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Celia Fiennes Passed Through the City

1698

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Celia Fiennes was a prolific traveller who documented her journey around Britain on a horse. At a time when only the wealthy could contemplate travelling and when the majority of literature is written by men, Celia Fiennes' work is refreshing. Celia passed through Peterborough and much admired the cathedral and town. She wrote that the city 'looks very well and handsomely built, but mostly timber worke: you pass over a Long stone bridg. The streetes are very clean and neate, well pitch'd and broad as one shall see any where, there is a very spacious market place, a good Cross and a town Hall on the top (the Guildhall or Buttercross).' She continued her prose, describing the cathedral in great detail before her journey continued on to Wansford. Worth noting that she describes Peterborough as being in Lincolnshire and surrounded by the Lin (possibly mishearing Nin), suggesting that she hadn't taken a very good look at the city or spoken to the locals! All quotes from: Celia Fiennes, Through England on a Side Saddle, Folkcustoms.co.uk, 2016, pp130-131





When Cow Dung Fuelled the City

1698

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When Celia Fiennes travelled through the city in 1698 she noted that local people near 'Mrs St John's house' (Thorpe Hall) were using cow dung for fuel: 'as I passed the Road I saw upon the walls of the ordinary peoples houses and walls of their out houses, the Cow dung plaister'd up to drie in Cakes which they use for fireing, its a very offensive fewell (fuel), but the Country people use Little Else in these parts.'  Cow dung was a free and effective fuel for the people of rural Peterborough, but the smell would not have been popular! There had been a shortage of wood since the 1550's, so burning cow dung was a sensible alternative for the very poor who were unable to afford expensive wood supplies, or cut down their own wood. Other alternatives for fuel would have included peat, charcoal and coal, none of which were particularly pleasant on the eyes or lungs. Animal dung has been used as a fuel since prehistoric times, with evidence from the Ancient Egyptians using dung as fuel and even references to it being used in the bible. Many areas of the world use animal dung as fuel.