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Mount Thorold (Peterborough Castle) Destroyed



There are varying accounts regarding the building of a castle in Peterborough. Most accounts agree that it was built by Abbot Thorold just after the Norman Conquest, in response to an attack by Hereward and a large group of Vikings (Danes). It was situated north of the abbey, close to the majority of the residents of the town, and was a simple wooden castle on a motte (hill). The castle was either destroyed in a fire in 1116 with most of the town, or was pulled down by Abbot Martin de Bec when he was rebuilding and redesigning the town: it was never rebuilt or replaced. The remains of the motte exist as a small hill in the cathedral grounds and in the street name Touthill Place. It was previously known as Mount Thorold or Turold and is a scheduled monument.

Albert Place Tragedy



John Francis Eayrs aged fifty six years, a tinsmith, was charged before the magistrates with the murder of his wife, and attempted suicide. John Francis Eayrs had married his housekeeper, Sarah Ann Weldon, a widow with a ten year old son in 1907. By 1911 they were living at the School House in Albert Place, but the marriage appears to have been a tempestuous one, with the couple both drinking and quarrelling; their next door neighbour stated, “Both appeared to drink and at such times they quarrelled. She had often heard the prisoner say to his wife “I will do you in”. During his trial  on the 20th of October at the Northamptonshire Assizes witnesses gave their accounts of the family and the events of 22nd August. A neighbour living opposite said, “During the past two years he often heard them quarrelling. On 22ndAugust he saw them quarrelling in the street and they were struggling on the pavement”. Another neighbour also added she was bathing her children when, “Mrs Eayrs came in and played with the children then returned to her own house. She seemed to have had a little drink”. Another witness had seen Eayrs in the Bull & Dolphin, “he was complaining about his wife’s drinking habits, and that if she did not alter he would have to do something desperate.” The witness said, “I told him not to talk like that, I had heard it before so didn’t take much notice of it.” A further witness stated, “He heard moaning in the prisoner’s backyard and found the prisoner lying under the living-room window. He was without a coat, had a wound in the throat, and was covered with blood. He spoke to the prisoner who did not reply so he sent for P.C. Powley. He later saw the dead body of Mrs Eayrs.”. P.C. Powley reported Eayrs was semi-conscious and that he had a wound two-inches long in the left side of his throat and was taken to the Infirmary. The constable found the body of Mrs Eayrs at the bottom of the yard. There was a large gash on the right side of the face. In the scullery, he found blood in the sink, on the floor and in a tub. On the window-ledge was a blood-stained razor, closed. Dr R. Jolley, Police Surgeon at Peterborough stated the wound in Mrs Eayrs neck commenced under the left ear and extended down to the left side of the breast bone. It was an inch deep in the upper part and gradually became shallower. All the arteries and veins on that side had been severed, and Mrs Eayrs dress and jacket had been cut through. Considerable force must have been used to produce such injuries, which might have been caused by the razor. John Francis Eayrs was reported as saying “They had quarrelled over a halfpenny.” He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging and was executed at Northampton Gaol. In a situation of dramatic intensity, there was one fleeting moment of poignant pathos. As the little procession was reaching the doors of the execution shed, Eayrs saw a warder standing upright at the entrance, he nodded slightly and said very quietly, “Good morning.” Another three steps, and he was in full view of the gallows. Then he halted, half turned to the same warder, and in a low voice, which could be heard with perfect distinctness, said, “I am going to die for a bad woman, you know.” And without further word, and evidently expecting no reply, he walked on to the fatal trap-door. Ten seconds more and only a white-shrouded head, hanging listlessly to one side, was visible above the open pit. (Execution details taken from Northampton Mercury 13 November 1914. Page 6, Column 2.                                                          Quote’s taken from Peterborough Citizen 8 September 1914. Page 3 Column 3 and Northampton Mercury 23 October 1914. Page 6, Column 2)


Mystery of the Girl in the Glass Panelled Coffin.



On Monday 21 May 1906 the body of a young lady was found in the Sheep Wash in Werrington. The day before had been cold & miserable but the girl had no coat or cloak. A hankie in her pocket had “F Arnold” inked on. Her attire would suggest she was a domestic servant. Suggested age 25 years. No one of this name was missing in Peterborough. The body was placed in a coffin at the Blue Bell, with a glass panel over her face.

As nobody knew who the girl was, her photograph was put in the national papers in the hopes someone would recognise her. At the last minute, just before the funeral service, her parents arrived and identified her as Miss Florence Arnold, she had been engaged as a maid in Nottingham. She had a sweet & even temper, but in March had slipped in the snow and hit her head on a mangle. This led to her feeling “queer” at times and displaying fits of bad temper. She decided to discharge herself. Her clothes had arrived home but not Florrie. The father wrote to her employer who confirmed Florrie’s departure. Mr Arnold went up to Nottingham and evidence convinced him, that of only two women booking onto the London train, one of these was his daughter. In which case she would have got off the train at Walton and walked up through Werrington village. Had she done so she would certainly have drawn attention. She was a tall girl with very dark hair and pale skin, but nobody saw her.

The police theory is of suicide during temporary insanity to which her father agreed.

However, the story doesn’t quite end there. Villagers reported hearing a motor car that night drive up the road in the direction of the sheep wash and returned a short while later. Several accounts were given about a car or cars. The police made strict investigations into the matter but attached little significance to the rumours.

Her parents removed her body for burial at Lakenheath. (McKenzie, R.,Werrington Local History Group Newsletter no.15)


Abbot Sexwolf, the First Abbot of Medehamstede



The first abbey in Medehamstede, now Peterborough, was built around 655. The abbey was founded by King Peada, who also employed the first abbot. The abbot's name has been spelt in a variety of formats including Saxulf, Sexulf, Saxwulf, Seaxwolf and Sexwolf. There are also many different accounts of how he lived his life. Sexwulf was much celebrated in Medehamstede in the past, although the name has now been all but forgotten. He is said to have been wealthy, well-liked and had many connections amongst the elite of the Saxon community. These connections enabled him to convert many others to Christianity and he was rewarded for his hard work by becoming a bishop. He is also credited with establishing the first community in what is now Thorney. A small anchorage was created on Thorney island by him when he was gifted the land, known then as Ancarig. (1)
(1)'Houses of Benedictine monks: Abbey of Thorney', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2, ed. L F Salzman (London, 1948), pp. 210-217. British History Online [accessed 14 June 2018].

St. John’s Church Swaps a Bell with Leice...



In 1541 the great bells of St. John's church and Leicester Abbey were swapped over. It is not clear why the bells were exchanged, but the cost of the swap is detailed in the church records. Robert Newcome received payment for weighing the bells and identifying that one was larger. A man from 'Wyttlyllsey' (Whittlesey) was paid 20p for supplying 'a gable to tacke down the olde bell and hang up the new'. But they were only bit parts in the story. The bells had to be swapped over, so it was decided that the bell from Peterborough would be driven to Leicester, where they would collect the other bell and return with it. This was 1541 though! Four men including John Gedney and Robarte Allyn set off with 10 horses pulling a cart with the bell on top. They rested for the first night in Uppingham, fixed the cart and continued to Leicester. They stayed in Leicester for several days before making the journey back, stopping again in Uppingham. In total they took eight days for their journey, fixing the cart several times. All of the costs of food and drink were paid for, as well as their accommodation. Not to mention payment for their time. John Gedney was paid 5 shillings for himself and the hire of four horses. Roberte Allen was paid 14 shillings 'for 6 horsys and 2 men for 8 days'.
W. T. Mellows (ed.) Peterborough Local Administration Churchwarden's Accounts 1467-1573 with Supplementary Documents 1107-1488, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1939 p145

People Living in Tudor Peterborough



Thanks to the Churchwardens Accounts of St John's Church in Peterborough, we know some of the people living in the city in Tudor times. The church recorded how much rent was paid on property and who paid it. Most of the names are of men, but there are some women. Some people are only recorded by their surname. A few of the names seem rather odd to modern eyes because they are spelt very differently to today, so alternatives are given. The four districts recorded relate to streets or areas that you might not recognise today, so their modern equivalent is provided. Dogsthorpe was included as a district, but has been missed off this list. Prestgatt (Priestgate) Fraunces (John Francis), Edward Bellamy, Elexaunder Mylner (Alexander Milner), Joanne Fletcher, Robart Pynnyng (Robert Pinning), Agnys Coper (Agnes Cooper), Sawnder (Alexander?) the labourer Markettsted (Cathedral Square) William Haw, George Spenser, Thomas Whyght (White), [Mistress Baley deleted], Sir William Bell, Allys Padman (Alice Padman) Hygatt (Bridge Street) Bygges Wyffe (Bigge's wife), John Houndysley (John Houndesley), John Pattenson Westgatt (Westgate) Wylkynson (Wilkinson), Joanne Cosson, William Farssett (possibly Farcet) Bowngatt (Boongate) John Monesty, The Myller (Miller)  
W. T. Mellows (ed.), Peterborough Local Administration Chruchwarden's Accounts 1467-1573 with Supplementary Documents 1107-1488, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1939

Pennies For a Puppet Show



The account books of the Peterborough Feoffees declare all of the money received and paid out by the administration. Most of the accounts refer to rent collection and payments to the ill and poverty-stricken. However, some of the details tell us about Stuart hospitality and even entertainment. 1628 a payment was made to 'Mr Joanes the player, for sheweinge of his puppites, and for sheweinge tricks in our common hall.' (1) Translated: 'Mr Jones the player, for showing of his puppets and for showing tricks in our common hall.' He was paid the princely sum of 12 pence, which was around half a days wages for a skilled labourer. The account had been included been October and December, so it was possibly a Christmas treat. Glove puppets and shadow puppets were very popular at the time. We can only guess as to the tricks played by Mr Joanes. Did he actually perform at Halloween and is the first refence to trick or treating in the city? A player was a term used in the past to mean actor. The 'common hall' referred to is very likely to be the Moot Hall, an arcaded wooden building which stood where Miss Pears Almshouses were built. The building was well-positioned on the corner of Cumbergate and Exchange Street and overlooking the market.
(1) W.T. Mellows (ed), Minutes and Accounts of the Feoffees and Governors of the City Lands, with Supplementary Documents, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1937, p48

Did the Feoffees Eat Horse Meat?



The Feoffees were a group of men who oversaw the administration of money collected and distributed to the deserving poor. They also ensured that the city was in good running order. They were selected from the upper echelons of Peterborough society and represented the city. This meant that they provided hospitality to other dignitaries and travelled to meet them. Their account books have examples of some of the expenses they occurred. In 1630 it appears that some of the men travelled to Stamford. References were made to food and drink consumed, including venison (deer meat). One curious sentence reads: For our horsmeate at Stamford and given to thosler - 6d Thosler would translate as 'the ostler' and seventeenth century ostlers cared for horses, but what have they paid him six pence for? Horse meat looks like the obvious answer, but even in the seventeenth century, eating horse meat was frowned upon because they were such valuable animals. Furthermore they would buy meat from a butcher, not an ostler. It is more likely to be a payment for food, drink and possibly stabling for their horses whilst they were in Stamford. However, it is possible that the Feoffees enjoyed a 'mane' course that was a little different.
W. T. Mellows, Minutes and Accounts of the Feoffees and Governors of the City Lands with Supplementary Documents, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1937, p67

Waldram Hall Recorded on a Map



Situated on a turn in the River Welland to the east of Peakirk and Northborough, Waldrum or Waldram Hall has long disappeared. It was once an important hall and was owned by William Cecil and the Fitwilliams. There is believed to have been a building on the site since the twelfth century. There are several references to the hall over the centuries, in parish records and poll books. It is also located on a map of 1543 which is stored in the National Archives. The hall's position on the Welland was at a good crossing point. A ferry service was provided by the hall across the river and up to Crowland too. This would have been the only crossing point in this vicinity on the Welland before the bridge was built in Deeping St. James. The route was said to have been used by pilgrims heading to Walsingham as this document from Northamptonshire Archives states: 'the ferme of Waldranhall above mencioned is an Inne somtime greatly frequented by pilgrymes passing to Walsingham.' (1) The hall was still in use in the first half of the Twentieth Century, when pictures and personal accounts exist. By this time the hall was an unprepossessing stone house, regarded as no more than a farm house. After the building of two bridges in the Deepings in the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the ferry at Waldram Hall fell out of use and the building was no longer a decent source of income. The construction of the railway loop line to Lincoln effectively cut off the building rendering it useless.
  1. Northamptonshire Records Office F (M) Charter/2287
D. Price, River Welland, Amberley Publishing, 2012