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SAXON PETERBOROUGH
Peterborough began as a Saxon settlement. The Saxons built a village on the site of Peterborough called Medehamstede (meadow homestead). About 655 an abbey was built next to it. However this abbey was plundered by the Danes in 870 and was then abandoned.
A new abbey was built in 972 and a village grew up nearby. About 1000 AD a wall was built around the settlement to protect it from marauding Danes. It was called St Peters burgh. (Burgh was the Saxon word for a fortified settlement). The Abbot allowed the people of the nearby village to have a market. Soon Peterborough grew into a small town, in the shadow of the abbey.
In 1070 an army of Danes and some Saxons attempted to overthrow William the Conqueror. They sacked the abbey at Peterborough and burned the town. However Peterborough soon recovered from the disaster and was rebuilt.

PETERBOROUGH IN THE MIDDLE AGES
During the Middle Ages Peterborough was a small and relatively unimportant town controlled by the Abbot. The original town stood east of the abbey.
However in 1116 the abbey was destroyed by fire. A new abbey was built after 1118 and the Abbot moved the town to the west of it. He laid out a new market place there and new streets were built around it. The streets in Peterborough ending in gate (Cowgate, Priestgate etc) are derived from the Danish word meaning street, gata.
In Medieval Peterborough the main industry was weaving wool. Apart from the markets from the late 12th century Peterborough also had an annual fair. In the Middle Ages a fair was like a market but it was held only once a year for a period of a few days and it would attract buyers and sellers from several counties. From the mid-15th century Peterborough had 2 fairs.
In the early 12th century a leper hospital was built just outside Peterborough. Longthorpe Tower was built about 1300.
The first wooden bridge over the river at Peterborough was built in 1308. It replaced a ford. Then the Church of St John the Baptist was built in 1407.

PETERBOROUGH IN THE 16th CENTURY AND 17th CENTURY
Henry VIII closed all the monasteries and abbeys in England. Peterborough Abbey was closed in 1539. However in 1541 the abbey church was made a cathedral. Also in 1541 a school called the Kings school was founded.
Peterborough was now officially a city but it was a very small one even by the standards of the time. It may have had a population of about 1,500. By the late 17th century the population had probably grown to around 2,000.
The main industry in Peterborough was still wool manufacture. But there was also some malting and from the 17th century clay pipes were made in Peterborough.
Like all towns in those days Peterborough suffered outbreaks of plague. It struck in 1574, 1607, 1625 and 1665-67. Each time a significant part of the population died but Peterborough always recovered.
Mary Queen of Scots was buried in Peterborough Cathedral after her execution in 1587.
In 1643 during the civil war parliamentarian soldiers desecrated Peterborough Cathedral. They disapproved of images in churches and so they destroyed paintings and stone carvings. However the Old Guildhall was built in 1671.
For more information visit www.localhistories.org

History of Peterborough