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.
When Celia Fiennes travelled through the city in 1698 she noted that local…