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The Abbey is Re-founded



After it's destruction by vikings in 870 the monastery on the site was re-founded by the authority of King Edgar the Peaceful. Bishop Aethelwold of Winchester worked with Edgar to create a Benedictine Religious house. Aethelwold had a series of dreams and visions encouraging him to set out and re-found the abbey. He initially got lost and ended up in Oundle instead! Further visions put him on the right track and he rebuilt the abbey on its previous site. A township started to spring up to the eastern side of the monastic precincts. The whole area was bounded by a ditched and embanked burgh wall. Within a century, the monastery’s wealth increased dramatically, so it is often nicknamed ‘Guildenburgh’ – the ‘Golden Borough’.

Dissolution of the Monastery



The great abbey of Peterborough was closed and its lands and properties confiscated by the king, Henry VIII. Orders had come the previous year to get rid of any relics, and the Abbey’s collection was destroyed. In the spring of 1539, Henry called a Parliament, and legislation was passed to enable all monastic property to be conferred on the crown: all the remaining monasteries were to go. Whilst some monasteries offered resistance, and the monks were dealt with harshly, Abbot John Chambers surrendered the Abbey seal with no resistance when Henry’s commissioners arrived on 29 November 1539. Chambers received an annual pension of £266, 13s 4d. Many monastic buildings were pulled down, with lead from the roofs melted down into lead ‘sows’ for sale.

The “Great Drowning” of Thorney Fen



A large piece of Morton’s Leam, a proctective bank running along the River Nene south of Thorney, gave way leaving a gap 130 yards long and 36 feet deep.  Water rushed into the fen, and all the area for several miles was about six feet deep in water.  People fled for safety to the Abbey Church in Thorney, and also other buildings on the higher ground, and the whole area could not be farmed again until spring 1773.  It is recorded in Fenland Notes and Queries in 1893 by a local farmer, Samuel Egar.

St Leonard’s Leper Hospital Established



Founded before 1125,  St Leonard's Hospital was a leper (or lazar) house supported through almsgiving by Peterborough Abbey. Leprosy was particularly prevalent at this time though such houses also provided for other categories of ill and destitute people. St Leonard’s became known as “The Spital”. [Spital was a Middle English term used to describe a hospital or its endowed land.] It was still in existence in the 16th century and is assumed to have closed at the time of the dissolution of the monastery. It was probably located close to the northern end of Peterborough railway station with its own cemetery to the west. It gave its name to St Leonard’s Street which was the section of Bourges Boulevard which now runs past the station. Associated with the hospital was a healing spring or well which was still documented in the mid 17th century.    


The Building of the Queensgate Centre



The Queensgate Centre was designed by Keith Maplestone the Development Corporation Architect and the main contractor was John Laing Construction Ltd. Initially there were two problems. For the project to proceed five major space users were needed and the contractor had to overcome the technical difficulties of constructing a basement with approximately 1 km of walling in an area of many old buildings. Eventually all the major space users were signed up: John Lewis Partnership, British Home Stores, C and A, Littlewoods and Boots, so the project could proceed. A special method was devised to provide the basement; it was called a diaphragm wall and consisted of piling 950mm diameter bores into the ground in panels approximately 10m long and going down 13m. On the completion the soil within the wall was removed and a concrete floor, service cores and a ramp was constructed. In the spring of 1978 the project started. The site which had been partly open car parks, old factory and shop buildings was now clear and flat. The site offices were constructed against the newly moved Bourges Boulevard roundabout. Dark green hoardings with a yellow band at the top were erected around the site. The excavators and cart-away lorries arrived and began to dig the site to level, and cart away thousands of M3 of spoil from excavations which were deposited on the south side of the Longthorpe Parkway adjacent to the rowing lake. This area is now wooded and is approximately 7m higher than its natural level. Queensgate consists of four buildings. John Lewis is a reinforced concrete building constructed separately from the rest of the centre. The Malls, central area and east end (Boots) structure is all founded on bored piles and pile caps. The car parks are reinforced concrete structures. The bus station is made of structural steel and glass. The Westgate elevation (John Lewis) is clad in Williamson Cliff hand made yellow bricks including many of special shape. Long Causeway Elevation is made of white Portland limestone cladding i.e. stone sheets fixed to the structure using metal ties. The basement was excavated and a temporary scaffold bridge was provided to allow pedestrians to pass from the Westgate Arcade to Cumbergate. Reinforced concrete columns rose and stair and lift towers appeared. The concrete upper floor slabs were poured onto moulds called waffles. Brickwork began to be built and gradually Queensgate took shape and became watertight, it was time for the fitting out to take place. The malls received a marble floor, ceilings went in and glass balustrades were erected around the balconies and escalators and lifts were installed. Queensgate was opened in 1982.


Holy Waters Run Deep



A peculiar landscape feature in Longthorpe has been the source of several myths and tall tales over the years and debate is still ongoing as to its origins. The holywell, situated in land to the west of Thorpe Hall, is also known as St Cloud's well. It was said to have been the home of hermit St Cloud in the past. It's first reference as a holy well is from a document dated to the Abbotship of William Genge (1396-1408), although the location was referenced earlier than that. (1) The well is in fact a natural spring which was contained under a mound in the eighteenth century to form a grotto. One myth surrounding the well is that the mound contained an entrance way to tunnels that led to the Cathedral. Although the land was once controlled by the Cathedral, it is geographically impossible for a tunnel to have existed between those two sites. Similarly the myths about hermits living there cannot be true due to the date that the mound was built. The spring feeds a series of medieval fishponds, which are still in place. Again there is some uncertainty about their origin. One idea is that they were used originally by the Cathedral and later by occupants of Thorpe Hall. Another argument is that they were created by the occupants of Longthorpe Manor. This suggestion is the favoured option because the Cathedral had their own fish ponds. Although eating fish that had swum in the waters of a holy well might have appealed to the religious community.

Peakirk Wildlife Park Opens



Peakirk Wildfowl Park was situated to the north of Peakirk. It owes its existence in part to a natural spring on the site and the building of the adjacent railway line. The spring had provided a wetland perfect for osier beds. In the 1840s the Lincolnshire Loop railway line was constructed next to the site. Gravel was extracted from the land in Peakirk for its construction. As the gravel was extracted, small islands were left behind in the main lake. This allowed the land to be used again as osier beds. In 1957 the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust opened a wildfowl park on the site, utilising the unique landscape features of the site. It was home to around 700 water birds, some of which were exceedingly rare or endangered. At its peak visitor numbers were around 64,000 per year. By the late 1980s visitor numbers tailed off and the business was sold in 1990. In 1991 it was renamed the Peakirk Waterfowl Gardens whilst run by the East of England Agricultural Society, but it was not a successful business. It eventually closed in 2001, the birds being transferred to other parks. It is now a private home.