Many Peterborians may have fond memories of roller skating at the Wirrina in years gone past, but the history of roller skating starting 100 years earlier.
The Peterborough Skating Rink opened on 2nd April 1877 and it was quite the place to be! Far from being a simple wooden floor to skate on with the ability to hire skates, an evening at the rink was a full evening of entertainment. Mademoiselle Lily an 'accomplished lady skater' and gymnasts, were two of the draws, but the most impressive were events such as bonfire night which featured a Guy Fawkes, outdoor illuminations and two full bands!
The skating rink appears to have been part of Fitzwilliam Hall, the largest indoor space in the city at that time. An advert of November 1877 states:
'On Monday Evening, November 26th, will be performed, at the Fitzwilliam Hall and Skating Rink, Peterborough, Handel's Oratorio "Messiah"'1
Another advert refers to it as 'Flitzwilliam's Grand Skating Rink.'2 The skating rink offered a large event most weekends, with live bands, trapeze artists, and 'fancy skating', all at great cost. By July 1878 it housed a Hound Show, being referred to as a 'covered skating rink'. By September of the same year the rink was turned into a theatre to show Robinson Crusoe with the line 'The theatre is intended to be permanent'.3 However the skating rink continued for several years thereafter and continued to be the home of the Hound Show and theatre performances.
1 Peterborough Advertiser, Saturday 24th November 1877, page 2, col 2
2 The Era, Saturday Saturday 28th April 1878, page 20
3. Peterborough Advertiser, Saturday 28th December 1878,