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The Great Fire of Peterborough



Most of the town was destroyed in the Great fire of Peterborough, including the castle. It is claimed the church tower burnt for nine days. It possibly started from from an unattended fire in the Abbey's bakery. The Anglo- Saxon Chronicle says “all the minster of Peterborough burned, and all the buildings except the chapter-house and the dormitory; and besides, the most part of the town also all burned. All this happened on a Friday; that was 4 August…”  

Food Machinery Company Moves to Peterborough



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.


A ‘Titanic’ Loss of Life



In April 1912 the eleven members of the Sage family set off to start a new life in Florida as pecan farmers. Unfortunately, the boat they sailed on was the Titanic.

The Peterborough Connection

John and Annie Sage were originally from Hackney in London. They moved to Norfolk where they ran a pub, the Bentinck Arms in West Lynn. In 1902 they moved to Peterborough, and lived at 237 Gladstone Street, where they kept a small bakery and shop. In 1910 John decided on another change; he and his eldest son George went off to Canada to scout out the possibility of the family emigrating there. They worked as waiters in the dining cars of the Canadian Pacific Railway, but also found time to visit Florida. So impressed was he, that John bought a fruit farm in Jacksonville, Florida.

Preparing to Leave

On his return to Peterborough in the  autumn of 1911, the family prepared to leave England. However, not all family members were enthusiastic about the move. The Sage's eldest daughter, Stella, was loathed to leave her many friends behind, and John's wife, Annie, didn't welcome the move as she felt settled in Peterborough. She was also concerned that her daughter Dolly had narrowly escaped drowning a couple of years before and she superstitiously feared that meant she was doomed to eventually meet her end in water. John insisted on the move however, and the family finally agreed.

The Ship

The Sage family originally planned to sail on the Philadelphia, an American Line ship operating out of Liverpool. These plans had to change as the ship was laid up in dock due to a coal strike. They booked onto the RMS Titanic out of Southampton on her maiden voyage instead, as third class passengers on a family ticket, number 2343.


On the night of 14/15 April 1912 the ship struck an iceberg, and the entire family died in the sinking. Some witnesses reported that one daughter was offered a place in the life boats but refused to go without the rest of the family. Only one body was recovered, that of Anthony William Sage. This was the single biggest loss of life from one family in the disaster. Family members: John George Sage, Annie Elizabeth Sage, Stella (born 1891), George John (born 1892), Douglas (born 1894), Frederick (born 1895), Dorothy Florence (born 1897), Anthony William (born 1899), Elizabeth Ada (born 1901), Constance Gladys (born 1904) and Thomas Henry (born 1911)