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The Arm of St Oswald

1000

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A monk from Peterborough Abbey stole the arm of St Oswald from Bamburgh Castle and took it to his abbot at Peterborough in an effort to gain favour. Oswald was a convert to Christianity and King of Northumbria from 634 to 642. He spent much of his early life in exile, but when he returned to fight for his throne, he raised a cross and prayed for victory. Oswald won the battle and ruled as king of Northumbria until his death. While Oswald was king, he became known for his piety and generosity. During the celebration of an Easter feast, he supposedly gave away all the silver plates along with the food to the poor. The chronicles say his chaplain; Bishop Aidan blessed Oswald, saying “may this arm that has been so generous never perish”. When Oswald died in battle against King Penda of Mercia in 642, his arm was taken to Bamburgh where it remained uncorrupted. The arm remained the primary relic of Peterborough and the chapel of St Oswald still has a watch-tower where the monks safeguarded it day and night. St. Oswald’s arm disappeared from the chapel during the reformation along with its silver casket.    





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Hereward the Wake

1070

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Hereward the Wake (known at the time as Hereward the Exile) raided the monastery and town with an army of Danish mercenaries, ostensibly to stop the wealth of Peterborough from falling into the hands of the new Norman Abbot. The Danes “came with many ships and wanted [to get] into the minster, and the monks withstood so that they could not come in. Then they laid fire to it, and burned down all the monks' buildings and the town, except for one building. Then, by means of fire, they came in at Bolhithe Gate. The monks came to meet them, asked them for peace, but they did not care about anything, went into the minster, climbed up to the holy rood, took the crown off our Lord's head… They took there so much gold and silver and so many treasures in money and in clothing and in books that no man can tell another…” By now the town is becoming known as ‘Burgh’ or ‘Burgh St Peter’ – Peterborough.





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Water Newton Treasure

300-410 AD

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The Water Newton Treasure is a hoard of silver vessels and plaques which forms the earliest group of Christian liturgical silver yet found in the Roman Empire. It was discovered in a recently ploughed field at Water Newton, the site of the Roman town of Durobrivae, in February 1975. The hoard was much damaged by the plough. It consists of nine vessels, a number of silver votive plaques, and a gold disc. Many of the objects in the hoard bear inscriptions of the monogram formed by the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), the first two letters of Christ's name, a symbol commonly used by early Christians. Two bowls and one plaque have longer inscriptions in Latin. One of these, on a bowl, can be translated as, 'I, Publianus, honour your sacred shrine, trusting in you, 0 Lord.' Other inscriptions give the names of three female dedicators;  Amcilla, Innocentia and Viventia, who must also have belonged to the congregation. Individual pieces in the treasure were probably made at different times and in different places, and it is impossible to establish accurately the date at which they were hidden. The treasure may have been hidden in response to specific persecution of Christians or to more general political instability.





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Award Winning Violin Maker

1884

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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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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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Olympic Gold Medal

1908

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Arthur James (Archie) Robertson won a gold medal at the 1908 London Olympic Games. Archie was born on 19 April 1879, in Harthill, Yorkshire, the son of a  Scottish doctor. The family moved to Peterborough when Archie was fourteen and he attended The King's School. He was a brilliant all round sportsman, though his original love was cycling. At the age of 25, following a cycling accident, he took up serious athletics and in 1906 he joined the Birchfield Harriers of Birmingham. In March 1908 he won the English and International Cross-Country titles and in July 1908 he came second in the 4 mile race at the AAA championship, these performances winning him a place on the Olympic team. At the 1908 Summer Olympics held in London he won a gold medal in the 3 man 3 mile team race, silver in the 3200 metres steeplechase and came fifth in the five miles event. His brother David was a member of the British cycling team at the same Olympics. Archie set the seal on his triumphant year by setting a world record for the 5000 metres in September in Stockholm. Archie retired from athletics after the 1909 season and returned to his first love, cycling. He opened a cycling and sports shop in Peterborough, which he later passed on to his son, Duncan. He died in Peterborough on 18 April 1957. Though he spent most of his life in Peterborough, his Scottish father meant he could be posthumously inducted into the Scottish Sporting Hall of Fame in 2004. References: Golden Scots: Arthur Robertson, the accidental athlete. BBC. 3 July 2012. The Peterborough Book of Days, Jones, Brian, The History Press, 2014.  





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An Olympic Gymnast (and Dancer!) Born

1989

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Louis Smith was born in Peterborough on 22 April 1989 and was educated at Arthur Mellows Village College. He is an artistic gymnast and won a bronze medal on the pommel horse at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was the first time a British gymnast had placed in an Olympic event since 1928.  There was disappointment at the London Olympics in 2012 where he fell just short of gold. He tied with Kristian Berki, but took silver for a lower execution score. At the 2016 Rio Olympics he again won a silver medal, this time finishing behind his teammate, Max Whitlock. Smith was also part of the Great Britain team that took the bronze in the men's artistic team all-around at the 2012 London Olympics. He is the only British gymnast to win Olympic medals in three separate Games, and only the second gymnast to win three successive Olympic pommel horse medals. As well as his talents in the gym he showed his versatility by winning the 2012 series of  Strictly Come Dancing.





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