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The Norman Conquest



The Norman Conquest was the invasion and occupation of England by Duke William II of Normandy. William claimed he was the rightful heir to the childless King Edward the Confessor. This was because Edward the Confessor’s grandfather was William’s great grandfather.  However, after Edward’s death in January 1066, the throne was seized by Edward’s brother in law, Harold Godwinson.
Other Claimants
William was not the only other claimant to the throne. In September 1066 King Harald Hardrada of Norway invaded northern England because he wanted to be king. Harold marched to meet Harald and on the 25th of September 1066 Harald Hardrada was defeated and killed at Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Within days of this victory William landed in southern England and Harold had to rush to meet him. However, he left a significant part of his army in the north, which meant he did not have enough soldiers to help him. Harold’s army confronted William’s invaders on the 14th of October at the Battle of Hastings. Harold was defeated and killed in the engagement which meant Duke William became King William the Conqueror.    

Chronicle Writers (and a Wild Hunt)



Much of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was written at Peterborough Abbey in this period. It is one of the key sources for medieval history. Today it is preserved in the Peterborough D and E Manuscripts. Another chronicle was written here by a monk called Hugh Candidus, which tells the story of the abbey. One tale he told was of a corrupt abbot, Henry d'Angély, who was a rather godless and worldly man. He planned to loot Peterborough of its wealth. As a result a dread portent followed in the form of a spectral 'wild hunt' sent to terrorise the area. 'In the very year in which he came to the abbey, marvellous portents were seen and heard at night during the whole of lent, throughout the woodland and plains, from the monastery as far as Stamford. For there appeared, as it were, hunters with horns and hounds, all being jet black, their horses and hounds as well, and some rode as it were on goats and had great eyes and there were twenty or thirty together. Many men of faithful report both saw them and heard the horns...'    


Mrs Horden’s Boarding School



One of the first references to a school for young ladies in Peterborough comes in the form of an advert in the Stamford Mercury for Mrs Horden's Boarding School. For 14 pounds 14 shillings per year the young lady could  have board, English teaching and needlework lessons. Dancing, writing and music were, of course, an additional cost.

Peterborough Advertiser Founded



The Peterborough Advertiser was first printed in 1854, which makes it the oldest Peterborough newspaper. Peterborough news had been covered in the Stamford Mercury since the eighteenth century, but this was the first newspaper dedicated to the residents of Peterborough. First published in May of that year as a monthly paper, it was later published twice-weekly. It was merged with the Peterborough Citizen in 1946 to become the Peterborough Citizen and Advertiser.

Convictions for Short and False Reeling



From 1777 to 1791 a series out acts designed to improve the quality of woollen products were introduced in the north and east of England, known as the Worsted Acts. Peterborough was included under the East Midlands Act of 1785 and a series of convictions were detailed in the Stamford Mercury in 1789. A long list of women 'convicted for false and short reeling worsted yarns' (producing yarn of low thread and a shorter than stated length) included some from Peterborough. They were: Ann Hubard and Sarah, wife of Thomas Thompson, both from Werrington; Sarah Littledike, Alice and Mary Jackson, all from Peterborough; Elizabeth, wife of William Holmes, Hannah, wife of John Lenton, Mary, wife of John Chadbond and Catharine, wife of Thomas Bottomly, all from Eye. Newspaper reports failed to reveal what their punishments were, but Sarah Littledike was convicted of the same offence in 1791 and received one month in the bridewell.

Prosecution of a French Strumpet



In December 1843 Nathalie Miard was charged with demanding money with menace from the Rev. Herbert Charles Marsh, vicar of Barnack and prebend of Peterborough Cathedral. He had been in a relationship with Nathalie Miard in 1839 in London, and she had become pregnant. Over the next few years he paid her large sums of money, even after the child had died, and she threatened to destroy his reputation if he did not continue to pay her. The extent of their interactions and those of two other French prostitutes, were revealed in scandalous detail in local and national press, revealing every sum of money paid, every hotel they visited, and letters written by her. The news story was in all of the British newspapers and was a national discussion point. Rev Marsh first visited Nathalie Miard in London where she was said to have been an actress. He gave her money to allow her to return to Paris and visited her there shortly afterwards. Their interactions continued over the next few years, meeting together in London and Paris, each time Ms Miard demanding increasingly large sums of money.  In April 1843 she arrived in Stamford, attempting to extract more money from him, with the threat that she would go door to door to expose him to all of his parishioners and then work her way through the local and national clergy until she had informed the Archbishop of Canterbury. She stayed for some time in Barnack, appearing at church services to cause as much disruption as possible, attempting to extort 10,000 francs (£400 at the time) from his brother to start a gambling house. She also talked to his mother, wife of the late Bishop of Peterborough, George Davys, the resident Bishop, and also the Dean. In December of 1843 a prosecution was made against Ms Miard on three different charges of sending a letter demanding money, another similar offence and conspiracy to extort money with another woman. Witnesses gave examples of how Ms Miard had lied about a second pregnancy and about Rev Marsh giving her drugs to induce a miscarriage in an attempt to increase the scandal, and she had previously extorted money from a Spanish man using the same technique she was using on Rev Marsh. Yet despite the evidence, the jury of 12 men found her not guilty, possibly as a result of nine of the jurors being Dissenters. She was freed from jail on the understanding she would not harass Mr Marsh any further and would return to Paris. In 1848 Rev. Marsh married a Belgian woman named Elise Sidonie Pouceau and was shortly after admitted to a mental institute in Belgium, then Paris and eventually England. His brother George Marsh was successfully able to get him declared insane on 12th June 1850.

Last Public Execution



David Thompson Myers was the last man to be publicly executed in Peterborough, hanged on 11 May 1812 at Fengate. He was born in 1771 in Cumberland but moved to Stamford where he was a milliner and draper. Early in 1812 he was arrested and charged with 'unnatural offences' (i.e. homosexuality, at that time a crime) with a boy named Thomas Crow. On 11 March 1812 he was tried at the Lincolnshire assizes and acquitted on all charges as the only witness was the boy Crow, who was held to be of a generally bad character, and to be a liar. Unfortunately for Myers, he was then taken to Peterborough and tried again, for another instance of the same crime with the same boy, said to have been committed in Burghley Park. This time, sadly for Myers' life expectancy, there were several respectable corroborating witnesses, and he was found guilty and sentenced to death. This was the era of the ‘Bloody Code’ where over 200 'crimes' had the death penalty, including homosexuality. A petition to the Prince Regent from his uncle, Rev John Myers was unsuccessful, and after being held in the Abbot's Gaol, he was hanged before a crowd (according to the Stamford Mercury) of 5,000 people, 1,500 more than the total population of Peterborough at the time! His confession to the crime was printed up and sold as a souvenir.        


The Siege of Woodcroft Castle



Woodcroft Castle near Helpston was built in the 13th century as a fortified manor house with a tower and moat. During the English Civil was it was occupied by Dr Michael Hudson. He was a priest who had been the chaplain to King Charles I and was a staunch Royalist. In 1648 Hudson garrisoned Woodcroft Castle with Cavalier soldiers and attempted to get Stamford to rise up against Parliament but he failed. He was chased back to Woodcroft Castle by a troop of Roundheads. They attempted to storm the castle but they were driven off with the loss of several men. The besiegers were then reinforced by a full regiment of Roundheads who were determined to win the castle. Hudson and his men resisted bravely but it was stormed after the gates were blown in using gunpowder. The defenders retreated to the tower and Dr Hudson ended up dangling from the ramparts. When the Roundheads found him dangling they cut off his hands sending him plunging into the moat below. He was then dragged from the moat and disembowelled and his tongue cut out. His body was buried at Denton, Northamptonshire. As a grisly postscript his tongue was paraded around local towns as a trophy and a warning not to oppose Parliament!

An Eye for an Eye



On the 13th May 1786 Mr Robert Shelston was found dead in his yard in Eye. An inquest revealed his death had been caused by a fatal blow to the head: he had been murdered. After an investigation and conversation with several witnesses, the conclusion was made that Henry Love, also of Eye, was the perpetrator. Henry Love was found playing ninepins in Market Deeping. He was arrested and taken to the Angel Inn in Peterborough, where he confessed to the murder quite freely. (1) He went before Justice of the Peace Robert Blake on 12th July, where he was sentenced for execution on Borough Fen common the week after. Love was described as 'most astonishingly illiterate and of a sanguine disposition.' He'd also confessed to planning to rob and murder farmer Mr Richardson, also of Eye, before he'd been arrested. (2) On Friday 21st July, Henry Love walked the five mile journey from the gaol in Peterborough to Borough Fen via Eye. He was attacked by angry villagers as he entered Eye. Henry was so badly beaten that he needed support to walk to the execution tree. He was hanged from the tree and from there his body was taken to an out building overnight in Peterborough. His body was used for dissection by doctors. (3)
(1) Stamford Mercury, Friday 19th May 1786, p3, column 3 (2) Stamford Mercury, Friday 14th July 1786, p3, column 3 (3) Stamford Mercury, Friday 21st July 1786, p3, column 3

The First Auction at the Bull Hotel



Situated on Westgate, the Bull Hotel is the oldest existing inn or hotel in the city centre and is grade II listed. It is believed to have been built in the late 18th century and was known as the Bull Inn. There is, however, a chance that an older structure exists within the present building. The main entrance to the building was originally an entrance for coaches and carts. The entrance led into a courtyard where there was also stabling for horses. The building has been enlarged and improved over the years, so the courtyard is no longer there. A story exists of a dog who was run over in the courtyard and whose spirit never left the hotel. The earliest reference found relating to the Bull Inn in the Stamford Mercury is from 1775. There was an advert relating to the sale of land and buildings by Simon Hubbard by auctions. Auctions were common at the Bull and items included property, furniture and animals. They also held meals and meetings for the aristocracy and other events. Many celebrities have stayed at the hotel, including The Beatles. The most infamous was possibly Archdeacon Wakeford who visited in 1920. He was at the centre of a court case claiming he had stayed at the Bull Inn on two separate occasions with a woman who wasn't his wife and therefore leading an immoral life. He was found guilty, later failing in an appeal.
Stamford Mercury, 3rd August 1775, p3