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The Arm of St Oswald

1000

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A monk from Peterborough Abbey stole the arm of St Oswald from Bamburgh Castle and took it to his abbot at Peterborough in an effort to gain favour. Oswald was a convert to Christianity and King of Northumbria from 634 to 642. He spent much of his early life in exile, but when he returned to fight for his throne, he raised a cross and prayed for victory. Oswald won the battle and ruled as king of Northumbria until his death. While Oswald was king, he became known for his piety and generosity. During the celebration of an Easter feast, he supposedly gave away all the silver plates along with the food to the poor. The chronicles say his chaplain; Bishop Aidan blessed Oswald, saying “may this arm that has been so generous never perish”. When Oswald died in battle against King Penda of Mercia in 642, his arm was taken to Bamburgh where it remained uncorrupted. The arm remained the primary relic of Peterborough and the chapel of St Oswald still has a watch-tower where the monks safeguarded it day and night. St. Oswald’s arm disappeared from the chapel during the reformation along with its silver casket.    





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Peterborough Revolts!

1381

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An assault was made on the monastery by local rebels during the Peasants’ Revolt. The rebels were put down by the intervention of troops commanded by the Bishop of Norwich, as described in a contemporary account by Henry Knighton: “Likewise at Burgh (Peterborough) the neighbours and tenants of the abbot rose against him and proposed to kill him – which they would have done without redress had God not laid his restraining hand upon them at the last moment. For help came in the shape of Lord Henry Despenser, bishop of Norwich, who arrived with a strong force. He prevented the malefactors from carrying out their aims and scattered the mob, paying them back as they deserved. Sparing no one, he sent some to death and others to prison. Some were struck down with swords and spears near the altar and others at the church walls, both inside and outside the building. For the bishop gladly stretched his avenging hand over them and did not scruple to give them final absolution for their sins with his sword”  





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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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Creation of a Cathedral – and a School

1541

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To increase his control over the church in this area Henry VIII created a new bishop (the former abbot John Chambers) and Peterborough Abbey church became a Cathedral by letters patent. The foundation charter of the Cathedral, formally established on 4 September 1541, constituted a chapter of a dean (appointed by the crown) and six canons. In addition the charter established six minor canons, a deacon, sub-deacon, eight singing men, and eight choristers, two schoolmasters serving 20 scholars and six almsmen. Henry also created a grammar school in the precincts, the foundation of the King’s School.





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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Rebuilding the Central Tower

1883

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The central tower of Peterborough Cathedral was rebuilt for a second time in 1883. After this the whole central and eastern area of the church required refurbishment. This provided an opportunity for the creation of the fine, hand carved choir stalls, cathedra (bishop's throne) and choir pulpit. The marble pavement and high altar which are at the centre of worship today, were also created. The works led to the discovery of some of the Saxon church foundations and Roman stonework under the central tower and south transept. A tunnel was left so that these could be accessed.  





William Cecil Honoured

1576

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In 1576 Elizabeth I passed the title of Lord Paramount of the Liberty of Peterborough from the Bishop of Peterborough to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, whose descendants still hold this title.  





Prosecution of a French Strumpet

1844

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In December 1843 Nathalie Miard was charged with demanding money with menace from the Rev. Herbert Charles Marsh, vicar of Barnack and prebend of Peterborough Cathedral. He had been in a relationship with Nathalie Miard in 1839 in London, and she had become pregnant. Over the next few years he paid her large sums of money, even after the child had died, and she threatened to destroy his reputation if he did not continue to pay her. The extent of their interactions and those of two other French prostitutes, were revealed in scandalous detail in local and national press, revealing every sum of money paid, every hotel they visited, and letters written by her. The news story was in all of the British newspapers and was a national discussion point. Rev Marsh first visited Nathalie Miard in London where she was said to have been an actress. He gave her money to allow her to return to Paris and visited her there shortly afterwards. Their interactions continued over the next few years, meeting together in London and Paris, each time Ms Miard demanding increasingly large sums of money.  In April 1843 she arrived in Stamford, attempting to extract more money from him, with the threat that she would go door to door to expose him to all of his parishioners and then work her way through the local and national clergy until she had informed the Archbishop of Canterbury. She stayed for some time in Barnack, appearing at church services to cause as much disruption as possible, attempting to extort 10,000 francs (£400 at the time) from his brother to start a gambling house. She also talked to his mother, wife of the late Bishop of Peterborough, George Davys, the resident Bishop, and also the Dean. In December of 1843 a prosecution was made against Ms Miard on three different charges of sending a letter demanding money, another similar offence and conspiracy to extort money with another woman. Witnesses gave examples of how Ms Miard had lied about a second pregnancy and about Rev Marsh giving her drugs to induce a miscarriage in an attempt to increase the scandal, and she had previously extorted money from a Spanish man using the same technique she was using on Rev Marsh. Yet despite the evidence, the jury of 12 men found her not guilty, possibly as a result of nine of the jurors being Dissenters. She was freed from jail on the understanding she would not harass Mr Marsh any further and would return to Paris. In 1848 Rev. Marsh married a Belgian woman named Elise Sidonie Pouceau and was shortly after admitted to a mental institute in Belgium, then Paris and eventually England. His brother George Marsh was successfully able to get him declared insane on 12th June 1850.





Image of people using the Bishops Gardens

1902-1910

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The Bishops Gardens, just to the South of the Cathedral show a young family walking through them.The buildings which appear to be part of the gardens are now separated from them. This is where the water fountain dedicated to Henry Spencer Gates, Peterborough’s first Mayor was moved to from the Old Market Square. From an original postcard. Publisher Wrench, from the Keith Gill Collection.





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St. John the Baptist Rebuilt

1407

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The citizens of Medehamstede, lived to the east of the abbey and what is now the Cathedral, on the edge of the fenland. After the great fire of 1116, the inhabitants were moved to the west of the abbey where the land was drier. Unfortunately they did not move the church to the west, and for several centuries the inhabitants of the town had to walk round the vast abbey grounds to reach their isolated church. This was made more difficult by flooding from streams that ran in front of the church, making attendance problematic in the winter. A petition was made to move the church to the west of the abbey, which was granted by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1402. The new church was built using stone from the old one and the Becket Chapel, as well as oak from Abbot William Genge's park. He dedicated the church to St John the Baptist on 26th June 1407. It was originally built with a large leaded spire, which was conspicuous from some distance. Unfortunately, due to instability, it was removed in the 1820s, but it can be seen in John Speed's Map, A Prospect of Peterborough and an old photograph.