A first visit for years and a first where we didn't lose any money on the racing! several small wins covered the cost, lucky I guess.
Anyway, there is a smart race view restaurant, reservations usually needed, see website or plenty of room to mingle with bars and fast food outlets and many opportunities to place bets.
An exciting and enjoyable night out
In front of the Cathedral, on the former market place (that means: The new pedestrian shopping zone), there's a 17th century guild hall. While the ground floor offers roofed space for market halls, the upper rooms were mainly used for meetings. Today, several plans for the guildhall have been dropped. It seems to be in constant state of some sort of renovation. Besides occasional events, no useful purpose has been found for it. Anyway, it's still a beautiful building – I would even say it's the second most attractive in Peterborough :)
Every year, on a weekend in late January, Peterborough Cathedral holds a festival in honour of Catherine of Aragon. Catherine was Henry VIIIs first wife and was buried in Peterborough Cathedral after her death in 1539. There are a number of religious and non-religious activities related to Catherine of Aragon herself as well as to the Tudor era. This includes commemorative services and processions, but also Tudor dancing, Tudor music, Tudor food (including beer tasting), presentation of medieval skills and crafts, activities for kids as well as talks and speeches.
I visited a talk about “Old Scarlett” which was held by a representative from the local museum. “Old Scarlett” was the undertaker of Peterborough Cathedral and buried Catherine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots. It was informative and humorous in a way which can only be found in Britain. The Dean, Charles Taylor, did a short introductory speech before which was as warm-hearted and funny as the presentation itself. The speaker and the Dean kept interacting during the presentation, for example when speculating about the original tombstone of Catherine of Aragon: “Charles, don't you have a beautiful marble table back at home?” It is enlightening to see church representatives which are able to laugh about and with their institution.
I really liked the audience of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. They had good impersonators (I even preferred them to those at Hampton Court) and the court musician, who took the function of a moderator, taught the audience about court etiquette and other important values of that time.
The Catherine of Aragon festival takes place within the Cathedral, but sometimes activities may be presented outside too. Most activities are for free, some may require and entry fee (like the talks) and of course you will need to pay for food and drinks. Check out the website to find out about times, activities etc.
The Cathedral is the main attraction of the city and it is easy to spend a couple of hours just admiring all the details in this building. Its west façade in Early English Gothic style is among the most beautiful and best-known in Britain and a wonderful photo motive for day and night pictures.
Peterborough Cathedral developed out of the former Medehamstede Abbey. While previous buildings date back to Anglo-Saxon Times, the current one was started in 1188. The Cathedral is divided into two parts: The old part which is mainly kept in Early English Gothic, and the so-called new building (which is not a separate building) in Perpendicular Gothic style.
The old part consists of the main nave and has a beautiful wooden ceiling. This medieval ceiling was even preserved in the middle tower, which needed to be taken down several times due to cracks caused by weight issues. The present tower is a lantern one, although far away to be compared to Ely's masterpiece. Especially now, when everything Tudor-related is popular, the grave of Catherine of Aragon is among the most visited places in the Cathedral. Another Queen, Mary Queen of Scots, was buried here too until her Son, James I/VI, had her body moved to Westminster Abbey.
The new building is not only a masterpiece of Perpendicular Gothic architecture. It also houses a number of gravestones from the old Medehamstede abbey and late medieval effigies.
There are no entry fees, but you'll need to purchase a photo permit to take pictures inside. Free guided tours are available. Beside the wonderful West façade, this cathedral distinguishes itself by another thing: It is the most lively among all of England's cathedrals I have ever visited (14 at that point). On all three occasions they present themselves friendly, enthusiastic, but not importunate. And during the “Catherine of Aragon – Festival” they had interesting events ranging from historical presentations via Tudor dancing to Henry & Catherine impersonators. Check out their page for opening times, guided tours and further events – there have many attractive religious and non-religious activities. Check out my page to read about why I liked the Catherine of Aragon festival.
I would recommend the museum on any rainy afternoon. Gives some moderately interesting information about the development of the city from rural market town to large city. I am most interested in a small collection of exhibits from the prisoners in the nearby Napoleonic POW camp situated at Norman Cross. Shows many artefacts produced by the prisoners and explains how over an extended period they became subsumed within the local communities. There is also quite a bit about the brick industry and how it encouraged waves of foreign nationals into the area. Explaining the interesting mix of cultures that Peterborough enjoys. In all honesty I can't see anyone, unless a researcher, spending more than an hour or so at the museum but well worth a visit. Also of note, they do tours from the museum together with a number of interesting lectures on a variety of subjects
It's worth taking a tour of Peterborough cathedral - 2pm (11.30 Am Weds) in the summer. If you have a group then any reasonable time can be arranged.
Of particular interest are the two main ceilings.
The main one in the nave is the original wooden ceiling, the only one of its type in this country and one of only four wooden ceilings of this period surviving in the whole of Europe, having been completed between 1230 and 1250. It has been over-painted twice, but retains its original style and pattern. It is not wholly religious as there are references to witchcraft and other such foul fiends !
The fluted ceiling at the far end of the Cathedral is from much later. It's quite interesting that the ceiling at King's college in Cambridge (a world heritage site no less) is actually a copy of this one, done on a larger scale.
The Museum in Priestgate holds all the normal sort of stuff you would expect in a provincial museum. Unless you have a particular interest in Archaelogy or the writings of John Clare the poet, you might well be tempted to by-pass the place.
You would however be missing out on the impressive collection of bone carvings that have been saved from a prisoner of war camp !
The prisoner of war camp at Norman Cross near Peterborough was constructed for French and Dutch prisoners taken captive during the Napoleonic Wars at the start of the 19th century. Most of objects on display, consists of objects of carved bone and ivory, including model ships (many of the prisoners were sailors), guillotines, needle-work boxes and playing cards; and articles of straw marquetry.
The Guidhall, or Butter cross as I always knew it stands in the centre of Cathedral square.
It's an impressive 17th Century building, but unfortunately no better use has been found for it over the last few years, despite discussions to try and turn it into an upmarket cafe.
It is however the venue for the annual Town crier competition which is usually held in April.
This church, right in the middle of Peterborough, caught my eye as I walked to the cathedral. It was very obviously old and I was pleased I was able to explore its interior.
Although there was an earlier church on the site, the present St John the Baptist dates from the late 1300s and was dedicated in 1407; that's pretty old (so I was right!).
There are gargoyles and coats-of-arms to be seen on the outside of the church, along with a rather elaborate 15th-century (1400s) porch which sticks out over the pavement (I particularly liked its carved roof bosses). Although much of the interior has been refurbished and remodelled over the past couple of centuries it still retains its 15th-century carved font.
Excavations around the church in summer 2010 unexpectedly uncovered 7 bodies from the Medieval period; it was previously thought that the church's burial ground at that time was some distance away. Building works were able to continue without disturbing the remains, which have been re-dedicated in a special service and are now re-covered.
The existing Peterborough Cathedral dates from the 1100s but is on the site of much, much earlier buildings. King Peada of the Middle Angles created the first monastery here in 655AD and a carved stone from the very first church, the Hedda stone, can still be seen more than 1200 years later.
It is a lovely building to explore, with much beautiful architecture (displaying the superb skill of the Medieval craftsman working with only basic tools and wooden scaffolding). The cathedral has a unique painted ceiling dating from the 1200s...no other such ceiling survives in England.
There's a shrine to St Oswald, King of Northumbria from 634-652AD...his enshrined arm was stolen from Bamburgh by a Peterborough monk (!!) and brought to Peterborough. When an inventory was made in 1539 it was found that the arm had disappeared, but the shrine which once housed it still remains.
And you can climb the tower if you wish, to get fantastic views over the surrounding area.
The cathedral is the burial place of Queen Katherine of Aragon, Henry Vlll's first wife, and was for a time the burial place of Mary, Queen of Scots (her remains were moved to Westminster Abbey in 1612).
Whilst I personally would not list Peterborough as a must-see, its cathedral is really rather special. So if you are in the area it will be worth spending an hour or two exploring this rather lovely example of English Medieval architecture.
SAVE THE TAP.
When it comes to pub culture Peterborough does not figure very highly in most peope's opinion. One oasis in a desert of blandness is the brewery tap. Claiming to be the biggest brew-pub in Europe the Oakham brewery has put together a great watering hole.
Unfortunately the area is due for re-development with an extension being sought to the shopping centre. A very well organised campaign has been organised to try and save the pub. The most creative suggestion each week can get SEVENTEEN pints as a prize or a bottle of Champayne. Here are some recent entries :
David Lockley from Huntingdon.
JHB is the only beer my wife drinks.
Do you want to ruin my life!!!?
Simon Miles from Peterborough.
Plants need sunlight,
Deserts need the rain,
Men need women,
I need the Tap!
Rodney Wolfe from Ashford.
You don't demolish cathedrals,
You revive them and this is peterboughs second cathedral for sure,
Come in and see.
Kevin Hughes from Peterborough.
I love the Tap,
It really isn't crap,
Its open till late,
And unlike a Fiat really shouldn't be scrapped
Why not treat yourself to a night at the dogs. The track is always offering deals on specific packages which normally gives you a drink or two, a bar snack and at least one free bet. You don't have to worry about the betting side of things as someone comes around before each race and takes your bets from you. It's a pleasant way to spend an evening and you never know you might win a few pounds.
There are two main pools in the city although the Lido is only open during the summer months. The main pool, or regional pool, is what it promises. You won't find flumes or slides this pool is used mostly by serious swimmers and lacks a certain air of fun. Not helped by the drab colour schemes that they insist on using. If you want a splash around I wouldn't recommend you use the regional. If instead you want a serious work out then come in you'll find a full size pool with seperate diving pool.
There is a trainline that runs from the city centre to a small village some 15 miles to the west. The purpose of the train isn't actually to get anywhere it is simply to feed the need for nostalga with the puffing engine pulling some old rolling stock along through quite pleasant countryside. I would estimate that you would spend maybe 2 - 4 hours no more.
Peterborough has two cinemas, one of these actually doubles as a theatre. The main cinema is a modern american style complex with a large number of screens showing all of the latest hollywood productions. Even though this is a cosmopolitan city I have never know them to show anything apart from the normal best sellers, no bollywood or foreign language films. The other issue about the cinema is that it's about 2 miles from the city centre and therefore you'll have to get a taxi or a bus. Prices are steep with a movie costing about £7 per person.