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A Royal ‘Resident’

1646

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King Charles I was briefly held prisoner in the city. He was on his way to London to be imprisoned, prior to his execution. He was held in the Abbot’s Gaol, which is next to the west gate of the cathedral. There were many local supporters who included the Orme family.
Evidence of the Gaol
One of the old wooden doors of the gaol can be seen in Peterborough Museum. The goal is currently used as a retail space.  





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Market Makes a Medieval New Town

1143

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King Stephen visited and stayed at the monastery in 1143, granting a market charter. This allowed Abbot Martin de Bec to create a new market area to the west of the monastic precincts. He was then able to bankroll the building of the new monastic church. The monks created new commercial streets around the outside, leading to the first ‘new town’ development in Peterborough and effectively the street plan which still exists as the city centre today. The market square was later infilled with St John's church and the Guildhall or Buttercross. This almost halved the market square, but provided a religious centre for the townspeople.





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King John and the Great Charter

1216

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King John stayed at Peterborough's monastery in 1216. He used it as a base of operations to attack his enemies in the region during the Civil War. The war followed his agreement to the text of the Magna Carta and then ripping up of it. He may have left a draft copy of the Magna Carta here, hence the inclusion of it in one of the monastery’s cartularies, known today as ‘the Black Book of Peterborough'. Magna Carta means Great Charter in Latin.





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The ‘New Building’

1496-1509

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The Presbytery roof was renewed and an extensive building programme undertaken at the east end of the Cathedral creating the 'New Building'. It is an excellent example of late Perpendicular work with fine fan vaulting designed by John Wastell, who went on to work on Kings College Chapel in Cambridge. The building was commissioned by the penultimate abbot, Robert Kirkton, who funded some of his works by corrupt means, demolishing local properties and confiscating common land.





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Katharine of Aragon

1536

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Katharine of Aragon, Spanish princess, first wife and queen of Henry VIII, is buried in the monastic church. Katharine died at Kimbolton, where she was living after her marriage to Henry had been annulled, on 7 January 1536, most likely of cancer. She was ordered to be buried at Peterborough Abbey as the nearest great religious house that befitted her status, whilst not giving her a burial in London where she might have been politically embarrassing. Her funeral was held on 29 January 1536. The heart of the funeral cortege included a coffin wagon covered with black velvet, as were the six horses pulling it; Heralds and fifty servants in black carrying torches; four banners in crimson taffeta and four golden standards. At the door of the abbey church the body was received by four bishops and six abbots and placed under a canopy lit by a thousand candles. Today Katharine is remembered annually by a commemorative service and series of events at the Cathedral and elsewhere in the city around the anniversary of her burial, 29 January. Many visitors place pomegranates – her heraldic symbol – on her tomb.





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Dissolution of the Monastery

1539

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The great abbey of Peterborough was closed and its lands and properties confiscated by the king, Henry VIII. Orders had come the previous year to get rid of any relics, and the Abbey’s collection was destroyed. In the spring of 1539, Henry called a Parliament, and legislation was passed to enable all monastic property to be conferred on the crown: all the remaining monasteries were to go. Whilst some monasteries offered resistance, and the monks were dealt with harshly, Abbot John Chambers surrendered the Abbey seal with no resistance when Henry’s commissioners arrived on 29 November 1539. Chambers received an annual pension of £266, 13s 4d. Many monastic buildings were pulled down, with lead from the roofs melted down into lead ‘sows’ for sale.





Burial of Mary, Queen of Scots

1587

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On the 1st of August 1587 Mary, Queen of Scots was buried in the Cathedral, 5 months after having been executed at nearby Fotheringhay Castle. The Dean, Richard Fletcher, officiated at both her execution and her funeral. On Sunday 30 July her body was carried to Peterborough by night and placed in the Bishop’s Palace. The Funeral was held on the 1 August, with the Cathedral being hung with black and the arms of Francis II and Darnley displayed. An effigy of Mary was carried along with her emblems of state. The cortege included the Countess of Bedford, the Bishop and Dean of Peterborough, the Bishop of Lincoln and one hundred poor widows clothed in black. The Bishop of Lincoln preached the sermon. The Dean presided over the burial, and the officers cast their broken staves on the coffin. A lavish funeral banquet was held in the Bishop’s Palace. The funeral cost £321, one third of which was for food and drink! Mary was re-interred on the orders of James I at Westminster Abbey in 1613, where she was buried next to Elizabeth I.





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Dean Peter Peckard Dies

1797

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Peter Peckard was the intellectual father of the movement for the abolition of the Slave Trade. Born in Lincolnshire in 1717, he attended Oxford University, served as vicar to several local parishes, and was an army chaplain for the Grenadier Guards. Peckard was an outspoken liberal, and by the 1770s spoke out in his sermons against the Slave Trade. In 1778 he published a pamphlet anonymously entitled ‘Am I not a Man and a Brother?’ articulating the arguments against the evils of slavery. The title of the pamphlet and the image on its front page became iconic for the abolitionist movement and were even used on china produced by Josiah Wedgewood promoting the anti-slavery cause. Peckard became master of Magdalen College in Cambridge in 1781, becoming Vice-Chancellor three years later. He started an essay competition for students on the subject of ‘Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting?’ The first winner was Thomas Clarkson, inspiring him on his path to become one of the leading activists in the abolitionist movement. In 1792 Peckard was appointed as Dean of Peterborough Cathedral, a position he retained until his death five years later. He died fifteen years before the Slave Trade was outlawed in 1807.





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The Praetorium at Castor

230AD

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Underneath St Kyneburgha's Church, Castor are the remains of one of the biggest buildings in Roman Britain. Parts of its walls still can be seen in various parts of the village. The site has been explored over several hundred years with early antiquaries confused by what the mosaic floors and several bath houses all meant. We now know that the site was probably part of a vast Imperial Estate from where much of the fenlands was governed. The building appears to have been the administrative centre of this estate and was where a procurator would have held court and possibly lived. The building on the top of the rise, where the church now stands, would have been seen for miles as a symbol of Roman power and authority.





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Josephine Butler

1873

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Josephine Butler was a Victorian feminist, social reformer and campaigner for women's rights, especially those of the poor. She campaigned tirelessly for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts and travelled around the country making her case. On the 19th February she addressed Working Men at the Wentworth Rooms in Peterborough in what was quite a spirited debate.