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01 King's School

Plaque location - on the wall of The King’s (The Cathedral) School, facing Park Road - location map

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A school did exist in Peterborough before 1541 in Deadmanslane, but little is known of it as many of the Cathedral records have subsequently been lost. So, our current knowledge goes back to when the Benedictine Abbey of Peterborough was dissolved by King Henry VIII, and its church became today’s Peterborough Cathedral, the last Abbot, John Chambers, becoming the first Bishop of Peterborough. The School was set up as part of that Cathedral foundation in 1541. The Headmaster was paid £16-3s-4d, his Deputy £8 per annum. School began at 5.00 a.m., with prayers in the Cathedral at 6.30 a.m. As part of the wider Chapter, the Headteacher still has his own stall in the Choir today. For most of its life, 1541-1885, the School was situated in its own building in the Cathedral Precincts (photo left), today known as the Becket Chapel. The curriculum consisted largely of Latin, Greek and Scripture.

In recent years this building has been used as a Cathedral Choir Song School and a visitors’ café, and today contains a plaque to the foundation of the School, as well as the seats used by the Headmaster, the Usher (Second Master) and the boys. The name The King’s School was first used in 1725.

By 1872 the School had 67 pupils and was outgrowing its cramped premises. The Governors moved to purchase land for a new school, initially in Thorpe Road. A fatal accident at the railway crossing caused a change of heart, and the current site was purchased instead on Park Road, which the Peterborough Land Company was in the process of developing. The School was built by John Thompson (see our plaque), the local builder and former pupil; it moved in on 13 October 1885. See postcard from 1906.

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During the Second World War several staff, including the Headmaster, joined the Forces; others were heavily involved in the Home Guard (which used the School facilities for meetings and training), fire-watching and Digging for Victory, on the land then owned in Park Crescent. Female staff joined for the first time and served throughout the War. The staff and the 288 pupils dug trenches on the School Field and at one point a downed German Junkers 88 bomber was exhibited to raise funds for ‘Weapons Week’.

Through most of its history, the School was one of two fee-paying boys’ grammar schools in the City, the Peterborough Cathedral Grammar School, with a Junior Department for primary-age pupils and a Boarding House. For a time it also housed a privately-run Kindergarten. Following the 1944 Education Act, the Governors opted to become a voluntary-aided state school, and so had to give up its Junior Department in 1947, to concentrate on 11-18 grammar-school education for boys. Both fees and scholarships came to an end. This continued until 1976 when the School joined Cambridgeshire’s plan for Comprehensive Education, becoming a co-educational Church of England Comprehensive school. image missing please notify webmaster

The School, with currently just over 1200 pupils, retains very strong links with the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough Cathedral with several members serving as Governors. The School educates all the Cathedral choristers, both boys and girls, in its Junior Department, re-opened in 2011 for this purpose. The School enjoys regular services and a Speech Day and Prize-giving at the Cathedral.

Today’s School continues to achieve very high academic standards based on a broad view of a modern education, with a wide range of extra-curricular visits and activities.

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Darren Ayling (Headteacher), Helen Birch (Deputy Headteacher - Pastoral)
and Duncan Rhodes (Deputy Headteacher - Academic)

For anyone interested in the history of the School, former Deputy Headmaster, Denham Larrett’s book ‘The History of The King’s School, Peterborough’ is available from the School. Biographies of The King’s School casualties in the First and Second World Wars, researched in 2014, are available on the School’s website, as are those of Headmasters through the ages from 1541-1939.

Installed 2020. Information compiled by Trevor Elliott

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02 Sage Family

Plaque location - on the wall next to the front door of the Gladstone District Community Association offices on the corner of Taverners Road and Gladstone Street - location map

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John George Sage was born in Stamford Hill, Hackney, London on 13 October 1867 and was married in St John's Church, Hackney in November 1890 to Annie Elizabeth Cazaly (b. 1865), a native of Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.

John and his family moved to Norfolk sometime around the turn of the twentieth century where he became a publican and ran the New Inn in Gaywood, King’s Lynn. The family appeared at that address on the 1901 census. By 1910 the family had moved to Peterborough, to 246 Gladstone Street to run a baker’s and confectioner’s business.

But it wasn’t long before John decided on another career change. Leaving Annie in charge of the bakery, he and their eldest son George went to Canada. They worked as waiters in the dining cars of the Canadian Pacific Railway, but also found time to visit Florida. Here John put a deposit on a farm in Jacksonville, and returned home to Peterborough in autumn 1911 to prepare the family for the move although it is believed that the rest of the family were not enthusiastic about it.

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In April 1912 they left the UK on board the Titanic, to start a new life in Jacksonville, Florida, as pecan farmers. They had intended to sail to the USA on the Philadelphia, but were forced to change their plans due to a coal strike.

After bidding their farewells to many well-wishers the family travelled by train to Southampton and boarded Titanic on 10 April 1912 as third-class passengers (ticket number 2343 which had cost £69 and 11 shillings).

It is well known that the Titanic hit an iceberg on 14 April 1912 but little is known about the exact fate of the family. Some witnesses report that the family were seen on deck, and that one daughter was offered a place in the lifeboats but refused to go without the rest of the family. The only body to be recovered was that of 13-year-old Will Sage.

All 11 members of the family drowned in the Titanic disaster and it was the single biggest recorded loss of life from one family.

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Stella Anne (born 1891); George John (born 1892); Douglas Bullen (born 1894); Frederick (born 1895); Dorothy Florence (born 1897); Elizabeth Ada (born 1901); Constance Gladys (born 1904) and Thomas Henry (born 1907) and their parents were never seen again.

Installed 2020. Information compiled by Toby Wood

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03 Marjorie Pollard

Plaque location - on the Cobden Avenue side of the Lincoln Gate scheme on Lincoln Road (formerly the site of the County Girls School) - location map

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Marjorie Pollard, born on 3 August 1899 in Chester Street, Rugby, Warwickshire, was the youngest of three children to James Rowland Pollard, a railway engine driver, and his wife, Anne Elizabeth Mewys. She was educated at the County Grammar School for Girls (follow link to see our plaque to this school). She played hockey for Peterborough and Northamptonshire and later became one of England’s finest hockey players from 1921 to 1937. She was a prolific goal scorer, famously scoring 13 goals in England’s 20-0 win over Wales in 1926 and all the goals in the 8-0 defeat of Germany.

She later became acting president of the All-England Women’s Hockey Association (A.E.W.H.A.) and, in 1926, was a founding member of the England Women’s Cricket Association. From 1946 to 1970 she edited both Hockey Field, and also Women’s Cricket. In addition, she was employed by leading national newspapers such as The Times, The Guardian, and the Morning Press.

Not content with just print journalism she was the first female BBC radio commentator and sports film maker and also founded her own publishing house.

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County Grammar School circa 1920s

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With thanks to the BBC
Marjorie commentating on a
women's hockey match in 1938.

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For much of her life she lived in Bampton Oxfordshire where, according to the Bampton Community archive, she lived at the Deanery with her friend Miss Moreton. Marjorie had a flock of Jacobs sheep which used to spend the winter with her at the Deanery and the summer at Burford Wild Life Park.

According to the Archive Marjorie “was an important supportive part of village life. She had threatened to drive the sewage cart to the Houses of Parliament in London to protest about the fact that Bampton did not have main drainage, as late as the mid-fifties”.

In 1965 Marjorie was awarded an OBE for services to sport.

Shortly before her death Marjorie left her hockey collection to The Hockey Museum. The Museum’s website reports that “this included dozens of reels of film with some of the cans still bearing postage stamps from where they had been sent off to clubs and schools. These films were potentially fragile so it wasn't until 2016, when The Hockey Museum was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to digitise the films, that we have been able to view them. Amongst the reels were two marked “Coronation 1953”. When the films were digitised we found that they were of the Coronation preparations and celebrations in the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire where Marjorie lived”. A valuable historical record indeed.

Marjorie died in Bampton, Oxfordshire in 1982.

Through our Twitter account we were notified that a feature on Marjorie Pollard appears on the Peterborough County Grammar School for Girls website so do take a look.

Installed 2020. Information compiled by Toby Wood

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04 Great Barn

Plaque location - on the east side of Lincoln Road, in the terrace of houses numbered 69-75 - location map

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Rothesay Villas, built 1892/3, stands near the site of the Boroughbury Barn, the Great Barn of the Abbot of Peterborough's manorial grange; in effect his home farm. The medieval barn's footprint probably included the rear parts of the present terrace and part of the now demolished Elwes Hall behind.

The Boroughbury grange seems to have been established by the late thirteenth century. Surviving evidence would seem to point to a construction date for the Great Barn itself of about 1320; that is during the abbacy of either Godfrey of Crowland or Adam of Boothby.

To the west, across present Lincoln Road, arose springs feeding a watercourse and a chain of ponds powering a water mill, and acting as fish ponds, before continuing in a south-easterly direction to meet Howegate (present Midgate-City Road) at St Martin's Bridge. From thence the watercourse ran on, partly through the monastic precinct.

Had Boroughbury Barn survived it would have ranked with the greatest aisled barns of England. Photographs depict both the stone-clad exterior and a magnificent aisled timber-framed interior with eight bays. The British Library retains exceptionally fine drawings, both of the barn's interior and exterior, made in the 1820s by the young Edward Blore who would soon become architect for major works of rendering and repair at the Cathedral.

The barn was demolished by local entrepreneur James McCullum Craig (Craig Street is opposite). Craig had purchased the barn from Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1889.

Some of the barn's external stone cladding, almost certainly a Barnack ragstone, seems to have been salvaged and re-used by Craig in the plinth, only, of Rothesay Villas. By some accounts of the demolition the timber framing was permitted to stand, stripped of roofing and stone cladding, for about fifteen years before being dismantled and sold separately. Though purchased by a London merchant it is then said to have remained in a New England railway yard for a further period; Peterborough City Council declining to purchase the timbers in 1909. Nothing more is heard until 1952 when they were advertised in the London Daily Telegraph. Thereafter the trail went cold.

Installed 2017. Information compiled by Henry Mansell Duckett.

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05 Daphne Jackson

Plaque location - on the Cobden Avenue side of the Lincoln Gate scheme on Lincoln Road (formerly the site of the County Girls School) - location map

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Daphne Jackson was born in 1936 at Willesden Avenue, Peterborough. Her father, Albert was an engineering fitter and turner, and her mother, Frances, formerly an accomplished dressmaker and designer. Daphne was educated at the County Grammar School for Girls (see our plaque) and Imperial College of Science and Technology in London.

In 1958 she became a research student in the physics department at Battersea College of Advanced Technology, earning her PhD in 1962. Appointed lecturer in that year, she helped create an internationally respected group studying the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus. In 1966 Battersea College became the University of Surrey. Daphne was made leader of the nuclear physics group which grew into the largest and most strongly supported such group in the UK.

In 1971 she was appointed professor and head of the physics department, the first woman to hold either post in the UK; she retained both until her death. It was a source of great frustration to her that she was the UK's only woman professor of physics for the first fifteen years of her appointment. Her leadership qualities and wide perspective were recognized when the university appointed her dean of faculty.

From about 1978 Daphne’s physics interests moved to the applications of nuclear physics, especially in medicine. The department's two MSc courses in medical physics and in radiation and environmental protection, attracted students from all over the world, providing a source of trained personnel for hospitals and industry.

Daphne published some eighty articles on nuclear physics, fifty-five articles on medical physics and almost as many on issues of science and society. The many public bodies on which she served included the BBC science consultative group, boards of the Science and Engineering Research Council, the National Radiological Protection Board and the civil service commission final selection board.

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She also became active in encouraging women in science and engineering. She conceived and launched the Women Returners' Fellowship scheme for women who had had to give up careers in science or engineering because of family commitments. These fellowships made it possible for women to return to high-level technological or scientific careers. She was appointed OBE in 1987. At a time when her professional interest focused on the treatment of cancer, it was particularly poignant that Daphne Jackson was herself diagnosed with the disease. Throughout a long illness she continued to work but died at her home in Guildford, on 8 February 1991.

Her memory has been perpetuated through her former research students, who hold positions as scientists all over the world, and through the Daphne Jackson Trust, which continues her work through its Fellowships for individuals returning to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research.

With thanks to Ron Jackson MBE for nominating Daphne Jackson.

Installed 2020. Information compiled by Peter Lee

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06 John Thompson Jnr

Plaque location - on the west side of Lincoln Road, the address of the adjacent retirement homes being 86 Lincoln Road - location map

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The Lindens, built c.1865, was the home of master-builder John Thompson Jnr.; built for himself and his family c.1865. The street elevation has been somewhat altered ‐ a projecting stone porch bay with more of an Arts and Crafts flavour added but the garden front essentially retains its original form. Picturesquely half-timbered cross‐wings are embellished with convincing Gothic Revival detail; some figure carving seeming, at first glance, to be possibly salvaged medieval work. The interior too retains sumptuously carved joinery, especially in the staircase hall which is lit by stained glass panels celebrating great composers.

The Lindens remained with the Thompson family until 1920 when it was purchased by Alfred J. Paten, an important local wine and spirit merchant and hotelier.

The first major project led by an architect of national renown, and executed by the firm which was to become Thompson and Sons, came in the late 1820s. John Snr. and Francis Ruddle (the latter, though not then strictly a partner, responsible for carved woodwork) were entrusted by the young Edward Blore to re-order Peterborough Cathedral's Choir (then located east of the crossing). In the 1840s the same combination of architect and contractors were responsible for re-ordering the Choir of Westminster Abbey, also in an early fourteenth century style.

John Thompson Snr. died in 1853, John Jnr. taking over full control of the firm.

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From then on the operation burgeoned and the watchword, when architect and client faced structural challenge, became "Get Thompson of Peterborough".

This fostered some kind of necessary association in architects' offices between this city and constructional enterprises of scale and ambition, not the least of which would be the firm's complete reconstruction of Peterborough Cathedral's crossing tower, under the supervision of architect J. L. Pearson.

Other major cathedral repair and restoration schemes included those at Hereford, Chester, Ripon, Lichfield, Bangor and Winchester where, from as late as 1906, the firm was main contractor for underpinning the retro choir. (Made nationally famous by the heroic exploits of William Walker ‐ "the diver who saved Winchester Cathedral".) Similar schemes were undertaken at a host of major parish and former collegiate churches.

New building work included the chapel of Balliol College, Oxford (architect William Butterfield), Glasgow University (Sir G.G. Scott) and W.H. Crossland's Royal Holloway College, the latter an astonishing evocation of Chambord in the Loire Valley. The spire of St Mary-without-the-Walls, Handbridge, built for the Duke of Westminster, dominates Chester from the south bank of the Dee. New work locally was of course in ready supply too, including St Mark's Church, immediately to the south of the Lindens.

John Thompson Jnr. died in 1898 having been an Alderman of the city and twice its Mayor. His funeral is seen below (thanks to Andrew Cole). The firm continued until it was forced into voluntary liquidation in 1931 whilst constructing Peterborough Town Hall.

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The main road north out of Peterborough towards Lincoln (the only direction in which a constrained town centre could expand) began to be developed from the mid-19th century with a new church - St Mark's - and the distinctive group of substantial semi-detached brick villas opposite.

Installed 2017. Above information compiled by Henry Mansell Duckett.

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In September 2020 we were contacted by Andrew Cole, a member of the society about the John Thompson company. He sent information and photos of his great grandfather Samuel Bird, who was employed by Thompson and Sons, and when John Thompson Jnr was alive. Photo left shows Samuel on an internal work access scaffold to the West Front southern gable of the Cathedral, taken around 1899.

Andrew says "Samuel worked for Thompson's from 1874 to 1903 on site being the site manager on both the Tower rebuild and the restoration of the West Front at Peterborough Cathedral. From 1903 to 1933 he was the workshop manager. Down Cromwell Road there are still the odd bit of Thompson buildings standing ...(including)...the house...where James Irvine the clerk of works lived. I was even born in a Thompson built house so I like to find out as much as I can about this interesting building dynasty."

Samuel was also involved in the building of the new Town Hall. See our Town Hall blue plaque.

Andrew also sent a fascinating transcript of a 1933 newspaper article about Samuel's life that appeared at the time of his retirement (click the link to read it).

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View of the wooden scaffold to the
West Front of Peterborough Cathedral

Samuel Bird and son Frank on
one of the West Front towers

image of Samuel Bird standing by the 8 feet high doors for the new Town Hall

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07 Theatre Royal

Plaque location - sited on the wall of the building between the Central Library and the Broadway Theatre - location map

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The Theatre Royal did not start off as a theatre. Originally it was an enormous hall constructed as an indoor roller skating rink. To its south, where the current Central Library now is, was the outdoor roller skating rink.

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Designed by Hayward & Pye of Colchester, the skating rinks opened in April 1877, but the popularity of roller skating waned, and the indoor rink began to have a secondary use for staging these public events which required a large hall (when it tended to be called the Fitzwilliam Hall) and theatrical events (when it tended to be called the Theatre Royal).

This secondary usage of the indoor rink for theatrical purposes gradually prevailed and its vast space was, by degrees, converted into a conventional theatre (bear in mind that there had been no 'proper' theatre in Peterborough since c1848).

The major remodelling of the remaining building to create a theatre seems to have taken place between 1894 and 1913, the later work being credited to the theatre architect John Priestley Briggs.

For a brief period c1916‐1919 the theatre was known as The Grand, and from 1919 to 1959 as The Theatre Royal & Empire (where The Theatre Royal had a different type of programme of performances from that of The Empire).

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Local businessman William D Nichols was the proprietor throughout most of the 1880's, before disposing of his 'interest' in the building to London actor/manager William H Vernon. In August 1919 John A Campbell, who already managed a theatre at Grantham, became lessee and later owner. He put in John H Stevenson as manager, and Stevenson's impending retirement 40 years later was the reason that the Campbell family decided to close the theatre.

The closing performance was on 28 November 1959, the last show being Not In The Book performed by the Penguin Players. Despite subsequent attempts to preserve the theatre, insufficient funds were raised, and it was demolished. Shelton's Department Store was erected on the site 1961/62, later it was converted for residential use.

Installed 2017. Information compiled by Toby Wood and Richard Hillier.

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08 Embassy Theatre

Plaque location - in Cattle Market Road on the imposing building now occupied by Edwards, opposite the multi-storey car park - location map

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The Embassy Theatre was built next to the Hippodrome, which later became the Palladium and the Palace which itself was demolished in 1936.

David Evelyn Nye, a cinema architect, designed the Embassy. It was the only theatre he designed and had its first performance in November 1937. Two of Nye's other cinemas, Berkhamstead and Esher are listed buildings. The Embassy's original capacity was 1484 and included stalls, balcony and circle. The difficult-shaped site required that the stage occupied the corner of the building with a wide fan-shaped auditorium behind. The front of the circle was close to the stage and the sightlines excellent. Fourteen dressing rooms were located on six floors at the apex of the building, above the scene dock door.

The building contains Restrained Art Deco decoration and lighting and the building still provides a striking sight for those walking along Broadway into Long Causeway, towards the city centre.

In 1952, towards the end of their career, Laurel and Hardy played the Embassy for two weeks as part of a national tour and broke box office records.

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The Beatles played here twice. On the first occasion, 2nd December 1962, their manager, Brian Epstein, had negotiated to get The Beatles onto the bill of Frank Ifield's two shows. Apparently they were not well received by the audience. The Beatles' second and final appearance at the Embassy was on 17th March 1963, just as they were about to hit the big time.

The Embassy played a vital part in the local amateur dramatics scene with the Peterborough Operatic Society, PMADS (Peterborough Musical and Drama Society), and the Westwood Works Musical Society all using the venue.

In addition, during the 1950 and 60s a pantomime was held every year with pop heartthrobs such as Jess Conrad taking centre stage.

The theatre closed in 1965 and was sold to the ABC organisation who, in 1984, converted it into a three-screen cinema. It closed as a cinema in 1989 and has had various uses since, once as a bingo hall but mostly as bars and nightclubs.

Installed 2017. Information compiled by Toby Wood.

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09 Public Library

Plaque location - sited on the Broadway frontage of the former Public Library in Broadway, opposite the entrance to Cattle Market Road. The building is now a restaurant - location map

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Although the existence of a library as a book club for local professionals and clergy can be traced back to the founding of Peterborough Gentlemen's Society in 1730, this building housed the first purpose-built public library in Peterborough. It was the second library to serve the city as a whole. It replaced one which had been been part of the Fitzwilliam Hall/Theatre Royal and fronted Park Road. This Carnegie Library was opened to the public on 4 December 1905 and officially opened on 29 May 1906 by Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish/ American industrialist and philanthropist who had provided the funding. Cheering crowds saw the opening ceremony take place on a specially erected platform with Carnegie being awarded Freeman of the City. A separate platform for ladies was somewhat tactlessly located opposite in the Cattle Market area.

Carnegie funded over 140 libraries in England, 27 in Scotland and others, including university libraries, throughout the British Isles and the US. He favoured poorer towns but they were expected to undertake to support the library by the provision of books etc. from the rates. His libraries project was not without controversy. There was objection to the way he had made his money, as one of a group of so-called 'robber-barons' with key roles in the industrialisation of America. His approach to labour relations in the iron and steel companies he established in the US cast a shadow over his later philanthropy although it amounted to him parting with over 90% of his fortune.

The Library was designed by Hall & Phillips of London (won in open competition) and the building contract was awarded to Cracknells Builders.

The library continued to serve the public until it was replaced by the new Central Library which was opened by HRH the Duke of Gloucester on 6 December 1990. After its closure the Carnegie building was converted to use as a restaurant.

Installed 2017. Information compiled by Peter Lee.

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10 County Court

Plaque location - on the empty County Court building at the junction of Cattle Market Road and City Road - location map

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The government architect's plans for this building are headed "Peterborough County Court and Probate Registry". Some 60 County Courts were established nationally by an Act of 1846, and the granting of Probate was taken out of Diocesan hands into those of the Civil Service by the Court of Probate Act, 1857. Other premises had been used for these two 'courts' from those dates until combined in this building (seemingly opened without ceremony) sometime in June or July 1873. The Probate 'courtroom' was used for the Public Enquiry on Peterborough's incorporation in July that year.

The Probate service and the County Court remained here until December 1986. They were transferred to the new Crown Court situated between Bishops Road and the Key Theatre, which was officially opened on 15 May 1987.

Opposite is Peterscourt (use back button to return to this page) on which is one of the Society's original plaques.

Peterscourt was originally built as a teacher training college, sponsored by the (Anglican) Dioceses of Ely, Lincoln and Peterborough. It contained lecture rooms, dormitories and the Principal's residence, and was known as 'St Peter's Training College'. It had an 'intake' of about 25 young men per year. It was designed by Sir G.G. Scott, and opened in May 1864 (although the 'college' itself existed from January 1859, was housed in temporary buildings). Shortly after the outbreak of the 1914‐18 War it closed, that year's intake being transferred to a college in Durham.

The College re-opened to train women teachers in October 1921, and closed again (because of government rationalisation of training colleges and the impending retirement of the Principal) in July 1938.

It is possible that there was some Territorial Army use of the premises c1939-1942, then the American Servicemen's Club occupied it c1942-1945. It re-opened as an Emergency Teacher Training College in March 1946 (initially for men, later for women as well) and finally closed in December 1950.

For 16 years or so the building was owned and occupied by Perkins Engines as offices. In 1968 it was acquired by the newly formed Peterborough Development Corporation and used as their headquarters until 1975. In the early 1980s it was completely renovated.

Installed 2017. Information compiled by Toby Wood.

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11 Thomas James Walker

Plaque location - fixed to the front of the Co-operative Bank at 35 Westgate - location map

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Dr Thomas James Walker (1835-1916) was an outstanding medical practitioner and antiquarian who devoted his life to Peterborough and its inhabitants. He was born in a house on the site of No 35 Westgate in 1835, the son of Dr Thomas Walker who had come to Peterborough from Scotland in 1819. He attended Kings School, trained as a doctor at universities in Edinburgh, London and Vienna and returned to Peterborough in 1860 to go into general practice with his father in the present building. He gained wide respect as a doctor and surgeon and was appointed honorary surgeon to Peterborough Infirmary, a position he held until 1906. He developed a specialism in diseases of the throat and larynx.

He was a man of huge energy and involved himself in many local organisations. His lifelong interest in history and archaeology included the investigation of a Roman site near Westwood Bridge, and Anglo-Saxon burials at Woodston, some of the finds from which can be seen at the Museum still. He also produced, in 1913, the definitive history of the Napoleonic Prisoners of War 'Depot' at Norman Cross, the first purpose built POW site in the country. (This has recently been produced as a Rare Reprints paperback by Kessinger Publishing 'The Depot for Prisoners of War at Norman Cross, Huntingdonshire, 1796 to 1816' by Thomas James Walker.)

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He served in the 6th Northamptonshire Rifle Volunteer Corps for 36 years, retiring as lieutenant-colonel. He championed various local causes, including the city's first public library to which he donated 2,500 of his own books in 1892. This contributed to the building of the Carnegie Library (the former Central Library in Broadway) in 1905.

Dr Walker was invested with the Freedom of the City of Peterborough on his 80th birthday in 1915. He and his wife Mary had 13 children surviving infancy. Four of his sons became doctors and continued the medical practice at 35 Westgate until Dr Joe Walker retired in 1958.

Installed 2017. Information compiled by Peter Lee.

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12 Shopping Arcade (Westgate)

Plaque location - on the wall next to Grasmere Butchers on Westgate and opposite the entrance to the Bull Hotel - location map

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Until Westgate Arcade was created any attempt to reach Westgate via the then dog-legged Cumbergate (both were ancient streets) would have deposited the confused traveller into Long Causeway. Thus, in the 1920s, a joint enterprise by local architect Alan Ruddle and Fitzwilliam Estates, who shared the land ownership, sought to reap the economic benefits of improved access by slicing through a mass of yards and outbuildings lying in the back land to the south of Westgate.

Westgate Arcade adopts a broadly Neo-Georgian or Regency idiom. Shop fronts with centrally placed recessed doorways have hardwood frames with slender mouldings detailed with considerable elegance. There was an extensive refurbishment in 2015. Above the shops are galleries set behind colonnades giving access to sash-windowed offices. These raised colonnades divide the arcade into bays, marked by a series of transverse arches between which natural top-lighting is provided.

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The new alignment of Cumbergate from the parish church through the arcade and on to Westgate is crossed by an arm of the Queensgate Shopping Centre. This runs roughly on the old alignment, with the former Still public house (of early 19th century origin at least) marking the 90 degree angle in the dog-leg. Antecedents of the shopping arcade are variously recorded throughout medieval Europe, including London; but as a building type it was brought to fruition in late 18th century Paris. A cluster of such passages or galeries, including the recently restored Galerie Viviene, are still to be found in the 2nd Arrondissement. Photo right courtesy Princebuild following 2015 refurbishment.

London soon caught up. The famous Burlington Arcade of 1818-19 stretches all of 580 feet (considerably longer than Peterborough Cathedral) north from Piccadilly. Within a few hundred yards are a handful of other arcades of various dates, including John Nash's elegant Royal Opera Arcade of 1816-18 on Pall Mall.

Fine shopping arcades survive, for example in Bristol, Bath and Hull. Nearer to home are those in Bedford (1905), Letchworth (1921), and George Skipper's spectacular essay in Art Nouveau faience at the Royal Arcade, Norwich (1899).

The second half of the 19th century witnessed a dramatic escalation in their scale; not least in America (e.g. Cleveland, 1888). Manchester's three-tiered iron and glass Barton Arcade of 1871 may have provided the inspiration. Giants appeared on the Continent too. But Brussels' magnificent Galeries St-Hubert is completely outdone in scale by Milan's gargantuan Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II of the 1860s. By contrast to all of this, Peterborough's Westgate Arcade ‐ a very late contribution to the building type ‐ seems the very model of restraint.

This plaque was erected with generous practical and financial assistance from Queensgate, with specific help and assistance from the centre director, Mark Broadhead.

Installed 2017. Information compiled by Henry Mansell Duckett.

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Peterborough Civic Society

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Peterborough Blue Plaques booklet

Our 28 page booklet is a handy version of the material available here, it contains illustrations and details of all of the plaque locations, designed to assist you in finding your way around. Space does not permit all the available material to be included in the booklet, so do use it combination with these Blue Plaque pages to see all available information and illustrations.

Smartphones can access the website but you may incur data use charges depending on your contract, so check with your service provider. Alternatively the booklet can be downloaded to your smartphone while on a wifi connection, thus making it available to you that way. Eventually the booklet will be available for picking up at various locations in the city and we will be adding details of these when they are available.

The booklet can be ordered now from the Society at £2.00 each (to cover postage and packing) by clicking on the image left to be taken to our sales page.

 

page last changed 26 October 2020