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Neville Place and the Ormes



In 1536 a Tudor house called Neville Place was built by Sir Humphrey Orme, who was a courtier of Henry VIII. The house was built on the site of current museum building. The Ormes were important in Peterborough for over 250 years. They were Members of Parliament, Magistrates and also Feoffees. They were royalist during the English Civil War and were involved in the building of the Guildhall after the Restoration.


Creation of the Feoffees in the City



Peterborough was, for many years, controlled by the abbey. However, the creation of municipal control started in 1572 when three local men, Robert Mallory, Thomas Robinson and Jeremy Green bought some of the church lands and offered them to the city. Income from the lands was used to help the poor and keep the roads, church and other buildings in good repair with the advice of the church wardens. 14 Feoffees were chosen to oversee these activities, working as councillors do in the 21st century.
The Men
The feoffees consisted of between 4 and 14 respectable, wealthy men. They worked together to keep the city in good order and to help those in dire straits. The account and minute books of the feoffees detail monies given to the poor. Money was provided for food or clothing and sheets to wrap up bodies if they died. Well-known feoffees included Humphrey Orme, Thomas Deacon and William Hake.
Feoffees Buildings
Evidence of the work of the Feoffees can be seen in the first almshouses, founded in 1722 in Cumbergate. They were also the driving force for the Guildhall or Buttercross in the marketplace, which was where they held their meetings. They originally met in the Moot Hall or Guildhall, which was on the corner of Cumbergate.

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



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.

Pennies For a Puppet Show



The account books of the Peterborough Feoffees declare all of the money received and paid out by the administration. Most of the accounts refer to rent collection and payments to the ill and poverty-stricken. However, some of the details tell us about Stuart hospitality and even entertainment. 1628 a payment was made to 'Mr Joanes the player, for sheweinge of his puppites, and for sheweinge tricks in our common hall.' (1) Translated: 'Mr Jones the player, for showing of his puppets and for showing tricks in our common hall.' He was paid the princely sum of 12 pence, which was around half a days wages for a skilled labourer. The account had been included been October and December, so it was possibly a Christmas treat. Glove puppets and shadow puppets were very popular at the time. We can only guess as to the tricks played by Mr Joanes. Did he actually perform at Halloween and is the first refence to trick or treating in the city? A player was a term used in the past to mean actor. The 'common hall' referred to is very likely to be the Moot Hall, an arcaded wooden building which stood where Miss Pears Almshouses were built. The building was well-positioned on the corner of Cumbergate and Exchange Street and overlooking the market.
(1) W.T. Mellows (ed), Minutes and Accounts of the Feoffees and Governors of the City Lands, with Supplementary Documents, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1937, p48

Did the Feoffees Eat Horse Meat?



The Feoffees were a group of men who oversaw the administration of money collected and distributed to the deserving poor. They also ensured that the city was in good running order. They were selected from the upper echelons of Peterborough society and represented the city. This meant that they provided hospitality to other dignitaries and travelled to meet them. Their account books have examples of some of the expenses they occurred. In 1630 it appears that some of the men travelled to Stamford. References were made to food and drink consumed, including venison (deer meat). One curious sentence reads: For our horsmeate at Stamford and given to thosler - 6d Thosler would translate as 'the ostler' and seventeenth century ostlers cared for horses, but what have they paid him six pence for? Horse meat looks like the obvious answer, but even in the seventeenth century, eating horse meat was frowned upon because they were such valuable animals. Furthermore they would buy meat from a butcher, not an ostler. It is more likely to be a payment for food, drink and possibly stabling for their horses whilst they were in Stamford. However, it is possible that the Feoffees enjoyed a 'mane' course that was a little different.
W. T. Mellows, Minutes and Accounts of the Feoffees and Governors of the City Lands with Supplementary Documents, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1937, p67