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St Botolph’s Church Started

1262

Information

The construction of St Botolph's Church in Longthorpe is believed to have been started in 1262, in the same century as nearby Longthorpe Tower, built by the de Thorp family . The church does not have a tower, but has an external bell cote at the western end of the church. It contains memorials to the St John and Strong families who lived in Thorpe Hall and the Ketton Stone. Rumour has it that an earlier church was founded by St. Botolph in the seventh century, but there is no evidence of this. Some of the building, however,  is thought to contain parts of an earlier eleventh century church.





Thorpe Hall Built

1653

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Thorpe Hall is a Grade 1 listed building built during the Cromwellian era between 1653 and 1658, at a time when very few stately homes were built. Oliver St. John (pronounced Sinjun) commissioned the house to be built by Peter Mills, who later helped to rebuild London after the Great Fire in 1666. Oliver St. John was a judge, politician and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas to Oliver Cromwell, whom he was related to through his second wife Elizabeth Cromwell, said to be his favourite cousin. This connection might have been advantageous in securing the land to build Thorpe Hall on. The house was built in the shape of a cube, set amongst 6 acres of walled garden. Much of the interior of the house has changed over the years, but the wooden staircase is dated from the original house build and large fireplaces on the ground floor are worthy of merit. The house has changed hands many times over the years and was at one point a boys school and a maternity home. It was bought by Sue Ryder in 1986 to be used as a hospice, with an extension added in 2015 within the old walled orchard.





Resources

When Cow Dung Fuelled the City

1698

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When Celia Fiennes travelled through the city in 1698 she noted that local people near 'Mrs St John's house' (Thorpe Hall) were using cow dung for fuel: 'as I passed the Road I saw upon the walls of the ordinary peoples houses and walls of their out houses, the Cow dung plaister'd up to drie in Cakes which they use for fireing, its a very offensive fewell (fuel), but the Country people use Little Else in these parts.'  Cow dung was a free and effective fuel for the people of rural Peterborough, but the smell would not have been popular! There had been a shortage of wood since the 1550's, so burning cow dung was a sensible alternative for the very poor who were unable to afford expensive wood supplies, or cut down their own wood. Other alternatives for fuel would have included peat, charcoal and coal, none of which were particularly pleasant on the eyes or lungs. Animal dung has been used as a fuel since prehistoric times, with evidence from the Ancient Egyptians using dung as fuel and even references to it being used in the bible. Many areas of the world use animal dung as fuel.





Holy Waters Run Deep

1397

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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.
Reference
(1) http://people.bath.ac.uk/liskmj/living-spring/journal/issue2/dipping/rparlon1.htm#anon





Internationally Famous Bell Born

1964

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Andy Bell is known around the world as one half of the pop group Erasure. He was born in Peterborough on 25th April 1964 in Thorpe Hall. He lived in Dogsthorpe and attended both Dogsthorpe Infant and Junior Schools, where he was a choir boy. His name features in the registration book for Dogsthorpe Junior School, which is held in Peterborough Archives. He moved to Kings School for his secondary education. In 1985 Bell met his Erasure partner Vince Clark and they had huge success as a pop duo. Together they sold millions of records around the world with hits which included 'Sometimes' and 'A Little respect'. He currently calls Miami home, but is still working and touring around the world. His has given mixed feelings of his time in Peterborough, claiming that he felt 'secure and safe' whilst at Dogsthorpe Junior School, but also complaining that Peterborough was one of 'the most scary places on the planet'. He is known as a gay icon for openly embracing his sexuality and discussing topics important to the gay community.
References
https://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/environment/claim-anger-over-scary-city-jibe-by-star-1-144774 www.erasureinfo.com Picture By Andrew Hurley (Flickr: Andy Bell, Erasure) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons