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Market Makes a Medieval New Town

1143

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King Stephen visited and stayed at the monastery in 1143, granting a market charter. This allowed Abbot Martin de Bec to create a new market area to the west of the monastic precincts. He was then able to bankroll the building of the new monastic church. The monks created new commercial streets around the outside, leading to the first ‘new town’ development in Peterborough and effectively the street plan which still exists as the city centre today. The market square was later infilled with St John's church and the Guildhall or Buttercross. This almost halved the market square, but provided a religious centre for the townspeople.





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The Roman Town of Durobrivae

65-450AD

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A bridge was built across the River Nene around AD 65, after which a small settlement grew to the south west of the bridge. This prospered as a market centre for trade along the important Ermine Street, the precursor to the modern A1. The town had walls around it for protection and status, and developed major public buildings where a town council met and organised local government, which had controls over roads, cemeteries, baths, water supply and all aspects of the daily life of the town. Added to the towns market importance was its rich sources of clay and iron which were the key resources of a major pottery and metal working industry. The importance of Durobrivae lies in the fact that although the town walls covered 44 acres, the industrial suburbs extended for another 450 acres making a major settlement in Roman Britain.





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Notorious Highwayman Hanged

1605

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On this day the notorious highwayman Gamaliel Ratsey was hanged. He was born in Market Deeping, the son of wealthy Richard Ratsey. Unfortunately  as a young boy he went off the straight and narrow. In 1600 he enlisted in the army which accompanied Sir Charles Blount to Ireland but his time fighting did not cure him of his wicked ways. On his return to England in 1603 he robbed the landlady of an inn at Spalding. He was caught but escaped from prison, stealing a horse. He entered into partnership with two well known thieves named George Snell and Henry Shorthose and went on to commit many acts of highway robbery in Northamptonshire (which at the time included Peterborough). Ratsey’s exploits were notorious but were also characterised by humour, generosity to the poor and daring. On one occasion, near to Peterborough, he robbed two rich wool merchants then ‘knighted’ them as Sir Walter Woolsack and Sir Samuel Sheepskin. On another, whilst robbing a Cambridge scholar he extorted a learned oration from him. He usually wore a hideous mask leading him to be called ‘Gamaliel Hobgoblin’. Ben Jonson wrote in The Alchemist (Act I, Scene 1) of a “face cut….worse than Gamaliel Ratsey". Due to his generosity to the poor and the tales surrounding him, he became something of a folk hero and was the subject of several ballads. Sadly for Gamaliel, within two years his partners betrayed him to officers of the law and  on the 26th of March he was hanged in Bedford.





Death of Variety Star Nosmo King

1949

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Mr Vernon Watson was born in Thorney in 1885, in his youth, a clerk  at Barclays Bank in Peterborough. His interest in the stage began with performances at smoking concerts and when, in 1911, he appeared at the old Empire, Leicester Square, he became an overnight success. He took part in many subsequent productions there and as a single turn on the music halls. At first he relied entirely on his voice in his imitations of the popular comedians of the day. His imitation of Wilkie Bard - exact in every way - was as remarkable a piece of virtuosity as the variety stage has produced. Among his favourite subjects were Harry Champion, Fred Emney and Frank Tunney.  His stage name Nosmo King was inspired by seeing two open doors at a music hall which had split the notice 'No Smoking' into Nosmo King.  He was later assisted by 'Hubert' - his son (Petty Officer Jack Watson) He appeared at the Embassy in Peterborough in April 1947 as Colonel Blimp in a G.I. Bride farce 'For the Fun of it' Though it was 39 years since he had been a clerk at Barclays, he still remembered his old friends in and around Peterborough. Mr Watson died at his home in Chelsea on January 13th 1949. His funeral was held at Thorney Abbey and he is buried at Thorney cemetery, with 'Nosmo King' on his headstone.    





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Outbreak of the Second World War

1939-1945

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The Second World War (WWII) was a war that lasted from 1st September 1939 to 2nd September 1945 ( though there were related conflicts which began earlier and some that went on later). The vast majority of the world's countries were involved and eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities. It included the genocide of the Holocaust, bombing that destroyed towns and cities, massacres of soldiers and civilians, starvation and disease for millions and ultimately the first use of nuclear weapons. The Allies:                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In 1939 the Allies consisted of Poland, France, the United Kingdom and dependent states, for example British India, and the independent Dominions of the British Commonwealth: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. In 1940 they were joined by the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Yugoslavia (after the German invasion of North Europe). In June 1941 the Soviet Union joined after being invaded and in December 1941 the United States joined after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (though they had been providing materials before this). The Chinese had been in a prolonged war with Japan since 1937 but officially joined the allies in 1941. In 1945, the Allied nations became the basis of the United Nations. The Axis:                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Axis consisted of Germany, Italy and Japan. The Axis members agreed on their opposition to the Allies but cooperation and coordination of their activity was not great.





Cherry Fair Founded

1189

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Cherry Fair was one of the oldest fairs in Peterborough, granted by a charter in 1189 by Richard I to Abbot Benedict. It was planned to be held on or around St Peter's Feast, on the 29th June, which is why the fair was also known as St Peter's or Petermas Fair and ran for eight days. In 1572 the date of the fair was moved from 29th June to 10th July. It was traditionally held in the Market Place (Cathedral Square), but in 1899 it was held in Broadway opposite the cattle market, after dwindling visitors and a lack of interest. By 1915 it was little more than a meat market.





Last Public Flogging

1819

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Benjamin Ayres and John Wyles were both convicted of stealing malt from Edward Hall of Wansford on 21st April at the Peterborough sessions.  John Wyles was given three months imprisonment, but Benjamin Ayres, having previously been employed by Mr Hall, received three months imprisonment and was to be publicly whipped once. An account from 90-year-old Thomas White Holdich in the Peterborough Advertiser in March 1899 recounted his memories of, amongst other things, whipping or flogging in the market place. Mr Holdich claimed that the prisoner would have has hands and feet tied behind him, whilst he was pulled behind a cart, forcing him to kneel. The gaol keeper would climb onto the cart with a cat-o'-nine tails and would whip the prisoner at around 30 second intervals as they travelled around the market place.





Cnut the Great Visits Nassington

1017

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Around 1017 King Cnut, King of Denmark, England and Norway (also known as King Canute) stayed in Nassington, which was a loyal holding. He arrived with a large retinue, including Aethelric Bishop of Dorchester on Thames. King Cnut’s hall, the remains of which lay beneath the present Prebendal Manor, was discovered in 1986. After Cnut’s death in 1035 the hall continued to be owned by the succeeding kings.





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Andrew Percival Arrives in Peterborough

1833

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Andrew Percival came to Peterborough from Northampton to start his professional career. He went on to become a prominent citizen and he has left us a unique record of the transformation of Peterborough in the 19th century, his "Notes on Old Peterborough". When he arrived the population was 6,000. There were no railways; no cars; no gas; the bridge was a “shabby, ramshackle concern”. There were toll booths all round the town; barges were found in great abundance on the Nene; there were two large breweries in the centre of town; the hospital was a private house; sedan chairs flourished; Whittlesey Mere was “charming for skating”; Long Causeway was a smelly cattle market.





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Peterborough Pavement and Improvement Commission

1790

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It sounds inconsequential but the filth of Peterborough city centre was notorious. Since medieval times horses, cattle and butchers had left their mark. The stench of the organic silts was still present when archaeologists recently examined the succession of surfaces underlying today’s Cathedral Square. The Peterborough Pavement and Improvement Commission, a new organisation comprising 33 local men, effectively became the local government until 1874. They set up toll bars to raise funds. Activities such as “sale and slaughter of beasts” were restricted to specific streets; houses on either side of Minster Gate were demolished; footpaths were reserved for pedestrians; drainage was installed.





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