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Priestgate Mansion

1816

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The Georgian building known as Priestgate Mansion, which now houses Peterborough Museum was completed in 1816. It was created by wealthy magistrate Thomas Alderson Cooke, one of Peterborough’s most distinguished residents. The mansion was built on the site of the Tudor house known as Neville Place. It was built on top of the original building, which became the cellars of the new mansion. Some of the currently ground floor walls are possibly from the original house because of their enormous width. Priestgate mansion was originally built as a large symmetrical cube with an additional south-facing curved end. The curved end most likely contained a breakfast room to make the most of the rising sun on cold days and to enjoy the view down to the river Nene. The ground floor was designed for formal entertaining in the dining room and living room. On the first floor were the main bedrooms and on the top floor the nursery and servant rooms. There were not any bathrooms built in to the house originally, so portable water closets were used by people in the house.





Burial of Mary, Queen of Scots

1587

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On the 1st of August 1587 Mary, Queen of Scots was buried in the Cathedral, 5 months after having been executed at nearby Fotheringhay Castle. The Dean, Richard Fletcher, officiated at both her execution and her funeral. On Sunday 30 July her body was carried to Peterborough by night and placed in the Bishop’s Palace. The Funeral was held on the 1 August, with the Cathedral being hung with black and the arms of Francis II and Darnley displayed. An effigy of Mary was carried along with her emblems of state. The cortege included the Countess of Bedford, the Bishop and Dean of Peterborough, the Bishop of Lincoln and one hundred poor widows clothed in black. The Bishop of Lincoln preached the sermon. The Dean presided over the burial, and the officers cast their broken staves on the coffin. A lavish funeral banquet was held in the Bishop’s Palace. The funeral cost £321, one third of which was for food and drink! Mary was re-interred on the orders of James I at Westminster Abbey in 1613, where she was buried next to Elizabeth I.





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Excessive Heat

1884

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The weather in the second week of August 1884 was described at the time as excessive. The heat in Peterborough was recorded at 140 degrees Farenheit (60 degrees Celsius) in the sun and 90 degrees Farenheit (32 degrees Celsius) in the shade. It reached 150 degrees Farenheit in Greenwich!





The Formation of the Solar System

4.6 Billion years ago

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Our Solar System is part of the Milky Way Galaxy that contains billions of other stars. Our Sun is thought to be a third generation star created from the materials from two previous generations of stars which had reached the end of their lives and exploded sending their material out into the universe. About 4.6 billion years ago the solar system began to form within a molecular cloud, a concentration of interstellar dust and hydrogen gas. The cloud contracted under its own gravity and our proto-Sun formed in the hot dense centre. The remainder of the cloud formed a swirling disk called the solar nebula. It was within this solar nebula that beginnings of planets were born as dust and ice particles came together in a process called “accretion”. These planetesimals continued to grow, their gravity coming to influence each other’s motions causing more collisions and accretion and so creating proto-planets. This continued until there were only four large bodies in the inner solar system, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. In the cold outer nebula much larger proto-planets formed, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Our Moon was formed shortly after the formation of the Earth; the Earth was hit by an object half its size which disintegrated along with the outer layers of the Earth. The debris from this formed a ring around the Earth which accreted, clumped together, to form the Moon.





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Must Farm

800 BC

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During the later Bronze age most of the farms and settlements in this area were on the drier, flood-free margins of the wetlands, though a few were constructed over the water on wooden piles. One of these small settlements (of some ten houses) has been found at Must Farm on the western edge of Whittlesey. Around 800 BC the houses caught fire very soon after they were built (whether the fires were accidental or deliberate is still under debate) and the entire platform collapsed into the waters below. Because of the fire and the waterlogged conditions the houses collapsed into, Must Farm is a beautifully preserved  archaeological site; it has been described as the Bronze Age Pompeii as the fantastic amount of finds ( including wood, pots, food, jewellery and even fabric)  have revealed a great deal about Bronze Age life and trade. Near to Must Farm, along the channel the River Nene took in antiquity, archaeologists discovered nine intact Bronze Age log  boats, all fashioned from hollowed-out tree trunks, which were sunk over a period of 600 years. These boats are currently undergoing conservation at Flag Fen, where they are on display.





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Image of the River Nene at Sunset

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This shows a view at sunset of the River Nene near the old Customs House. The ‘old’ iron bridge, which was built in 1872, replacing a very old rickety wooden one  is in the background. This bridge was replaced in 1934 with a concrete version which also spanned the east coast railway which aided access from the south side of the river. This image has been produced from an original postcard of the time. Publisher unknown, from the Jacqui Catlin Collection.  





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Tea in Werrington Tea Gardens

1891

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A pleasant Sunday afternoon could be spent by catching the tram to Walton, which was the end of the line, and walking up Lincoln Road to Rivendale in Werrington. In 1891 Richard William Parr and his wife Ann owned Alexandra House which had uninterrupted views down to the brook. In the gardens tea could be ordered.

The original house still  stands today in a road called Rivendale, on it’s side is a shop facing onto Lincoln Rd. Houses have been built along Lincoln Road on what were once the tea gardens.







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Notes and Queries About the Fenlands

1889

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The journal 'Fenland Notes and Queries' was first published in April 1889 and printed in Peterborough by George Caster. The journal, published quarterly, was created to bring together facts and stories relating to the fens. The information was provided by a large group of contributors, many of them clergy, some women and some anonymous. The fenland area covered by the journal included the counties of 'Huntingdon, Cambridge, Lincoln, Northampton, Norfolk and Suffolk.' (1) Intended to be of interest to antiquarians, the journal also proved popular with 'others interested in the history and folklore of the district.' (2) The journal, or magazine as it was termed, was compiled into volumes, the first covering the years 1889 to 1891. In total seven volumes were created, the last completed in 1909. The first issues were edited by W. H. B. Saunders, who was succeeded by Rev. W. D. Sweeting of Maxey. Thankfully all of the volumes are available to read online and can be searched easily for places and people. There are many references to Peterborough and surrounding villages which can tell us more about life in the past. In Volume Seven the lyrics and notes are written relating to a May Day Garland Song which it was claimed was 'sung by the children when carrying the garlands round the city'. (3) The recording of songs is an often forgotten element of recording and one of the many features that makes the volumes so valuable.
References
(1) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol I, Ed W. H. Bernard Saunders, Publisher G. Caster, 1991, preface (2) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol I, Ed W. H. Bernard Saunders, Publisher G. Caster, 1991, p2 (3) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol VII Ed. Rev. W. D. Sweeting, Publisher G. Caster, 1909, p24-25





Sinking of Peterborough’s Submarine

1942

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During Warship Week at the end of 1941, Peterborough citizens “subscribed pounds & pennies" to buy the submarine HMS Olympus (at a cost of £425,000). Unfortunately, as reported in the Peterborough Advertiser she was sunk in June 1942. She had hit a mine field whist slipping out of Malta under cover of darkness. Of the 98 men on board only 9 survived. Peterborough’s War Savings Committee reported that a commemorative plaque had been received from the Admiralty. It was to be displayed on the staircase hall of the Town Hall where it was to be “hung and forever honoured in memory of the men who died.” Peterborough’s War Saving Committee was collecting £20,000 a week. Following the sinking the call was to “double this and hit back at the enemy at once.” A week later the paper was advertising that the Admiralty had allocated submarine P512 for adoption by the City in place of HMS Olympus.  A letter from the Commander Lieut. J C Ogle had been received thanking the city for the books which were sent for the comfort of the crew. The exact location of the wreck of the HMS Olympus was not known until late 2011. In May 2017 The Peterborough Telegraph reported that “a plaque was placed at the bottom of the sea where Olympus still rests, and the shore near where it sank.” Mayor David Sanders is encouraging Peterborough residents to get involved in raising money for a memorial.  





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