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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 for Thorney

1634

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In 1634 the right to hold a market on the Green at Thorney was granted to the Earls of Bedford, who held the lordship of Thorney from 1551.  The market continued until 1830, and then a fair was held on the Green into the 20th century.





Cromwell Comes to Stay

1643

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The Cathedral was ravaged during the English Civil War when Peterborough, a town with Royalist sympathies, was taken by Colonel Oliver Cromwell. Nearly all the stained glass windows were destroyed and the altar and reredos, cloisters and Lady Chapel were demolished. Much of the Cathedral’s library was destroyed by Cromwell’s troops, by being burnt in the cloisters. The Royalist newsbook ‘Mercurius Aulicus’ describes it thus: ‘It was advertised this day from Peterburgh, that Colonell Cromwell had bestowed a visit on that little City, and put them to the charge of his entertainment, plundering a great part thereof to discharge the reckoning, and further that in pursuance of the thorow Reformation, he did most miserably deface the Cathedrall Church, breake downe the Organs, and destroy the glasse windowes, committing many other outrages on the house of God which were not acted by the Gothes in the sack of Rome, and are most commonly forborn by the Turks when they possesse themselves by force of a Christian city.’  Cromwell spent a month in Peterborough, lodging in the Vineyard at the back of the Cathedral Precincts, allegedly with concussion from having hit his head whilst galloping under a low gateway. Recent archaeological evidence has been found of Cromwell’s troops being camped in the Cathedral grounds.





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The Guildhall Completed

1671

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The Guildhall, also known as the Buttercross or Chamber Over the Cross, was built to commemorate the restoration of the monarchy and was paid for by public subscription. It was built by local builder John Lovin, who was partly paid by the minting of an octagonal Peterborough halfpenny. Many local influential families subscribed to the building of the Guildhall and several coats of arms can be seen on the side of the building. Peterborough Museum houses a turtle shell decorated with the arms of Sir Humphrey Orme, MP and owner of Neville Place (the site of the present museum). It is said that Sir Humphrey supplied the turtle for soup eaten to celebrate its completion.





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Notorious Highwayman Hanged

1605

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On this day the notorious highwayman Gamaliel Ratsey was hanged. He was born in Market Deeping, the son of wealthy Richard Ratsey. Unfortunately  as a young boy he went off the straight and narrow. In 1600 he enlisted in the army which accompanied Sir Charles Blount to Ireland but his time fighting did not cure him of his wicked ways. On his return to England in 1603 he robbed the landlady of an inn at Spalding. He was caught but escaped from prison, stealing a horse. He entered into partnership with two well known thieves named George Snell and Henry Shorthose and went on to commit many acts of highway robbery in Northamptonshire (which at the time included Peterborough). Ratsey’s exploits were notorious but were also characterised by humour, generosity to the poor and daring. On one occasion, near to Peterborough, he robbed two rich wool merchants then ‘knighted’ them as Sir Walter Woolsack and Sir Samuel Sheepskin. On another, whilst robbing a Cambridge scholar he extorted a learned oration from him. He usually wore a hideous mask leading him to be called ‘Gamaliel Hobgoblin’. Ben Jonson wrote in The Alchemist (Act I, Scene 1) of a “face cut….worse than Gamaliel Ratsey". Due to his generosity to the poor and the tales surrounding him, he became something of a folk hero and was the subject of several ballads. Sadly for Gamaliel, within two years his partners betrayed him to officers of the law and  on the 26th of March he was hanged in Bedford.





John Speed’s Map

1610

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The earliest known map of Peterborough is that created by John Speed. The main city centre streets can be recognised, as can several buildings including Peterborough Cathedral and St John's church. The cross keys symbol on the top left of the map is still visible around the city today on buildings and lamp posts.





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Quaker Leader Visits Peterborough

1660

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George Whitehead visited Peterborough in this year. Travelling with other Friends (which is how Quakers addressed each other then and many still today) through neighbouring counties he arrived in the city. He wrote, “I was much pressed in Spirit to endeavour for a Meeting in the City of Peterborow, tho’ I heard of no Friends there to receive me.” A Meeting for Worship was arranged and was well attended by Friends from neighbouring areas and by local townspeople and, despite considerable abuse and violence from a mob, who considered Friends heretics, the gathering ended quietly in the afternoon, and Friends “…parted peaceably without molestation or disturbance.” His visit did not result in establishing a Quaker Meeting in Peterborough. George Whitehead (1636–1723) was a leading early Quaker preacher, author and lobbyist remembered for his advocacy of religious freedom before three kings of England. His lobbying in defence of the right to practice the Quaker religion was influential on the Act of Uniformity, the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Royal Declaration of Indulgence. He suffered imprisonment and abuse for his beliefs.





Farmhouse to Beerhouse

1665

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The Bluebell Inn in Dogsthorpe is a grade II listed building on Welland Road. The reason for the listing is because of the dating stone which reads 'ITH  1665'. Originally built as a farmhouse, it became a public house early in the 19th century and has continued to be so for the last 200 years. The building has been extended and improved over the years and during one of the improvements a wooden panel was found with initials and the date 1594, suggesting that the building is older than the date stone, or that the panel had been salvaged from elsewhere and reused in the building. Picture credit: The Blue Bell, Dogsthorpe cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Paul Bryan - geograph.org.uk/p/4306835





Thorpe Hall Built

1653

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Thorpe Hall is a Grade 1 listed building built during the Cromwellian era between 1653 and 1658, at a time when very few stately homes were built. Oliver St. John (pronounced Sinjun) commissioned the house to be built by Peter Mills, who later helped to rebuild London after the Great Fire in 1666. Oliver St. John was a judge, politician and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas to Oliver Cromwell, whom he was related to through his second wife Elizabeth Cromwell, said to be his favourite cousin. This connection might have been advantageous in securing the land to build Thorpe Hall on. The house was built in the shape of a cube, set amongst 6 acres of walled garden. Much of the interior of the house has changed over the years, but the wooden staircase is dated from the original house build and large fireplaces on the ground floor are worthy of merit. The house has changed hands many times over the years and was at one point a boys school and a maternity home. It was bought by Sue Ryder in 1986 to be used as a hospice, with an extension added in 2015 within the old walled orchard.





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Celia Fiennes Passed Through the City

1698

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Celia Fiennes was a prolific traveller who documented her journey around Britain on a horse. At a time when only the wealthy could contemplate travelling and when the majority of literature is written by men, Celia Fiennes' work is refreshing. Celia passed through Peterborough and much admired the cathedral and town. She wrote that the city 'looks very well and handsomely built, but mostly timber worke: you pass over a Long stone bridg. The streetes are very clean and neate, well pitch'd and broad as one shall see any where, there is a very spacious market place, a good Cross and a town Hall on the top (the Guildhall or Buttercross).' She continued her prose, describing the cathedral in great detail before her journey continued on to Wansford. Worth noting that she describes Peterborough as being in Lincolnshire and surrounded by the Lin (possibly mishearing Nin), suggesting that she hadn't taken a very good look at the city or spoken to the locals! All quotes from: Celia Fiennes, Through England on a Side Saddle, Folkcustoms.co.uk, 2016, pp130-131