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Bridging the Gap



Milton Hall was built in the 1590s to the west of Peterborough and periodic phases of work to the house and surrounding parkland continued until the 1790s. The bridge that straddles the Nene nearby was built in 1716 from Barnack stone and is a Grade II listed structure. It sits on the site of an old ferry crossing point (Gunnerswade Ferry) needed for the Barnack stone when local cathedrals were being built 900 years ago. The more modern bridge we see today, Milton Ferry Bridge, was an important transport link for those travelling onto the Great North Road from the south bank of the river, although there was a toll, with which Daniel Defoe was not pleased: “Near this little village of Castor lives the Lord FitzWilliams. His Lordship has lately built a very fine stone bridge over the River Nyne, near Gunworth, where formerly was the ferry. I was very much applauding this generous action of my lord’s, knowing the inconvenience of the passage there before, especially if the waters of the Nyne were but a little swell’d, and I though it a piece of publick charity; but my applause was much abated, when coming to pass the bridge (being in a coach) we could not be allow’d to go over it, without paying 2s. 6d. of which I shall only say this, That I think ‘tis the only half crown toll that is in Britain, at least that I ever met with.”


Farmhouse to Beerhouse



The Bluebell Inn in Dogsthorpe is a grade II listed building on Welland Road. The reason for the listing is because of the dating stone which reads 'ITH  1665'. Originally built as a farmhouse, it became a public house early in the 19th century and has continued to be so for the last 200 years. The building has been extended and improved over the years and during one of the improvements a wooden panel was found with initials and the date 1594, suggesting that the building is older than the date stone, or that the panel had been salvaged from elsewhere and reused in the building. Picture credit: The Blue Bell, Dogsthorpe cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Paul Bryan -

Opening of the Lido



The Lido open air swimming pool first opened in 1936. A striking building with Art-Deco elements, it was designated a Grade II listed building in 1992. It was instantly popular when it opened and remained so throughout the 1950s and 1960s. However it hasn't always been plain sailing for the Lido, on the 8th of June 1940 it was hit by a bomb during an air raid and one corner was destroyed, though showing true wartime spirit it reopened on the same day! In 1989 it was threatened with closure to save money, but it survived and still opens from May to September.  

Cubbit’s Iron Railway Bridge Built



Cubbit's iron bridge (The Nene Viaduct), is a railway bridge immediately south of Peterborough railway station that carries trains across the River Nene. It was built in 1850 by father and son Sir William Cubitt and Joseph Cubitt for the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and was constructed using cast iron. It spans the River Nene in three arches. It's design and construction is of such note that it is a Grade II listed building    

Thorpe Hall Built



Thorpe Hall is a Grade 1 listed building built during the Cromwellian era between 1653 and 1658, at a time when very few stately homes were built. Oliver St. John (pronounced Sinjun) commissioned the house to be built by Peter Mills, who later helped to rebuild London after the Great Fire in 1666. Oliver St. John was a judge, politician and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas to Oliver Cromwell, whom he was related to through his second wife Elizabeth Cromwell, said to be his favourite cousin. This connection might have been advantageous in securing the land to build Thorpe Hall on. The house was built in the shape of a cube, set amongst 6 acres of walled garden. Much of the interior of the house has changed over the years, but the wooden staircase is dated from the original house build and large fireplaces on the ground floor are worthy of merit. The house has changed hands many times over the years and was at one point a boys school and a maternity home. It was bought by Sue Ryder in 1986 to be used as a hospice, with an extension added in 2015 within the old walled orchard.


The First Auction at the Bull Hotel



Situated on Westgate, the Bull Hotel is the oldest existing inn or hotel in the city centre and is grade II listed. It is believed to have been built in the late 18th century and was known as the Bull Inn. There is, however, a chance that an older structure exists within the present building. The main entrance to the building was originally an entrance for coaches and carts. The entrance led into a courtyard where there was also stabling for horses. The building has been enlarged and improved over the years, so the courtyard is no longer there. A story exists of a dog who was run over in the courtyard and whose spirit never left the hotel. The earliest reference found relating to the Bull Inn in the Stamford Mercury is from 1775. There was an advert relating to the sale of land and buildings by Simon Hubbard by auctions. Auctions were common at the Bull and items included property, furniture and animals. They also held meals and meetings for the aristocracy and other events. Many celebrities have stayed at the hotel, including The Beatles. The most infamous was possibly Archdeacon Wakeford who visited in 1920. He was at the centre of a court case claiming he had stayed at the Bull Inn on two separate occasions with a woman who wasn't his wife and therefore leading an immoral life. He was found guilty, later failing in an appeal.
Stamford Mercury, 3rd August 1775, p3

St Peter’s College Opens



St Peter's College in Midgate was opened as a teacher training college for men in 1864. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott who designed many notable buildings. These including St Pancras station and the Albert Memorial in London. He was also a restorer of many churches, one of which was Westminster Abbey, where he is buried. The Midgate building is made of red brick and is a nice example of his Gothic revival style. It was enhanced, after World War II, with the addition of  a door from the bomb damaged Guildhall in London. In 1973 it was made Grade II listed. The college closed in 1914 and reopened in 1921 as a teacher training college for women. During the Second World War it was the American Red Cross Club, a centre for American servicemen in the city. One notable visitor was actor Clark Gable! After the war it was once again a training college for men. For a brief time it was use for training men and women, before it closed in 1950. In 1952 Perkins Engines bought the building and converted it into offices, renaming it Peterscourt. In its time it has also housed the Peterborough Development Corporation and, after a refurbishment in 1984, continues to be offices today. References: Secret Peterborough by June & Vernon Bull, Amberley Publishing, 2018.  


Frederick Sage & Co Come to Peterborough



It was in 1910 that Frederick Sage & Co. Ltd,  an expanding company of shopfitters and woodworkers, opened a large factory in Walton. The position of the factory, close to the Great Northern railway ensured easy transport of its finished products. In the First World War the company branched out into the making of aeroplanes, initially under sub-contract, making a sea plane, the Short 184, but later designing and building their own aircraft. After the end of the First World War the company closed down its aircraft design department and returned to cabinet making and shop fitting, having prestigious commissions from, amongst others, Harrods, Selfridges and Peterborough Town Hall!  During the Second World War they again turned to aircraft production, building forward fuselages for Airspeed Horsa gliders, and after the war again returned to their original products. The Walton factory left the ownership of Sage & Co. in 1936. During the Second World War it became the Royal Ordnance Factory, making air launch torpedoes. Perkins Engines used the factory from 1957 for twenty two years. The site later lay unused for many years until it was demolished in 2010, except for its Grade II listed water tower. References: Secret Peterborough, Bull, June & Vernon, Amberley Publishing, 2018  

Towering Over Wothorpe



Wothorpe Towers is a grade 1 listed building on the edge of the Soke of Peterborough. It was commissioned by Thomas Cecil of Burghley House in around 1600 as a lodge. Being so close to Burghley Park, it did not have its own deer park, as many lodges do. The land was originally in the ownership of Crowland Abbey and a small nunnery existed there. Following the reformation the land was gained by Richard Cecil, who was Groom of the Robes in Henry VIII's court and Thomas Cecil's grandfather. Sadly, the building is completely ruinous. The four towers thankfully remain and provide the building with its distinctive silhouette. They are four stories high, which allowed them to stand above the three-storey house. However the main living space has all been lost, with the exception of a central spine wall and a few additions. The ruins of Wothorpe Towers is in private ownership, but the gardens are being landscaped for visitors.

Lolham Bridges Rebuilt



Lolham is a tiny hamlet close to Maxey and West Deeping. The few houses that exist sit close to King Street, a Roman road, which runs North to South through Lolham. King Street passes over Maxey Cut, The Welland and a few ditches at this point, which has meant several bridges were needed. Lolham Bridges are grade II* listed structures. There are five bridges in the listing, the earliest of which has the date 1642 on the Western side. An inscription reads: 'These several bridges were built at the general charge of the whole County of Northampton in the year 1652.' (1) However, the inscription might be slightly misleading because a record in Northamptonshire Archives references 'a trial about the responsibility to repair Lolham Bridge in 16668/9' (2). They were later restored in 1712 and 1916 (1), suggesting either flood damage or poor workmanship. Given that people would have been using that route for nearly 2,000 years it is not surprising that there are earlier references to bridges at Lolham. Indeed, one of the earliest references is in 1408 in a writ in which 'a meadow to the west of Lolham Bridge' was valued at 11s 8d (11 shillings and 8 pence) (3). Lolham Bridges are accessible from the north on a one-way road. However, there are no parking places close-by, or footpaths, so accessibility is challenging.
(1) Listing number 1365654, (2) Northamptonshire Records Office QSR 1/52 (3) J. L. Kirby, 'Inquisitions Post Mortem, Henry IV, Entries 603-654', in Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem: Volume 19, Henry IV (London, 1992), pp. 215-234. British History Online [accessed 26 November 2018]. Photo credit: Stone bridge at Lolham, near Bourne, Lincolnshire cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Rex Needle -