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Bridging the Gap

1716

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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.”





Resources

A Fox Hunt Through the City

1843

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One plucky fox garnered its own special mention in the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal in 1843. The paper recounted how a fox hunt had started in Norwood, which was open country between Paston and Eye, and from there took a remarkable journey. The riders and dogs chased the fox from Norwood to Fengate and then to Boongate. From there the fox fled into the cathedral grounds, but finding no salvation, continued on to Bridge Street. It hurried along Bridge Street, crossing over the bridge to Fletton, where it tried to hide in the parsonage of Rev. Edward Theed. Sadly, there was no one home, so the fox was flushed out and the chase was over. It's thought that between 200 and 300 people were there to see the spectacular chase. Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, November 1843





On the Roman Road System

100-200AD

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The Antonine Itinerary was a catalogue of the road network in England and Europe during the second century. It recorded the names of important towns and the distance between them. This would have been useful information to anyone travelling through the country, in particular any military troops. Durobrivae, the Roman town at Water Newton, has its first reference in the Antonine Itinerary. It was part of Route 5, a journey from London to Carlisle. It was recorded as the stop between Cambridge and Ancaster, being 35 miles from Cambridge and 30 miles from Ancaster.





‘Our Journey’ Launched

2018

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'Our Journey', the digital timeline for Peterborough was launched on 8th June 2018, during the year of 'Peterborough Celebrates', commemorating 900 years since the building of Peterborough Cathedral. It aims to tell the story of Peterborough and its people and is designed to grow over time, as more and more of the people of Peterborough; individuals, groups and communities add their stories, so that it truly represents the dynamic, diverse city that is PETERBOROUGH!





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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Celia Fiennes Passed Through the City

1698

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Celia Fiennes was a prolific traveller who documented her journey around Britain on a horse. At a time when only the wealthy could contemplate travelling and when the majority of literature is written by men, Celia Fiennes' work is refreshing. Celia passed through Peterborough and much admired the cathedral and town. She wrote that the city 'looks very well and handsomely built, but mostly timber worke: you pass over a Long stone bridg. The streetes are very clean and neate, well pitch'd and broad as one shall see any where, there is a very spacious market place, a good Cross and a town Hall on the top (the Guildhall or Buttercross).' She continued her prose, describing the cathedral in great detail before her journey continued on to Wansford. Worth noting that she describes Peterborough as being in Lincolnshire and surrounded by the Lin (possibly mishearing Nin), suggesting that she hadn't taken a very good look at the city or spoken to the locals! All quotes from: Celia Fiennes, Through England on a Side Saddle, Folkcustoms.co.uk, 2016, pp130-131





An Eye for an Eye

1786

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On the 13th May 1786 Mr Robert Shelston was found dead in his yard in Eye. An inquest revealed his death had been caused by a fatal blow to the head: he had been murdered. After an investigation and conversation with several witnesses, the conclusion was made that Henry Love, also of Eye, was the perpetrator. Henry Love was found playing ninepins in Market Deeping. He was arrested and taken to the Angel Inn in Peterborough, where he confessed to the murder quite freely. (1) He went before Justice of the Peace Robert Blake on 12th July, where he was sentenced for execution on Borough Fen common the week after. Love was described as 'most astonishingly illiterate and of a sanguine disposition.' He'd also confessed to planning to rob and murder farmer Mr Richardson, also of Eye, before he'd been arrested. (2) On Friday 21st July, Henry Love walked the five mile journey from the gaol in Peterborough to Borough Fen via Eye. He was attacked by angry villagers as he entered Eye. Henry was so badly beaten that he needed support to walk to the execution tree. He was hanged from the tree and from there his body was taken to an out building overnight in Peterborough. His body was used for dissection by doctors. (3)
References
(1) Stamford Mercury, Friday 19th May 1786, p3, column 3 (2) Stamford Mercury, Friday 14th July 1786, p3, column 3 (3) Stamford Mercury, Friday 21st July 1786, p3, column 3





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





Record-Breaking Mallard Steams into Town

1938

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The growth of Peterborough in the nineteenth century was thanks to the arrival of the railways. It is only fitting then, that Peterborough was part of a record-breaking railway achievement. The East Coast Main Line that runs North to South through the city was the destination of the fastest speed achieved by a steam engine. The Mallard, an A4 class of steam locomotive, regularly travelled the route from London to Edinburgh. On July 3rd 1938 whilst heading south from Grantham towards Peterborough, it travelled faster than anyone could have hoped. It was being driven by the experienced driver Joe Duddington and Tommy Bray the fireman. Amazingly it achieved a top speed of 126mph (203kph). No other steam train has been able to achieve that speed. Tommy Bray was said to be 'grinning from ear to ear' when he arrived in Peterborough. (1) The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) had planned the event and knew that pushing The Mallard to achieve such high speeds was risky. They had a back up engine waiting in Peterborough North station, which was swapped with The Mallard. The train continued its journey on to London and The Mallard turned back towards Doncaster for some TLC. The Mallard is now part of the collection at the National Railway Museum in York.
Reference
(1) http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/features/10520647.The_day_Mallard_steamed_into_the_record_books/





Jimmy the Donkey: War hero or Super Hoax?

1943

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Jimmy the Donkey was born in the early Twentieth Century and used to raise money for the RSPCA. He is commemorated in Central park, where he was laid to rest in 1943. His journey to Peterborough, however, is either one of heroic endeavours or a great hoax. Jimmy was supposedly born in the trenches of World War I in 1916. He was rescued from No-Man's Land and adopted by the Cameronian Scottish Rifles who cared for him with their rations. He supported the soldiers by pulling and carrying what he could. So valuable was he to the regiment, that they made him a Sergeant and gave him three stripes. After the war the donkey was bought by local RSPCA inspector, Mrs Heath, who took pity on him. The Cameronians were based in Peterborough for a short while in 1920 and that was when she bought him. She wanted to give him a good life and use the war hero to raise money for the charity. They offered rides in a small carriage pulled behind Jimmy and raised a huge amount for the RSPCA until his death in 1943. However, George Wilding the son of a horse dealer, revealed that Jimmy's story had been a hoax. His father had bought the donkey and was having difficulty selling it, so he created its back story in the hope of a sale. This called into question whether Jimmy was the celebrated hero, or just an average donkey. But the donkey raised so much money for charity over the years, that he should be remembered, regardless of his birth. The memorial is accessible in Central Park every day