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Mrs Horden’s Boarding School



One of the first references to a school for young ladies in Peterborough comes in the form of an advert in the Stamford Mercury for Mrs Horden's Boarding School. For 14 pounds 14 shillings per year the young lady could  have board, English teaching and needlework lessons. Dancing, writing and music were, of course, an additional cost.

The Earliest Recorded Girls’ School in th...



It is difficult to know which girls' school was definitely the first in Peterborough. The first for boys, The King's School, was founded in the reign of Henry VIII, but girls were not deemed to need educating, unless they were wealthy. They were educated in skills that were seen to make them more attractive and have more chance of marrying. In the Georgian period Dame schools started to appear. These were schools run by women to teach girls useful skills like sewing and dancing, as well as reading, writing and simple maths. The girls usually boarded with the women running the schools in large houses. Unlike modern boarding schools the number of girls would have been relatively small and dependant on the size of the building.
Bacon's Boarding School
Mrs Elizabeth Bacon was the headmistress of the first girls boarding (Dame) school in Peterborough. The first record of the school is from 1753. She ran the school until 1770 after which when Miss Searle took over as head teacher. (1) Other Dame schools included Mrs Horden's (see other entry) and a girls school run by Miss Mary Smith in 1791. (1) D.K. Shearing, Education in the Peterborough Diocese Following the 'Glorious Revolution' 1688, (unpublished PhD Thesis, University of London) p289 via

Notes and Queries About the Fenlands



The journal 'Fenland Notes and Queries' was first published in April 1889 and printed in Peterborough by George Caster. The journal, published quarterly, was created to bring together facts and stories relating to the fens. The information was provided by a large group of contributors, many of them clergy, some women and some anonymous. The fenland area covered by the journal included the counties of 'Huntingdon, Cambridge, Lincoln, Northampton, Norfolk and Suffolk.' (1) Intended to be of interest to antiquarians, the journal also proved popular with 'others interested in the history and folklore of the district.' (2) The journal, or magazine as it was termed, was compiled into volumes, the first covering the years 1889 to 1891. In total seven volumes were created, the last completed in 1909. The first issues were edited by W. H. B. Saunders, who was succeeded by Rev. W. D. Sweeting of Maxey. Thankfully all of the volumes are available to read online and can be searched easily for places and people. There are many references to Peterborough and surrounding villages which can tell us more about life in the past. In Volume Seven the lyrics and notes are written relating to a May Day Garland Song which it was claimed was 'sung by the children when carrying the garlands round the city'. (3) The recording of songs is an often forgotten element of recording and one of the many features that makes the volumes so valuable.
(1) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol I, Ed W. H. Bernard Saunders, Publisher G. Caster, 1991, preface (2) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol I, Ed W. H. Bernard Saunders, Publisher G. Caster, 1991, p2 (3) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol VII Ed. Rev. W. D. Sweeting, Publisher G. Caster, 1909, p24-25

The Death of Thomas Deacon and the Birth of a S...



Thomas Deacon is best known by his eponymous school, but his story was one of charity. Born in 1651, Deacon was a wealthy man. He owned many lands including Willow Hall near Thorney and lived for a time in Boroughbury Manor. He was a wool merchant, as much of the gentry were in the city, profiting from wool or fleece produced in the area. As one of the Feoffees he offered wool to the poor to provide an income. The poor were able to gain money for spinning the wool, which helped them out of poverty. Upon his death in 1721 he left a gift of money known as a legacy, which would pay for an education for 20 poor boys. At that time only the rich could afford an education, so this was a generous gift.
Deacon's Legacy
Thomas Deacon's school was originally sited on Cowgate, where a blue plaque has been placed. The school remained there until 1883 when it moved to Deacon Street and later to Queen's Gardens off Park Road. Thankfully it now educates both boys and girls. The Thomas Deacon Foundation continue to offer educational opportunities in the form of scholarships at Thomas Deacon Academy. A large effigy of Thomas Deacon resides in Peterborough Cathedral amongst the good and great of the city.

John Forster, Graffiti Artist



The graffiti scratched onto the walls of the eastern end of the cathedral are numerous. They vary in size and form, but almost all contain initials or names of the artist. One of the best names to search for is John Forster, who rather enjoyed scratching his name in the walls. His letter form is rather impressive and he has had enough time to fully form his name and date it. We can assume that he enjoyed making his mark because his name appears twice on the wall of the New Building.
Where to find it
His first signature (should that be graffiti tag?!) was scratched at the north east end of the cathedral. It is dated 1687. Further east on the same wall you can find his second attempt from 1688. Rather pleasingly it is easy to see an improvement in his letter formation and a more confident signature. He used an I in place of J for John because the letter J hadn't come into use yet.
Who was John Forster?
John Forster was likely to have been a pupil of King's School, which was based in the cathedral grounds at that time. How he managed to find the time to mark his name in such detail, we will never know. We can only guess what his punishment would have been if he was caught doing it.

Peterborough Free Library Opens



Dr. Thomas J Walker, a prominent local member of the medical profession, was instrumental in persuading the City Council to establish a Public Library. As a consequence, the Peterborough Free Library opened on April 10th 1893 in the Fitzwilliam Hall, Park Road. The Hall began life in 1872 as a venue for entertainment, and later became known as “The Empire”. It was sited just north of the present Central Library. Applications for membership could be made on the opening day, but the first books were not actually issued until the following Thursday. Membership application was slow to begin with – apparently the opening of the library was not very well advertised in the local press. The first librarian was Mr. L Stanley Jastrzebski, who later became President of the Library Association. The library contained two sections; one for adults and one for children. The Dewey system of classification was adopted from the onset for cataloguing the books. (Mr. Melvill Dewey was Director of New York State Library.) This library was replaced in 1906 by a purpose-built library funded by the Scots-American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. References:
  1. Peterborough Standard, April 1893.
2. Peterborough Standard, August 1903. 3. Peterborough Standard, June 1906 4. Peterborough Advertiser, April 1893. 5. Peterborough Advertiser, June 1906.  


Edward Thurlow Leeds and the Ashmolean Museum



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)