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The Norman Conquest

1066

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The Norman Conquest was the invasion and occupation of England by Duke William II of Normandy. William claimed he was the rightful heir to the childless King Edward the Confessor. This was because Edward the Confessor’s grandfather was William’s great grandfather.  However, after Edward’s death in January 1066, the throne was seized by Edward’s brother in law, Harold Godwinson.
Other Claimants
William was not the only other claimant to the throne. In September 1066 King Harald Hardrada of Norway invaded northern England because he wanted to be king. Harold marched to meet Harald and on the 25th of September 1066 Harald Hardrada was defeated and killed at Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Victory
Within days of this victory William landed in southern England and Harold had to rush to meet him. However, he left a significant part of his army in the north, which meant he did not have enough soldiers to help him. Harold’s army confronted William’s invaders on the 14th of October at the Battle of Hastings. Harold was defeated and killed in the engagement which meant Duke William became King William the Conqueror.    





World War 2 In Peterborough

1939 – 1945

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The Town played a vital role with industry, airfields and a major railway centre. The flat landscape meant there were many airfields including RAF Peterborough, Westwood, which was a major RAF training centre. Local people volunteered for Military Service but those in ‘reserved occupations’, (jobs important to the war effort) were not conscripted but often spent their spare time in Civil Defence e.g. Home Guard and Auxiliary Fire Service. Businesses set up their own firewatchers while first-aiders and plane spotters were essential. National Service became compulsory for unmarried women aged between 20 and 30, then up to 50 in 1943, unless they had children under 14. Many joined the various women’s forces and nurses were attached to all the Services. Women worked in factories making war machines, ammunition, clothing or parachutes. Engineering industries such as Perkins Engines and Baker Perkins switched to wartime production supplying engines, guns, torpedoes and manufacturing machinery. Amidst this, dancing at local hotels and cinema-going were popular and there were several cinemas, showing films three times a day.  Foreign servicemen became familiar sights on the street. They included including Americans, French and Poles, many of the latter remaining in the city at the end of the war. Peterborough was not a prime target for bombs, so the city received 1496 London evacuees. Brick air raid shelters were built in the city centre. There were 644 Air Raid Alert warnings and bombs were hitting Bridge Street and the Lido. Raids of high explosive and incendiary bombs continued to 1942. Peterborough Cathedral was hit by incendiary bombs but damage was limited by the quick reaction of the fire-watchers.





Hereward the Wake

1070

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Hereward the Wake (known at the time as Hereward the Exile) raided the monastery and town with an army of Danish mercenaries, ostensibly to stop the wealth of Peterborough from falling into the hands of the new Norman Abbot. The Danes “came with many ships and wanted [to get] into the minster, and the monks withstood so that they could not come in. Then they laid fire to it, and burned down all the monks' buildings and the town, except for one building. Then, by means of fire, they came in at Bolhithe Gate. The monks came to meet them, asked them for peace, but they did not care about anything, went into the minster, climbed up to the holy rood, took the crown off our Lord's head… They took there so much gold and silver and so many treasures in money and in clothing and in books that no man can tell another…” By now the town is becoming known as ‘Burgh’ or ‘Burgh St Peter’ – Peterborough.





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Knights and a Castle

1071

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William I imposed the living of sixty knights onto Peterborough Abbey and its monastic estates in 1071. He ordered the construction of a motte and bailey castle on the north side of the monastic precincts. This  was a Norman Castle of timber and earth. The motte remains today in the Deanery Gardens as Tout (Tower) Hill, whilst many of the manors in the area given to the knights now bear their names in the villages – Helpston, Longueville, Waterville and so on.





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Peterborough at the Battle of Hastings

1066

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The Battle of Hastings is the battle where William of Normandy defeated King Harold Godwinson to gain the English throne. Peterborough was involved as Abbot Leofric of Peterborough Abbey and a group of his followers accompanied King Harold as he rushed to meet the invading Normans. Leofric died on the way and all the rest of his party were killed at the battle. Following the death of Leofric the monks appointed their own Abbot, Brando (Hereward the Wake’s uncle), without the consent of William. When Brando died three years later, William took his revenge by appointing Turold as Abbot, who was not a monk and was deeply unpopular. It was this appointment that gave Hereward the excuse to attack the Abbey and town.





Metal Work in the Early Bronze Age

2500-1500 BC

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With the arrival in Britain of skilled metal-workers from mainland Europe around 2500 BC, metal technology began. These people are called the Beaker People, the name arising from their particular style of pottery. The first metal used was copper, but this was soon replaced by the harder bronze (an alloy of 90% copper with 10% tin), for which the time period, the Bronze Age, is named. Smiths working in the Peterborough area, mostly in the east, produced hundreds of swords, daggers, spearheads, axes, pins, ornaments and jewellery, such as rings. The production of metal led to greater control of fire and with it, improved, harder pottery.    





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Quakers Move to Peterborough to Join Baker Perkins

1933

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In 1933 Joseph Baker Engineering of Willesden moved to be Baker Perkins in Peterborough and a significant number of Friends (Quakers) moved with them. As the time for the move from Willesden to Peterborough approached, many weekend trips were organised to enable the Willesden employees to find accommodation. Some of these were undertaken by bicycle. Satisfactory arrangements were made for the necessary housing at no cost to the Company. Between March and September 1933, most of the Friends (Quakers) who had agreed to make the transfer were re-housed in a new development in Willesden Avenue. On 18th June 1933 meetings for worship started in an upstairs room of a warehouse in King Street.





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The London Brick Company

1877

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Peterborough benefitted from a type of clay that provided an ideal raw material for brick making – first exploited by the Romans, abandoned after they left and again revived in the 1400’s by local craftspeople who created the material for building locally. In 1877 James McCallum Craig bought a property at auction near Peterborough, known as Fletton Lodge. He decided that the site was ideal for local brick making and started a small company. When excavation of the surface clay at Fletton began, a much harder clay was found deeper down, the unique Lower Oxford Clay. It was locally known as the ‘Fletton’ because of its original place of manufacture, but its main market was in London, transported there on the Peterborough to London rail line, so giving the name London Brick. The end of the First World War in 1918 brought a huge demand for London Bricks to fulfil the massive increase in house building and in the late 1920s there was an amalgamation of several small companies into a larger, more efficient company, London Brick. By 1931, 1,000 million bricks a year were being produced. After World War II there was another building boom and this increased the success of the company; demand for bricks far outstripped supply and by the early 1950s many workers were being recruited from as far afield as Italy to satisfy the need for London Bricks.





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Peterborough Development Corporation

1968

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Peterborough was designated as a third-wave New Town in July 1967. In February 1968 the Peterborough Development Corporation was set up. The corporation's task was to provide homes, work and the full range of facilities and services for an additional 70,000 people, drawn mainly from the Greater London area. Many new housing areas were developed, including Bretton and Ravensthorpe. Based in Peterscourt in the city, it worked in close collaboration with Peterborough City Council, the Huntingdon and Peterborough County Council and, from 1974, Cambridgeshire County Council. The Development Corporation was officially wound-up in September 1988.





Peterborough’s 2011 Census

2011

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The census taken in 2011 shows the diversity of people to be found in the city. Peterborough’s population rose by 27,570 to 183,631 between 2001 and 2011. The population included people born in Italy, Portugal, Poland, Lithuania, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, India, Australia, USA, and the Caribbean. The vast majority of new arrivals were of the most economically active age range, between 20 and 44 years. Peterborough continues to be a growing, thriving and diverse city.