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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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Knights and a Castle

1071

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William I imposed the living of sixty knights onto Peterborough Abbey and its monastic estates in 1071. He ordered the construction of a motte and bailey castle on the north side of the monastic precincts. This  was a Norman Castle of timber and earth. The motte remains today in the Deanery Gardens as Tout (Tower) Hill, whilst many of the manors in the area given to the knights now bear their names in the villages – Helpston, Longueville, Waterville and so on.





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The Great Fire of Peterborough

1116

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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…”  





Royal Visitors to Peterborough

1461

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The abbey and town were sacked by a Lancastrian army led by Queen Margaret of Anjou during the Wars of the Roses. The abbey was in the orbit of Fotheringhay Castle, the main seat of the House of York. Both the future Edward IV and Richard III would have visited the monastery as children. Royal visitors to Peterborough Abbey were very common – as well as those mentioned above they have included: Henry III in 1268, Edward I in 1302, Edward II in 1314 (twice), Edward III in 1326, then annually 1332-6, Henry IV in 1392 & 1394, Henry VI in 1452 and Henry VII in 1486.





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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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Mount Thorold (Peterborough Castle) Destroyed

1116

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There are varying accounts regarding the building of a castle in Peterborough. Most accounts agree that it was built by Abbot Thorold just after the Norman Conquest, in response to an attack by Hereward and a large group of Vikings (Danes). It was situated north of the abbey, close to the majority of the residents of the town, and was a simple wooden castle on a motte (hill). The castle was either destroyed in a fire in 1116 with most of the town, or was pulled down by Abbot Martin de Bec when he was rebuilding and redesigning the town: it was never rebuilt or replaced. The remains of the motte exist as a small hill in the cathedral grounds and in the street name Touthill Place. It was previously known as Mount Thorold or Turold and is a scheduled monument.





A Jack the Ripper Victim?

1849

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Alice McKenzie was born at Drapers House in Priestgate in 1849, but moved to the East End of London, where it is likely that she worked as a prostitute. She was murdered at about 12.40am on Wednesday 17th July 1889 in Castle Alley, Whitechapel by a method very similar to that used by Jack the Ripper, the infamous Whitechapel serial killer. Many believe she was one of his last victims. An interview with John McCormack, the man Alice had been living with in London, stated he thought she was from Peterborough. They had been living together for about seven years and he thought she was quite respectable. This was echoed by her friend Margaret Franklin, who claimed she was also known as Alice Bryant.  





Richard III Born at Fotheringhay

1452

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Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III of England was born at Fotheringhay Castle.  He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. He was the supposed killer of 'The Princes in the Tower', his nephews Edward and Richard, the sons of his brother King Edward IV, and was portrayed as a villain in William Shakespeare's play 'Richard III'. He died at the Battle of Bosworth Field beaten by Henry Tudor, Henry VII, the first of the Tudor dynasty, so ending the War of the Roses. In 2012 Richard III's body was found buried under a car park in Leicester.





Royal Mail Centre Opens

1995

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The Royal Mail Centre at Papyrus Road, Werrington opened on 2 October 1995. Papyrus road runs parallel to the main railway line into and out of Peterborough. When looking for a name for the road it seems likely that the name of a steam engine was chosen. Steam engine no. 2750 Papyrus ran between Kings Cross and Newcastle on 5th March 1935, in a trial testing the potential of running a high speed passenger service on the east coast main line. Other roads in Peterborough, particularly near the line in Bretton, have railway links. It is also very apt because papyrus is a material for writing on as used by the ancient Egyptians. Today the road ends inside the main Peterborough sorting office. (Townsin, R.,Werrington Local History Group Newsletter 23 p13)  available in Werrington Library.







The Siege of Woodcroft Castle

1648

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Woodcroft Castle near Helpston was built in the 13th century as a fortified manor house with a tower and moat. During the English Civil was it was occupied by Dr Michael Hudson. He was a priest who had been the chaplain to King Charles I and was a staunch Royalist. In 1648 Hudson garrisoned Woodcroft Castle with Cavalier soldiers and attempted to get Stamford to rise up against Parliament but he failed. He was chased back to Woodcroft Castle by a troop of Roundheads. They attempted to storm the castle but they were driven off with the loss of several men. The besiegers were then reinforced by a full regiment of Roundheads who were determined to win the castle. Hudson and his men resisted bravely but it was stormed after the gates were blown in using gunpowder. The defenders retreated to the tower and Dr Hudson ended up dangling from the ramparts. When the Roundheads found him dangling they cut off his hands sending him plunging into the moat below. He was then dragged from the moat and disembowelled and his tongue cut out. His body was buried at Denton, Northamptonshire. As a grisly postscript his tongue was paraded around local towns as a trophy and a warning not to oppose Parliament!