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Expanding Settlements in the Nene Park Area

800BC-43AD

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During the Iron Age, tribal culture began to take hold and people needed to defend their territory against their rivals. The tribe which held the Nene Valley, the Corieltauvi, may have had allegiances to the large and powerful tribe to the south, the Catuvellauni, but we don’t know about their other neighbouring tribes. The settlement within Nene Park (mainly on what is now Coney Meadow at Ferry Meadows) became more defensive, as we can see on geophysical survey results. Ditches almost a kilometre in length were built across a meander in the River Nene, so that the settlement would be protected on all sides. The Iron Age is also when we can first start to see similarities between how people lived then and now: the Celts wore linen and dyed wool, used coins as currency and enjoyed continental luxuries, including Roman wine.





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Later Bronze Age Population

1500-800 BC

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By 1500 BC the lower Nene Valley and Fen-edge regions of Peterborough had become one of the most prosperous landscapes in prehistoric Britain, fertile and rich in resources. The local population was well into the thousands and there were tens of thousands of cattle and sheep grazing the elaborately arranged field systems around the Fen margins. Most of the farms and settlements were on the drier, flood-free margins of the wetlands, but a few were constructed over the water on wooden piles, such as the one at Must Farm.  





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Peterborough East Station Opens

1845

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Opening on the 2nd of June 1845, Peterborough East was the first railway station in Peterborough, built by the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR). It linked Peterborough with the London and Birmingham Railway. It was located on Station Road just off the Town Bridge south of the River Nene. A section of the now defunct railway line to Northampton still survives as the Nene Valley Railway. It was closed to passenger traffic in June 1966. With the arrival of the railway a new age began for Peterborough, it was the catalyst for turning a small market town into the city we know today.





A Spy in Our Midst

1982

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Peterborough has hosted several production companies for a variety of film and television productions, two of which were for James Bond films. The first, filmed in 1982, was Octopussy with Roger Moore, where Nene Valley Railway transformed into Karl-Marx-Stadt and formed the backdrop to a thrilling carriage-top fight through the local countryside. The second, in 1995, was Goldeneye with Pierce Brosnan. The film crew utilised the old British Sugar sugar beet factory in Woodston and again the Nene Valley Railway near Castor.





Bagley’s Bells of Castor

1700

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Castor Church sits in a commanding position over the Nene Valley. It has a rich history with enviable Roman, Saxon and Norman construction within the building. Evidence of the Roman Praetorium and Saint Kyneburgha's church are easy to identify. What is not as easy to see, but easy to hear, are the church bells. There are eight in total, six of which date from 1700. They were inscribed by the name of the bell founder Henry Bagley who lived in Ecton, Northamptonshire. Two bells declare 'Henry Bagley of Ecton Made Me 1700' and two repeat the statement in Latin. The other two are a mixture of Latin and English, the Tenor bell declaring 'I to the church the living call and to the grave do summon all.' Henry Bagley was a master bell founder and the second Henry Bagley. He also holds the honour of being the tutor of Henry Penn, Peterborough's well-known bell founder. The two newest bells were installed as millennium commemorations. One is inscribed 'Untouched I am a silent thing, but strike me and I sweetly sing.' We can imagine that Henry Bagley would be happy with that sentiment.





Mill Hill Villa

350

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Mill Hill is an area to the south east of Castor, near to the river Nene. It sits within a rich landscape of Roman archaeological remains due to its proximity to Durobrivae. A Roman villa was discovered on Mill Hill which had evidence of a courtyard, mosaic flooring and hypocausts. The villa is high status and shares some similarities with other villas nearby. It appears that high status villas were built close to the river Nene and Durobrivae, but lower status villas were further away from the valley and more rural. Edmund Artis was the local antiquarian who first uncovered the villa. He drew his interpretation of the area, which comprised several buildings with sizeable walls. He made detailed illustrations of the mosaic flooring, which contain a striking checker board pattern. Artis' plans were first published in 1823 after excavation in 1822. Later analysis has revealed the mosaic was created by a guild of local mosaicists who operated in the mid to late fourth century and crafted mosaics in Durobrivae and in what is now Lincolnshire.  





Ailsworth Roman Villa

200

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Several villas are found very close to Durobrivae including one in Ailsworth. According to Pevsner, Ailsworth Roman Villa is 'S W of the station beside the Nene, c. 1/2 m upstream of the ford.' The station no longer exists, although the train line is still in use as the Nene Valley Railway. Searching south west of the crossing provides the correct location. Pevsner claims that the villa had 'hypocausts, mosaic floor, and further tessellated pavement [and] seems to have been similar to that of the villa at Apethorpe (Northamptonshire). It also sounds remarkably similar to the villa a very short distance away on Mill Hill. It was only partly excavated by Edmund Artis in the Nineteenth Century, so very little is known about the villa. Reference: Pevsner, N., Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire, (Yale University Press, 1968) p204





Sennianus Fired a Mortarium

175

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A fabulous fragment of Roman pottery was discovered in Water Newton. It is a piece of a mortarium, which is kitchen ware used for grinding and pounding food. This piece is remarkable because of the painted text near the rim of the pottery. The text was likely to have been painted by the potter who made the pot. His name was Sennianus and he lived in Durobrivae. We know this because he painted 'Sennianus Durobrivis Urit', which is Latin for 'Sennianus of Durobrivae fired this.' This is a very valuable piece of pottery because there are very few references to the name Durobrivae. This is the only British example of the name Sennianus, but a German funerary stela also bares the name. The stone object was discovered in Cologne in 1650, is mid third century, and can be seen in the link provided. The height of the pottery making industry at Durobriave was in the late 2nd century (175-199AD). Pottery created around Durobrivae is known as Nene Valley Ware. The most common type of Nene Valley Ware is colour-coated ware, which has distinctive white decoration on a black coloured pot. However, the mortarium that Sennianus created was a light brown colour. It was designed to be used in the kitchen, so did not require elaborate decoration.  





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Cunoarus’ Stamped Mortarium

175

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The Roman town of Durobrivae sat on the south bank of the river Nene near Water Newton and Castor. On the northern banks of the river was a densely-packed industrial area which centred on pottery and iron production. The area produced grey wares, colour-coated wares and kitchen wares which included mortaria. The mortaria were much thicker pieces of pottery designed for pounding and grinding. They were used to grind food, but also paints, makeup and other items. Pestles were usually made from wood and therefore do not survive with the mortaria. One piece of Nene Valley mortarium was found with the stamp of its maker on the rim or flange. Stamped mortaria are very common and found in large numbers from locations including St Albans (Verulamium) and Vindolanda. What makes the stamped mortarium from Durobrivae important is that it refers to Durobrivae. The stamp reads 'Cunoarus Vico Duro' in Latin, which translates to 'Conoarus of the vicus of Durobrivae'. A vicus was a name used for a large village or small town in Roman Britain. No date has been given to the mortarium, but the height of the pottery making industry at Durobraivae was in the late 2nd century (175-199AD). A stamped mortarium can often be dated but Cunoarus does not have any other surviving stamped pieces that we know of.





Lynch Farm Fort

44AD

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The area known as Lynch Farm has mainly been incorporated into Ferry Meadows. Three separate archaeological digs have looked at the features hidden under the ground under Coney Meadow. They have revealed extensive prehistoric activity which suggest a small oppidum (fortified town). Furthermore there is evidence to suggest that a small Roman fort was built there. Lynch Farm Fort was built within the boundary of the possible oppidum and was in use at about the same time as Longthorpe Fort. Longthorpe Fort sits on higher ground to the east, whereas Lynch Farm Fort sits lower in the valley. It is also a short distance from the fort at Waternewton, which was a key crossing point over the River Nene. The close proximity of the forts may have been a tactical response to conquer the area from local tribes. This is because the River Nene and its valley was a rich resource and important for travel purposes. It is also believed that a road crossed north to south past the fort. It forded the river close to where Ferry Bridge is nowadays, linking with another road by Longthorpe Fort. The area is scheduled, but can be enjoyed whilst visiting Ferry Meadows.