Place:Peterborough, Northamptonshire, England

Alt namesMedeshamstedesource: Blue Guide: England (1980) p 483
Nassaburghsource: Family History Library Catalog
TypeCathedral city, Borough (county), Unitary authority
Coordinates52.573°N 0.239°W
Located inNorthamptonshire, England     ( - 1965)
Also located inSoke of Peterborough, England     (1889 - 1965)
Huntingdon and Peterborough, England     (1965 - 1974)
Cambridgeshire, England     (1974 - present)
See alsoNassaborough Hundred, Northamptonshire, Englandhundred in which it was located|

the text in this article is a condensation of one in Wikipedia

Peterborough is a city with a cathedral dedicated to St. Peter, St. Paul and St. Andrew (commonly known as St. Peter's Cathedral).

It is now a unitary authority area in Cambridgeshire, England. It had a population of 183,600 at the UK census of 2011 and a locally estmated population of 202,110 in 2017. It is also the largest city in the East Anglia area of England.

It is 76 miles (122 km) north of London, on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea 30 miles (48 km) to the northeast. The railway station is an important stop on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh.

The local topography is flat, and in parts of the Fens to the east of Peterborough the land lies below sea level. Human settlement in the area began before the Bronze Age, as can be seen at the Flag Fen archaeological site to the east of the current city centre, which also has evidence of Roman occupation. The Anglo-Saxon period saw the establishment of a monastery, Medeshamstede, which later became Peterborough Cathedral.

The population grew rapidly after the railways arrived in the 19th century, and Peterborough became an industrial centre, particularly known for its brick manufacture. After the Second World War, growth was limited until the city was designated as a New Town in the 1960s.

Local government

Peterborough was historically part of the county of Northamptonshire. From 1889, the ancient Soke of Peterborough formed an administrative county in its own right with boundaries similar, although not identical, to the current unitary authority. The area however remained geographically part of Northamptonshire until 1965, when the Soke was merged with the county of Huntingdonshire (located to the southeast) to form the county of Huntingdon and Peterborough.

Following a review of local government in 1974, Huntingdon and Peterborough was abolished and the current district was created by the merger of the Municipal Borough of Peterborough with

which had each existed since 1894 (although under a variety of county administrations). All this area became part of the non-metropolitan county of Cambridgeshire. Letters patent were granted to extend the status of city to the enlarged area. In 1998, the city became a unitary authority autonomous of Cambridgeshire county council, but it continues to form part of that county for ceremonial purposes.


Early history

For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Peterborough#Early history. for the time before the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1530s)

Peterborough suffered materially in the war between King John and the confederate barons, many of whom took refuge in the monastery here and in Crowland Abbey, from which sanctuaries they were forced by the king's soldiers, who plundered the religious houses and carried off great treasures. In 1541 the abbey church became one of Henry VIII's retained, more secular, cathedrals, having been assessed in the King's Books at the Dissolution as having revenue of £1,972.7s.0¾d per annum. Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first queen, was buried at Peterborough Cathedral.

When civil war broke out, Peterborough was divided between supporters of King Charles I and the Long Parliament. The city lay on the border of the Eastern Association of counties which sided with Parliament, and the war reached Peterborough in 1643 when soldiers arrived in the city to attack Royalist strongholds at Stamford and Crowland. The Royalist forces were defeated within a few weeks and retreated to Burghley House, where they were captured and sent to Cambridge. While the Parliamentary soldiers were in Peterborough, however, they ransacked the cathedral, destroying the Lady Chapel, chapter house, cloister, high altar and choir stalls, as well as mediaeval decoration and records.

After the Dissolution the dean and chapter of the Cathedral, who succeeded the abbot as lords of the manor, appointed a high bailiff and the constables to administer the city. This ended when, more than 300 years later, the municipal borough was incorporated in 1874 under the government of a mayor, six aldermen and eighteen councillors.

Modern history

Railway lines began operating locally during the 1840s, but it was the 1850 opening of the Great Northern Railway's line from London to York that transformed Peterborough from a market town to an industrial centre. Peterborough, situated between two main terminals at London and Doncaster, increasingly developed as a regional hub.

Coupled with vast local clay deposits, the railway enabled large-scale brick-making and distribution to take place. The area was the UK's leading producer of bricks for much of the twentieth century. Brick-making had been a small seasonal craft since the early nineteenth century, but during the 1890s successful experiments at Fletton using the harder clays from a lower level had resulted in a much more efficient process. The market dominance during this period of the London Brick Company, founded by the prolific Scottish builder and architect John Cathles Hill, gave rise to some of the country's most well-known landmarks, all built using the ubiquitous Fletton Brick. Perkins Engines was established in Peterborough in 1932 by Frank Perkins, creator of the Perkins diesel engine. Thirty years later it employed more than a tenth of the population of Peterborough, mainly at Eastfield. Baker Perkins had relocated from London to Westwood, now the site of HM Prison Peterborough, in 1903, followed by Peter Brotherhood to Walton in 1906; both manufacturers of industrial machinery, they too became major employers in the city. British Sugar remains headquartered in Woodston, although the beet sugar factory, which opened there in 1926, was closed in 1991.

Later commercial development concerned mergers of large building societies and branches of co-operative societies which operate not only in the food sector, but in banking and undertaking, in many parts of Great Britain.

The following description made in the late 19th century from John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles of 1887 is provided by the website A Vision of Britain Through Time (University of Portsmouth Department of Geography). Square brackets denote words originally given as abbreviations, etc.

"Peterborough, [parliamentary] and [municipal borough] and city, partly in Huntingdonshire, but chiefly in Northamptonshire, on river Nen, at NW. boundary of Cambridgeshire, 43 miles NE. of Northampton and 76 N. of London by rail - [municipal borough]: 1,818 [acres], population 21,228; [parliamentary borough]: 6588 [acres], population 22,394; 4 Banks, 2 newspapers. Market-day: Saturday.
"Peterborough was called Medehamstede by the Saxons until 970, and had its rise in the founding of a monastery [in] 656, destroyed by the Danes in 870, and afterwards rebuilt. Upon its destruction by fire in 1116 the present cathedral was commenced, but was not completed till early in the 16th century. The cathedral is a noble edifice, its west front being unsurpassed by any other in the kingdom. A thorough restoration of the building was commenced in 1884. Among other buildings in the town may be mentioned the town hall, corn exchange, and county court offices. The educational institutions include a training college for church schoolmasters, a grammar school, and middle class school.
"Peterborough is an important railway centre, being connected with the Great Northern Railway, and branches of the Great Western, London and North-Western, and Midland Railways. It is the centre of a great agricultural district, and its markets for corn and fat stock, and fairs for cattle, horses, sheep, &c., are of considerable importance. Trade is carried on in malt, coal, and timber. Agricultural implements are manufactured. The [borough] was incorporated in 1874. It returns 1 member to Parliament; it returned 2 members until 1885."

Research Tips

  • If you are researching anyone whose lifetime preceded (or even mostly preceded) 1889, the places in which he or she lived are going to be in Northamptonshire rather than the Soke of Peterborough. The Soke of Peterborough was actually a section of Northamptonshire.
  • Original historical documents relating to the Soke of Peterborough are held by Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies at the County Record Office in Peterborough.
  • GENUKI does not provide webpages for the Soke of Peterborough and its provision for Northamptonshire is very limited.
  • The FamilyTree Wiki has a series of pages on Northamptonshire (including the Soke of Peterborough).
  • A Vision of Britain through Time, section "Units and Statistics" leads to analyses of population and organization of the county from 1889 through 1974. There are pages available for all civil parishes, municipal boroughs and other administrative divisions.
  • Map of Northamptonshire in 1900 produced by UK Ordnance Survey and provided online by A Vision of Britain through Time shows the Soke of Peterborough (not labelled as such) in the top right hand corner.
  • Map of Northamptonshire divisions (including the Soke of Peterborough) in 1944 produced by UK Ordnance Survey and provided online by A Vision of Britain through Time
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Peterborough. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.