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Knights and a Castle



William I imposed the living of sixty knights onto Peterborough Abbey and its monastic estates in 1071. He ordered the construction of a motte and bailey castle on the north side of the monastic precincts. This  was a Norman Castle of timber and earth. The motte remains today in the Deanery Gardens as Tout (Tower) Hill, whilst many of the manors in the area given to the knights now bear their names in the villages – Helpston, Longueville, Waterville and so on.


Longthorpe Tower



A manor house was built by the Thorpe family in what is now known as Longthorpe. The tower was a later addition (about 1300), now noted for its 14th century wall paintings, the best preserved medieval wall paintings in a domestic setting in Europe.


Cnut the Great Visits Nassington



Around 1017 King Cnut, King of Denmark, England and Norway (also known as King Canute) stayed in Nassington, which was a loyal holding. He arrived with a large retinue, including Aethelric Bishop of Dorchester on Thames. King Cnut’s hall, the remains of which lay beneath the present Prebendal Manor, was discovered in 1986. After Cnut’s death in 1035 the hall continued to be owned by the succeeding kings.


Cnut’s Manor Gifted to Lincoln’s Bi...



In 1107 Henry I gave Cnut's manor at Nassington  to the Bishop of Lincoln to provide a living for the canons of the cathedral. In about 1160 Ranulf de Nassington was the first canon, or prebendary, to be appointed to Nassington.

Present Day Prebendal Manor Built



In 1200 the Anglo-Saxon wooden hall in Nassingham that Cnut had visited around 1017, was replaced by the present stone building. It is the oldest property in Northamptonshire.

Death of a Cromwell



Elizabeth Cromwell née Bourchier was born in Felsted, Essex in 1598 to a wealthy family. She is known as being the wife of Oliver Cromwell and Protectoress of England from 1653 to 1658. After her husband's death in 1658, and the restoration of the monarchy, Elizabeth was mocked and afraid for her life. She wished to escape London and had to petition Charles II to allow her to do so. Elizabeth moved to Northborough Manor to live with her daughter Elizabeth, who had married into the Claypole family. Elizabeth Cromwell died in 1665 and was buried in St Andrews Church, Northborough. The parish records state 'Elizabeth, the relict of Oliver Cromwell, sometime Protector of England, was buried November 19th 1665.' Some items from her life and more information about her can be found in her homes in Ely and Huntingdon, which are now both museums. Reference: Cooke, G.A., A Topographical and Statistical Description of the County of Northampton, Sherwood Jones and Co., via [Accessed 26 May 2018]

The Siege of Woodcroft Castle



Woodcroft Castle near Helpston was built in the 13th century as a fortified manor house with a tower and moat. During the English Civil was it was occupied by Dr Michael Hudson. He was a priest who had been the chaplain to King Charles I and was a staunch Royalist. In 1648 Hudson garrisoned Woodcroft Castle with Cavalier soldiers and attempted to get Stamford to rise up against Parliament but he failed. He was chased back to Woodcroft Castle by a troop of Roundheads. They attempted to storm the castle but they were driven off with the loss of several men. The besiegers were then reinforced by a full regiment of Roundheads who were determined to win the castle. Hudson and his men resisted bravely but it was stormed after the gates were blown in using gunpowder. The defenders retreated to the tower and Dr Hudson ended up dangling from the ramparts. When the Roundheads found him dangling they cut off his hands sending him plunging into the moat below. He was then dragged from the moat and disembowelled and his tongue cut out. His body was buried at Denton, Northamptonshire. As a grisly postscript his tongue was paraded around local towns as a trophy and a warning not to oppose Parliament!

Holy Waters Run Deep



A peculiar landscape feature in Longthorpe has been the source of several myths and tall tales over the years and debate is still ongoing as to its origins. The holywell, situated in land to the west of Thorpe Hall, is also known as St Cloud's well. It was said to have been the home of hermit St Cloud in the past. It's first reference as a holy well is from a document dated to the Abbotship of William Genge (1396-1408), although the location was referenced earlier than that. (1) The well is in fact a natural spring which was contained under a mound in the eighteenth century to form a grotto. One myth surrounding the well is that the mound contained an entrance way to tunnels that led to the Cathedral. Although the land was once controlled by the Cathedral, it is geographically impossible for a tunnel to have existed between those two sites. Similarly the myths about hermits living there cannot be true due to the date that the mound was built. The spring feeds a series of medieval fishponds, which are still in place. Again there is some uncertainty about their origin. One idea is that they were used originally by the Cathedral and later by occupants of Thorpe Hall. Another argument is that they were created by the occupants of Longthorpe Manor. This suggestion is the favoured option because the Cathedral had their own fish ponds. Although eating fish that had swum in the waters of a holy well might have appealed to the religious community.

Deer Park Created at Torpel Manor



The remains of Torpel Manor sit on the Western edge of Helpston on King Street. It is thought the first building was a wooden ring-work castle or fortified manor house, built by Roger Infans. He owned huge areas of the local countryside, but liked his house by the hamlet of Torpel the most, so he became Roger de Torpel. The early wooden building was surrounded by ditches, which still remain. There is some suggestion that it was once a motte and bailey construction, but this has been debated. The wooden building would have had a commanding position on King Street, with views over the Welland valley. It was later replaced by an impressive stone building made using local stone and slate. There was also a large deer park too, which was an important sign of wealth. The deer park was created in 1198; we know this because Roger de Torpel had to ask permission to create the park and pay a lot of money. Only the wealthy were allowed to create or own deer parks. They were built to provide a source of food and entertainment for the owners. The ability to hunt on your own land was a status symbol and a way for the rich to show off to their friends. Little remains of the buildings that were once on the grassy mounds, but there have been a number of recent projects to discover more about Torpel. This included a project with the department of archaeology and York University. The site is scheduled, but is accessible to visitors from either Helpston or Ashton along the Torpel Way route. This site should not be confused with the building remains SW of Torpel Manor, which have been referred to as Torpel Manor, Castle and hunting lodge.
Timeline for Torpel Manor Field and The Story of Torpel PDF both accessed from Photo credit cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Michael Trolove -

The Death of Thomas Deacon and the Birth of a S...



Thomas Deacon is best known by his eponymous school, but his story was one of charity. Born in 1651, Deacon was a wealthy man. He owned many lands including Willow Hall near Thorney and lived for a time in Boroughbury Manor. He was a wool merchant, as much of the gentry were in the city, profiting from wool or fleece produced in the area. As one of the Feoffees he offered wool to the poor to provide an income. The poor were able to gain money for spinning the wool, which helped them out of poverty. Upon his death in 1721 he left a gift of money known as a legacy, which would pay for an education for 20 poor boys. At that time only the rich could afford an education, so this was a generous gift.
Deacon's Legacy
Thomas Deacon's school was originally sited on Cowgate, where a blue plaque has been placed. The school remained there until 1883 when it moved to Deacon Street and later to Queen's Gardens off Park Road. Thankfully it now educates both boys and girls. The Thomas Deacon Foundation continue to offer educational opportunities in the form of scholarships at Thomas Deacon Academy. A large effigy of Thomas Deacon resides in Peterborough Cathedral amongst the good and great of the city.