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Neville Place and the Ormes

1536

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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.





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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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Dissolution of the Monastery

1539

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The great abbey of Peterborough was closed and its lands and properties confiscated by the king, Henry VIII. Orders had come the previous year to get rid of any relics, and the Abbey’s collection was destroyed. In the spring of 1539, Henry called a Parliament, and legislation was passed to enable all monastic property to be conferred on the crown: all the remaining monasteries were to go. Whilst some monasteries offered resistance, and the monks were dealt with harshly, Abbot John Chambers surrendered the Abbey seal with no resistance when Henry’s commissioners arrived on 29 November 1539. Chambers received an annual pension of £266, 13s 4d. Many monastic buildings were pulled down, with lead from the roofs melted down into lead ‘sows’ for sale.





Creation of a Cathedral – and a School

1541

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To increase his control over the church in this area Henry VIII created a new bishop (the former abbot John Chambers) and Peterborough Abbey church became a Cathedral by letters patent. The foundation charter of the Cathedral, formally established on 4 September 1541, constituted a chapter of a dean (appointed by the crown) and six canons. In addition the charter established six minor canons, a deacon, sub-deacon, eight singing men, and eight choristers, two schoolmasters serving 20 scholars and six almsmen. Henry also created a grammar school in the precincts, the foundation of the King’s School.





Thorney Monastery Granted to the Earl of Bedford

1550

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The site of the medieval Benedictine monastery of Thorney was granted by Henry VIII to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, beginning a connection with the Russell family which lasted until 1910, with the current primary school still called the “Duke of Bedford School”





Old Scarlett

1594

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‘Old Scarlett’ was Robert Scarlett, parish sexton and gravedigger throughout the Tudor period. He lived to the prodigious age of 98, dying in 1594, married twice and buried Katharine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots inside the Cathedral. Amongst the hundreds of people that Scarlett buried during his lifetime was one ‘Edward the Foole’, a native of Crowland by birth and former court jester to King Henry VIII, laid to rest here in 1563. As was common practice at the time, and to allow for more burials in an already packed graveyard, the skeleton would have been exhumed some years later and the bones reburied in stacks. The image of an elderly gravedigger exhuming a royal jester’s skull might have stuck in the head of a Peterborough schoolboy, John Fletcher, the son of the then Cathedral Dean. Fletcher went on to become a noted Elizabethan playwright and worked with Shakespeare, even co-writing three plays with him, including the aforementioned ‘Henry VIII’. Is it possible that Fletcher may have suggested this scene to Shakespeare? Unfortunately ‘Hamlet’ was written between 1599 and 1601, and we have no evidence that the two men met until at least five years later, but it’s a tantalising thought nonetheless!





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The Earliest Recorded Girls’ School in th...

1753

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It is difficult to know which girls' school was definitely the first in Peterborough. The first for boys, The King's School, was founded in the reign of Henry VIII, but girls were not deemed to need educating, unless they were wealthy. They were educated in skills that were seen to make them more attractive and have more chance of marrying. In the Georgian period Dame schools started to appear. These were schools run by women to teach girls useful skills like sewing and dancing, as well as reading, writing and simple maths. The girls usually boarded with the women running the schools in large houses. Unlike modern boarding schools the number of girls would have been relatively small and dependant on the size of the building.
Bacon's Boarding School
Mrs Elizabeth Bacon was the headmistress of the first girls boarding (Dame) school in Peterborough. The first record of the school is from 1753. She ran the school until 1770 after which when Miss Searle took over as head teacher. (1) Other Dame schools included Mrs Horden's (see other entry) and a girls school run by Miss Mary Smith in 1791. (1) D.K. Shearing, Education in the Peterborough Diocese Following the 'Glorious Revolution' 1688, (unpublished PhD Thesis, University of London) p289 via http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/10018490/1/121273.pdf





Cardinal Wolsey Visits at Easter

1530

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Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was an important figure in the life and politics of Henry VIII. A well-educated man, he became an advisor to Henry. He is possibly best known for failing to annul Henry's marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Henry wished for more children and wanted marry Anne Boleyn, but divorce wasn't an option. Wolsey tried to get the marriage annulled by the Pope, but this was unsuccessful. Henry was angry that he couldn't end his marriage and Wolsey was in trouble. His failure to convince the Pope was seen as an act of treason and he was called to London to face Henry. But Wolsey's health had been deteriorating and he never made it back to London. He did, however, make it to Peterborough. Peterborough Abbey hosted Wolsey's visit at Easter in 1530. He took part in many ceremonial duties including observing Maundy Thursday. As tradition dictates, he washed the feet of 59 poor men (the same number of men as his age), this was carried out in the Lady Chapel, which no longer exists. He also handed out gifts to the men. They received '12 pence, three ells of canvas to make them shirts, a pair of new shoes, a cast of bread, three red herrings and three white herrings and the odd person had two shillings.' (1) Wolsey travelled on from Peterborough to the Fitzwilliams at Milton for a few days. His health gradually faded until he died in Leicester Cathedral on 29th November 1530. One of his many legacies was the building of Hampton Court Palace, which was taken by Henry VIII after Wolsey fell out of favour. His visit was also remembered in an iconic LNER poster advertising Peterborough, designed by Fred Taylor. A copy is on display on the top floor of Peterborough Museum.
Reference
(1) W. T. Mellors, The Last Days of Peterborough Monastery, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1950, p xviii





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Towering Over Wothorpe

1600

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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.





Maxey Castle Built

1370

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Maxey Castle was built by Sir William de Thorp around 1370 and was a small defensible castle. The castle buildings have long disappeared, but many documents relate to the house and land. There are remaining earthworks that hint at the former majesty of the site which include a moat and fish ponds. The castle, or manor, sat on an island in the middle of a large moat, which remains on three sides. A drawing exists of the castle from 1543 suggesting it consisted of a keep or tower surrounded by high stone walls and towers.  However, it was only in use for a couple of hundred years before falling into disrepair. Some of the stones may have gone to Conington and been incorporated in a castle there. (1) Documents in national and local record collections detail the leasing of lands around Maxey Castle to Richard Cecil by Henry VIII who was also 'Constable or Warden of Maxey Castle and Bailiff of the lordship of Maxey'. (2) Later the lands were leased to William Cecil by Princess Elizabeth; items leased included 'Ladiebridgclose' in Maxey and the 'greate garden of Le Marre' (3) which was part of the grounds of Maxey Castle. They originally belonged to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, who was Henry VIII's grandmother and owned many properties in the area. The site is scheduled and in private hands, so it is not possible to view the moat, which is now obscured  by trees. However, a public footpath takes walkers close to old fish ponds belonging to the castle. References:
  1. 'Parishes: Conington', in A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 3, ed. William Page, Granville Proby and S Inskip Ladds (London, 1936), pp. 144-151. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hunts/vol3/pp144-151 [accessed 23 November 2018].
  2. Northamptonshire Archives F (M) Charter/2285
  3. Northamptonshire Archives F (M) Charter/2286