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Must Farm

800 BC

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During the later Bronze age most of the farms and settlements in this area were on the drier, flood-free margins of the wetlands, though a few were constructed over the water on wooden piles. One of these small settlements (of some ten houses) has been found at Must Farm on the western edge of Whittlesey. Around 800 BC the houses caught fire very soon after they were built (whether the fires were accidental or deliberate is still under debate) and the entire platform collapsed into the waters below. Because of the fire and the waterlogged conditions the houses collapsed into, Must Farm is a beautifully preserved  archaeological site; it has been described as the Bronze Age Pompeii as the fantastic amount of finds ( including wood, pots, food, jewellery and even fabric)  have revealed a great deal about Bronze Age life and trade. Near to Must Farm, along the channel the River Nene took in antiquity, archaeologists discovered nine intact Bronze Age log  boats, all fashioned from hollowed-out tree trunks, which were sunk over a period of 600 years. These boats are currently undergoing conservation at Flag Fen, where they are on display.





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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





Did the Feoffees Eat Horse Meat?

1630

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The Feoffees were a group of men who oversaw the administration of money collected and distributed to the deserving poor. They also ensured that the city was in good running order. They were selected from the upper echelons of Peterborough society and represented the city. This meant that they provided hospitality to other dignitaries and travelled to meet them. Their account books have examples of some of the expenses they occurred. In 1630 it appears that some of the men travelled to Stamford. References were made to food and drink consumed, including venison (deer meat). One curious sentence reads: For our horsmeate at Stamford and given to thosler - 6d Thosler would translate as 'the ostler' and seventeenth century ostlers cared for horses, but what have they paid him six pence for? Horse meat looks like the obvious answer, but even in the seventeenth century, eating horse meat was frowned upon because they were such valuable animals. Furthermore they would buy meat from a butcher, not an ostler. It is more likely to be a payment for food, drink and possibly stabling for their horses whilst they were in Stamford. However, it is possible that the Feoffees enjoyed a 'mane' course that was a little different.
Reference
W. T. Mellows, Minutes and Accounts of the Feoffees and Governors of the City Lands with Supplementary Documents, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1937, p67





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Roman Pottery Kilns in Stanground

200

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Local Roman enthusiasts will be familiar with the pottery kilns in Normangate Field near Castor. However, there was also a pottery industry in Stanground too. During the 1960s there were several excavations to explore Roman features under what is now Park Farm. Archaeologists discovered four pottery kilns dating from the early to mid-third century (200-250 AD). There was also a 'pottery dump', several ditches, burials and coins too. 15 coins were found in total, which could all be dated to between 260 AD and 350 AD. This suggests that the site was abandoned by around 365. It also suggests that the site had two different uses over two different time periods. Interestingly, two of the ditches discovered on the site were dated to pre-Roman activity, possibly Iron Age. This extends the use of the site over several centuries. Analysis of the clay on the site identified two distinct types. One clay was finer and would have been used for high-end pottery. The other was used for every-day ware and would have been chosen for more rigorous domestic use. Over 240 kilograms of pottery were identified during excavations, not all had been created at the site though. A mixture of grey ware, colour-coated ware, cream ware and shell-gritted ware were discovered. These were represented as beakers, dishes, flagons, jars and dishes on the whole. Pottery created on the site has been found at other local Roman sites including Orton Hall and Peterborough Cathedral.





Sennianus Fired a Mortarium

175

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A fabulous fragment of Roman pottery was discovered in Water Newton. It is a piece of a mortarium, which is kitchen ware used for grinding and pounding food. This piece is remarkable because of the painted text near the rim of the pottery. The text was likely to have been painted by the potter who made the pot. His name was Sennianus and he lived in Durobrivae. We know this because he painted 'Sennianus Durobrivis Urit', which is Latin for 'Sennianus of Durobrivae fired this.' This is a very valuable piece of pottery because there are very few references to the name Durobrivae. This is the only British example of the name Sennianus, but a German funerary stela also bares the name. The stone object was discovered in Cologne in 1650, is mid third century, and can be seen in the link provided. The height of the pottery making industry at Durobriave was in the late 2nd century (175-199AD). Pottery created around Durobrivae is known as Nene Valley Ware. The most common type of Nene Valley Ware is colour-coated ware, which has distinctive white decoration on a black coloured pot. However, the mortarium that Sennianus created was a light brown colour. It was designed to be used in the kitchen, so did not require elaborate decoration.  





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Cunoarus’ Stamped Mortarium

175

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The Roman town of Durobrivae sat on the south bank of the river Nene near Water Newton and Castor. On the northern banks of the river was a densely-packed industrial area which centred on pottery and iron production. The area produced grey wares, colour-coated wares and kitchen wares which included mortaria. The mortaria were much thicker pieces of pottery designed for pounding and grinding. They were used to grind food, but also paints, makeup and other items. Pestles were usually made from wood and therefore do not survive with the mortaria. One piece of Nene Valley mortarium was found with the stamp of its maker on the rim or flange. Stamped mortaria are very common and found in large numbers from locations including St Albans (Verulamium) and Vindolanda. What makes the stamped mortarium from Durobrivae important is that it refers to Durobrivae. The stamp reads 'Cunoarus Vico Duro' in Latin, which translates to 'Conoarus of the vicus of Durobrivae'. A vicus was a name used for a large village or small town in Roman Britain. No date has been given to the mortarium, but the height of the pottery making industry at Durobraivae was in the late 2nd century (175-199AD). A stamped mortarium can often be dated but Cunoarus does not have any other surviving stamped pieces that we know of.