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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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Creation of a Cathedral – and a School

1541

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To increase his control over the church in this area Henry VIII created a new bishop (the former abbot John Chambers) and Peterborough Abbey church became a Cathedral by letters patent. The foundation charter of the Cathedral, formally established on 4 September 1541, constituted a chapter of a dean (appointed by the crown) and six canons. In addition the charter established six minor canons, a deacon, sub-deacon, eight singing men, and eight choristers, two schoolmasters serving 20 scholars and six almsmen. Henry also created a grammar school in the precincts, the foundation of the King’s School.





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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Old Scarlett

1594

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‘Old Scarlett’ was Robert Scarlett, parish sexton and gravedigger throughout the Tudor period. He lived to the prodigious age of 98, dying in 1594, married twice and buried Katharine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots inside the Cathedral. Amongst the hundreds of people that Scarlett buried during his lifetime was one ‘Edward the Foole’, a native of Crowland by birth and former court jester to King Henry VIII, laid to rest here in 1563. As was common practice at the time, and to allow for more burials in an already packed graveyard, the skeleton would have been exhumed some years later and the bones reburied in stacks. The image of an elderly gravedigger exhuming a royal jester’s skull might have stuck in the head of a Peterborough schoolboy, John Fletcher, the son of the then Cathedral Dean. Fletcher went on to become a noted Elizabethan playwright and worked with Shakespeare, even co-writing three plays with him, including the aforementioned ‘Henry VIII’. Is it possible that Fletcher may have suggested this scene to Shakespeare? Unfortunately ‘Hamlet’ was written between 1599 and 1601, and we have no evidence that the two men met until at least five years later, but it’s a tantalising thought nonetheless!





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Dean Peter Peckard Dies

1797

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Peter Peckard was the intellectual father of the movement for the abolition of the Slave Trade. Born in Lincolnshire in 1717, he attended Oxford University, served as vicar to several local parishes, and was an army chaplain for the Grenadier Guards. Peckard was an outspoken liberal, and by the 1770s spoke out in his sermons against the Slave Trade. In 1778 he published a pamphlet anonymously entitled ‘Am I not a Man and a Brother?’ articulating the arguments against the evils of slavery. The title of the pamphlet and the image on its front page became iconic for the abolitionist movement and were even used on china produced by Josiah Wedgewood promoting the anti-slavery cause. Peckard became master of Magdalen College in Cambridge in 1781, becoming Vice-Chancellor three years later. He started an essay competition for students on the subject of ‘Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting?’ The first winner was Thomas Clarkson, inspiring him on his path to become one of the leading activists in the abolitionist movement. In 1792 Peckard was appointed as Dean of Peterborough Cathedral, a position he retained until his death five years later. He died fifteen years before the Slave Trade was outlawed in 1807.





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Peterborough Infirmary Fire

1884

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At midday on 9th May 1884 there was a disastrous fire at Peterborough Infirmary in Priestgate. The infirmary contained 100 patients who were hauled outside onto the grass to safety, along with as much medical equipment as could be saved. Some of the first newspaper reports suggested that patients were still inside the building when the roof collapsed, but these rumours were unfounded and everybody was accounted for; the patients were driven away in cabs or moved to a building supplied by the Dean and Chapter.  The fire was caused by an overheated flue and caused £5,000 worth of damage. The lack of accessible water to extinguish the fire and deficiencies of the Fire Brigade led to the formation of the Peterborough Volunteer Fire Brigade.





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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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Prosecution of a French Strumpet

1844

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In December 1843 Nathalie Miard was charged with demanding money with menace from the Rev. Herbert Charles Marsh, vicar of Barnack and prebend of Peterborough Cathedral. He had been in a relationship with Nathalie Miard in 1839 in London, and she had become pregnant. Over the next few years he paid her large sums of money, even after the child had died, and she threatened to destroy his reputation if he did not continue to pay her. The extent of their interactions and those of two other French prostitutes, were revealed in scandalous detail in local and national press, revealing every sum of money paid, every hotel they visited, and letters written by her. The news story was in all of the British newspapers and was a national discussion point. Rev Marsh first visited Nathalie Miard in London where she was said to have been an actress. He gave her money to allow her to return to Paris and visited her there shortly afterwards. Their interactions continued over the next few years, meeting together in London and Paris, each time Ms Miard demanding increasingly large sums of money.  In April 1843 she arrived in Stamford, attempting to extract more money from him, with the threat that she would go door to door to expose him to all of his parishioners and then work her way through the local and national clergy until she had informed the Archbishop of Canterbury. She stayed for some time in Barnack, appearing at church services to cause as much disruption as possible, attempting to extort 10,000 francs (£400 at the time) from his brother to start a gambling house. She also talked to his mother, wife of the late Bishop of Peterborough, George Davys, the resident Bishop, and also the Dean. In December of 1843 a prosecution was made against Ms Miard on three different charges of sending a letter demanding money, another similar offence and conspiracy to extort money with another woman. Witnesses gave examples of how Ms Miard had lied about a second pregnancy and about Rev Marsh giving her drugs to induce a miscarriage in an attempt to increase the scandal, and she had previously extorted money from a Spanish man using the same technique she was using on Rev Marsh. Yet despite the evidence, the jury of 12 men found her not guilty, possibly as a result of nine of the jurors being Dissenters. She was freed from jail on the understanding she would not harass Mr Marsh any further and would return to Paris. In 1848 Rev. Marsh married a Belgian woman named Elise Sidonie Pouceau and was shortly after admitted to a mental institute in Belgium, then Paris and eventually England. His brother George Marsh was successfully able to get him declared insane on 12th June 1850.





William Lattimer: Anne Boleyn’s Biographer

1560

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Peterborough Cathedral has two well-known connections to Tudor Queens. The tombs of both Katherine of Aragon and Mary Queen of Scots could both be found in the Cathedral. Sadly, Mary Queen of Scots was moved down to Westminster, but Queen Katherine is still resting in peace. Most people think that is where the connections to Tudor royalty end, but that is not so. In 1560 William Lattimer or Latymer, became Dean of Peterborough Cathedral. He had been chaplain to Anne Boleyn during her reign and had smuggled French religious books into the country for her. Later, he became chaplain to Elizabeth I and wrote the Chronickille of Anne Bulleyne (Chronicle of Anne Boleyn) a biography of her life. He wrote the book for Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn being her mother. Lattimer died in 1583 and was buried in Peterborough Cathedral.