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Burghley House



Burghley House was built by William Cecil, later Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I's Secretary of State and closest adviser. It was originally designed in the shape of an 'E' to honour the queen, although she was never to visit. However, Queen Victoria was one of many high-profile visitors to the house and she planted a tree in the family's personal gardens at the back of the house. The gardens and park of Burghley House were laid out by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown in the 18th century, in line with many great houses of the time. William Cecil's descendants still live in the house and hold the Burghley Horse Trials every September, which have been running since 1961.  

William Cecil Honoured



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.  

Last Public Execution



David Thompson Myers was the last man to be publicly executed in Peterborough, hanged on 11 May 1812 at Fengate. He was born in 1771 in Cumberland but moved to Stamford where he was a milliner and draper. Early in 1812 he was arrested and charged with 'unnatural offences' (i.e. homosexuality, at that time a crime) with a boy named Thomas Crow. On 11 March 1812 he was tried at the Lincolnshire assizes and acquitted on all charges as the only witness was the boy Crow, who was held to be of a generally bad character, and to be a liar. Unfortunately for Myers, he was then taken to Peterborough and tried again, for another instance of the same crime with the same boy, said to have been committed in Burghley Park. This time, sadly for Myers' life expectancy, there were several respectable corroborating witnesses, and he was found guilty and sentenced to death. This was the era of the ‘Bloody Code’ where over 200 'crimes' had the death penalty, including homosexuality. A petition to the Prince Regent from his uncle, Rev John Myers was unsuccessful, and after being held in the Abbot's Gaol, he was hanged before a crowd (according to the Stamford Mercury) of 5,000 people, 1,500 more than the total population of Peterborough at the time! His confession to the crime was printed up and sold as a souvenir.        


Towering Over Wothorpe



Wothorpe Towers is a grade 1 listed building on the edge of the Soke of Peterborough. It was commissioned by Thomas Cecil of Burghley House in around 1600 as a lodge. Being so close to Burghley Park, it did not have its own deer park, as many lodges do. The land was originally in the ownership of Crowland Abbey and a small nunnery existed there. Following the reformation the land was gained by Richard Cecil, who was Groom of the Robes in Henry VIII's court and Thomas Cecil's grandfather. Sadly, the building is completely ruinous. The four towers thankfully remain and provide the building with its distinctive silhouette. They are four stories high, which allowed them to stand above the three-storey house. However the main living space has all been lost, with the exception of a central spine wall and a few additions. The ruins of Wothorpe Towers is in private ownership, but the gardens are being landscaped for visitors.

Wothorpe Priory: Nuns on a Hill



Wothorpe Priory was situated in Wothorpe near to Stamford. It was home to a small group of nuns who lived in what is now, the highest point of the Soke of Peterborough. Records show that the priory existed in the thirteenth and fourteenth century, but the Black Death of 1349 spelt the end of the priory. All of the nuns had either died or moved away, leaving the priory in dire straights. So in 1353-4 the priory, with only one remaining nun named Agnes Bowes, was united with St. Michael's nunnery of Stamford. The land was given to Richard Cecil of Burghley House during the reformation. His grandson Thomas Cecil later built Wothorpe Towers upon the land. Considerable features remain in the surrounding fields which may be buildings from the priory, but the area is scheduled and in private hands. Reference: 'Houses of Benedictine nuns: The priory of Wothorpe', in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, ed. R M Serjeantson and W R D Adkins (London, 1906), p. 101. British History Online [accessed 14 November 2018].