Georgian Peterborough – Stuart Orme November 2011
Stuart Lectures in St Johns

Stuart Orme entertains in St John's Church

Stuart gave a fascinating and entertaining look at the Georgian History of Peterborough. Far from being the period between other more exciting ones, Stuart highlighted how much the city changed in this period and how much we owe the Georgians.

Mentioning local figures such as Matthew Wyldeboar who is famous for finding his way across the Fens after hearing the bells of St Johns, Stuart tied the lecture into the city centre. Wyldeboar also built what was known as the Mansion House, the top of which can still be seen on Westgate today.

Mansion House
British Museum satirical cartoon of Matthew Wyldeboar

Stuart highlighted that whilst Stamford is seen to have fine Georgian Architecture, there was some decent architecture to be found in Peterborough at the time as well, although most of it is now vanished. However those buildings that remain are some of the oldest within the city centre, such as the Bull Hotel, the Wortely Almshouses and the Peterborough Museum.

It was in the Georgian Period that Peterborough’s population grew, in some cases as a result of the Norman Cross prisoner of war camp, the first purpose built camp if its kind. Prisoners made straw work (a local tradition evidenced by the Straw bear festival which still goes on), toys, model ships and chess sets, some of which are held in the Museum collections.


Georgian Peterborough

Georgian Buildings remaining in Peterborough

Wortley Alms House

–        On Westgate

–        Prototype work house

Customs House

–          Early to mid 18th Century

–          Replaced a medieval structure

–          Bonded warehouse

Bull Hotel

–          Coaching Inn (one of a few, unlike Stamford that was on the main route from London toYork)

–         Peterborough was on the London to Boston Route



–          Built 1816 by Thomas Cooke the City Magistrate

Lost Georgian Buildings

Angel Hotel

–          On the site of WH Smiths

–          Evidence shows an Angel Tavern existing as far back as 1483

–          Georgian Coaching Inn

Crescent Bridge

–          Georgian crescent  of buildings that used to be there


People and events


William Stukely famous antiquarian and

Daniel Defoe famous for Robin Cruesoe

–          Stayed in Bell Inn in Stilton and remarked on the cheese


Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

–          Influential woman at the time

–          Eloped with penniless MP

–          Rather than marry her Fathers preference she married Edward Wortley Montagu instead, he became an MP of Peterborough

–          When Lady Mary joined him inLondon, her wit and beauty soon made her a prominent figure at court.

–          In December 1715 smallpox ruined her good looks and left her without eyelashes and with a deeply pitted skin

–          She was among the society of George I and the Prince ofWales, and friends with Alexander Pope, John Gay, and Abbé Antonio Conti.

–          Wortley Alms houses

–          introduced smallpox inoculation in England after witnessing it in Turkey

Matthew Wyldbore

–          twice elected MP for Peterborough

–          In the Lady Chapel of St John’s Church stands a Georgian monument to Matthew Wyldbore, who died in 1781

–          remembered in St John’sbecause of a legacy he left to the bellringers, reputed in gratitude for finding his way safely through the mists on Peterborough Common by making for the sound of St John’s bells

–          1745 captain of militia

–          In 1745 when Charles Edward Stuart raised army against parliament the local militia protected the town

George Walpole

–          3rd Earl of Orford

–          Famous for Lord Orfords Voyage of the fens, a mickey take of peers Grand Tours of the continent. Navigated the fens

–          During voyage, visited Peterborough, had Dinner at Thorpe Hall, went to the Theatre (on the site of old Corn Exchange)

–          Read his diaries, they are very good

Joseph Mallord William Turner

–          In his 20’s early in his career he spent a lot of time around Peterborough

–          Several paintings of Cathedral and square

Edmund Tyrrell Artis

–          Estate manager at Milton Estates

–          Collected fossils

–          Became beginnings of archaeology

–          Found Great Roman Palace at Castor and Durobrivae Roman Village, uncovered, recorded and put back the same

Napoloeonic War

–          1803 Threats of Napoleonic Invasions

–          Whole country in panic, 1 in 3 male population in uniform preparing for invasion

–          Peterborough Defence Corps, rallied by Lord Fitzwilliam


Norman Cross Prisoner of War Camp

–          7000 French prisoners

–          Population of Peterboroughat the time was 3000

–          French officers did not have to be in camp – on Parole in city lodgings

–          Market held once a month for prisoners to sell their crafts items. E.g bonework items from pork/ beef.

–          Complaints from locals of undercutting

–          John Clare apparently guarded camp, but never turned up

Jails in Georgian Peterborough

–          Bridewell on the site of Harriets

  • This was the petty jail
  • For drunks and small crimes

–          Abbots prison

  • Where Reba is now
  • This was a more serious jail and housed debtors
  • Jan 1815 Prison break – Robert Wass and accomplice escaped
  • Old prison door still visible on left hand side of entrance

Capital Punishment

– The Gallows used to be near Lincoln Roadand the Mills (Millfield)

– 1780 these moved to Fengate

– May 1812 last execution inPeterborough, executions were moved

– David Thomas Myers – Last to be hung


Georgian Politics


–          2 MP’s elected for the Borough of Peterborough

–          Scot & Lots system – stick hand up and vote

–          Generally corrupt

–          Milton Estates Fitzwilliam Family selected 1 MP

–          Tenants encouraged to vote in way Milton wanted, often reduction in their rent.

–          Income tax introduced for Napoleonic war and government promised to remove it after the war – Still exists today!

–          Feoffees

  • Local tax collection
  • 14 people in total
  • Deal with poor relief and maintenance of roads etc

–          1790 Act of Parliament “Peterborough Pavement and Improvement commission”

  • Introduced tolls
  • 1795 introduced oil lighting

–          Sedan chairs carried on until quite late in Peterborough, it was the last place in the country to use them

  • The probable explanation for this was the narrow streets in Peterborough.
  • In 1797 the fares were begun to be regulated

Health Care

–          Earl Fitzwilliam had a large amount of money left in his party budget

–          So this was dedicated to a pharmacy free medication in Cowgate 1816

–          This was ran by Dr. Fenwick Skrimshire

–          1819 lodgings was added to the back for travelling sick

–          1830 records show over 1000 people admitted

–          Moved to Milton Stand enlarged

–          Then eventually became the old hospital, now where the Museum is



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