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John Speed’s Map



The earliest known map of Peterborough is that created by John Speed. The main city centre streets can be recognised, as can several buildings including Peterborough Cathedral and St John's church. The cross keys symbol on the top left of the map is still visible around the city today on buildings and lamp posts.


Borough Fen Duck Decoy First Mentioned



The Duck Decoy at Borough Fen has been in use for centuries, although the first reference to it was in 1670. It was originally built to facilitate the capture of ducks which were destined for dinner tables, but now it is used to help capture and ring ducks for conservation purposes. The decoy appears quite remarkable on maps: it is made of a central pond with 8 curved, narrowing arms radiating from the centre. The arms or 'pipes' were tapered and curved so that ducks could be encouraged down them and easily captured. The last known use of the decoy for its original use was in 1951.

St. John the Baptist Rebuilt



The citizens of Medehamstede, lived to the east of the abbey and what is now the Cathedral, on the edge of the fenland. After the great fire of 1116, the inhabitants were moved to the west of the abbey where the land was drier. Unfortunately they did not move the church to the west, and for several centuries the inhabitants of the town had to walk round the vast abbey grounds to reach their isolated church. This was made more difficult by flooding from streams that ran in front of the church, making attendance problematic in the winter. A petition was made to move the church to the west of the abbey, which was granted by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1402. The new church was built using stone from the old one and the Becket Chapel, as well as oak from Abbot William Genge's park. He dedicated the church to St John the Baptist on 26th June 1407. It was originally built with a large leaded spire, which was conspicuous from some distance. Unfortunately, due to instability, it was removed in the 1820s, but it can be seen in John Speed's Map, A Prospect of Peterborough and an old photograph.

Ptolemy’s Geographia



Claudius Ptolemy was born in Greece and lived in Alexandria. He was a very talented man and was credited as an astronomer, geographer, mathematician and astrologer. He created several works including a book known as Ptolemy's Geographia, which incorporated knowledge from gazetteers, astronomers and other academics to craft maps and indexes of the known world. The original book was thought to contain maps too, but all of the existing maps are from Medieval Europe. The map of the British Isles is a rather crude interpretation of the area, but it indicates the most important towns in Roman Britain. Roman Leicester (Ratae) and Caistor in Norfolk appear to be on the map and the town between them on the map might just be Durobrivae sitting by the River Nene. As one of the largest towns in Roman Britain, it should be on the map!


Mapping the Medieval World



Peterborough Abbey was the birth place of many great documents including the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, but a less well-known document in the Mappae mundi (world map) in the Peterborough Computus, also known as the Peterborough Map or Peterborough Diagrammatic Map. The map, dating from around 1120, attempts to explain the relation of counties, countries and cities within a large circle in a diagrammatic format that continues today in maps such as the London Underground map. Unlike modern maps, east is at the top of the map, with Jerusalem sitting at the centre of the world. Brittanaia (Britain) sits on the circle to the left of the circle; other recognisable names include Affrica, Roma and Nazareth. The map is held at the British Library in London and has been named as a sibling map to the Thorney Map, which in turn, was thought to have been a copy of the Ramsey Map from around 1016.  

The Thorney Computus



Medieval monasteries produced a large quantity of high-quality literature, but they also produced diagrams too. The Thorney Computus contains a world map, a diagram of the relationship between the four elements (earth, water, fire and air) and complex tables used to calculate the dates for Easter and other religious festivals important to the monastic community using a lunar calendar. The detail and complexity is outstanding, which is why it now resides in St John's College, Oxford University. This document is usually attributed to the original work of Byrhtferth of Ramsey Abbey, the Ramsey Computus predating that of Thorney. Dates calculated in the work relate to the 10th and 11th centuries when Byrhtferth was alive, suggesting this was created as an exercise, or as training for practising monks. The Peterborough Computus is almost identical and considered a sibling manuscript, it being later in date.

The Building of the Queensgate Centre



The Queensgate Centre was designed by Keith Maplestone the Development Corporation Architect and the main contractor was John Laing Construction Ltd. Initially there were two problems. For the project to proceed five major space users were needed and the contractor had to overcome the technical difficulties of constructing a basement with approximately 1 km of walling in an area of many old buildings. Eventually all the major space users were signed up: John Lewis Partnership, British Home Stores, C and A, Littlewoods and Boots, so the project could proceed. A special method was devised to provide the basement; it was called a diaphragm wall and consisted of piling 950mm diameter bores into the ground in panels approximately 10m long and going down 13m. On the completion the soil within the wall was removed and a concrete floor, service cores and a ramp was constructed. In the spring of 1978 the project started. The site which had been partly open car parks, old factory and shop buildings was now clear and flat. The site offices were constructed against the newly moved Bourges Boulevard roundabout. Dark green hoardings with a yellow band at the top were erected around the site. The excavators and cart-away lorries arrived and began to dig the site to level, and cart away thousands of M3 of spoil from excavations which were deposited on the south side of the Longthorpe Parkway adjacent to the rowing lake. This area is now wooded and is approximately 7m higher than its natural level. Queensgate consists of four buildings. John Lewis is a reinforced concrete building constructed separately from the rest of the centre. The Malls, central area and east end (Boots) structure is all founded on bored piles and pile caps. The car parks are reinforced concrete structures. The bus station is made of structural steel and glass. The Westgate elevation (John Lewis) is clad in Williamson Cliff hand made yellow bricks including many of special shape. Long Causeway Elevation is made of white Portland limestone cladding i.e. stone sheets fixed to the structure using metal ties. The basement was excavated and a temporary scaffold bridge was provided to allow pedestrians to pass from the Westgate Arcade to Cumbergate. Reinforced concrete columns rose and stair and lift towers appeared. The concrete upper floor slabs were poured onto moulds called waffles. Brickwork began to be built and gradually Queensgate took shape and became watertight, it was time for the fitting out to take place. The malls received a marble floor, ceilings went in and glass balustrades were erected around the balconies and escalators and lifts were installed. Queensgate was opened in 1982.


A Prospect of Peterborough



In the Eighteenth Century a popular purchase by the wealthy was of a view of the town or lands that they lived in. They were known as a prospect. In 1731 an engraving of Peterborough was created titled 'A South West Prospect of the City of Peterborough, In Northamptonshire.'
The View
The artwork was created by Nathaniel and Samuel Buck, two brothers from Yorkshire who specialised in topographical engravings. They created a series of interesting vistas of different areas across the country. The engraving is taken from a realistic view point, but the artist has created the scene. It includes features that cannot normally been viewed together or viewed in such fullness. It could be considered an early form of photoshopping. Some features can be found in contemporary maps and include the trees by the river and some of the buildings.
Features of the Prospect
Some of the most interesting features include Neville Place, St John's Church and the buildings near the bridge. There are no other pictures or photographs of these buildings at this time, so these are very valuable images. Peterborough Cathedral takes centre-stage in the picture and dominates the landscape. It is drawn in great detail and true to life, unlike other buildings that were drawn. This is likely to be because it is the most recognisable building in the city and the artist would be judged on how well they drew the cathedral.

Waldram Hall Recorded on a Map



Situated on a turn in the River Welland to the east of Peakirk and Northborough, Waldrum or Waldram Hall has long disappeared. It was once an important hall and was owned by William Cecil and the Fitwilliams. There is believed to have been a building on the site since the twelfth century. There are several references to the hall over the centuries, in parish records and poll books. It is also located on a map of 1543 which is stored in the National Archives. The hall's position on the Welland was at a good crossing point. A ferry service was provided by the hall across the river and up to Crowland too. This would have been the only crossing point in this vicinity on the Welland before the bridge was built in Deeping St. James. The route was said to have been used by pilgrims heading to Walsingham as this document from Northamptonshire Archives states: 'the ferme of Waldranhall above mencioned is an Inne somtime greatly frequented by pilgrymes passing to Walsingham.' (1) The hall was still in use in the first half of the Twentieth Century, when pictures and personal accounts exist. By this time the hall was an unprepossessing stone house, regarded as no more than a farm house. After the building of two bridges in the Deepings in the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the ferry at Waldram Hall fell out of use and the building was no longer a decent source of income. The construction of the railway loop line to Lincoln effectively cut off the building rendering it useless.
  1. Northamptonshire Records Office F (M) Charter/2287
D. Price, River Welland, Amberley Publishing, 2012