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Bridging the Gap

1716

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Milton Hall was built in the 1590s to the west of Peterborough and periodic phases of work to the house and surrounding parkland continued until the 1790s. The bridge that straddles the Nene nearby was built in 1716 from Barnack stone and is a Grade II listed structure. It sits on the site of an old ferry crossing point (Gunnerswade Ferry) needed for the Barnack stone when local cathedrals were being built 900 years ago. The more modern bridge we see today, Milton Ferry Bridge, was an important transport link for those travelling onto the Great North Road from the south bank of the river, although there was a toll, with which Daniel Defoe was not pleased: “Near this little village of Castor lives the Lord FitzWilliams. His Lordship has lately built a very fine stone bridge over the River Nyne, near Gunworth, where formerly was the ferry. I was very much applauding this generous action of my lord’s, knowing the inconvenience of the passage there before, especially if the waters of the Nyne were but a little swell’d, and I though it a piece of publick charity; but my applause was much abated, when coming to pass the bridge (being in a coach) we could not be allow’d to go over it, without paying 2s. 6d. of which I shall only say this, That I think ‘tis the only half crown toll that is in Britain, at least that I ever met with.”





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The Death of Thomas Deacon and the Birth of a S...

1721

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Thomas Deacon is best known by his eponymous school, but his story was one of charity. Born in 1651, Deacon was a wealthy man. He owned many lands including Willow Hall near Thorney and lived for a time in Boroughbury Manor. He was a wool merchant, as much of the gentry were in the city, profiting from wool or fleece produced in the area. As one of the Feoffees he offered wool to the poor to provide an income. The poor were able to gain money for spinning the wool, which helped them out of poverty. Upon his death in 1721 he left a gift of money known as a legacy, which would pay for an education for 20 poor boys. At that time only the rich could afford an education, so this was a generous gift.
Deacon's Legacy
Thomas Deacon's school was originally sited on Cowgate, where a blue plaque has been placed. The school remained there until 1883 when it moved to Deacon Street and later to Queen's Gardens off Park Road. Thankfully it now educates both boys and girls. The Thomas Deacon Foundation continue to offer educational opportunities in the form of scholarships at Thomas Deacon Academy. A large effigy of Thomas Deacon resides in Peterborough Cathedral amongst the good and great of the city.





Jimmy the Donkey: War hero or Super Hoax?

1943

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Jimmy the Donkey was born in the early Twentieth Century and used to raise money for the RSPCA. He is commemorated in Central park, where he was laid to rest in 1943. His journey to Peterborough, however, is either one of heroic endeavours or a great hoax. Jimmy was supposedly born in the trenches of World War I in 1916. He was rescued from No-Man's Land and adopted by the Cameronian Scottish Rifles who cared for him with their rations. He supported the soldiers by pulling and carrying what he could. So valuable was he to the regiment, that they made him a Sergeant and gave him three stripes. After the war the donkey was bought by local RSPCA inspector, Mrs Heath, who took pity on him. The Cameronians were based in Peterborough for a short while in 1920 and that was when she bought him. She wanted to give him a good life and use the war hero to raise money for the charity. They offered rides in a small carriage pulled behind Jimmy and raised a huge amount for the RSPCA until his death in 1943. However, George Wilding the son of a horse dealer, revealed that Jimmy's story had been a hoax. His father had bought the donkey and was having difficulty selling it, so he created its back story in the hope of a sale. This called into question whether Jimmy was the celebrated hero, or just an average donkey. But the donkey raised so much money for charity over the years, that he should be remembered, regardless of his birth. The memorial is accessible in Central Park every day