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Bridging the Gap

1716

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Milton Hall was built in the 1590s to the west of Peterborough and periodic phases of work to the house and surrounding parkland continued until the 1790s. The bridge that straddles the Nene nearby was built in 1716 from Barnack stone and is a Grade II listed structure. It sits on the site of an old ferry crossing point (Gunnerswade Ferry) needed for the Barnack stone when local cathedrals were being built 900 years ago. The more modern bridge we see today, Milton Ferry Bridge, was an important transport link for those travelling onto the Great North Road from the south bank of the river, although there was a toll, with which Daniel Defoe was not pleased: “Near this little village of Castor lives the Lord FitzWilliams. His Lordship has lately built a very fine stone bridge over the River Nyne, near Gunworth, where formerly was the ferry. I was very much applauding this generous action of my lord’s, knowing the inconvenience of the passage there before, especially if the waters of the Nyne were but a little swell’d, and I though it a piece of publick charity; but my applause was much abated, when coming to pass the bridge (being in a coach) we could not be allow’d to go over it, without paying 2s. 6d. of which I shall only say this, That I think ‘tis the only half crown toll that is in Britain, at least that I ever met with.”





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Start of the Nene Park Story

1968

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Prior to the creation of Nene Park, there were very few recreational green spaces in Peterborough. In 1968, a year after the New Towns Act, the Peterborough Development Corporation was established and land from the Embankment in the city centre to Wansford, seven miles west, was purchased from landowners including Earl Fitzwilliam. Gravel extractors Amey Roadstone approached the Corporation and negotiations began to ensure that the resulting lakes were planned and landscaped carefully for the best possible visitor experience. Plans also included space for car parking, a water sports centre, a lake specifically for water sports and facilities including a café and shop.





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Roman Industrial Surburbs of Normangate Field

70-450AD

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The area to the south of Ailsworth and Castor villages is known as Normangate Field. It was the site of extensive Roman pottery and metal working workshops. The Roman road of Ermine Street runs through the area. It can be seen today as a massive bank of earth concealed underneath several hundred years of repeated road surfacing. The potteries here gave their name to the distinctive Roman pottery known at Castor Ware. Interpretation from 2018 has revealed that the Normangate Fields contained a complex and thriving community. The location of the fields put the pottery and metal workers in an excellent position. They were near the Praetorium, Durobrivae and Rive Nene for water-based transport. Also, not only were they straddling Ermine Street, but King Street too. It is possible that King Street was once much more important than Ermine Street based on the location of the workers.





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Food Machinery Company Moves to Peterborough

1904

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In 1904 Werner Pfleiderer and Perkins established a new factory close to the railway on Westwood Bridge Road (now Westfield Road). The factory was built to manufacture bakery and chemical machinery. They relocated from London to make use of the excellent transport links, which still draw companies to Peterborough today. A further tranche of employees relocated from the Willesden factory in 1933. This was a strong move and the company grew to be one of the most respected suppliers of specialist process equipment worldwide. The company went on to become Baker Perkins and later Perkins Engines. Throughout the 20th century Baker Perkins was a major Peterborough employer. Anyone who can recall the 'Perkins Fortnight' will remember how quiet the city was whilst Perkins employees were on holiday! The business moved to its current state of the art facility beside Paston Parkway in 1991. The previous site in Westwood was demolished and Peterborough Prison now occupies the site, although some listed buildings remain. It has the capacity to produce 500,000 engines per year and around 2,500 people are employed there. The Peterborough factory is part of a network of factories, which are located as far away as America and Singapore.





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Founding of Perkins Engines

1932

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Perkins engineering was founded in a small office in Peterborough, UK, in 1932. It was founded by two men, Frank Perkins and Charles Chapman; Frank a superlative salesman and Charles an engineering genius. Their focus was on the diesel engine and their belief that it could revolutionise the motor industry with high performance and low running costs. Peterborough was the perfect place to start the business as it had excellent transport links and so could ensure rapid delivery of products. Its first high-speed diesel engine was the 4 cylinder Vixen followed by the  more powerful version, the Wolf. With its success in the motor industry it expanded into the agricultural industry. During the Second World War Perkins was instrumental n its production of diesel engines for the war effort. In 1947, production was moved to the Eastfield site in Peterborough.  





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The London Brick Company

1877

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Peterborough benefitted from a type of clay that provided an ideal raw material for brick making – first exploited by the Romans, abandoned after they left and again revived in the 1400’s by local craftspeople who created the material for building locally. In 1877 James McCallum Craig bought a property at auction near Peterborough, known as Fletton Lodge. He decided that the site was ideal for local brick making and started a small company. When excavation of the surface clay at Fletton began, a much harder clay was found deeper down, the unique Lower Oxford Clay. It was locally known as the ‘Fletton’ because of its original place of manufacture, but its main market was in London, transported there on the Peterborough to London rail line, so giving the name London Brick. The end of the First World War in 1918 brought a huge demand for London Bricks to fulfil the massive increase in house building and in the late 1920s there was an amalgamation of several small companies into a larger, more efficient company, London Brick. By 1931, 1,000 million bricks a year were being produced. After World War II there was another building boom and this increased the success of the company; demand for bricks far outstripped supply and by the early 1950s many workers were being recruited from as far afield as Italy to satisfy the need for London Bricks.





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Last Use of the Sedan Chair

1864

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Peterborough was one of the last places in the country using sedan chairs for transport around the city, as described by Andrew Percival in his 'Notes on Old Peterborough'.





Body Snatching!

1828

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Body snatching was a fairly common practice in the 18th century and 19th centuries. Doctors were in need of human corpses to study, but these were in short supply since the common religious belief at the time was that the body must remain intact for the Day of Judgement. Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses for anatomical purposes in Britain was those condemned to death and dissection by the courts.  Body snatchers (or resurrection men) were the entrepreneurs who filled the demand! Interfering with a grave was only a misdemeanour at common law, not a felony, and therefore only punishable with a fine and imprisonment rather than transportation or execution, so the lucrative trade was worth the risk. In Peterborough the first instance of body snatching was in 1828. It happened in Cowgate cemetery which used to stand at the top of Cowgate (it was completely removed in the 198os with the development of Queensgate Shopping Centre). One evening a cart was seen outside the cemetery with two men loading suspicious sacks onto it. The alarm was raised and the men fled, with a cart-chase ending near Norman Cross, where the men abandoned their getaway cart with its grisly cargo and fled over the fields. Body snatching continued to be a problem until about 1860. To prevent it relatives would watch over the graves and guard huts were set up in the cemeteries, one of these from Eye cemetery can be seen in Peterborough Museum.    





Car Dyke Creation

60AD

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Car Dyke is a vast canal approximately 85 miles long stretching from the River Witham south of Lincoln to Waterbeach near Cambridge. There is a huge amount of uncertainty about when the canal was built, or its use, but it was present in the Roman period.
Theories
The canal follows the western edge of the fenland, hugging the 6m level, which was also thought to be the edge of the Iron Age coastline. The two main theories regarding the canal are that it was used for transportation, or for drainage. There is some suggestion that it was in place in the Iron Age, but there is little to support this theory. An alternative theory is that it marks a boundary line between large Roman Imperial estates to the west of the fen edge and Boudiccan tribes in the east. This idea would date the structure to as early as 60AD.
Where Can I View Car Dyke?
Car Dyke is still extant in several places in and near Peterborough. Frank Perkins Parkway follows the line of Car Dyke for several miles before it gets to Eye, where it turns sharply to the west and continues along the edge of Paston, Gunthorpe and Werrington until it reaches Peakirk. From Peakirk much of the canal is only discernible using crop marks, regaining its structure again in Lincolnshire. Much of the visible structure is scheduled, but can be walked along. Some of it exists within private property and cannot be accessed.





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