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Foundation of the First Abbey



A monastery was founded on the current Cathedral site on the north bank of the River Nene in Saxon times. At that time the area was called Medeswell, later Medehamstede. This translates as 'the home or farmstead in the water meadows'. The monastery was founded by Peada, son of King Penda of Mercia. It was completed by Peada’s brother Wulfhere. At that time Mercia was a pagan Saxon kingdom, but as part of a marriage contract with neighbouring Christian Northumbria, Christian missionaries were allowed to found a religious house here. The original monastery may have been built of timber, but seems to have been later replaced in stone. These original monks were Celtic Christians.

The Arm of St Oswald



A monk from Peterborough Abbey stole the arm of St Oswald from Bamburgh Castle and took it to his abbot at Peterborough in an effort to gain favour. Oswald was a convert to Christianity and King of Northumbria from 634 to 642. He spent much of his early life in exile, but when he returned to fight for his throne, he raised a cross and prayed for victory. Oswald won the battle and ruled as king of Northumbria until his death. While Oswald was king, he became known for his piety and generosity. During the celebration of an Easter feast, he supposedly gave away all the silver plates along with the food to the poor. The chronicles say his chaplain; Bishop Aidan blessed Oswald, saying “may this arm that has been so generous never perish”. When Oswald died in battle against King Penda of Mercia in 642, his arm was taken to Bamburgh where it remained uncorrupted. The arm remained the primary relic of Peterborough and the chapel of St Oswald still has a watch-tower where the monks safeguarded it day and night. St. Oswald’s arm disappeared from the chapel during the reformation along with its silver casket.    


Death of St Kyneburgha



Saint Kyneburgha or Kyneburga was the daughter of Saxon King Penda of Mercia. She converted to Christianity and founded an abbey for both monks and nuns in Castor in the 7th century, becoming the first Abbess. She died 15th September 680 AD and was originally buried in Castor. She was moved to Peterborough Abbey and later still to Thorney Abbey and is remembered on her feast day on 6th March.

The Earliest Recorded Girls’ School in th...



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