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Peterborough Revolts!

1381

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An assault was made on the monastery by local rebels during the Peasants’ Revolt. The rebels were put down by the intervention of troops commanded by the Bishop of Norwich, as described in a contemporary account by Henry Knighton: “Likewise at Burgh (Peterborough) the neighbours and tenants of the abbot rose against him and proposed to kill him – which they would have done without redress had God not laid his restraining hand upon them at the last moment. For help came in the shape of Lord Henry Despenser, bishop of Norwich, who arrived with a strong force. He prevented the malefactors from carrying out their aims and scattered the mob, paying them back as they deserved. Sparing no one, he sent some to death and others to prison. Some were struck down with swords and spears near the altar and others at the church walls, both inside and outside the building. For the bishop gladly stretched his avenging hand over them and did not scruple to give them final absolution for their sins with his sword”  





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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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Opening of Peterborough’s Library

1906

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Though a free public library had been open in the city since 1893, it was realised that a purpose-built library was required. Negotiations occurred in August, 1903 between the Mayor, George Keeble JP, and Andrew Carnegie, the Scots-American steel magnate, millionaire and philanthropist, which resulted in the latter contributing the “handsome sum” of £6000 towards a new, central library. A newspaper report stated that the new library “will almost certainly be built on the ‘Stanley’ property.” This could be a reference to a piece of land owned by William Proctor Stanley, a local businessman. The new building on Broadway was opened on May 29th.1906 by Andrew Carnegie, who was later entertained to lunch by the Mayor, Thomas C Lamplugh JP in “the spacious upper room” of the library. Carnegie was also given the Freedom of the City of Peterborough; the first person to receive that particular honour. In turn, the 1906 library was superseded by the current premises which opened on July 2nd. 1990. References: Peterborough Standard, August 1903; Peterborough Standard, June 1906; Peterborough Advertiser, June 1906.





People Living in Tudor Peterborough

1544-1546

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Thanks to the Churchwardens Accounts of St John's Church in Peterborough, we know some of the people living in the city in Tudor times. The church recorded how much rent was paid on property and who paid it. Most of the names are of men, but there are some women. Some people are only recorded by their surname. A few of the names seem rather odd to modern eyes because they are spelt very differently to today, so alternatives are given. The four districts recorded relate to streets or areas that you might not recognise today, so their modern equivalent is provided. Dogsthorpe was included as a district, but has been missed off this list. Prestgatt (Priestgate) Fraunces (John Francis), Edward Bellamy, Elexaunder Mylner (Alexander Milner), Joanne Fletcher, Robart Pynnyng (Robert Pinning), Agnys Coper (Agnes Cooper), Sawnder (Alexander?) the labourer Markettsted (Cathedral Square) William Haw, George Spenser, Thomas Whyght (White), [Mistress Baley deleted], Sir William Bell, Allys Padman (Alice Padman) Hygatt (Bridge Street) Bygges Wyffe (Bigge's wife), John Houndysley (John Houndesley), John Pattenson Westgatt (Westgate) Wylkynson (Wilkinson), Joanne Cosson, William Farssett (possibly Farcet) Bowngatt (Boongate) John Monesty, The Myller (Miller)  
Reference
W. T. Mellows (ed.), Peterborough Local Administration Chruchwarden's Accounts 1467-1573 with Supplementary Documents 1107-1488, Northamptonshire Record Society, 1939





Death of John Thompson, Builder and Renovator

1897

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The John Thompson saga starts in about 1820 when his father (also called John Thompson) came to Peterborough to carry our restorations to Peterborough Cathedral. With his stonework skill and his associate, Francis Ruddle’s woodworking skills the firm gradually took off.  He died in 1853 and John Thompson (Jr) took over and by 1860 he was constructing major buildings and restoring Cathedrals. At its peak the firm employed over a 1000 men. His success was such that he was Mayor of Peterborough four times! After his death the firm was carried on by his sons, so the John Thompson story involves more than just one man. In later years the firm of John Thompson (and associated companies) specialised in the provision of Church artefacts and furniture such as: altars, pews, lecterns, screens, war memorials, grave goods, organ cases, pulpits, clergy seats, desks, stools and alter rails, many fine examples of this work can be found in St Johns Church in Peterborough. The firm also built private houses and continued to build major projects but to a smaller scale (from about 1914) until in 1931 the firm went into voluntary liquidation and finally ceased trading in 1938. A quote from The Architect and Contract Reporter for 10th February 1888 says of the firm's work: ‘It is not only the structural work which is undertaken, but sculpture in wood and stone. Everything is done to ensure purity of style. Casts, photographs and drawings of the finest models are obtained, and the workshops at Peterborough are undoubtedly a most excellent art school’. The Peterborough archive houses the John Thompson archive, consisting of over 1400 photographs plus other documents. These clearly demonstrate the very special work of John Thompson and his associates. Projects include: Restorations of Cathedrals
  • Peterborough (Central Tower and West Front)
  • Lincoln
  • Rochester
  • Chester
  • Winchester (carried out major restorations including working with a diver to underpin the main walls which were about to collapse).
  • Hereford
  • Ripon
  • Litchfield
  • Bangor
  • Coventry (before it became a Cathedral)
Restoration of Churches
  • St Johns Peterborough
  • Paris: construction of the tower and spire to the American Cathedral
  • Orton Longville Church
  • Cromer Church: extending the Nave.
Plus many others New Build Churches
  • St Marks Peterborough
  • Tower of St Mary’s Church Peterborough
  • St Barnibus church Peterborough
  • St Pauls Church Peterborough
These are just the Peterborough churches, there are at least 50 others spread throughout the country Secular Projects
  • Glasgow University (two phases)
  • Selwyn College Cambridge
  • St Peters Training College Peterborough 1863
  • Extensions to the Infirmary (now Peterborough Museum)
  • Royal College of Music Kensington
  • Kings School Peterborough
  • Lonely Anzac Memorial
  (Research work done by Andrew Cole)  





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Death of Edmund Artis

1847

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Early Life: Edmund Artis was of humble origins, the son of a carpenter, born in 1789, in the small village of Sweffling in Suffolk. At the age of 16 he moved to London to work with his uncle in the wine trade. He then opened a confectionery shop. His life was changed when one of his confectionery creations, used as the centre-piece at a dinner party, caught the eye of Earl Fitzwilliam. Fitzwilliam invited Artis to join his staff at Milton Hall near Castor, then in Northamptonshire. Despite having little formal education Artis was a very able and competent man, this was recognised and within three years he became House Steward with the responsibility of running Milton Hall. Interests: Artis was a man of broad interests, among them painting, natural history and geology but he is most remembered as an antiquarian (one who studies the past and artefacts associated with it).  In the 1820s, whilst living at Milton Hall, he conducted many excavations of Roman sites in the surrounding area including the town of Durobrivae and the Praetorium (palace) at Castor. Unusually for the time he not only uncovered sites and objects, but carefully recorded them. The Durobrivae of Antoninus: This book, published in 1828, contains engravings of the careful plans and illustrations Artis made of his findings, including coloured illustrations of the mosaic floors found in local villas. Unfortunately he died before the companion book of text to accompany the illustrations could be written. His scientific approach to finding and recording evidence of the past mean that he is truly one of the fathers of archaeology. Edmund Artis is buried at St Kyneburgha's church, which is built over the site of Castor Praetorium.  





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Peterborough’s Bird Man: Walter Cornelius

1923

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Looking up at the wind vane above the Lido, you might be confused by the shape. The weather vane commemorates the life of Walter Cornelius. He is possibly best known in the city for his comical attempts to fly over the rive Nene and for his amazing strength. The reason his likeness sits above the Lido is because he was a swimming instructor there in the 60's and 70's. He taught thousands of children to swim and as a lifeguard kept them safe. The weather vane was created after calls to commemorate the life of such a well-known man. Born in Latvia in 1923, Walter was quite the entertainer and successfully broke many world records. He was a strongman and daredevil too. He won the world sausage eating championship in 1966 and pushed a pea along the ground with his nose for three miles. Thankfully Walter was recorded on television. Videos of him showing his amazing strength can be found on youtube and at the East Anglian Film Archive.
Picture Credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Paul Bryan - geograph.org.uk/p/4950166






Opening of the Hippodrome Music Hall

1907

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The Hippodrome music hall opened on Broadway. In 1908 it was taken over by Fred Kelso and under his management leading stars of the time including Marie Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Vernon Watson (Nosmo King) trod the boards there. With the coming of motion pictures music hall became less popular and in 1922 the theatre was modified to show films and renamed the Palladium then later the Palace. The building was demolished in 1937 following the building of the Embassy Cinema next door. References: Peterborough Evening Telegraph, 27 July 1955; The Peterborough Book of Days, Brian Jones, The History Press 2014





First Distress Signal Sent at Sea

1909

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The first ever distress signal at sea was sent by John (Jack) Robinson Binns. Early Life: Jack was born in Brigg Union Workhouse, Lincolnshire, in 1884, but moved to Peterborough in 1885 to live with his uncle, William. He left school when he was aged 14 and gained employment as a Telegraph Clerk with the Great Eastern Railway. Unfortunately for Jack, not long after he started work he sustained serious injuries to his legs in a railway accident and spent six months recuperating in Peterborough Infirmary. He continued working for the GER but eventually left to attend the Marconi Radio Company Training School and ‘graduated’ as a ‘Marconi Man’ in the merchant marine. Heroism at Sea: After serving on board various German ships and doing a spell of shore duty in Ireland Jack joined the White Star Line as a Telegraphist (Wireless Operator). Jack was on duty on the RMS Republic in January 1909 when the liner was in collision with the Italian liner Florida in the North Atlantic. The Republic sustained serious damage but John was able to transmit a Morse code distress signal, 'CQD' (CQ being a call for any ships or land-based radio operators, and the 'D' being the all-important signal for distress), which was picked up by the Marconi Radio shore station on Nantucket Island. This signal is acknowledged to be the first ever distress signal sent at sea. The signal was re-transmitted to the SS Baltic which, together with other vessels, was able to steam to the assistance of the stricken ships, guided by the radio signals sent out by Jack who stayed at his post for nineteen hours, in the biting cold (part of the radio cabin had been ripped away in the collision leaving it open to the elements) working with crude equipment running on emergency back-up batteries. Six people died in the accident; all surviving passengers and crew from the Republic were transferred to the Florida which made it safely into port. The RMS Republic, however, was too badly damaged and sank in 40 fathoms south of Nantucket. Life After the Sinking: Jack was welcomed as a hero when he returned to New York where he was subjected to much unwanted publicity and inducements to profit financially from his experiences but these were rejected and Jack returned to England. He arrived back in Peterborough, which he considered to be his home, on Feb. 9th, where he was greeted by the Mayor and presented with a scroll of honour. Marconi presented Jack with a gold watch in recognition of his heroism.  He had suggested after the 1909 collision that every merchant ship should carry two wireless operators and this principle was incorporated into the US 1912 Radio Act. In 1939 he received a medal from the ‘Veteran Wireless Operators Association'. Jack continued his employment with the White Star Line and, in 1912, was offered a job on the company's newest liner, the Titanic. By this time, however, the young 'Marconiman' was engaged, and his American fiancee didn't want him to return to sea.  He resigned his position and went to work as a journalist in New York. Ironically, his first journalistic assignment was to report on the loss of the Titanic! Jack died of a stroke in New York in 1959. He bequeathed his gold watch, medals and scroll to the citizens of Peterborough and they are now in the possession of Peterborough Museum. References: Peterborough Archives





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