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.”
Built towards the end of the 16th century, Milton Hall is the largest private house in Peterborough. Once home to the Fitzwilliam family, it is now resided in by the Naylor Leyland family who inherited it from the 10th Earl.
The Hall was used by the military during both world wars, a hospital being established in World War I and initially in World War II, the Czech army occupied part of the house and stable block.
In December 1943, 300 volunteers from the Special Operations Executive (SOE) were brought together and trained at Milton Hall. From there they were sent to join small teams to arm, train and co-ordinate foreign resistance fighters in preparation for the D-Day landings in Normandy in May and June 1944. Codenamed the Jedburghs, the volunteers came from army forces based in Britain, France and America with small contingents coming from Holland, Belgium and Canada. Between D-Day and VE Day they carried out 101 operations in Europe.
In May 1996 surviving members attended a special service at Peterborough Cathedral where a memorial plaque was unveiled to commemorate the 37 men who lost their lives during operations in Europe and the Far East.
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.
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.
Milton Hall was built in the 1590s to the west of Peterborough and periodic…
Built towards the end of the 16th century, Milton Hall is the largest priva…
Edmund Artis was of humble origins, the son of a carpenter, bo…