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Mapping the Medieval World

1120

Information

Peterborough Abbey was the birth place of many great documents including the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, but a less well-known document in the Mappae mundi (world map) in the Peterborough Computus, also known as the Peterborough Map or Peterborough Diagrammatic Map. The map, dating from around 1120, attempts to explain the relation of counties, countries and cities within a large circle in a diagrammatic format that continues today in maps such as the London Underground map. Unlike modern maps, east is at the top of the map, with Jerusalem sitting at the centre of the world. Brittanaia (Britain) sits on the circle to the left of the circle; other recognisable names include Affrica, Roma and Nazareth. The map is held at the British Library in London and has been named as a sibling map to the Thorney Map, which in turn, was thought to have been a copy of the Ramsey Map from around 1016.  





St Leonard’s Leper Hospital Established

1125

Information

Founded before 1125,  St Leonard's Hospital was a leper (or lazar) house supported through almsgiving by Peterborough Abbey. Leprosy was particularly prevalent at this time though such houses also provided for other categories of ill and destitute people. St Leonard’s became known as “The Spital”. [Spital was a Middle English term used to describe a hospital or its endowed land.] It was still in existence in the 16th century and is assumed to have closed at the time of the dissolution of the monastery. It was probably located close to the northern end of Peterborough railway station with its own cemetery to the west. It gave its name to St Leonard’s Street which was the section of Bourges Boulevard which now runs past the station. Associated with the hospital was a healing spring or well which was still documented in the mid 17th century.    





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Chronicle Writers (and a Wild Hunt)

1127

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Much of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was written at Peterborough Abbey in this period. It is one of the key sources for medieval history. Today it is preserved in the Peterborough D and E Manuscripts. Another chronicle was written here by a monk called Hugh Candidus, which tells the story of the abbey. One tale he told was of a corrupt abbot, Henry d'Angély, who was a rather godless and worldly man. He planned to loot Peterborough of its wealth. As a result a dread portent followed in the form of a spectral 'wild hunt' sent to terrorise the area. 'In the very year in which he came to the abbey, marvellous portents were seen and heard at night during the whole of lent, throughout the woodland and plains, from the monastery as far as Stamford. For there appeared, as it were, hunters with horns and hounds, all being jet black, their horses and hounds as well, and some rode as it were on goats and had great eyes and there were twenty or thirty together. Many men of faithful report both saw them and heard the horns...'    





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Market Makes a Medieval New Town

1143

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King Stephen visited and stayed at the monastery in 1143, granting a market charter. This allowed Abbot Martin de Bec to create a new market area to the west of the monastic precincts. He was then able to bankroll the building of the new monastic church. The monks created new commercial streets around the outside, leading to the first ‘new town’ development in Peterborough and effectively the street plan which still exists as the city centre today. The market square was later infilled with St John's church and the Guildhall or Buttercross. This almost halved the market square, but provided a religious centre for the townspeople.





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Death of Abbot Martin de Bec

1154

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Abbot Martin de Bec became abbot in 1135. He is the creator of Peterborough as we know it; he moved the town and its market from the east of the abbey, prone to flooding, to the west, he built the great West Gate of the abbey which stands today, and laid out the roads of the town in the pattern that still exists.  





Transept Ceiling Painted

1155

Information

The north and south transept ceilings of Peterborough Cathedral are made of wood. The wooden boards have been placed together to form a pleasing diamond pattern, but these were never designed to be seen. The original medieval transept ceiling was completed between 1155 and 1175 on the request of Abbot William de Waterville. We know very little about the first ceiling other than the evidence of previous wooden beams. But it is thought the ceilings were divided into 12 panels and were likely to have been painted. The second transept ceiling was created in the early 13th century and crucially before the nave ceiling. It is possible the painters honed their skills on the transepts before attempting the nave ceiling. Some of the wooden boards that remain are from the 13th century, but the paint has been since removed. The paintwork appears to have followed the diamond pattern created by the boards and contained a stylised cross in the centre of the diamond. Restoration work to the ceiling revealed ghost or shadow outlines of some original shapes, from which this design was created. The ceiling was repaired and redecorated several times, which was left the residue of later painting. Several colours including black, white and brown were easily identified during restoration, but many others would have been used. A black and white image exists of the north transept ceiling prior to the rebuilding of the central tower. The image clearly shows a diamond pattern and suggests at a bold and bright design. Reference: Harrison, H, Peterborough Cathedral: The Transept Ceilings, Record of Treatment and Additional Investigations following a fire in the Cathedral on 22 November 2001, (The Perry Lithgow Partnership, 2002)





More Holy Relics for Peterborough’s Abbey

1174

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Construction of the Becket Chapel and adjacent hospital began in 1174. They were built to house many of the monastery’s holy relics, not least the relics of the newly canonised St Thomas Becket. Becket had visited the abbey with King Henry II in 1154, but was later murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. Abbot Benedict acquired some of Becket’s relics for Peterborough Abbey which were to encourage pilgrims. These included the flagstone his head laid on as he died; a bottle of Becket’s blood (said to never congeal); and furthermore Becket’s bloodied undergown he was wearing as he was murdered. The latter was ceremonially washed on feast days; the washing water was then collected and sold to pilgrims as a cure-all. The Becket Chapel survives today as the Cathedral’s tea-room.





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Cherry Fair Founded

1189

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Cherry Fair was one of the oldest fairs in Peterborough, granted by a charter in 1189 by Richard I to Abbot Benedict. It was planned to be held on or around St Peter's Feast, on the 29th June, which is why the fair was also known as St Peter's or Petermas Fair and ran for eight days. In 1572 the date of the fair was moved from 29th June to 10th July. It was traditionally held in the Market Place (Cathedral Square), but in 1899 it was held in Broadway opposite the cattle market, after dwindling visitors and a lack of interest. By 1915 it was little more than a meat market.





Deer Park Created at Torpel Manor

1198

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The remains of Torpel Manor sit on the Western edge of Helpston on King Street. It is thought the first building was a wooden ring-work castle or fortified manor house, built by Roger Infans. He owned huge areas of the local countryside, but liked his house by the hamlet of Torpel the most, so he became Roger de Torpel. The early wooden building was surrounded by ditches, which still remain. There is some suggestion that it was once a motte and bailey construction, but this has been debated. The wooden building would have had a commanding position on King Street, with views over the Welland valley. It was later replaced by an impressive stone building made using local stone and slate. There was also a large deer park too, which was an important sign of wealth. The deer park was created in 1198; we know this because Roger de Torpel had to ask permission to create the park and pay a lot of money. Only the wealthy were allowed to create or own deer parks. They were built to provide a source of food and entertainment for the owners. The ability to hunt on your own land was a status symbol and a way for the rich to show off to their friends. Little remains of the buildings that were once on the grassy mounds, but there have been a number of recent projects to discover more about Torpel. This included a project with the department of archaeology and York University. The site is scheduled, but is accessible to visitors from either Helpston or Ashton along the Torpel Way route. This site should not be confused with the building remains SW of Torpel Manor, which have been referred to as Torpel Manor, Castle and hunting lodge.
References
Timeline for Torpel Manor Field and The Story of Torpel PDF both accessed from http://langdyke.org.uk/torpel-manor-field/ Photo credit cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Michael Trolove - geograph.org.uk/p/3252955





Present Day Prebendal Manor Built

1200

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In 1200 the Anglo-Saxon wooden hall in Nassingham that Cnut had visited around 1017, was replaced by the present stone building. It is the oldest property in Northamptonshire.





Cathedral Lavatorium Found at Farm

1200

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Peterborough Cathedral has a history much older than the present building and its name. Prior to be being a cathedral, the buildings formed an abbey. Monks lived and worked in the abbey grounds and some of the buildings they used still exist today. However, many have vanished entirely or are in pieces, such as the refectory. Occasionally pieces of the abbey appear in odd locations, such as the lavatorium discovered on a farm. Whilst cleaning a well on the Westwood Farm site a large stone bowl was discovered. The fine stonework led the finders to believe they had stumbled across something important. Analysis revealed the bowl was likely to be part of the abbey lavatorium where the monks would have washed their hands. It was dated to the Thirteenth century, which made it a significant find. Quite what it was doing down a well, we will possibly never know! The remains of a more modern lavatorium can be visited in Peterborough Cathedral.  





King John and the Great Charter

1216

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King John stayed at Peterborough's monastery in 1216. He used it as a base of operations to attack his enemies in the region during the Civil War. The war followed his agreement to the text of the Magna Carta and then ripping up of it. He may have left a draft copy of the Magna Carta here, hence the inclusion of it in one of the monastery’s cartularies, known today as ‘the Black Book of Peterborough'. Magna Carta means Great Charter in Latin.





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Abbey Church Spectacular Wooden Ceiling

1238

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The new abbey church was consecrated in 1238 and the structure of the building has remained essentially as it was on completion. Most significantly the original wooden ceiling still survives in the nave. It is the only ceiling of its type in the whole country. Furthermore, it is one of only four wooden ceilings of this period surviving in the whole of Europe. It was completed between 1230 and 1250 by skilled painters working by hand, which is not easy at that height. The ceiling has been over-painted twice, but retains its original style and pattern.





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Longthorpe Tower

1260

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A manor house was built by the Thorpe family in what is now known as Longthorpe. The tower was a later addition (about 1300), now noted for its 14th century wall paintings, the best preserved medieval wall paintings in a domestic setting in Europe.





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St Botolph’s Church Started

1262

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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.





Woodstons Fair

1268

Information

Its position abutting the Nene has provided Woodston with both fertile growing land and access to and from the water. This access has made it desirable as a place to disembark if travelling from the west, for the Peterborough toll could be avoided. It is possible that Wharf Road was the toll road used. The Abbot of Thorney had been granted the right to hold a regular market in Yaxley by William the Conqueror. Goods and people travelling there would disembark in Woodston, which was also in the possession of Thorney Abbey. The abbot asked for a market to be held in Woodston on the day before Yaxley market in 1268. In the same year the abbot requested a fair to celebrate 'the vigil and feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist'. Woodston fair would fall on the 29th August, despite sounding like something more appropriate for 31st October! There is no evidence that this fair ever took place, but a fair to celebrate a beheading must have been an interesting sight. Reference: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hunts/vol3/pp233-236 Picture Credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Nigel Cox - geograph.org.uk/p/2782710





Eyebury Monastic Grange

1295

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Eyebury Grange has been in existence since medieval times. It belonged to Peterborough Abbey and is similar to Oxney Grange, which is very close by. Evidence remains of a moat, dovecote, brewhouse, warren and large deer park, which suggest the grange was quite sufficient and productive. The first abbot to take an interest in Eyebury is purportedly Abbot Walter of Bury. He supposedly built a hall surrounded by a moat and drawbridge in the 12th century of which the octagonal column exists in a cellar. This makes it similar in date to Oxney Grange, which dates from the early 12th century. The Victoria County History of Northamptonshire suggests the main hall was built around 1295 by Abbot Godfrey of Crowland. He continued to add further buildings over the next 20 years which included a windmill and lime kiln. It was an important site for the abbey, providing plenty of food, drink and income for the monks. Unsurprisingly, Eyebury Grange was sold on after the dissolution of the monasteries. It eventually became home to the Leeds family, whose children became famous geologists and archaeologists after exploring the local clay and gravel pits. Eyebury Farm is currently a private home and is not open to visitors. References: http://www.eyepeterborough.co.uk/heritage/eyebury/ R M Serjeantson and W Ryland D Adkins, eds., The Victoria history of the county of Northampton: volume two (1906) p491 Photo credit: © Richard Humphrey  





Honey Hill in Use

c. 1300

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The name Honey Hill is still in use in Paston today, but its origins come from a post mill. The mill was situated on a large mound between Dogsthorpe and Paston, under what is now Bluebell Avenue and Heather Avenue. Often assumed to be a moated house, an archaeological dig in 1960 proved the mound was in fact a late 13th century millstead. Artefacts discovered included pottery, millstone remains and clay pipes, which showed that it was in use until the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. Two coins were found on the site, a farthing from the reign of Edward I (1302-1307) and a sixpence from 1568.





Boroughbury Barns

1300

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Godfrey of Croyland, Abbot of Peterborough is credited with building the farm that became known as Boroughbury, in what is now the southern end of Lincoln Road. He built a house, a dovecot, two large ponds and a water mill, as well as two large barns, which are thought to date from around 1320. One of the barns was said to have been destroyed in the Civil War, but the other survived until 1892, when it was pulled down and replaced by the Rothesay Villas, which incorporated some of the stone. W.D. Sweeting commented that the barn resembled 'a wooden church with aisles'.





A Gift for Oxney Grange

1307

Information

Oxney Grange was a monastic cell that belonged to Peterborough Abbey. The cell was permanently home to six monks, although the monks were not usually resident for too long. They would have lived a quiet life away from the abbey, but followed much of the lifestyle and duties of a monk. The monks were well situated between Peterborough and Thorney and close to Crowland. In May 1307 the monks received a gift from Abbot Godfrey of Crowland, possibly along the Cat's Water river channel. He sent them dairy products in the form of milk, butter and cheese, which would have gone very well with a freshly baked loaf of bread! The wine gifted to the monks in 1460 by almoner William Morton would also have made a lovely combination.





Building Bridges Across Boundaries

1308

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The first bridge over the River Nene in Peterborough is attributed to the Abbot of Peterborough, Godfrey of Crowland/Croyland, in 1308. The bridge spans the boundary between Peterborough (Lincoln) diocese and Ely and is possibly built over a previous ford. The bridge lasted for around 600 years until it was replaced by a metal bridge in 1872.  





Edward II comes to Thorney

1314

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“[D]uring Easter week the Lord King Edward [II] came to Thorney, before which never has any king of England entered [the house].  Thereafter he went warfaring against the Scots; and the war being finished he returned to Thorney on 28 October in the same year.”   The English were defeated in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn.





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The Black Death

1349

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The Black Death (or the Great Pestilence as it was known then) hit Peterborough. This is a terrible disease carried by the fleas on black rats, though at the time it was thought to have been caused by bad air. Approximately a third of the townspeople and 32 of the 64 monks at the monastery perished in a matter of weeks, and many of those who died were buried in mass burial pits to the west of the town, in the burial ground of the leper hospital of St Leonard. A higher proportion of monks died perhaps because they were helping tend to the sick. The plague returned to Peterborough on many occasions causing a great deal of death and suffering until the last outbreak in 1665.





Wothorpe Priory: Nuns on a Hill

1349

Information

Wothorpe Priory was situated in Wothorpe near to Stamford. It was home to a small group of nuns who lived in what is now, the highest point of the Soke of Peterborough. Records show that the priory existed in the thirteenth and fourteenth century, but the Black Death of 1349 spelt the end of the priory. All of the nuns had either died or moved away, leaving the priory in dire straights. So in 1353-4 the priory, with only one remaining nun named Agnes Bowes, was united with St. Michael's nunnery of Stamford. The land was given to Richard Cecil of Burghley House during the reformation. His grandson Thomas Cecil later built Wothorpe Towers upon the land. Considerable features remain in the surrounding fields which may be buildings from the priory, but the area is scheduled and in private hands. Reference: 'Houses of Benedictine nuns: The priory of Wothorpe', in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2, ed. R M Serjeantson and W R D Adkins (London, 1906), p. 101. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/northants/vol2/p101 [accessed 14 November 2018].





Maxey Castle Built

1370

Information

Maxey Castle was built by Sir William de Thorp around 1370 and was a small defensible castle. The castle buildings have long disappeared, but many documents relate to the house and land. There are remaining earthworks that hint at the former majesty of the site which include a moat and fish ponds. The castle, or manor, sat on an island in the middle of a large moat, which remains on three sides. A drawing exists of the castle from 1543 suggesting it consisted of a keep or tower surrounded by high stone walls and towers.  However, it was only in use for a couple of hundred years before falling into disrepair. Some of the stones may have gone to Conington and been incorporated in a castle there. (1) Documents in national and local record collections detail the leasing of lands around Maxey Castle to Richard Cecil by Henry VIII who was also 'Constable or Warden of Maxey Castle and Bailiff of the lordship of Maxey'. (2) Later the lands were leased to William Cecil by Princess Elizabeth; items leased included 'Ladiebridgclose' in Maxey and the 'greate garden of Le Marre' (3) which was part of the grounds of Maxey Castle. They originally belonged to Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, who was Henry VIII's grandmother and owned many properties in the area. The site is scheduled and in private hands, so it is not possible to view the moat, which is now obscured  by trees. However, a public footpath takes walkers close to old fish ponds belonging to the castle. References:
  1. 'Parishes: Conington', in A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 3, ed. William Page, Granville Proby and S Inskip Ladds (London, 1936), pp. 144-151. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hunts/vol3/pp144-151 [accessed 23 November 2018].
  2. Northamptonshire Archives F (M) Charter/2285
  3. Northamptonshire Archives F (M) Charter/2286






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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Holy Waters Run Deep

1397

Information

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





St. John the Baptist Rebuilt

1407

Information

The citizens of Medehamstede, lived to the east of the abbey and what is now the Cathedral, on the edge of the fenland. After the great fire of 1116, the inhabitants were moved to the west of the abbey where the land was drier. Unfortunately they did not move the church to the west, and for several centuries the inhabitants of the town had to walk round the vast abbey grounds to reach their isolated church. This was made more difficult by flooding from streams that ran in front of the church, making attendance problematic in the winter. A petition was made to move the church to the west of the abbey, which was granted by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1402. The new church was built using stone from the old one and the Becket Chapel, as well as oak from Abbot William Genge's park. He dedicated the church to St John the Baptist on 26th June 1407. It was originally built with a large leaded spire, which was conspicuous from some distance. Unfortunately, due to instability, it was removed in the 1820s, but it can be seen in John Speed's Map, A Prospect of Peterborough and an old photograph.





Bridge Fair Founded

1439

Information

Peterborough Monastery was granted a charter by Henry VI to hold a fair for three days over St Matthew's Day (21st September). The fair was always a large and popular event for both pleasure and business. Late nineteenth and  early twentieth century newspapers recounted the ceremonial procession over the town bridge and a feast of sausages and (sometimes) champagne.





Death and Pillaging From Maxey Castle

1450

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On the first of April 1450 Lord Welles gathered a large group of men at Maxey Castle. Lord Welles, also known as Lionel or Leo, 6th Baron Welles, had been in conflict with the people of Spalding and Pinchbeck. He gathered over 100 of his armed tenants at the castle and went to Spalding and Pinchbeck to cause chaos. His tenants damaged many properties, injured lots of people and even killed a man named John Ankes. The attack was part of a long-running dispute between the people of Deeping and Maxey, and Spalding and Pinchbeck. Both sides disputed the boundary of fen land between the two areas. They continued a tit-for-tat argument involving riots and violence over many years. People from both sides would sneak on to opposing land to steal cattle or destroy turves, which were a vital fuel in an area with few trees. Lord Welles' second wife was Margaret Beauchamp, mother of Lady Margaret Beaufort. Lady Margaret later inherited the castle and lands when her son became King Henry VII. Picture Credit: CC Coat of Arms of Sir Lionel de Welles, 6th Baron Welles, Rs-nourse, Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_de_Welles,_6th_Baron_Welles#/media/File:Coat_of_Arms_of_Sir_Lionel_de_Welles,_6th_Baron_Welles,_KG.png





Richard III Born at Fotheringhay

1452

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Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III of England was born at Fotheringhay Castle.  He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. He was the supposed killer of 'The Princes in the Tower', his nephews Edward and Richard, the sons of his brother King Edward IV, and was portrayed as a villain in William Shakespeare's play 'Richard III'. He died at the Battle of Bosworth Field beaten by Henry Tudor, Henry VII, the first of the Tudor dynasty, so ending the War of the Roses. In 2012 Richard III's body was found buried under a car park in Leicester.





Royal Visitors to Peterborough

1461

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The abbey and town were sacked by a Lancastrian army led by Queen Margaret of Anjou during the Wars of the Roses. The abbey was in the orbit of Fotheringhay Castle, the main seat of the House of York. Both the future Edward IV and Richard III would have visited the monastery as children. Royal visitors to Peterborough Abbey were very common – as well as those mentioned above they have included: Henry III in 1268, Edward I in 1302, Edward II in 1314 (twice), Edward III in 1326, then annually 1332-6, Henry IV in 1392 & 1394, Henry VI in 1452 and Henry VII in 1486.





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Woodstons Fair

1268

Information

Its position abutting the Nene has provided Woodston with both fertile growing land and access to and from the water. This access has made it desirable as a place to disembark if travelling from the west, for the Peterborough toll could be avoided. It is possible that Wharf Road was the toll road used. The Abbot of Thorney had been granted the right to hold a regular market in Yaxley by William the Conqueror. Goods and people travelling there would disembark in Woodston, which was also in the possession of Thorney Abbey. The abbot asked for a market to be held in Woodston on the day before Yaxley market in 1268. In the same year the abbot requested a fair to celebrate 'the vigil and feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist'. Woodston fair would fall on the 29th August, despite sounding like something more appropriate for 31st October! There is no evidence that this fair ever took place, but a fair to celebrate a beheading must have been an interesting sight. Reference: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hunts/vol3/pp233-236 Picture Credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Nigel Cox - geograph.org.uk/p/2782710