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The Abbey is Re-founded



After it's destruction by vikings in 870 the monastery on the site was re-founded by the authority of King Edgar the Peaceful. Bishop Aethelwold of Winchester worked with Edgar to create a Benedictine Religious house. Aethelwold had a series of dreams and visions encouraging him to set out and re-found the abbey. He initially got lost and ended up in Oundle instead! Further visions put him on the right track and he rebuilt the abbey on its previous site. A township started to spring up to the eastern side of the monastic precincts. The whole area was bounded by a ditched and embanked burgh wall. Within a century, the monastery’s wealth increased dramatically, so it is often nicknamed ‘Guildenburgh’ – the ‘Golden Borough’.

The Arm of St Oswald



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.    


Edward II comes to Thorney



“[D]uring Easter week the Lord King Edward [II] came to Thorney, before which never has any king of England entered [the house].  Thereafter he went warfaring against the Scots; and the war being finished he returned to Thorney on 28 October in the same year.”   The English were defeated in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn.


Rebuilding the Central Tower



The central tower of Peterborough Cathedral was rebuilt for a second time in 1883. After this the whole central and eastern area of the church required refurbishment. This provided an opportunity for the creation of the fine, hand carved choir stalls, cathedra (bishop's throne) and choir pulpit. The marble pavement and high altar which are at the centre of worship today, were also created. The works led to the discovery of some of the Saxon church foundations and Roman stonework under the central tower and south transept. A tunnel was left so that these could be accessed.  

WUTAC at Peterborough East Railway Station



The Great Eastern Soldier’s and Sailor’s Rest Room opened on Christmas Eve 1915 at Peterborough East Railway Station.  The rooms were managed by the Women’s United Total Abstinence Council (WUTAC), supporters of the temperance movement popular at that time. During the first nine days alone, 321 servicemen called at the tea room. They were given food, drink and an opportunity to rest in comfort whilst waiting for their trains to and from the front.  The ladies who managed the tea room encouraged the men to write in the visitors’ books, only two of which have survived from 1916 and 1917. There are over 590 signatures in the books that reveal the servicemen came from across the United Kingdom and as far away as Australia.  They wrote messages of gratitude, poetry and drew pictures expressing their appreciation for the service that the ladies were providing. These two slim volumes provide a brief insight into the thoughts and feelings of the men transiting through the city during the Great War. The books have been digitised and transcribed and the servicemen’s personal histories researched in an effort to tell their story and trace their families.

Quaker Meeting House Extended



The Meeting House was extended on the eastern end to enable the addition of disabled toilets and insertion of a staircase to create two rooms in the extensive loft space. This additional space enabled four rooms to be hired for meetings, etc. a facility that has become very valuable to many small groups from the Peterborough Community.

Peterborough East Station Opens



Opening on the 2nd of June 1845, Peterborough East was the first railway station in Peterborough, built by the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR). It linked Peterborough with the London and Birmingham Railway. It was located on Station Road just off the Town Bridge south of the River Nene. A section of the now defunct railway line to Northampton still survives as the Nene Valley Railway. It was closed to passenger traffic in June 1966. With the arrival of the railway a new age began for Peterborough, it was the catalyst for turning a small market town into the city we know today.

The Thorney Computus



Medieval monasteries produced a large quantity of high-quality literature, but they also produced diagrams too. The Thorney Computus contains a world map, a diagram of the relationship between the four elements (earth, water, fire and air) and complex tables used to calculate the dates for Easter and other religious festivals important to the monastic community using a lunar calendar. The detail and complexity is outstanding, which is why it now resides in St John's College, Oxford University. This document is usually attributed to the original work of Byrhtferth of Ramsey Abbey, the Ramsey Computus predating that of Thorney. Dates calculated in the work relate to the 10th and 11th centuries when Byrhtferth was alive, suggesting this was created as an exercise, or as training for practising monks. The Peterborough Computus is almost identical and considered a sibling manuscript, it being later in date.

Cardinal Wolsey Visits at Easter



Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was an important figure in the life and politics of Henry VIII. A well-educated man, he became an advisor to Henry. He is possibly best known for failing to annul Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Henry wished for more children and wanted marry Anne Boleyn, but divorce wasn't an option. Wolsey tried to get the marriage annulled by the Pope, but this was unsuccessful. Henry was angry that he couldn't end his marriage and Wolsey was in trouble. His failure to convince the Pope was seen as an act of treason and he was called to London to face Henry. But Wolsey's health had been deteriorating and he never made it back to London. He did, however, make it to Peterborough. Peterborough Abbey hosted Wolsey's visit at Easter in 1530. He took part in many ceremonial duties including observing Maundy Thursday. As tradition dictates, he washed the feet of 59 poor men (the same number of men as his age), this was carried out in the Lady Chapel, which no longer exists. He also handed out gifts to the men. They received '12 pence, three ells of canvas to make them shirts, a pair of new shoes, a cast of bread, three red herrings and three white herrings and the odd person had two shillings.' (1) Wolsey travelled on from Peterborough to the Fitzwilliams at Milton for a few days. His health gradually faded until he died in Leicester Cathedral on 29th November 1530. One of his many legacies was the building of Hampton Court Palace, which was taken by Henry VIII after Wolsey fell out of favour. His visit was also remembered in an iconic LNER poster advertising Peterborough, designed by Fred Taylor. A copy is on display on the top floor of Peterborough Museum.
(1) W. T. Mellors, The Last Days of Peterborough Monastery, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1950, p xviii


John Forster, Graffiti Artist



The graffiti scratched onto the walls of the eastern end of the cathedral are numerous. They vary in size and form, but almost all contain initials or names of the artist. One of the best names to search for is John Forster, who rather enjoyed scratching his name in the walls. His letter form is rather impressive and he has had enough time to fully form his name and date it. We can assume that he enjoyed making his mark because his name appears twice on the wall of the New Building.
Where to find it
His first signature (should that be graffiti tag?!) was scratched at the north east end of the cathedral. It is dated 1687. Further east on the same wall you can find his second attempt from 1688. Rather pleasingly it is easy to see an improvement in his letter formation and a more confident signature. He used an I in place of J for John because the letter J hadn't come into use yet.
Who was John Forster?
John Forster was likely to have been a pupil of King's School, which was based in the cathedral grounds at that time. How he managed to find the time to mark his name in such detail, we will never know. We can only guess what his punishment would have been if he was caught doing it.