Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Peterborough Cathedral (Peterborough)

The Cathedral of St. Peter serves a diocese centred on Peterborough, which itself is named after the building's saint.

The first Abbey here was founded by Peada, King of Mercia, in 654. It was destroyed by Danish invaders in 870, and in the process all the monks were killed.

King Edgar caused a new Abbey to built during the 10th century. Two Archbishops of York were buried here, and the Abbey would have been familiar to Hereward the Wake, whose gurilla warfare against the Normans was centred not far away at Ely.

This, however, burned down in 1116, when the Abbot's servant, struggling to get a fire going, allegedly exclaimed "The Devil kindle ye!" The resulting fire raged for nine days.

Abbot John de Sais started to build the Norman Abbey in 1118 and the basic church was completed by Abbot Benedictine in 1193.

In the early 13th century the impressive, but strangely asymmetrical, West Front was added. Each of the three arches is 82 feet high, but the central one is much narrower than the others.

In 1541, Henry VIII raised what had been a great Benedictine Abbey to the status of cathedral.

Catherine of Aragon, the first Queen of Henry VIII, is buried in Peterbrough Cathedral.

Mary Queen of Scots, executed not far away at Fotheringhay, was also buried here, but her remains were moved to Westminster Abbey by her son, when he became James I of England.

There is a memorial nearby to Roger Scarlett, who was the sexton and gravedigger for most of the 16th century. He died in 1594, aged 98, having buried the two Queens and outlived two generations in the town.

Anothr memorial is to Nurse Edith Cavell, shot during the First World War for helping French and Belgian soldiers to escape from the enemy. She is buried in Norwich but went to school in Peterborough.

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