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The Roman Town of Durobrivae

65-450AD

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A bridge was built across the River Nene around AD 65, after which a small settlement grew to the south west of the bridge. This prospered as a market centre for trade along the important Ermine Street, the precursor to the modern A1. The town had walls around it for protection and status, and developed major public buildings where a town council met and organised local government, which had controls over roads, cemeteries, baths, water supply and all aspects of the daily life of the town. Added to the towns market importance was its rich sources of clay and iron which were the key resources of a major pottery and metal working industry. The importance of Durobrivae lies in the fact that although the town walls covered 44 acres, the industrial suburbs extended for another 450 acres making a major settlement in Roman Britain.





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Roman Industrial Surburbs of Normangate Field

70-450AD

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The area to the south of Ailsworth and Castor villages is known as Normangate Field. It was the site of extensive Roman pottery and metal working workshops. The Roman road of Ermine Street runs through the area. It can be seen today as a massive bank of earth concealed underneath several hundred years of repeated road surfacing. The potteries here gave their name to the distinctive Roman pottery known at Castor Ware. Interpretation from 2018 has revealed that the Normangate Fields contained a complex and thriving community. The location of the fields put the pottery and metal workers in an excellent position. They were near the Praetorium, Durobrivae and Rive Nene for water-based transport. Also, not only were they straddling Ermine Street, but King Street too. It is possible that King Street was once much more important than Ermine Street based on the location of the workers.





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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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Food Machinery Company Moves to Peterborough

1904

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In 1904 Werner Pfleiderer and Perkins established a new factory close to the railway on Westwood Bridge Road (now Westfield Road). The factory was built to manufacture bakery and chemical machinery. They relocated from London to make use of the excellent transport links, which still draw companies to Peterborough today. A further tranche of employees relocated from the Willesden factory in 1933. This was a strong move and the company grew to be one of the most respected suppliers of specialist process equipment worldwide. The company went on to become Baker Perkins and later Perkins Engines. Throughout the 20th century Baker Perkins was a major Peterborough employer. Anyone who can recall the 'Perkins Fortnight' will remember how quiet the city was whilst Perkins employees were on holiday! The business moved to its current state of the art facility beside Paston Parkway in 1991. The previous site in Westwood was demolished and Peterborough Prison now occupies the site, although some listed buildings remain. It has the capacity to produce 500,000 engines per year and around 2,500 people are employed there. The Peterborough factory is part of a network of factories, which are located as far away as America and Singapore.





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Honey Hill in Use

c. 1300

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The name Honey Hill is still in use in Paston today, but its origins come from a post mill. The mill was situated on a large mound between Dogsthorpe and Paston, under what is now Bluebell Avenue and Heather Avenue. Often assumed to be a moated house, an archaeological dig in 1960 proved the mound was in fact a late 13th century millstead. Artefacts discovered included pottery, millstone remains and clay pipes, which showed that it was in use until the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. Two coins were found on the site, a farthing from the reign of Edward I (1302-1307) and a sixpence from 1568.





Founding of Perkins Engines

1932

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Perkins engineering was founded in a small office in Peterborough, UK, in 1932. It was founded by two men, Frank Perkins and Charles Chapman; Frank a superlative salesman and Charles an engineering genius. Their focus was on the diesel engine and their belief that it could revolutionise the motor industry with high performance and low running costs. Peterborough was the perfect place to start the business as it had excellent transport links and so could ensure rapid delivery of products. Its first high-speed diesel engine was the 4 cylinder Vixen followed by the  more powerful version, the Wolf. With its success in the motor industry it expanded into the agricultural industry. During the Second World War Perkins was instrumental n its production of diesel engines for the war effort. In 1947, production was moved to the Eastfield site in Peterborough.  





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Peter Brotherhood Comes to Peterborough

1907

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The firm was founded in London in 1867 by Peter Brotherhood, an engineer. In the early days it mainly produced equipment for the brewery industry but in 1872, Peter Brotherhood invented a three cylinder, radial engine. This led to them making turbines, pumps and steering gear for ships, and even torpedoes and so massively diversifying the business. They were originally based in London but in 1907 the company was brought to Peterborough by Peter’s brother Stanley and occupied a 20 acre site on Lincoln Road, which now houses the Brotherhood Retail Park. The company played a large part in the war efforts in the twentieth century.





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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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Thomas Cook Moves to the City

1977

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In 1977 Thomas Cook, the travel agent opened its administrative headquarters at Thorpe Wood in Peterborough. This was part of the move from engineering and the brick industry being the major employers in Peterborough to the service industry being the major employer. The company has been based at the Lynch Wood Business Park since 2016.





Reredos for Newfoundland

1923

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In the 11th May 1923 edition of the Peterborough Advertiser was an article entitled ‘Peterborough Reredos for Newfoundland’. Referring to a photograph, it said, ‘This is little more than half of a very beautiful Stone Reredos for the Cathedral of St John’s Newfoundland, executed at Peterborough by Messrs John Thompson and Co. The article continued ‘The reredos is 26ft in length and 14ft 6in high combining the Gothic and Byzantine styles. It is of Auchinheath white Scottish stone and the Sculptured figures in Peasonhurst stone and depict left to right Theodore (Archbishop of Canterbury 668 to 690), St David, St Michael, Our Lord St George, St Andrew and St Patrick’. The design was that of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who later designed the red telephone box and the Battersea Power Station (of Pink Floyd L.P. cover fame). Note: A reredos is an ornamental screen covering the wall at the back of an altar.





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