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Priestgate Explosion

1883

Information

On 4th May a large explosion occurred in Priestgate between the Phoenix Brewery and Angel Inn. Reports claimed that fumes from the Phoenix Brewery had mixed with sewer and coal gases. It's then thought these were accidentally ignited by a discarded cigarette.
The Explosion
The explosion was dramatic and affected both Priestgate and Narrow Bridge Street, but the effects were worse in Priestgate. Paving stones were thrown high up into the air and all of the windows were smashed in Priestgate, with more in Narrow Bridge Street. To make things worse the contents of the sewers, including thousands of dead rats, were thrown up against the buildings. People were particularly alarmed because there had been a recent threat to blow up the Cathedral. There were no records of any deaths, other than the rats, and no record of how long it took to get rid of the smell!





Image of Narrow Street

1902-1910

Information

Narrow street led from Cathedral Square past the current Town Hall to Broad Street which started near the current road crossing near TK Max. Narrow street was deemed to be far too narrow to cope with the increased traffic levels and the continuing expansion of Peterborough as an industrial city. All of the buildings on the left hand side were demolished to widen the street. As a result many old and historic buildings were lost. This image has been produced from an original postcard of the time. Publisher unknown, from the Jacqui Catling Collection.    





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Image of the Old Market Square

1902-1910

Information

The memorial fountain to Peterborough’s first Mayor, Henry Pearson Gates is clearly visible with the Cathedral in the background. Many of the buildings on the right hand side were removed in the 1930’s to widen Narrow Street. One of the new trams is also in the scene. This image has been produced from an original postcard of the time. Publisher Unknown, from the Keith Gill Collection.  





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Image of the River Nene & Broad Street

1902-1910

Information

This is a view of the River Nene looking north along Broad Street which led to Narrow Street. At this time Peterborough was an inland port receiving barges from the coast via Wisbech and Kings Lynn. The old iron bridge is clearly visible and the Customs House, which is out of view is still on the right hand side. On the left hand side today are flats and The Rivergate Centre. This image has been produced from an original postcard of the time. Publisher unknown, from the Jacqui Catling Collection.  





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Award Winning Violin Maker

1884

Information

Mr Jeffrey James Gilbert was the son of Jeffrey and Eliza Gilbert from New Romney in Kent. Jeffrey senior was a watchmaker who played the Cello and was an amateur Cello maker. By 1871 Jeffrey junior was an assistant for Whatley Paviour, a watchmaker, along Narrow Street in Peterborough. As a young man Jeffrey studied the fiddle and decided that if his father could make a Cello, he should be able to make a fiddle. Jeffrey’s father did not encourage him, as being an amateur Cello maker he knew the pitfalls. Jeffrey, however, persevered; he located the finest sycamore from Czechoslovakia and began to make his first instrument. Jeffrey continued creating violins and gradually improved until, in 1884, at the International Exhibition at Crystal Palace he was awarded a silver medal for his first exhibit. Five years later he was awarded a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Edinburgh. Jeffrey Gilbert believed that to produce a beautiful violin, firstly, you required handsome wood; secondly artistic carving of the plates and scroll; thirdly a beautiful varnish and lastly, the tone of the instrument had to be good. He became a maker of national importance, many well-known musicians owned one of his instruments and praised the fine workmanship and beauty of the tone. Jeffrey was particularly proud of the beautiful varnish and continually experimented on improving it. Mr Gilbert is described in the Directory of Beds, Hunts and Northants, 1890, as a ‘Violin maker & repairer, unequalled for brilliancy of tone & artistic finish of Bridge-street Peterborough’. By 1901 he and his family were living at 2 New Priestgate where Jeffrey had his own business, this was nationally known as the ‘Gilbert Violin Studio’.

References: -

Peterborough Standard 24 August 1928. Posh Folk: Notable Personalities (and a Donkey) Associated with Peterborough by Mary Liquorice, 1991.





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A ‘Titanic’ Loss of Life

1912

Information

In April 1912 the eleven members of the Sage family set off to start a new life in Florida as pecan farmers. Unfortunately, the boat they sailed on was the Titanic.

The Peterborough Connection

John and Annie Sage were originally from Hackney in London. They moved to Norfolk where they ran a pub, the Bentinck Arms in West Lynn. In 1902 they moved to Peterborough, and lived at 237 Gladstone Street, where they kept a small bakery and shop. In 1910 John decided on another change; he and his eldest son George went off to Canada to scout out the possibility of the family emigrating there. They worked as waiters in the dining cars of the Canadian Pacific Railway, but also found time to visit Florida. So impressed was he, that John bought a fruit farm in Jacksonville, Florida.

Preparing to Leave

On his return to Peterborough in the  autumn of 1911, the family prepared to leave England. However, not all family members were enthusiastic about the move. The Sage's eldest daughter, Stella, was loathed to leave her many friends behind, and John's wife, Annie, didn't welcome the move as she felt settled in Peterborough. She was also concerned that her daughter Dolly had narrowly escaped drowning a couple of years before and she superstitiously feared that meant she was doomed to eventually meet her end in water. John insisted on the move however, and the family finally agreed.

The Ship

The Sage family originally planned to sail on the Philadelphia, an American Line ship operating out of Liverpool. These plans had to change as the ship was laid up in dock due to a coal strike. They booked onto the RMS Titanic out of Southampton on her maiden voyage instead, as third class passengers on a family ticket, number 2343.

Disaster

On the night of 14/15 April 1912 the ship struck an iceberg, and the entire family died in the sinking. Some witnesses reported that one daughter was offered a place in the life boats but refused to go without the rest of the family. Only one body was recovered, that of Anthony William Sage. This was the single biggest loss of life from one family in the disaster. Family members: John George Sage, Annie Elizabeth Sage, Stella (born 1891), George John (born 1892), Douglas (born 1894), Frederick (born 1895), Dorothy Florence (born 1897), Anthony William (born 1899), Elizabeth Ada (born 1901), Constance Gladys (born 1904) and Thomas Henry (born 1911)