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Chronicle Writers (and a Wild Hunt)

1127

Information

Much of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was written at Peterborough Abbey in this period. It is one of the key sources for medieval history. Today it is preserved in the Peterborough D and E Manuscripts. Another chronicle was written here by a monk called Hugh Candidus, which tells the story of the abbey. One tale he told was of a corrupt abbot, Henry d'Angély, who was a rather godless and worldly man. He planned to loot Peterborough of its wealth. As a result a dread portent followed in the form of a spectral 'wild hunt' sent to terrorise the area. 'In the very year in which he came to the abbey, marvellous portents were seen and heard at night during the whole of lent, throughout the woodland and plains, from the monastery as far as Stamford. For there appeared, as it were, hunters with horns and hounds, all being jet black, their horses and hounds as well, and some rode as it were on goats and had great eyes and there were twenty or thirty together. Many men of faithful report both saw them and heard the horns...'    





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Market Makes a Medieval New Town

1143

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King Stephen visited and stayed at the monastery in 1143, granting a market charter. This allowed Abbot Martin de Bec to create a new market area to the west of the monastic precincts. He was then able to bankroll the building of the new monastic church. The monks created new commercial streets around the outside, leading to the first ‘new town’ development in Peterborough and effectively the street plan which still exists as the city centre today. The market square was later infilled with St John's church and the Guildhall or Buttercross. This almost halved the market square, but provided a religious centre for the townspeople.





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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”





Longthorpe Tower

1260

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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.





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Peterborough Pavement and Improvement Commission

1790

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It sounds inconsequential but the filth of Peterborough city centre was notorious. Since medieval times horses, cattle and butchers had left their mark. The stench of the organic silts was still present when archaeologists recently examined the succession of surfaces underlying today’s Cathedral Square. The Peterborough Pavement and Improvement Commission, a new organisation comprising 33 local men, effectively became the local government until 1874. They set up toll bars to raise funds. Activities such as “sale and slaughter of beasts” were restricted to specific streets; houses on either side of Minster Gate were demolished; footpaths were reserved for pedestrians; drainage was installed.





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Ptolemy’s Geographia

150AD

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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!





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Mapping the Medieval World

1120

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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

1102

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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.





Holy Waters Run Deep

1397

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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.
Reference
(1) http://people.bath.ac.uk/liskmj/living-spring/journal/issue2/dipping/rparlon1.htm#anon





Cock Fighting at the Angel Inn

1768

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With supposedly medieval origins the Angel Inn was often the centre of proceedings in Peterborough. Owned by the abbey, the inn was possibly built to provide rooms for pilgrims. This would have enabled the abbey to earn yet more money from the devout visitors to the city. As well as bedrooms, the inn earnt money holding events, which ranged from grand balls to small meetings. It was also very well-known for the cock fights it staged. Cock fighting was particularly popular during the weeks when horse racing was happening in the city. People would travel from considerable distance to enjoy a variety of sports that could be bet on, including cock fighting. This curious advert from 1768 almost appears to be written in a different language: This is to give NOTICE, THAT there will be a Main of Cocks fought at the Angel Inn in Peterborough between the Gentlemen of Lincolnshire and the Gentlemen of Northamptonshire, for Ten Guineas a Battle, and a Hundred the Main ; to shew thirty-five each upon the Main and twelve Byes. The Cocking to begin the first Day of the Race, and end on Friday. N,B. An Ordinary each Day of the Cocking
References
https://www.peterboroughcivicsociety.org.uk/plaques_blue2.php#AngelInn Stamford Mercury, Thursday 9th June 1768, p4, col 1