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Katharine of Aragon

1536

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Katharine of Aragon, Spanish princess, first wife and queen of Henry VIII, is buried in the monastic church. Katharine died at Kimbolton, where she was living after her marriage to Henry had been annulled, on 7 January 1536, most likely of cancer. She was ordered to be buried at Peterborough Abbey as the nearest great religious house that befitted her status, whilst not giving her a burial in London where she might have been politically embarrassing. Her funeral was held on 29 January 1536. The heart of the funeral cortege included a coffin wagon covered with black velvet, as were the six horses pulling it; Heralds and fifty servants in black carrying torches; four banners in crimson taffeta and four golden standards. At the door of the abbey church the body was received by four bishops and six abbots and placed under a canopy lit by a thousand candles. Today Katharine is remembered annually by a commemorative service and series of events at the Cathedral and elsewhere in the city around the anniversary of her burial, 29 January. Many visitors place pomegranates – her heraldic symbol – on her tomb.





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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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Death of Variety Star Nosmo King

1949

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Mr Vernon Watson was born in Thorney in 1885, in his youth, a clerk  at Barclays Bank in Peterborough. His interest in the stage began with performances at smoking concerts and when, in 1911, he appeared at the old Empire, Leicester Square, he became an overnight success. He took part in many subsequent productions there and as a single turn on the music halls. At first he relied entirely on his voice in his imitations of the popular comedians of the day. His imitation of Wilkie Bard - exact in every way - was as remarkable a piece of virtuosity as the variety stage has produced. Among his favourite subjects were Harry Champion, Fred Emney and Frank Tunney.  His stage name Nosmo King was inspired by seeing two open doors at a music hall which had split the notice 'No Smoking' into Nosmo King.  He was later assisted by 'Hubert' - his son (Petty Officer Jack Watson) He appeared at the Embassy in Peterborough in April 1947 as Colonel Blimp in a G.I. Bride farce 'For the Fun of it' Though it was 39 years since he had been a clerk at Barclays, he still remembered his old friends in and around Peterborough. Mr Watson died at his home in Chelsea on January 13th 1949. His funeral was held at Thorney Abbey and he is buried at Thorney cemetery, with 'Nosmo King' on his headstone.    





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Borough Fen Burials

2400-1500 BC

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The landscape in the area north-east of Peterborough, incorporating Borough Fen, Milking Nook and Newborough would have looked very different in the late-Neolithic and Bronze Age to the present agricultural scene. Archaeological investigations have discovered that the landscape contained several bowl barrows and ring ditches, now buried below the surface. Bowl barrows were part of funeral rituals and contained single or multiple burials. They are common in lowland areas, although Borough Fen is remarkable for the number clustered along the prehistoric fen edge. The majority are approximately 5m in diameter, but the scheduling area around them is much more extensive.





Thomas Hunter, the Lonely ANZAC

1916

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Thomas Hunter was born in County Durham in 1880 but emigrated as a young man to Australia where he worked as a coal miner. At the outbreak of the First World War, he, like many young men enlisted, in his case in the 10th battalion of the 10th division, ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) forces. He fought at Gallipoli and then in the trenches of France and Belgium. In 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, Sgt Hunter was badly injured, so severely that he was shipped back to England for surgery. He was put on a train for Halifax with other wounded but on the journey his condition worsened badly so he was taken off the train at Peterborough and brought to the infirmary where, sadly, on the 31st of July 1916, he died. As he died away from home and his comrades he came to be known as the 'Lonely Anzac'. His death touched the hearts of Peterborians, in a way he came to represent their young men away fighting. A public subscription fund paid  for his funeral and a memorial. The mayor and civic dignitaries led the funeral procession to the Broadway Cemetery and the entire town came to a stop to pay their respects. A two metre tall granite cross was placed on his grave, and a brass plaque to his memory mounted in the military chapel in the cathedral. Every year on ANZAC day, April 25th, a civil ceremony is held at his graveside, attended by the mayor, civic dignitaries and a representative from the Australian High Commission.





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Mystery of the Girl in the Glass Panelled Coffin.

1906

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On Monday 21 May 1906 the body of a young lady was found in the Sheep Wash in Werrington. The day before had been cold & miserable but the girl had no coat or cloak. A hankie in her pocket had “F Arnold” inked on. Her attire would suggest she was a domestic servant. Suggested age 25 years. No one of this name was missing in Peterborough. The body was placed in a coffin at the Blue Bell, with a glass panel over her face.

As nobody knew who the girl was, her photograph was put in the national papers in the hopes someone would recognise her. At the last minute, just before the funeral service, her parents arrived and identified her as Miss Florence Arnold, she had been engaged as a maid in Nottingham. She had a sweet & even temper, but in March had slipped in the snow and hit her head on a mangle. This led to her feeling “queer” at times and displaying fits of bad temper. She decided to discharge herself. Her clothes had arrived home but not Florrie. The father wrote to her employer who confirmed Florrie’s departure. Mr Arnold went up to Nottingham and evidence convinced him, that of only two women booking onto the London train, one of these was his daughter. In which case she would have got off the train at Walton and walked up through Werrington village. Had she done so she would certainly have drawn attention. She was a tall girl with very dark hair and pale skin, but nobody saw her.

The police theory is of suicide during temporary insanity to which her father agreed.

However, the story doesn’t quite end there. Villagers reported hearing a motor car that night drive up the road in the direction of the sheep wash and returned a short while later. Several accounts were given about a car or cars. The police made strict investigations into the matter but attached little significance to the rumours.

Her parents removed her body for burial at Lakenheath. (McKenzie, R.,Werrington Local History Group Newsletter no.15)







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Repairs to the Dead Man’s Door

1548

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The cemetery for Peterborough Cathedral is to the north of the building. Thousands of people were buried there, from monks to grave diggers. In the past, any people who had their funeral in the cathedral exited the building via the north door, which gave direct access to the graveyard. This is the last door that their body would pass through, so it is known as dead man's door. In 1548/9 the lock of the door needed repairing, which is not surprising given how old the door is. Two pence was paid for 'mending the loke [lock] of the dedmans dore [door]',(1) which appears a bargain in modern terms. No records exist to say if the lock was needed to keep the living or the dead out of the cathedral!
Reference
(1) W. T. Mellows, The Last Days of Peterborough Monastery, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1950, p107





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Saint Pega Dies

719

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Saint Pega was the sister of Saint Guthlac of Crowland Abbey and the daughter of Mercian nobility. Her name is remembered in the village of Peakirk, or Pega's kirk, an earlier word for church. Pega created a hermitage in what is now Peakirk. The hermitage was based on the edge of the desolate fens, close to Car Dyke. From here she could guarantee a quieter life and one full of many challenges due to the boggy fens. The church of Saint Pega was built after her life, but contains the base of a Saxon cross. It also contains fragments of a monument similar to the Hedda Stone in Peterborough Cathedral. These were said to have been created in her honour. She was said to have sailed to her brother's funeral in Crowland, along the river Welland. Whilst there she cured a blind man from Wisbech. Sometime after the funeral Pega travelled to Rome. She died there in 719. It is rumoured that Pega's heart was returned to the village and kept in a box there as a relic. Her saints day in 8th January. Picture attribution: John Salmon / St Pega, Peakirk - Stained glass window