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Margaret Gibson, the First Freewoman of Peterbo...

1870

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The Laurel Court House Girls' School was first recorded in the house off the Cathedral’s cloister in 1862, one of the first girls' schools in the city. It was run for many years by the formidable Margaret Gibson and her Dutch colleague Annette van Dissel. Ms Gibson was originally from Ireland, and had settled in Peterborough in 1870, determined to run a school for young ladies. The school took both local and boarding students, taught art, music, literature and specialised in teaching French and German. Margaret Gibson ran the school with a strict discipline, but gained the respect and love of her students, particularly as she took a continuing interest after they graduated and offered help and support. In 1926 Margaret Gibson became the first woman to be given the freedom of the city of Peterborough. She is remembered for teaching Edith Cavell and for being a proud Peterborough citizen until her death in 1928.  





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Quaker Leader Visits Peterborough

1660

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George Whitehead visited Peterborough in this year. Travelling with other Friends (which is how Quakers addressed each other then and many still today) through neighbouring counties he arrived in the city. He wrote, “I was much pressed in Spirit to endeavour for a Meeting in the City of Peterborow, tho’ I heard of no Friends there to receive me.” A Meeting for Worship was arranged and was well attended by Friends from neighbouring areas and by local townspeople and, despite considerable abuse and violence from a mob, who considered Friends heretics, the gathering ended quietly in the afternoon, and Friends “…parted peaceably without molestation or disturbance.” His visit did not result in establishing a Quaker Meeting in Peterborough. George Whitehead (1636–1723) was a leading early Quaker preacher, author and lobbyist remembered for his advocacy of religious freedom before three kings of England. His lobbying in defence of the right to practice the Quaker religion was influential on the Act of Uniformity, the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Royal Declaration of Indulgence. He suffered imprisonment and abuse for his beliefs.





Opening of Peterborough’s Library

1906

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Though a free public library had been open in the city since 1893, it was realised that a purpose-built library was required. Negotiations occurred in August, 1903 between the Mayor, George Keeble JP, and Andrew Carnegie, the Scots-American steel magnate, millionaire and philanthropist, which resulted in the latter contributing the “handsome sum” of £6000 towards a new, central library. A newspaper report stated that the new library “will almost certainly be built on the ‘Stanley’ property.” This could be a reference to a piece of land owned by William Proctor Stanley, a local businessman. The new building on Broadway was opened on May 29th.1906 by Andrew Carnegie, who was later entertained to lunch by the Mayor, Thomas C Lamplugh JP in “the spacious upper room” of the library. Carnegie was also given the Freedom of the City of Peterborough; the first person to receive that particular honour. In turn, the 1906 library was superseded by the current premises which opened on July 2nd. 1990. References: Peterborough Standard, August 1903; Peterborough Standard, June 1906; Peterborough Advertiser, June 1906.





Dr T.J. Walker Appointed Surgeon of the Infirmary

1862

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Dr Thomas James Walker was a second generation doctor. He had a thriving practice in Westgate, and in 1862 he was appointed to the post of surgeon  at the infirmary, a post he held until 1906. He had other interests, notably local history and his archaeological finds and acquisitions formed a base for the Peterborough Museum Society collection, and he became the society's president in 1892. He was also interested in the Napoleonic prisoner of war camp at Norman Cross and wrote a book on its history, published in 1913. In recognition of all his contributions to Peterborough and its inhabitants, on his 80th birthday in 1915, he was granted the Freedom of the city, the first native born Peterborian to be so honoured.    





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Ernie Wise Took His Final Bow

1999

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Comedian Ernie Wise OBE, one half of the legendary double-act Morecambe and Wise, died on 21st March 1999. He lived on Thorpe Road in Peterborough for many years with his wife Doreen, next door to singer Edmund Hockridge. Proud of his home, he often made references to Peterborough in sketches on the Morecambe and Wise Show. The show ran from 1968 to 1983 on BBC then Thames Television and featured some of the biggest celebrities of the day. Comedic sketches were interjected with dance and musical numbers, for which the pair are best known. The two outstanding sketches are Singin' In The Rain and The Breakfast Sketch. Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise were honoured with OBE's in 1976 for their many years of service on television, radio and films. They won many awards during their careers, including 8 BAFTAs and Freedom of the City of London. During one of their Christmas episodes in 1977 the pair broke all previous viewing figures with over 20 million viewers. Both are remembered with statutes in Morecambe and Morley respectively.