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When Cow Dung Fuelled the City



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.

Tea in Werrington Tea Gardens



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.


Werrington Windmill: Sails Lost in a Storm



A mill on this site was possibly mentioned in the Doomsday book and later there is a mention of Werrington Mill in 1291. A new mill was erected about 1835 replacing a previous mill which burnt down. The original mill and its successors were wind driven; steam power was installed later. In 1912 a serious misfortune befell the mill when a pair of sails was blown off in a storm, the sails crashed through the stone boundary wall of the mill property. In 1920 the sail-less cupola was removed as it was considered dangerous. Today the mill survives as part of a private house, just off Lincoln Road, in a cul-de-sac called Sharma Leas. The cupola, on the top, was replaced in 1991 but there are no sails.

There is an interesting aside about Werrington Mill; in 1958 it was reported in The Peterborough Citizen and Advertiser that, "Post Office officials are reported to be searching for 'a village called Werrington which has a windmill'. The search began when a letter from Iowa, USA was delivered at the offices of Broadwoodwidger Urban Council, Devon. Inside was a drawing of an old mill with the caption 'The old windmill of Werrington, England, was leased in 1664 for 1094 years, It must be preserved at least until 2758'. The accompanying letter, from a Mr Wayne Harbour asked if this was correct. The Chairman of the Urban Council, Mr F Stanbury, has told the GPO that no such building has ever existed in his district, so the search is to be extended to Peterborough and Stoke-on-Trent. We can save the GPO further trouble. The Werrington is 'our' Werrington, where a mill appears to have been in existence since the reign of Richard 1; records tell of a mill and a court there in 1291, a matter of 667 years ago." Just why this letter was sent from America with a copy of the lease & photo of the mill seems a mystery. ( Rita McKenzie)



John Clare Mural Unveiled



Hundreds of motorists each day drive along Werrington Parkway between the roundabouts at Papyrus Road/Davids Lane and A15/Glinton Road B1443 (McDonalds). How many realise they travel over this mural to John Clare, unveiled on 11 September 1997. Walk along the Hurn Road heading west and before passing under the Werrington Parkway bridge you can view this artwork. Before the parkway was built, you would have been looking towards Helpston and John Clare’s open fields.


Royal Mail Centre Opens



The Royal Mail Centre at Papyrus Road, Werrington opened on 2 October 1995. Papyrus road runs parallel to the main railway line into and out of Peterborough. When looking for a name for the road it seems likely that the name of a steam engine was chosen. Steam engine no. 2750 Papyrus ran between Kings Cross and Newcastle on 5th March 1935, in a trial testing the potential of running a high speed passenger service on the east coast main line. Other roads in Peterborough, particularly near the line in Bretton, have railway links. It is also very apt because papyrus is a material for writing on as used by the ancient Egyptians. Today the road ends inside the main Peterborough sorting office. (Townsin, R.,Werrington Local History Group Newsletter 23 p13)  available in Werrington Library.

Mystery of the Girl in the Glass Panelled Coffin.



On Monday 21 May 1906 the body of a young lady was found in the Sheep Wash in Werrington. The day before had been cold & miserable but the girl had no coat or cloak. A hankie in her pocket had “F Arnold” inked on. Her attire would suggest she was a domestic servant. Suggested age 25 years. No one of this name was missing in Peterborough. The body was placed in a coffin at the Blue Bell, with a glass panel over her face.

As nobody knew who the girl was, her photograph was put in the national papers in the hopes someone would recognise her. At the last minute, just before the funeral service, her parents arrived and identified her as Miss Florence Arnold, she had been engaged as a maid in Nottingham. She had a sweet & even temper, but in March had slipped in the snow and hit her head on a mangle. This led to her feeling “queer” at times and displaying fits of bad temper. She decided to discharge herself. Her clothes had arrived home but not Florrie. The father wrote to her employer who confirmed Florrie’s departure. Mr Arnold went up to Nottingham and evidence convinced him, that of only two women booking onto the London train, one of these was his daughter. In which case she would have got off the train at Walton and walked up through Werrington village. Had she done so she would certainly have drawn attention. She was a tall girl with very dark hair and pale skin, but nobody saw her.

The police theory is of suicide during temporary insanity to which her father agreed.

However, the story doesn’t quite end there. Villagers reported hearing a motor car that night drive up the road in the direction of the sheep wash and returned a short while later. Several accounts were given about a car or cars. The police made strict investigations into the matter but attached little significance to the rumours.

Her parents removed her body for burial at Lakenheath. (McKenzie, R.,Werrington Local History Group Newsletter no.15)


John Forster, Graffiti Artist



The graffiti scratched onto the walls of the eastern end of the cathedral are numerous. They vary in size and form, but almost all contain initials or names of the artist. One of the best names to search for is John Forster, who rather enjoyed scratching his name in the walls. His letter form is rather impressive and he has had enough time to fully form his name and date it. We can assume that he enjoyed making his mark because his name appears twice on the wall of the New Building.
Where to find it
His first signature (should that be graffiti tag?!) was scratched at the north east end of the cathedral. It is dated 1687. Further east on the same wall you can find his second attempt from 1688. Rather pleasingly it is easy to see an improvement in his letter formation and a more confident signature. He used an I in place of J for John because the letter J hadn't come into use yet.
Who was John Forster?
John Forster was likely to have been a pupil of King's School, which was based in the cathedral grounds at that time. How he managed to find the time to mark his name in such detail, we will never know. We can only guess what his punishment would have been if he was caught doing it.

Saint Pega Dies



Saint Pega was the sister of Saint Guthlac of Crowland Abbey and the daughter of Mercian nobility. Her name is remembered in the village of Peakirk, or Pega's kirk, an earlier word for church. Pega created a hermitage in what is now Peakirk. The hermitage was based on the edge of the desolate fens, close to Car Dyke. From here she could guarantee a quieter life and one full of many challenges due to the boggy fens. The church of Saint Pega was built after her life, but contains the base of a Saxon cross. It also contains fragments of a monument similar to the Hedda Stone in Peterborough Cathedral. These were said to have been created in her honour. She was said to have sailed to her brother's funeral in Crowland, along the river Welland. Whilst there she cured a blind man from Wisbech. Sometime after the funeral Pega travelled to Rome. She died there in 719. It is rumoured that Pega's heart was returned to the village and kept in a box there as a relic. Her saints day in 8th January. Picture attribution: John Salmon / St Pega, Peakirk - Stained glass window

The New Lead-Free Cathedral Font Christened



According to the Cathedral registers, the font in the church was pulled down by Cromwellian troops. The registers state that it was 'puld downe, and the lead taken out of it by Cromwell's Souldyers.' A new font was ready for its first christening by November 1660. The first child to use the font was a girl named Hellen Austin on 7th November 1660. An elaborately carved font dating from the 13th century was rediscovered in 1820 in a canon's garden. It was unclear how long it had been in the garden and could possibly have been the one pulled down by Cromwell's soldiers. The lead in reference might have been an inner lining to the font. Knowing what we now do about lead, Hellen was lucky to to be the first child not to have a lead-lined christening.
W.D. Sweeting, Historical and Architectural Notes on the Parish Churches in and around Peterborough, (Whittaker and Co, 1868)
Photo credit:
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © J.Hannan-Briggs -