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Bridging the Gap

1716

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Milton Hall was built in the 1590s to the west of Peterborough and periodic phases of work to the house and surrounding parkland continued until the 1790s. The bridge that straddles the Nene nearby was built in 1716 from Barnack stone and is a Grade II listed structure. It sits on the site of an old ferry crossing point (Gunnerswade Ferry) needed for the Barnack stone when local cathedrals were being built 900 years ago. The more modern bridge we see today, Milton Ferry Bridge, was an important transport link for those travelling onto the Great North Road from the south bank of the river, although there was a toll, with which Daniel Defoe was not pleased: “Near this little village of Castor lives the Lord FitzWilliams. His Lordship has lately built a very fine stone bridge over the River Nyne, near Gunworth, where formerly was the ferry. I was very much applauding this generous action of my lord’s, knowing the inconvenience of the passage there before, especially if the waters of the Nyne were but a little swell’d, and I though it a piece of publick charity; but my applause was much abated, when coming to pass the bridge (being in a coach) we could not be allow’d to go over it, without paying 2s. 6d. of which I shall only say this, That I think ‘tis the only half crown toll that is in Britain, at least that I ever met with.”





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The Death of Thomas Deacon and the Birth of a S...

1721

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Thomas Deacon is best known by his eponymous school, but his story was one of charity. Born in 1651, Deacon was a wealthy man. He owned many lands including Willow Hall near Thorney and lived for a time in Boroughbury Manor. He was a wool merchant, as much of the gentry were in the city, profiting from wool or fleece produced in the area. As one of the Feoffees he offered wool to the poor to provide an income. The poor were able to gain money for spinning the wool, which helped them out of poverty. Upon his death in 1721 he left a gift of money known as a legacy, which would pay for an education for 20 poor boys. At that time only the rich could afford an education, so this was a generous gift.
Deacon's Legacy
Thomas Deacon's school was originally sited on Cowgate, where a blue plaque has been placed. The school remained there until 1883 when it moved to Deacon Street and later to Queen's Gardens off Park Road. Thankfully it now educates both boys and girls. The Thomas Deacon Foundation continue to offer educational opportunities in the form of scholarships at Thomas Deacon Academy. A large effigy of Thomas Deacon resides in Peterborough Cathedral amongst the good and great of the city.





A Prospect of Peterborough

1731

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In the Eighteenth Century a popular purchase by the wealthy was of a view of the town or lands that they lived in. They were known as a prospect. In 1731 an engraving of Peterborough was created titled 'A South West Prospect of the City of Peterborough, In Northamptonshire.'
The View
The artwork was created by Nathaniel and Samuel Buck, two brothers from Yorkshire who specialised in topographical engravings. They created a series of interesting vistas of different areas across the country. The engraving is taken from a realistic view point, but the artist has created the scene. It includes features that cannot normally been viewed together or viewed in such fullness. It could be considered an early form of photoshopping. Some features can be found in contemporary maps and include the trees by the river and some of the buildings.
Features of the Prospect
Some of the most interesting features include Neville Place, St John's Church and the buildings near the bridge. There are no other pictures or photographs of these buildings at this time, so these are very valuable images. Peterborough Cathedral takes centre-stage in the picture and dominates the landscape. It is drawn in great detail and true to life, unlike other buildings that were drawn. This is likely to be because it is the most recognisable building in the city and the artist would be judged on how well they drew the cathedral.





A Hill in the Middle of Peterborough!

1736

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For some time during the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the market place in Peterborough was known as Market Hill. The earliest reference from the papers is an advert from 1736 for the letting of 'An old-accustom'd Grocer's Shop... situate upon the Market Hill in Peterborough'. A reference to the Talbot Inn from 1774 states it is 'on the market hill'. This continued until an 1898 reference to J. A. Bingham, Auctioneer of Market Hill, Peterborough. Currently the area is known as Cathedral Square. Cambridge and Chatteris still use the word for their market places. It certainly is an odd choice of word for towns in areas with little or no hills! Source: Stamford Mercury, Thursday 5th August 1736, page 4, col 1





The Earliest Recorded Girls’ School in th...

1753

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It is difficult to know which girls' school was definitely the first in Peterborough. The first for boys, The King's School, was founded in the reign of Henry VIII, but girls were not deemed to need educating, unless they were wealthy. They were educated in skills that were seen to make them more attractive and have more chance of marrying. In the Georgian period Dame schools started to appear. These were schools run by women to teach girls useful skills like sewing and dancing, as well as reading, writing and simple maths. The girls usually boarded with the women running the schools in large houses. Unlike modern boarding schools the number of girls would have been relatively small and dependant on the size of the building.
Bacon's Boarding School
Mrs Elizabeth Bacon was the headmistress of the first girls boarding (Dame) school in Peterborough. The first record of the school is from 1753. She ran the school until 1770 after which when Miss Searle took over as head teacher. (1) Other Dame schools included Mrs Horden's (see other entry) and a girls school run by Miss Mary Smith in 1791. (1) D.K. Shearing, Education in the Peterborough Diocese Following the 'Glorious Revolution' 1688, (unpublished PhD Thesis, University of London) p289 via http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/10018490/1/121273.pdf





Cock Fighting at the Angel Inn

1768

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With supposedly medieval origins the Angel Inn was often the centre of proceedings in Peterborough. Owned by the abbey, the inn was possibly built to provide rooms for pilgrims. This would have enabled the abbey to earn yet more money from the devout visitors to the city. As well as bedrooms, the inn earnt money holding events, which ranged from grand balls to small meetings. It was also very well-known for the cock fights it staged. Cock fighting was particularly popular during the weeks when horse racing was happening in the city. People would travel from considerable distance to enjoy a variety of sports that could be bet on, including cock fighting. This curious advert from 1768 almost appears to be written in a different language: This is to give NOTICE, THAT there will be a Main of Cocks fought at the Angel Inn in Peterborough between the Gentlemen of Lincolnshire and the Gentlemen of Northamptonshire, for Ten Guineas a Battle, and a Hundred the Main ; to shew thirty-five each upon the Main and twelve Byes. The Cocking to begin the first Day of the Race, and end on Friday. N,B. An Ordinary each Day of the Cocking
References
https://www.peterboroughcivicsociety.org.uk/plaques_blue2.php#AngelInn Stamford Mercury, Thursday 9th June 1768, p4, col 1    





The “Great Drowning” of Thorney Fen

1770

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A large piece of Morton’s Leam, a proctective bank running along the River Nene south of Thorney, gave way leaving a gap 130 yards long and 36 feet deep.  Water rushed into the fen, and all the area for several miles was about six feet deep in water.  People fled for safety to the Abbey Church in Thorney, and also other buildings on the higher ground, and the whole area could not be farmed again until spring 1773.  It is recorded in Fenland Notes and Queries in 1893 by a local farmer, Samuel Egar.





Mrs Horden’s Boarding School

1774

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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.





The First Auction at the Bull Hotel

1775

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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.
Reference
Stamford Mercury, 3rd August 1775, p3





Saved by the Bells

1727-1781

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Living on Westgate in the Mansion House, Matthew Wyldebore was Peterborough’s MP. He lost his way in the Fens in the dark and fortunately heard the bells from St. John’s Church and was able to find his way home safely. To give thanks to the church he bequeathed £1 for the bell ringers to ring the bells on the anniversary of his death and for the vicar to give a sermon to give thanks for his safe return home. He died on 15th March 1781 and the bells still ring on that date to remember him.





An Eye for an Eye

1786

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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)
References
(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





Convictions for Short and False Reeling

1789

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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.





Peterborough Pavement and Improvement Commission

1790

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It sounds inconsequential but the filth of Peterborough city centre was notorious. Since medieval times horses, cattle and butchers had left their mark. The stench of the organic silts was still present when archaeologists recently examined the succession of surfaces underlying today’s Cathedral Square. The Peterborough Pavement and Improvement Commission, a new organisation comprising 33 local men, effectively became the local government until 1874. They set up toll bars to raise funds. Activities such as “sale and slaughter of beasts” were restricted to specific streets; houses on either side of Minster Gate were demolished; footpaths were reserved for pedestrians; drainage was installed.





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John Clare, Poet

1793-1864

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John Clare, the poet, was born in Helpston on 13th July 1793 and became one of our leading environmental poets. Despite having had little education he went on to write over 3500 poems. His poems are very descriptive of the wildlife, the people and the way the people lived in the rural 19th century villages. The works were created by a man who lived and worked in that environment and was able to relate to his surroundings. His first book of poems, 'Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery' was published to great acclaim in 1820, he went on to have three more books printed. He left Helpston in 1832 to go to Northborough, from where he went into High Beech mental asylum in Epping in 1837. He walked home, back to Northborough in 1841, taking 4 days. Later in 1841 he was sent to Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, now St Andrews, in Northampton. This is where he died in 1864. His body was brought back to Helpston, where he is buried in the churchyard.





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An Immense Icy Flood

1795

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In February 1795 a large flood affected many parts of the country, due to a combination of thawing snow, ice and torrential rains. Peterborough's story reads like something out of a Hollywood movie: "We learn from Peterborough that the flood in that neighbourhood is so immense as to threaten several villages. The ice had formed a complete bank across the coast, from the South bank to the North bank, and consequently stopped the current of water. A gentleman there, however, at the risk of his life, contrived to dispel the ice by gunpowder, contained in oilskin bags, in the execution of which he was assisted by two barges; but he had the misfortune to be left upon a large shoal of ice; the boats being driven away, it was impossible for any person to render him assistance, and in this dangerous situation, with the momentary apprehension of the ice separating, he floated down to Whittlesea bridge, and then jumped to one of the pillars, which was expected every minute to give way. From this situation he was released by some men who put off in a boat to save him. Soon after this the South bank gave way; and so terrific was the effect, from the shrieks of the multitude near it, and the explosion so tremendous, that the noise was heard by persons stationed four miles below the spot. The number of lives lost has not been ascertained: the damage exceeds calculation."1 Other information relating to the flood suggested that 30,000 acres of Deeping Fen were flooded and that many bridges had been damaged or destroyed, including those of Wansford and Northborough which 'blew up'! Peterborough's wooden bridge was saved.
  1. Northampton Mercury, Saturday 21st February 1795, p3, column 4






J M W Turner’s Painting of Peterborough C...

1795

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The painting of Peterborough Cathedral from the North by the artist Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was first exhibited in 1795. Turner made sketches for this and other works showing the cathedral, during his 1794 Midlands tour.  This small watercolour is typical of the popular topographical imagery that was engraved for magazines during the period. Whilst the cathedral is the dominant feature of Peterborough Cathedral from the North, the foreground figures of local women going about their daily lives add a sense of scale and harmonious order to the scene.  Turner’s viewpoint also suggests the compactness of the city and its closeness to its surrounding countryside during the 1790s.





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Dean Peter Peckard Dies

1797

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Peter Peckard was the intellectual father of the movement for the abolition of the Slave Trade. Born in Lincolnshire in 1717, he attended Oxford University, served as vicar to several local parishes, and was an army chaplain for the Grenadier Guards. Peckard was an outspoken liberal, and by the 1770s spoke out in his sermons against the Slave Trade. In 1778 he published a pamphlet anonymously entitled ‘Am I not a Man and a Brother?’ articulating the arguments against the evils of slavery. The title of the pamphlet and the image on its front page became iconic for the abolitionist movement and were even used on china produced by Josiah Wedgewood promoting the anti-slavery cause. Peckard became master of Magdalen College in Cambridge in 1781, becoming Vice-Chancellor three years later. He started an essay competition for students on the subject of ‘Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting?’ The first winner was Thomas Clarkson, inspiring him on his path to become one of the leading activists in the abolitionist movement. In 1792 Peckard was appointed as Dean of Peterborough Cathedral, a position he retained until his death five years later. He died fifteen years before the Slave Trade was outlawed in 1807.





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First Purpose-Built Prisoner of War Camp

1797

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The first inmates arrived at the Norman Cross Prisoner of War Camp in 1797, which was the first purpose built camp of its kind. Its location was chosen because it was within reach of London, close to the Great North Road and accessible from a river, but deemed too difficult to escape from easily. It was built primarily of timber in the style of an artillery fort and divided into quadrangles which contained barracks for the prisoners. During the Napoleonic Wars and at its height, it housed over 6,000 low-ranking soldiers and sailors from France, Belgium and the Netherlands, which dwarfed the population of Peterborough. Higher ranking and well-respected officers paroled outside the camp, mostly in Peterborough and local towns and were free to live as citizens. The camp was not designed as a correctional facility, so there was the chance for prisoners to make and sell goods locally, get access to education and entertain themselves with a theatre, drinking and gambling. All of the buildings and equipment were auctioned off in 1816 a couple of years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Many fine examples of the delicate bone, wood and straw work objects created by the prisoners to earn money can be viewed in Peterborough Museum in an interactive gallery dedicated to the Norman Cross prison.





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Last Public Execution

1812

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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.        





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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.





The Loss of a Wonderful Image

1817

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Judith Image was the daughter of Reverend John Image and his wife Mary. She was baptised on 12th February 1775 in St. John's Church, Peterborough, by her father. She was one of at least seven children born to the Images, most of whom died in infancy. Her father was vicar of Peterborough, so the family lived together in the rectory, which was in Priestgate. Fortunately Judith, or Julia as she was often known, survived to adulthood and married well. Her husband was Thomas Alderson Cooke, who was originally from Salford in Lancashire. Together they had 12 children, 10 of whom survived into adulthood. The family are best known as the residents of what is now Peterborough Museum. Thomas commissioned the building of the house on the most impressive site in the city, which just happened to be opposite the old vicarage, Judith's childhood home.
Tragedy
Sadly Judith died after only a few months of living in the mansion. Her death was unexpected and a terrible loss to both her husband and 10 children. She was remembered in an inscription: Judith Cooke, wife of Thomas Alderson Cooke, Esq., and daughter of the late John Image, clerk, many years vicar of this parish, whose virtues she inherited, on the 15th February 1817 and in the 42nd year of her age, she was so suddenly snatched from a numerous and affectionate family, whose consolation under so heavy an affliction is the humble confidence that she is taken to a region where pain and sorrow are known no more. She was buried next to her children Mary Caroline and Thomas Henry, who both died at 6 months old in 1800 and 1806 respectively. She was joined later by Thomas' third wife Mary Joanna (died 1825) and Thomas himself in 1854. All of the Cookes were buried in Cowgate Cemetery which was located where the Crescent Bridge roundabout is now located. All the remains were moved to Broadway Cemetery.





Last Public Flogging

1819

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Benjamin Ayres and John Wyles were both convicted of stealing malt from Edward Hall of Wansford on 21st April at the Peterborough sessions.  John Wyles was given three months imprisonment, but Benjamin Ayres, having previously been employed by Mr Hall, received three months imprisonment and was to be publicly whipped once. An account from 90-year-old Thomas White Holdich in the Peterborough Advertiser in March 1899 recounted his memories of, amongst other things, whipping or flogging in the market place. Mr Holdich claimed that the prisoner would have has hands and feet tied behind him, whilst he was pulled behind a cart, forcing him to kneel. The gaol keeper would climb onto the cart with a cat-o'-nine tails and would whip the prisoner at around 30 second intervals as they travelled around the market place.





A Highwayman in Dogsthorpe

1821

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A highwayman stopped a farmer on Lincoln Road near Dogsthorpe and threatened to murder him if he didn’t pay up. Another traveller happened to be passing on horseback and together with the farmer gave the highwayman ‘a thorough thumping’. The farmer beat him with his own bludgeon and the traveller whipped the clothes off the highway man's back before letting him go, so badly beaten they hoped it would mend his ways.





Charles Kingsley’s Childhood Home

1824

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Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) was born in Devon, the son of Reverend Charles Kingsley, but spent much of his childhood in Barnack, where his father was the rector. The family lived in Barnack Rectory, now renamed Kingsley House in their honour. He was said to enjoy the natural landscape around Barnack and took inspiration from it for his later literary works. He attended Bristol and Helston Grammar Schools and later studied at King's College London and Magdalene College Cambridge before becoming a clergyman. He is best known for his literary works, of which there are a many. His most popular include Westward Ho! (1855) and The Water Babies (1863).





Body Snatching!

1828

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Body snatching was a fairly common practice in the 18th century and 19th centuries. Doctors were in need of human corpses to study, but these were in short supply since the common religious belief at the time was that the body must remain intact for the Day of Judgement. Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses for anatomical purposes in Britain was those condemned to death and dissection by the courts.  Body snatchers (or resurrection men) were the entrepreneurs who filled the demand! Interfering with a grave was only a misdemeanour at common law, not a felony, and therefore only punishable with a fine and imprisonment rather than transportation or execution, so the lucrative trade was worth the risk. In Peterborough the first instance of body snatching was in 1828. It happened in Cowgate cemetery which used to stand at the top of Cowgate (it was completely removed in the 198os with the development of Queensgate Shopping Centre). One evening a cart was seen outside the cemetery with two men loading suspicious sacks onto it. The alarm was raised and the men fled, with a cart-chase ending near Norman Cross, where the men abandoned their getaway cart with its grisly cargo and fled over the fields. Body snatching continued to be a problem until about 1860. To prevent it relatives would watch over the graves and guard huts were set up in the cemeteries, one of these from Eye cemetery can be seen in Peterborough Museum.    





Andrew Percival Arrives in Peterborough

1833

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Andrew Percival came to Peterborough from Northampton to start his professional career. He went on to become a prominent citizen and he has left us a unique record of the transformation of Peterborough in the 19th century, his "Notes on Old Peterborough". When he arrived the population was 6,000. There were no railways; no cars; no gas; the bridge was a “shabby, ramshackle concern”. There were toll booths all round the town; barges were found in great abundance on the Nene; there were two large breweries in the centre of town; the hospital was a private house; sedan chairs flourished; Whittlesey Mere was “charming for skating”; Long Causeway was a smelly cattle market.





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Slavery Abolished in the British Empire

1833

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The Slavery Abolition Act 1833 abolished slavery throughout the British Empire,the Act had its third reading in the House of Commons on 26 July 1833, three days before William Wilberforce, one of the leading figures in the Anti-Slavery Society, died. This Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, expanded the jurisdiction of the Slave Trade Act 1807, making the purchase or ownership of slaves illegal within Britain and the British Empire, with the exception "of the Territories in the Possession of the East India Company", Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Saint Helena. The Act was repealed in 1998 though slavery remains illegal.





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A Fox Hunt Through the City

1843

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One plucky fox garnered its own special mention in the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal in 1843. The paper recounted how a fox hunt had started in Norwood, which was open country between Paston and Eye, and from there took a remarkable journey. The riders and dogs chased the fox from Norwood to Fengate and then to Boongate. From there the fox fled into the cathedral grounds, but finding no salvation, continued on to Bridge Street. It hurried along Bridge Street, crossing over the bridge to Fletton, where it tried to hide in the parsonage of Rev. Edward Theed. Sadly, there was no one home, so the fox was flushed out and the chase was over. It's thought that between 200 and 300 people were there to see the spectacular chase. Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, November 1843





Liberty Gaol Opened

1844

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A call was made by the Justices of the Peace for Peterborough for plans and specifications to build a new gaol for Peterborough in 1839. The Cambridge Independent Press claimed that the plans of Mr Douthorn of Hanover Street, Hanover Square, London, were chosen and the site for the new Liberty gaol was proposed to be 'at the Upper end of Westgate (known as Gravel Close)', but this was not to be the case. 1 An alternate site was suggested on Thorpe Road, but a complicated legal battle ensued over the cost of proposed new land, with the Dean and Chapter fighting the Magistrates of the Liberty of Peterborough to claim fair remuneration for the land they needed to sell them for the gaol. 2 Although the first stone was laid for the gaol in 1840, the first group of prisoners didn't move in until 1844. The first petty sessions held in the new Liberty gaol were on Saturday 23rd February 1844, but it was unpopular with the judges who complained at having to walk such a distance to the court rooms! 3         1,Cambridge Independent Press, Saturday 14th December 1839, p3, 2, Lincolnshire Chronicle Friday 17th April 1840 p4, 3, Cambridge Independent Press, Saturday 2nd March 1844, p 3,  





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Prosecution of a French Strumpet

1844

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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.





Peterborough East Station Opens

1845

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Opening on the 2nd of June 1845, Peterborough East was the first railway station in Peterborough, built by the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR). It linked Peterborough with the London and Birmingham Railway. It was located on Station Road just off the Town Bridge south of the River Nene. A section of the now defunct railway line to Northampton still survives as the Nene Valley Railway. It was closed to passenger traffic in June 1966. With the arrival of the railway a new age began for Peterborough, it was the catalyst for turning a small market town into the city we know today.





Gordon Arms Celebrations

1845

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The Earl and Countess of Aboyne, also known as the Marquis and Marchioness of Huntly, or Charles and Marie Gordon, were owners of Orton Hall in the mid nineteenth century. They were so happy with the birth of a new daughter that they celebrated with the locals in the eponymous Gordon Arms Inn. On 16th January 1845 they held a ball and supper with dancing that continued until late, no doubt for the local gentry. The day after they treated '300 or upwards cottagers and peasantry' to cake, tea, beef and plum pudding, which would have been very welcome in the dark depths of winter. The Morning Post, Monday 27th January 1845, Page 5, Column 1-2





Birth of Alfred Leeds, Fossil Dealer

1847

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Alfred Nicholson Leeds was the first person that found Leedsichthys fossil fish bones. He was a pioneer in methods of collecting and preserving fossil skeletons in the latter half of the 19th Century. For nearly half a century he devoted his leisure to recovering the remains of fossil reptiles and fishes. He collected the specimens from the brick pits in the Oxford Clay near Peterborough. By his death in 1917, Alfred Leeds had excavated and sold literally thousands of Oxford Clay vertebrate fossils. He sent his finds to museum collections in countries around the world including Germany, Sweden and the United States. His name is now in the fossil he first discovered - he is the Leeds in 'Leeds'-icthys.





The Phoenix Brewery Gets A Considerable Addition

1847

Information

The Phoenix Brewery was based at the eastern end of Priestgate, opposite the Angel Inn. It was managed by Fredrick Markby initially, before he became bankrupt. It was then sold in 1844 and continued by J. G. Atkinson, a solicitor. He advertised the sale of Guiness, as well as Stout, Pale Ale and Bitter made at the brewery, with a 25% discount given to 'The Trade'. (1) In 1847 a useful addition was made to the premises: 'a very considerable addition has been made to the brewery at Priestgate-Street, a large yard with stables and outbuildings, having been added thereto. This is an improvement in this part of the city which was much needed, and will add materially to the liveliness and business-like appearance.' (2) He continued to manage the business until it passed  to Charles Cutlack and his family. Many bottles marked with Phoenix and Cutlack have been found throughout the city and both names are synonymous with brewing in the city.
References
(1) Stamford Mercury, Fri 6th December 1844, p1, col 2 (2) Cambridge Independent Press, Sat 7th Aug 1847, p3, col 7





Death of Edmund Artis

1847

Information

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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A Jack the Ripper Victim?

1849

Information

Alice McKenzie was born at Drapers House in Priestgate in 1849, but moved to the East End of London, where it is likely that she worked as a prostitute. She was murdered at about 12.40am on Wednesday 17th July 1889 in Castle Alley, Whitechapel by a method very similar to that used by Jack the Ripper, the infamous Whitechapel serial killer. Many believe she was one of his last victims. An interview with John McCormack, the man Alice had been living with in London, stated he thought she was from Peterborough. They had been living together for about seven years and he thought she was quite respectable. This was echoed by her friend Margaret Franklin, who claimed she was also known as Alice Bryant.  





Peterborough North Station Opens

1850

Information

In 1850 the Great Northern Railway opened Peterborough North Station to service the line it was building between London and York. It was built on the site of the present mainline station. From the 1850s to the 1960s Peterborough was a nationally important railway centre with a locomotive depot and engineering works, plus 80 miles of sidings, creating many new jobs and bringing huge growth and prosperity to the city. By 1901 the railway industry employed 25% of the city's adult male population.





Cubbit’s Iron Railway Bridge Built

1850

Information

Cubbit's iron bridge (The Nene Viaduct), is a railway bridge immediately south of Peterborough railway station that carries trains across the River Nene. It was built in 1850 by father and son Sir William Cubitt and Joseph Cubitt for the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and was constructed using cast iron. It spans the River Nene in three arches. It's design and construction is of such note that it is a Grade II listed building    





Visiting the Great Exhibition

1851

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The Great Exhibition, sometimes called the Crystal Palace Exhibition due to the temporary glass building constructed to hold it, was an international exhibition that took place in Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 15 October 1851 organised by Prince Albert and Henry Cole. The magnificent building was designed by Joseph Paxton. It was very fashionable to visit the exhibition and due to the arrival of the railway in Peterborough, the city's inhabitants had the opportunity to attend. Day trippers could leave Peterborough at 7 a.m. on the Great Northern Railway for a visit paying 5s (25p) for a second class ticket.





Death of Thomas Alderson Cooke

1854

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Thomas Alderson Cooke was born into a rich family in Salford. He moved to Peterborough where he became a local magistrate, Sherriff of Northamptonshire and later High Sherriff. He married Julia Image, the daughter of the late vicar of St John's church John Image. Together they had 12 children, 10 of whom survived childhood. He had 4 wives in total, including a very public annulment of the marriage to his second wife Charlotte Squires. She was from a successful merchant family, but was many years younger than him. Thomas Alderson Cooke is best remembered for commissioning a large mansion on Priestgate in 1816, on Neville Place, which is home to Peterborough Museum. He is also credited with building the Dower House on the corner of Trinity Street. It was built in the 1840s for his fourth wife Mary. It was a church for some years, which is how it gained a spire, and is currently a nursery. A well-respected magistrate for many years, he continued to preside until the week before he died, despite being incapacitated. He died in December 1854, after which his house was bought by the Fitzwilliams in an auction and gifted to the city as an infirmary.  





Peterborough Advertiser Founded

1854

Information

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.





House to Hospital

1857

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Following the death of Thomas Alderson Cooke in 1854 his Priestgate Mansion was bought by the 3rd Earl Fitzwilliam in 1856. He gifted it to the city to be used as the city’s first hospital, the Peterborough Infirmary. It was ready to be used as a hospital by 1857, accepting both male and female patients. The infirmary was run by a charitable trust who relied on donations. The house remained Peterborough's Infirmary until 1928.  





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St Mark’s Supportive Hankey

1857

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St Mark's Church on Lincoln Road owes its existence to the arrival of the railways. The huge influx of railway workers and their families were provided with housing by the railway companies and churches were built for each new area. St Mark's was consecrated on 26th September 1856 and completed in 1857 thanks to a £25 donation by local M.P. Mr T. Hankey. There was a ceremony to lay the first stone of the church in 1855. All the local dignitaries and school children gathered in Peterborough Cathedral to sing and listen to sermons before walking to the church. A total of £107 was raised by the congregation to pay for the building work. The first foundation stone was placed in the ground with several commemorative items. These included a glass bottle with current currency and a role of parchment naming the dignitaries and architect connected to the building. Several tools were deposited which related to the Freemasons, who we may assume, were instrumental in raising money for the building and/or construction of the building. The first vicar of St. Mark's was Rev. C. Camp/e who caused quite a commotion once by fainting during a sermon. The organ was installed in 1858 and was built by Messrs. Bryceson and Son, of London. In 1957, to mark the centenary of the church, a new hall was added to the building. Photo credit: St Mark's Church, Lincoln Road, Peterborough cc-by-sa/2.0 - © JThomas - geograph.org.uk/p/3119975





Quaker Meeting in Peterborough

1859

Information

Tuesday, 13th September 1859 the Peterborough Advertiser reported a Quaker Meeting in Peterborough. From that date there were infrequent, spasmodic attempts to establish Quaker Meetings in and around Peterborough.





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Death of Sir Harry Smith

1860

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Harry Smith was born in Whittlesey in 1787. In 1805 he joined the 95th rifles as a lieutenant serving in South America and from 1808 in Spain and Portugal. In 1812 he married a well-born Spanish girl, Juana Maria de los Dolores de Leon, and she remained with him on nearly all his subsequent travels. Before fighting at the Battle of Waterloo as a Brigade Major, he served in America and was present at the burning of Washington. After the Napoleonic War he served in South Africa as a provincial governor then in India as deputy-adjutant-general. He was made Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, then served as High Commissioner and Governor of Cape Colony where he and Juana are memorialised in the names of the towns of 'Harrismith' and 'Ladysmith'. In this country he is remembered in the name of the Sir Harry Smith College in Whittlesey. As an interesting aside, his love story with Juana was the basis of a novel, 'The Spanish Bride' by Georgette Heyer (1940).    





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Dr T.J. Walker Appointed Surgeon of the Infirmary

1862

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Dr Thomas James Walker was a second generation doctor. He had a thriving practice in Westgate, and in 1862 he was appointed to the post of surgeon  at the infirmary, a post he held until 1906. He had other interests, notably local history and his archaeological finds and acquisitions formed a base for the Peterborough Museum Society collection, and he became the society's president in 1892. He was also interested in the Napoleonic prisoner of war camp at Norman Cross and wrote a book on its history, published in 1913. In recognition of all his contributions to Peterborough and its inhabitants, on his 80th birthday in 1915, he was granted the Freedom of the city, the first native born Peterborian to be so honoured.    





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Mary Cooke’s Dower House

1863

Information

Several buildings on Priestgate are worthy of merit through age and architecture, but none are as unusual than Mary Cooke's Dower House. The house is correctly credited to the hand of Thomas Alderson Cooke, owner of Priestgate Mansion. However, it has been incorrectly associated to the divorce of his second wife Charlotte Squires. It was originally believed that the dower house was given to Charlotte when she and Thomas divorced. But newspaper reports from the time reveal that Thomas had the marriage annulled. Because they did not divorce, no money or property was owed to Charlotte. Furthermore, documents kept in Northamptonshire Archives reveal that the dower house was not built until 1840's, over 20 years after his annulment! By this point Thomas had moved on to his fourth wife Mary. His will of 1854 reveals how he had left the house for his 'dear Mary' to live in upon his death. A later conveyance from 1863 from Mary Cooke detailed: '[Thomas] Cooke devised to his wife for her life the mansion house he had lately erected next door to his mansion, together with land he had lately purchased extending southward from the garden wall.' Sadly, there is no evidence that Mary lived in the house. Thomas died in 1854 and by the 1861 census she was already living in London with her daughter and son-in-law (who was also her step son) and conveyancing relating to the house gave her address as London too. References: The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 2204 Abstract of conveyance from Mrs Mary Cooke and others to William Vergette, ref ZB1826/01 accessed via http://nro.adlibhosting.com/ (Northamptonshire Records Office)





St Peter’s College Opens

1864

Information

St Peter's College in Midgate was opened as a teacher training college for men in 1864. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott who designed many notable buildings. These including St Pancras station and the Albert Memorial in London. He was also a restorer of many churches, one of which was Westminster Abbey, where he is buried. The Midgate building is made of red brick and is a nice example of his Gothic revival style. It was enhanced, after World War II, with the addition of  a door from the bomb damaged Guildhall in London. In 1973 it was made Grade II listed. The college closed in 1914 and reopened in 1921 as a teacher training college for women. During the Second World War it was the American Red Cross Club, a centre for American servicemen in the city. One notable visitor was actor Clark Gable! After the war it was once again a training college for men. For a brief time it was use for training men and women, before it closed in 1950. In 1952 Perkins Engines bought the building and converted it into offices, renaming it Peterscourt. In its time it has also housed the Peterborough Development Corporation and, after a refurbishment in 1984, continues to be offices today. References: Secret Peterborough by June & Vernon Bull, Amberley Publishing, 2018.  





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Last Use of the Sedan Chair

1864

Information

Peterborough was one of the last places in the country using sedan chairs for transport around the city, as described by Andrew Percival in his 'Notes on Old Peterborough'.





Margaret Gibson, the First Freewoman of Peterbo...

1870

Information

The Laurel Court House Girls' School was first recorded in the house off the Cathedral’s cloister in 1862, one of the first girls' schools in the city. It was run for many years by the formidable Margaret Gibson and her Dutch colleague Annette van Dissel. Ms Gibson was originally from Ireland, and had settled in Peterborough in 1870, determined to run a school for young ladies. The school took both local and boarding students, taught art, music, literature and specialised in teaching French and German. Margaret Gibson ran the school with a strict discipline, but gained the respect and love of her students, particularly as she took a continuing interest after they graduated and offered help and support. In 1926 Margaret Gibson became the first woman to be given the freedom of the city of Peterborough. She is remembered for teaching Edith Cavell and for being a proud Peterborough citizen until her death in 1928.  





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Laurel Court House

1870

Information

Laurel Court House for girls was founded by Margaret Gibson and Annette Van Dissel at first in premises on London Road in 1869 before moving to Laurel Court in the Cathedral Precincts. The school prepared pupils for university examinations and specialised in music and French and German. Miss Gibson had a forceful personality but she had eccentric tendencies. She eventually went blind but remained in charge of her school. Nurse Edith Cavell (executed by German firing squad on 12 October 1915) was a student teacher at the school before taking up nursing. In recognition of Miss Gibson’s almost 60 years as the school principal and of her services to the education of girls she was made an Honorary Freedman of the City of Peterborough in1926- the first woman to receive this honour. She died in 1928 aged 91.





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Josephine Butler

1873

Information

Josephine Butler was a Victorian feminist, social reformer and campaigner for women's rights, especially those of the poor. She campaigned tirelessly for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts and travelled around the country making her case. On the 19th February she addressed Working Men at the Wentworth Rooms in Peterborough in what was quite a spirited debate.