed the land to be used again as osier beds. In 1957 the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust opened a wildfowl park on the site, utilising the unique landscape features of the site. It was home to around 700 water birds, some of which were exceedingly rare or endangered. At its peak visitor numbers were around 64,000 per year. By the late 1980s visitor numbers tailed off and the business was sold in 1990. In 1991 it was renamed the Peakirk Waterfowl Gardens whilst run by the East of England Agricultural Society, but it was not a successful business. It eventually closed in 2001, the birds being transferred to other parks. It is now a private home.


A Hill in the Middle of Peterborough!



For some time during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the market place in Peterborough was known as Market Hill. The earliest reference from the papers is an advert from 1736 for the letting of 'An old-accustom'd Grocer's Shop... situate upon the Market Hill in Peterborough'. A reference to the Talbot Inn from 1774 states it is 'on the market hill'. This continued until an 1898 reference to J. A. Bingham, Auctioneer of Market Hill, Peterborough. Currently the area is known as Cathedral Square. Cambridge and Chatteris still use the word for their market places. It certainly is an odd choice of word for towns in areas with little or no hills! Source: Stamford Mercury, Thursday 5th August 1736, page 4, col 1

Milton Manor Purchased



Milton Manor, situated to the West of Peterborough, has existed since at least 1381. The manor has long been associated with the Fitzwilliam family, but they did not create it. William Fitzwilliam purchased the manors of Milton and Marholm from Robert Wyttilbury/Whittlebury in 1502. He also bought Longthorpe Tower in the same year. In 1575 all of the manors belonging to the Fitzwilliams were valued. Milton Manor, now the main residence, was only valued at £15, but Marholm Manor was valued at £32 and 5 shillings.

Woodcroft Manor’s Royal Owner



Woodcroft Castle used to be known as Woodcroft Manor. It dates back to the twelfth century and appears frequently in court papers over the centuries. It is best well-known for the Civil War siege and death of Dr Michael Hudson, but it has a much better connection. On 6th October 1570 Woodcroft Mansion house was referred to as having been 'purchased of the late King Edward VI'. Many of the local manors have been owned by monarchs, often being given as presents. However the ownership of Woodcroft might suggest that it was once much more important than it is now. Indeed, in 1575 the manor was valued at £15, 6 shillings and 8 pence, which was more than Milton Manor.

Jimmy the Donkey: War hero or Super Hoax?



Jimmy the Donkey was born in the early Twentieth Century and used to raise money for the RSPCA. He is commemorated in Central park, where he was laid to rest in 1943. His journey to Peterborough, however, is either one of heroic endeavours or a great hoax. Jimmy was supposedly born in the trenches of World War I in 1916. He was rescued from No-Man's Land and adopted by the Cameronian Scottish Rifles who cared for him with their rations. He supported the soldiers by pulling and carrying what he could. So valuable was he to the regiment, that they made him a Sergeant and gave him three stripes. After the war the donkey was bought by local RSPCA inspector, Mrs Heath, who took pity on him. The Cameronians were based in Peterborough for a short while in 1920 and that was when she bought him. She wanted to give him a good life and use the war hero to raise money for the charity. They offered rides in a small carriage pulled behind Jimmy and raised a huge amount for the RSPCA until his death in 1943. However, George Wilding the son of a horse dealer, revealed that Jimmy's story had been a hoax. His father had bought the donkey and was having difficulty selling it, so he created its back story in the hope of a sale. This called into question whether Jimmy was the celebrated hero, or just an average donkey. But the donkey raised so much money for charity over the years, that he should be remembered, regardless of his birth. The memorial is accessible in Central Park every day