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First Purpose-Built Prisoner of War Camp

1797

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The first inmates arrived at the Norman Cross Prisoner of War Camp in 1797, which was the first purpose built camp of its kind. Its location was chosen because it was within reach of London, close to the Great North Road and accessible from a river, but deemed too difficult to escape from easily. It was built primarily of timber in the style of an artillery fort and divided into quadrangles which contained barracks for the prisoners. During the Napoleonic Wars and at its height, it housed over 6,000 low-ranking soldiers and sailors from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, which dwarfed the population of Peterborough. Higher ranking and well-respected officers paroled outside the camp, mostly in Peterborough and local towns and were free to live as citizens. The camp was not designed as a correctional facility, so there was the chance for prisoners to make and sell goods locally, get access to education and entertain themselves with a theatre, drinking and gambling. All of the buildings and equipment were auctioned off in 1816 a couple of years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Many fine examples of the delicate bone, wood and straw work objects created by the prisoners to earn money can be viewed in Peterborough Museum in an interactive gallery dedicated to the Norman Cross prison.





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Death of Thomas Alderson Cooke

1854

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Thomas Alderson Cooke was born into a rich family in Salford. He moved to Peterborough where he became a local magistrate, Sherriff of Northamptonshire and later High Sherriff. He married Julia Image, the daughter of the late vicar of St John's church John Image. Together they had 12 children, 10 of whom survived childhood. He had 4 wives in total, including a very public annulment of the marriage to his second wife Charlotte Squires. She was from a successful merchant family, but was many years younger than him. Thomas Alderson Cooke is best remembered for commissioning a large mansion on Priestgate in 1816, on Neville Place, which is home to Peterborough Museum. He is also credited with building the Dower House on the corner of Trinity Street. It was built in the 1840s for his fourth wife Mary. It was a church for some years, which is how it gained a spire, and is currently a nursery. A well-respected magistrate for many years, he continued to preside until the week before he died, despite being incapacitated. He died in December 1854, after which his house was bought by the Fitzwilliams in an auction and gifted to the city as an infirmary.  





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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The First Auction at the Bull Hotel

1775

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Situated on Westgate, the Bull Hotel is the oldest existing inn or hotel in the city centre and is grade II listed. It is believed to have been built in the late 18th century and was known as the Bull Inn. There is, however, a chance that an older structure exists within the present building. The main entrance to the building was originally an entrance for coaches and carts. The entrance led into a courtyard where there was also stabling for horses. The building has been enlarged and improved over the years, so the courtyard is no longer there. A story exists of a dog who was run over in the courtyard and whose spirit never left the hotel. The earliest reference found relating to the Bull Inn in the Stamford Mercury is from 1775. There was an advert relating to the sale of land and buildings by Simon Hubbard by auctions. Auctions were common at the Bull and items included property, furniture and animals. They also held meals and meetings for the aristocracy and other events. Many celebrities have stayed at the hotel, including The Beatles. The most infamous was possibly Archdeacon Wakeford who visited in 1920. He was at the centre of a court case claiming he had stayed at the Bull Inn on two separate occasions with a woman who wasn't his wife and therefore leading an immoral life. He was found guilty, later failing in an appeal.
Reference
Stamford Mercury, 3rd August 1775, p3





A Hill in the Middle of Peterborough!

1736

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For some time during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the market place in Peterborough was known as Market Hill. The earliest reference from the papers is an advert from 1736 for the letting of 'An old-accustom'd Grocer's Shop... situate upon the Market Hill in Peterborough'. A reference to the Talbot Inn from 1774 states it is 'on the market hill'. This continued until an 1898 reference to J. A. Bingham, Auctioneer of Market Hill, Peterborough. Currently the area is known as Cathedral Square. Cambridge and Chatteris still use the word for their market places. It certainly is an odd choice of word for towns in areas with little or no hills! Source: Stamford Mercury, Thursday 5th August 1736, page 4, col 1