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Market for Thorney



In 1634 the right to hold a market on the Green at Thorney was granted to the Earls of Bedford, who held the lordship of Thorney from 1551.  The market continued until 1830, and then a fair was held on the Green into the 20th century.

Cherry Fair Founded



Cherry Fair was one of the oldest fairs in Peterborough, granted by a charter in 1189 by Richard I to Abbot Benedict. It was planned to be held on or around St Peter's Feast, on the 29th June, which is why the fair was also known as St Peter's or Petermas Fair and ran for eight days. In 1572 the date of the fair was moved from 29th June to 10th July. It was traditionally held in the Market Place (Cathedral Square), but in 1899 it was held in Broadway opposite the cattle market, after dwindling visitors and a lack of interest. By 1915 it was little more than a meat market.

Liberty Gaol Opened



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,  


Bridge Fair Founded



Peterborough Monastery was granted a charter by Henry VI to hold a fair for three days over St Matthew's Day (21st September). The fair was always a large and popular event for both pleasure and business. Late nineteenth and  early twentieth century newspapers recounted the ceremonial procession over the town bridge and a feast of sausages and (sometimes) champagne.

Body Snatching!



Body snatching was a fairly common practice in the 18th century and 19th centuries. Doctors were in need of human corpses to study, but these were in short supply since the common religious belief at the time was that the body must remain intact for the Day of Judgement. Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses for anatomical purposes in Britain was those condemned to death and dissection by the courts.  Body snatchers (or resurrection men) were the entrepreneurs who filled the demand! Interfering with a grave was only a misdemeanour at common law, not a felony, and therefore only punishable with a fine and imprisonment rather than transportation or execution, so the lucrative trade was worth the risk. In Peterborough the first instance of body snatching was in 1828. It happened in Cowgate cemetery which used to stand at the top of Cowgate (it was completely removed in the 198os with the development of Queensgate Shopping Centre). One evening a cart was seen outside the cemetery with two men loading suspicious sacks onto it. The alarm was raised and the men fled, with a cart-chase ending near Norman Cross, where the men abandoned their getaway cart with its grisly cargo and fled over the fields. Body snatching continued to be a problem until about 1860. To prevent it relatives would watch over the graves and guard huts were set up in the cemeteries, one of these from Eye cemetery can be seen in Peterborough Museum.    

Woodstons Fair



Its position abutting the Nene has provided Woodston with both fertile growing land and access to and from the water. This access has made it desirable as a place to disembark if travelling from the west, for the Peterborough toll could be avoided. It is possible that Wharf Road was the toll road used. The Abbot of Thorney had been granted the right to hold a regular market in Yaxley by William the Conqueror. Goods and people travelling there would disembark in Woodston, which was also in the possession of Thorney Abbey. The abbot asked for a market to be held in Woodston on the day before Yaxley market in 1268. In the same year the abbot requested a fair to celebrate 'the vigil and feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist'. Woodston fair would fall on the 29th August, despite sounding like something more appropriate for 31st October! There is no evidence that this fair ever took place, but a fair to celebrate a beheading must have been an interesting sight. Reference: Picture Credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Nigel Cox -