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Rebuilding the Central Tower

1883

Information

The central tower of Peterborough Cathedral was rebuilt for a second time in 1883. After this the whole central and eastern area of the church required refurbishment. This provided an opportunity for the creation of the fine, hand carved choir stalls, cathedra (bishop's throne) and choir pulpit. The marble pavement and high altar which are at the centre of worship today, were also created. The works led to the discovery of some of the Saxon church foundations and Roman stonework under the central tower and south transept. A tunnel was left so that these could be accessed.  





Who Helped Pay for the Cathedral Repairs?

1883

Information

On the first of January 1883, the cathedral tower was said to be in such a terrible state it was in danger of collapsing and taking the entire Cathedral down with it. The total cost of pulling down and rebuilding the tower and fixing other parts of the building was estimated at £55,000. A request went out in local newspapers for people to collect small amounts in boxes to help raise the money needed. There was also a subscription list, the head of the subscription list being none other than Queen Victoria.    





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Mount Thorold (Peterborough Castle) Destroyed

1116

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There are varying accounts regarding the building of a castle in Peterborough. Most accounts agree that it was built by Abbot Thorold just after the Norman Conquest, in response to an attack by Hereward and a large group of Vikings (Danes). It was situated north of the abbey, close to the majority of the residents of the town, and was a simple wooden castle on a motte (hill). The castle was either destroyed in a fire in 1116 with most of the town, or was pulled down by Abbot Martin de Bec when he was rebuilding and redesigning the town: it was never rebuilt or replaced. The remains of the motte exist as a small hill in the cathedral grounds and in the street name Touthill Place. It was previously known as Mount Thorold or Turold and is a scheduled monument.





Thorpe Hall Built

1653

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Thorpe Hall is a Grade 1 listed building built during the Cromwellian era between 1653 and 1658, at a time when very few stately homes were built. Oliver St. John (pronounced Sinjun) commissioned the house to be built by Peter Mills, who later helped to rebuild London after the Great Fire in 1666. Oliver St. John was a judge, politician and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas to Oliver Cromwell, whom he was related to through his second wife Elizabeth Cromwell, said to be his favourite cousin. This connection might have been advantageous in securing the land to build Thorpe Hall on. The house was built in the shape of a cube, set amongst 6 acres of walled garden. Much of the interior of the house has changed over the years, but the wooden staircase is dated from the original house build and large fireplaces on the ground floor are worthy of merit. The house has changed hands many times over the years and was at one point a boys school and a maternity home. It was bought by Sue Ryder in 1986 to be used as a hospice, with an extension added in 2015 within the old walled orchard.





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Werrington Gets its Own Vicar

1877

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Werrington was to have its own vicar upon the death of Rev J Pratt who kept the village waiting as he lived to the grand old age of 95 years. Finally in 1877, Rev C W Holdich became the first vicar. After his death his family donated a stained glass window in his memory. Werrington Church was originally a chapel of ease to Paston. Some Norman ( 11th century) parts of the church survive, notably the Chancel Arch. The rest “was in bad repair” when Rev Holdich came and most of what we see today is a result of a Victorian rebuild. There are only two other stained glass windows in the church, both are small. One depicts Elijah, the other John the Baptist to whom the church is dedicated.





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Laying of the Corner Stone

1884

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In the Peterborough Advertiser of 17th March 1933 was an article about the retirement of Mr Samuel Bird. He had worked for nearly 60 years for the Peterborough Building Contractor John Thompson. Mr Bird was interviewed by the newspaper at the age of 77. He was interviewed in his office situated in the extensive yards at the Thompson business premises in Cromwell Road. On 1st January 1883, Mr Bird took charge of the rebuilding of the Central Tower of Peterborough Minster. The work was so complex it took a total of ten years to complete. Mr Bird had vivid memories of the laying of the corner stone of the north east pier of the tower on 7th May 1884. He recalled that the chief stone was laid by the Earl of Carnarvon in the name  of H.R.H Prince Albert Edward of Wales. Mr Bird remarked ‘copies of the Advertiser and The Times together with current coins of the realm, from £1 to a silver penny, new from the mint, were placed beneath the stone. Mr James T. Irvine was the clever Architects clerk of the Works at the time’. This time capsule, presumably the first Peterborough time capsule, is still in place. After the ceremony a tea was arranged for people associated with the works. The image associated with this story is an admittance slip for the tea party.  





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St Augustine’s Saxon Wall

1000

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The parish church of Woodston is St. Augustine's. Sitting on Oundle Road behind some trees, it would be very easy to forget that the church was there. However, there has been a church there for at least 1,000 years. The first written record of Woodston church was in the Domesday Book of 1086. The church, however, dates to the period before the Norman conquest. This is evident in some of the architecture of the west tower. On the west wall of the tower is a small section of wall with a window, which belonged to a Saxon church. St Augustine's Saxon wall is typical of pre-Norman architecture with small rough stones and a small window. Thankfully the wall survived despite much rebuilding of the church. It would be incredibly difficult to date the wall remains, so it has been given the rough date of 1,000AD. This will be changed with any new information. Photo credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Mike Bardill - geograph.org.uk/p/164909





Transept Ceiling Painted

1155

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The north and south transept ceilings of Peterborough Cathedral are made of wood. The wooden boards have been placed together to form a pleasing diamond pattern, but these were never designed to be seen. The original medieval transept ceiling was completed between 1155 and 1175 on the request of Abbot William de Waterville. We know very little about the first ceiling other than the evidence of previous wooden beams. But it is thought the ceilings were divided into 12 panels and were likely to have been painted. The second transept ceiling was created in the early 13th century and crucially before the nave ceiling. It is possible the painters honed their skills on the transepts before attempting the nave ceiling. Some of the wooden boards that remain are from the 13th century, but the paint has been since removed. The paintwork appears to have followed the diamond pattern created by the boards and contained a stylised cross in the centre of the diamond. Restoration work to the ceiling revealed ghost or shadow outlines of some original shapes, from which this design was created. The ceiling was repaired and redecorated several times, which was left the residue of later painting. Several colours including black, white and brown were easily identified during restoration, but many others would have been used. A black and white image exists of the north transept ceiling prior to the rebuilding of the central tower. The image clearly shows a diamond pattern and suggests at a bold and bright design. Reference: Harrison, H, Peterborough Cathedral: The Transept Ceilings, Record of Treatment and Additional Investigations following a fire in the Cathedral on 22 November 2001, (The Perry Lithgow Partnership, 2002)