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World War 2 In Peterborough

1939 – 1945

Information

The Town played a vital role with industry, airfields and a major railway centre. The flat landscape meant there were many airfields including RAF Peterborough, Westwood, which was a major RAF training centre. Local people volunteered for Military Service but those in ‘reserved occupations’, (jobs important to the war effort) were not conscripted but often spent their spare time in Civil Defence e.g. Home Guard and Auxiliary Fire Service. Businesses set up their own firewatchers while first-aiders and plane spotters were essential. National Service became compulsory for unmarried women aged between 20 and 30, then up to 50 in 1943, unless they had children under 14. Many joined the various women’s forces and nurses were attached to all the Services. Women worked in factories making war machines, ammunition, clothing or parachutes. Engineering industries such as Perkins Engines and Baker Perkins switched to wartime production supplying engines, guns, torpedoes and manufacturing machinery. Amidst this, dancing at local hotels and cinema-going were popular and there were several cinemas, showing films three times a day.  Foreign servicemen became familiar sights on the street. They included including Americans, French and Poles, many of the latter remaining in the city at the end of the war. Peterborough was not a prime target for bombs, so the city received 1496 London evacuees. Brick air raid shelters were built in the city centre. There were 644 Air Raid Alert warnings and bombs were hitting Bridge Street and the Lido. Raids of high explosive and incendiary bombs continued to 1942. Peterborough Cathedral was hit by incendiary bombs but damage was limited by the quick reaction of the fire-watchers.





Priestgate Explosion

1883

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On 4th May a large explosion occurred in Priestgate between the Phoenix Brewery and Angel Inn. Reports claimed that fumes from the Phoenix Brewery had mixed with sewer and coal gases. It's then thought these were accidentally ignited by a discarded cigarette.
The Explosion
The explosion was dramatic and affected both Priestgate and Narrow Bridge Street, but the effects were worse in Priestgate. Paving stones were thrown high up into the air and all of the windows were smashed in Priestgate, with more in Narrow Bridge Street. To make things worse the contents of the sewers, including thousands of dead rats, were thrown up against the buildings. People were particularly alarmed because there had been a recent threat to blow up the Cathedral. There were no records of any deaths, other than the rats, and no record of how long it took to get rid of the smell!





The Roman Town of Durobrivae

65-450AD

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A bridge was built across the River Nene around AD 65, after which a small settlement grew to the south west of the bridge. This prospered as a market centre for trade along the important Ermine Street, the precursor to the modern A1. The town had walls around it for protection and status, and developed major public buildings where a town council met and organised local government, which had controls over roads, cemeteries, baths, water supply and all aspects of the daily life of the town. Added to the towns market importance was its rich sources of clay and iron which were the key resources of a major pottery and metal working industry. The importance of Durobrivae lies in the fact that although the town walls covered 44 acres, the industrial suburbs extended for another 450 acres making a major settlement in Roman Britain.





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Liberty Gaol Opened

1844

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A call was made by the Justices of the Peace for Peterborough for plans and specifications to build a new gaol for Peterborough in 1839. The Cambridge Independent Press claimed that the plans of Mr Douthorn of Hanover Street, Hanover Square, London, were chosen and the site for the new Liberty gaol was proposed to be 'at the Upper end of Westgate (known as Gravel Close)', but this was not to be the case. 1 An alternate site was suggested on Thorpe Road, but a complicated legal battle ensued over the cost of proposed new land, with the Dean and Chapter fighting the Magistrates of the Liberty of Peterborough to claim fair remuneration for the land they needed to sell them for the gaol. 2 Although the first stone was laid for the gaol in 1840, the first group of prisoners didn't move in until 1844. The first petty sessions held in the new Liberty gaol were on Saturday 23rd February 1844, but it was unpopular with the judges who complained at having to walk such a distance to the court rooms! 3         1,Cambridge Independent Press, Saturday 14th December 1839, p3, 2, Lincolnshire Chronicle Friday 17th April 1840 p4, 3, Cambridge Independent Press, Saturday 2nd March 1844, p 3,  





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A Fox Hunt Through the City

1843

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One plucky fox garnered its own special mention in the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal in 1843. The paper recounted how a fox hunt had started in Norwood, which was open country between Paston and Eye, and from there took a remarkable journey. The riders and dogs chased the fox from Norwood to Fengate and then to Boongate. From there the fox fled into the cathedral grounds, but finding no salvation, continued on to Bridge Street. It hurried along Bridge Street, crossing over the bridge to Fletton, where it tried to hide in the parsonage of Rev. Edward Theed. Sadly, there was no one home, so the fox was flushed out and the chase was over. It's thought that between 200 and 300 people were there to see the spectacular chase. Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, November 1843





Image of the River Nene & Broad Street

1902-1910

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This is a view of the River Nene looking north along Broad Street which led to Narrow Street. At this time Peterborough was an inland port receiving barges from the coast via Wisbech and Kings Lynn. The old iron bridge is clearly visible and the Customs House, which is out of view is still on the right hand side. On the left hand side today are flats and The Rivergate Centre. This image has been produced from an original postcard of the time. Publisher unknown, from the Jacqui Catling Collection.  





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People Living in Tudor Peterborough

1544-1546

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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)  
Reference
W. T. Mellows (ed.), Peterborough Local Administration Chruchwarden's Accounts 1467-1573 with Supplementary Documents 1107-1488, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1939





The Phoenix Brewery Gets A Considerable Addition

1847

Information

The Phoenix Brewery was based at the eastern end of Priestgate, opposite the Angel Inn. It was managed by Fredrick Markby initially, before he became bankrupt. It was then sold in 1844 and continued by J. G. Atkinson, a solicitor. He advertised the sale of Guiness, as well as Stout, Pale Ale and Bitter made at the brewery, with a 25% discount given to 'The Trade'. (1) In 1847 a useful addition was made to the premises: 'a very considerable addition has been made to the brewery at Priestgate-Street, a large yard with stables and outbuildings, having been added thereto. This is an improvement in this part of the city which was much needed, and will add materially to the liveliness and business-like appearance.' (2) He continued to manage the business until it passed  to Charles Cutlack and his family. Many bottles marked with Phoenix and Cutlack have been found throughout the city and both names are synonymous with brewing in the city.
References
(1) Stamford Mercury, Fri 6th December 1844, p1, col 2 (2) Cambridge Independent Press, Sat 7th Aug 1847, p3, col 7





Award Winning Violin Maker

1884

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Mr Jeffrey James Gilbert was the son of Jeffrey and Eliza Gilbert from New Romney in Kent. Jeffrey senior was a watchmaker who played the Cello and was an amateur Cello maker. By 1871 Jeffrey junior was an assistant for Whatley Paviour, a watchmaker, along Narrow Street in Peterborough. As a young man Jeffrey studied the fiddle and decided that if his father could make a Cello, he should be able to make a fiddle. Jeffrey’s father did not encourage him, as being an amateur Cello maker he knew the pitfalls. Jeffrey, however, persevered; he located the finest sycamore from Czechoslovakia and began to make his first instrument. Jeffrey continued creating violins and gradually improved until, in 1884, at the International Exhibition at Crystal Palace he was awarded a silver medal for his first exhibit. Five years later he was awarded a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Edinburgh. Jeffrey Gilbert believed that to produce a beautiful violin, firstly, you required handsome wood; secondly artistic carving of the plates and scroll; thirdly a beautiful varnish and lastly, the tone of the instrument had to be good. He became a maker of national importance, many well-known musicians owned one of his instruments and praised the fine workmanship and beauty of the tone. Jeffrey was particularly proud of the beautiful varnish and continually experimented on improving it. Mr Gilbert is described in the Directory of Beds, Hunts and Northants, 1890, as a ‘Violin maker & repairer, unequalled for brilliancy of tone & artistic finish of Bridge-street Peterborough’. By 1901 he and his family were living at 2 New Priestgate where Jeffrey had his own business, this was nationally known as the ‘Gilbert Violin Studio’.

References: -

Peterborough Standard 24 August 1928. Posh Folk: Notable Personalities (and a Donkey) Associated with Peterborough by Mary Liquorice, 1991.





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Cycling Club Formed

1874

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The Peterborough Cycling Club was formed by amalgamating the Amateur Cycling Club and the Tricycle Club in 1874,  it is the oldest continuously active cycling club in the country. Mr Robert (Bob) Julyan and his father George Langham Julyan being two of the founder members. The first meeting was held at George’s outfitter’s shop in Bridge Street. By 1878 they adopted a dark blue uniform, and helmets. In 1879 the captain, Mr Gardner, spoke of the report of ‘Their noisy behaviour while passing through villages causing the club to be ridiculed and looked down upon’. Mr C Buckle added the great desideratum of the club was a racing track which would pay for itself in two years and enable the club to hold the finest matches and race meetings for miles around. Councillor Taylor spoke of the outcry against bicycle riding, ‘It is said cycles are dangerous to the men that ride them and dangerous to the general-public.’ Mr Gardner believed the risk of accidents over-rated as he had that year ridden 900 miles without mishap. The cyclists would ride various distances from a 100-yards slow race to fifty plus miles. In 1888 they rode a fifty-mile handicap which was open to the members on any machine including tandems. Mr G Neale and R Julyan were allowed twenty-minutes start on Safety bicycles.   References: 1.Peterborough Standard, 25/01/1935 2.Peterborough Advertiser, 08/03/1955 3. Peterborough Standard, 30/03/1878 4. Peterborough Standard, 21/01/1888    





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