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The Norman Conquest

1066

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The Norman Conquest was the invasion and occupation of England by Duke William II of Normandy. William claimed he was the rightful heir to the childless King Edward the Confessor. This was because Edward the Confessor’s grandfather was William’s great grandfather.  However, after Edward’s death in January 1066, the throne was seized by Edward’s brother in law, Harold Godwinson.
Other Claimants
William was not the only other claimant to the throne. In September 1066 King Harald Hardrada of Norway invaded northern England because he wanted to be king. Harold marched to meet Harald and on the 25th of September 1066 Harald Hardrada was defeated and killed at Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Victory
Within days of this victory William landed in southern England and Harold had to rush to meet him. However, he left a significant part of his army in the north, which meant he did not have enough soldiers to help him. Harold’s army confronted William’s invaders on the 14th of October at the Battle of Hastings. Harold was defeated and killed in the engagement which meant Duke William became King William the Conqueror.    





King John and the Great Charter

1216

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King John stayed at Peterborough's monastery in 1216. He used it as a base of operations to attack his enemies in the region during the Civil War. The war followed his agreement to the text of the Magna Carta and then ripping up of it. He may have left a draft copy of the Magna Carta here, hence the inclusion of it in one of the monastery’s cartularies, known today as ‘the Black Book of Peterborough'. Magna Carta means Great Charter in Latin.





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Cromwell Comes to Stay

1643

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The Cathedral was ravaged during the English Civil War when Peterborough, a town with Royalist sympathies, was taken by Colonel Oliver Cromwell. Nearly all the stained glass windows were destroyed and the altar and reredos, cloisters and Lady Chapel were demolished. Much of the Cathedral’s library was destroyed by Cromwell’s troops, by being burnt in the cloisters. The Royalist newsbook ‘Mercurius Aulicus’ describes it thus: ‘It was advertised this day from Peterburgh, that Colonell Cromwell had bestowed a visit on that little City, and put them to the charge of his entertainment, plundering a great part thereof to discharge the reckoning, and further that in pursuance of the thorow Reformation, he did most miserably deface the Cathedrall Church, breake downe the Organs, and destroy the glasse windowes, committing many other outrages on the house of God which were not acted by the Gothes in the sack of Rome, and are most commonly forborn by the Turks when they possesse themselves by force of a Christian city.’  Cromwell spent a month in Peterborough, lodging in the Vineyard at the back of the Cathedral Precincts, allegedly with concussion from having hit his head whilst galloping under a low gateway. Recent archaeological evidence has been found of Cromwell’s troops being camped in the Cathedral grounds.





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WUTAC at Peterborough East Railway Station

1915

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The Great Eastern Soldier’s and Sailor’s Rest Room opened on Christmas Eve 1915 at Peterborough East Railway Station.  The rooms were managed by the Women’s United Total Abstinence Council (WUTAC), supporters of the temperance movement popular at that time. During the first nine days alone, 321 servicemen called at the tea room. They were given food, drink and an opportunity to rest in comfort whilst waiting for their trains to and from the front.  The ladies who managed the tea room encouraged the men to write in the visitors’ books, only two of which have survived from 1916 and 1917. There are over 590 signatures in the books that reveal the servicemen came from across the United Kingdom and as far away as Australia.  They wrote messages of gratitude, poetry and drew pictures expressing their appreciation for the service that the ladies were providing. These two slim volumes provide a brief insight into the thoughts and feelings of the men transiting through the city during the Great War. The books have been digitised and transcribed and the servicemen’s personal histories researched in an effort to tell their story and trace their families.





First Purpose-Built Prisoner of War Camp

1797

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The first inmates arrived at the Norman Cross Prisoner of War Camp in 1797, which was the first purpose built camp of its kind. Its location was chosen because it was within reach of London, close to the Great North Road and accessible from a river, but deemed too difficult to escape from easily. It was built primarily of timber in the style of an artillery fort and divided into quadrangles which contained barracks for the prisoners. During the Napoleonic Wars and at its height, it housed over 6,000 low-ranking soldiers and sailors from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, which dwarfed the population of Peterborough. Higher ranking and well-respected officers paroled outside the camp, mostly in Peterborough and local towns and were free to live as citizens. The camp was not designed as a correctional facility, so there was the chance for prisoners to make and sell goods locally, get access to education and entertain themselves with a theatre, drinking and gambling. All of the buildings and equipment were auctioned off in 1816 a couple of years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Many fine examples of the delicate bone, wood and straw work objects created by the prisoners to earn money can be viewed in Peterborough Museum in an interactive gallery dedicated to the Norman Cross prison.





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Outbreak of the Second World War

1939-1945

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The Second World War (WWII) was a war that lasted from 1st September 1939 to 2nd September 1945 ( though there were related conflicts which began earlier and some that went on later). The vast majority of the world's countries were involved and eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities. It included the genocide of the Holocaust, bombing that destroyed towns and cities, massacres of soldiers and civilians, starvation and disease for millions and ultimately the first use of nuclear weapons. The Allies:                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In 1939 the Allies consisted of Poland, France, the United Kingdom and dependent states, for example British India, and the independent Dominions of the British Commonwealth: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. In 1940 they were joined by the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Yugoslavia (after the German invasion of North Europe). In June 1941 the Soviet Union joined after being invaded and in December 1941 the United States joined after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (though they had been providing materials before this). The Chinese had been in a prolonged war with Japan since 1937 but officially joined the allies in 1941. In 1945, the Allied nations became the basis of the United Nations. The Axis:                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Axis consisted of Germany, Italy and Japan. The Axis members agreed on their opposition to the Allies but cooperation and coordination of their activity was not great.





‘Welcome’ to the Suffragettes!

1912

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The Great Pilgrimage was a march in Britain by suffragists campaigning non-violently for women's suffrage, organised by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).  The march finished at Hyde Park in London and women (50 000 of them) came from all around England and Wales. When the Great Pilgrimage reached Peterborough in November 1912 their welcome was not very warm! The suffragettes had planned a meeting in the Stanley Recreation Ground, even though the Chief Constable of the City had advised them to hire a hall; his advice proved wise as the meeting was stormed by young men who threw eggs and did not allow anyone to speak. The suffragettes were chased back to their headquarters at the Bedford Hotel. Mrs Fordham of Fletton Avenue, the honorary secretary of the Peterborough Branch of the Women's Social and Political Union was quoted in the Peterborough Advertiser of 16 November 2012 saying, " I am thoroughly ashamed of Peterborough boys. It was not full grown and sensible citizens who rushed our meeting, threw rotten eggs and endangered life; it was not the college boys either, but two or three hundred schoolboys of about fourteen years of age. And these are the young hopefuls who are to be given a voice in the government of their imperial motherland, so soon as they reach the mature age of twenty one, while women, however educated, sensible, wise, sedate, however wealthy in property, however hard they have to work for their living in factory, shop and home, are denied that elemental right of citizenship".





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St. John’s Church Swaps a Bell with Leice...

1541

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In 1541 the great bells of St. John's church and Leicester Abbey were swapped over. It is not clear why the bells were exchanged, but the cost of the swap is detailed in the church records. Robert Newcome received payment for weighing the bells and identifying that one was larger. A man from 'Wyttlyllsey' (Whittlesey) was paid 20p for supplying 'a gable to tacke down the olde bell and hang up the new'. But they were only bit parts in the story. The bells had to be swapped over, so it was decided that the bell from Peterborough would be driven to Leicester, where they would collect the other bell and return with it. This was 1541 though! Four men including John Gedney and Robarte Allyn set off with 10 horses pulling a cart with the bell on top. They rested for the first night in Uppingham, fixed the cart and continued to Leicester. They stayed in Leicester for several days before making the journey back, stopping again in Uppingham. In total they took eight days for their journey, fixing the cart several times. All of the costs of food and drink were paid for, as well as their accommodation. Not to mention payment for their time. John Gedney was paid 5 shillings for himself and the hire of four horses. Roberte Allen was paid 14 shillings 'for 6 horsys and 2 men for 8 days'.
References
W. T. Mellows (ed.) Peterborough Local Administration Churchwarden's Accounts 1467-1573 with Supplementary Documents 1107-1488, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1939 p145





Creation of the Earldom of Peterborough

1628

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John Mordaunt was the first Earl of Peterborough. His beginnings were not auspicious as his father was incarcerated in the Tower of London on suspicion of complicity in the Gunpowder Plot. He died in 1608 when John was 11. John was taken from his Catholic family and was made a ward of Protestant Bishop of London, George Abbot. Abbot believed the best way of dissuading him from following the same path as his father was by a good education; he was therefore educated at Oxford. After completing his education Mordaunt was invited to court, where he was a great success. Charles I created him Earl of Peterborough, by letters patent of 9 March 1628. During the English Civil War he deserted the king and fought on the side of Parliament. When he died on 8 June 1642 his son Henry, 2nd Earl of Peterborough defected back to the Royalists. John Mordaunt had the drama 'Tis Pity She's a Whore' dedicated to him by the playright John Foot. The earldom died out when the 5th Earl, Charles Henry Mordaunt died, childless, on 16th June 1814.





Birth of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

1689

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Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was born in May 1689, the eldest child of the future 1st Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull. She married, against her father's wishes, Sir Edward Wortley Montagu, who was later twice MP for Peterborough. Lady Mary is today chiefly remembered for her letters, particularly her letters from travels to the Ottoman Empire, when her husband was the British ambassador to Turkey. These witty and well observed missives, as well as her other writings demonstrate that she deserves to be better known as a great writer. Aside from her writing, Lady Mary is also known for introducing and championing smallpox inoculation (variolation) to Britain, which she had seen demonstrated during her time in Turkey. She had a great interest in the disease as she herself had suffered from it and was left badly scarred, and her brother died from it. Innoculation remained controversial and in later years was replaced by Edward Jenner's much safer technique of vaccination using cowpox rather than smallpox itself. Lady Mary died on 21st August 1762 of breast cancer having recently returned from Venice to London. Edward Wortley Montague had died the year before. Their names are remembered in the Wortley Arms, originally the Wortley Almshouse.