Friday, August 05, 2005


On Thursday, I decided to head up to Peterborough. The Lonely Planet guidebook entry for Peterborough takes up two pages…well…the bottom of one page and the top of the next. There’s tons to do there…if you like shopping.

So, enjoying shopping like I do, I went to the cathedral instead. Upon entering, I was handed a brochure with some history, map, and brief guide. According to the brochure, ‘a monastic church was founded here by King Paeda in 655AD.’ Since then, it has been destroyed by the Danes (870), rebuilt as part of a Benedictine Abbey (972), burned down accidentally (1116), and rebuilt in its present form between 1118 and 1238. A few additions were added in 1380 and 1500. The central tower was rebuilt in the mid 1300s and again in the 1880s. Henry VIII closed the monastery in 1539 but it was reopened 18 months later as the Cathedral of the new Diocese of Peterborough. As was typical, during the Civil War (England’s, not America’s) the Cathedral was heavily damaged. In November 2001, the cathedral suffered a disastrous fire, a result of which is September’s Peterborough Cathedral Organ Festival to celebrate the restoration of the Cathedral.

Unlike some cathedrals I’ve visited in England, in this one, you can stand at the very back and see straight to the other end. A lot of the other cathedrals have a screen part of the way up that effectively blocks your view. This Cathedral has a splendid painted wooded ceiling that dates from 1230 and is said to be unique in England. Katherine of Aragon (Henry VIII’s first wife – divorced not beheaded) is buried here, as was Mary Queen of Scots until she was moved to Westminster Abbey in 1612. You can also visit the New Building that was added between 1496 and 1509 (it says something about a place whose new building is 500 years old). Also in the Cathedral is the Hedda Stone (or the Monks Stone), an 8th century carving showing Jesus, Mary, and ten disciples.

After exploring the inside, you can also walk about outside in the cloisters and the cemetery. When I was there, they were ringing the bells in the tower. (I think they must have been practicing something…it couldn’t have been change ringing, though – it was the same pattern each time.)

I stopped in at the gift shop (I’m not totally averse to shopping) and picked up a few postcards (I paid for them as well). I also used my handy 10% discount coupon I picked up in the ‘Discover Peterborough’ brochure before I left Stevenage. They nice ladies at the till told me I was the first person ever to use one.

After a lunch at the Cornish Pasty place, I headed to Railworld! I saw Railworld on my arrival into Peterborough – actually I noticed what appeared to be a train car hovering about ten feet off the ground. Upon further investigation, I learned it actually WAS a train car hovering about ten feet off the ground. It was the ‘eyecatching RTV31 (research test vehicle) of 1970 that ran on air!’ At least that’s what the brochure says. It was a test vehicle for a proposed monorail-type system and it was sitting on a concrete support. (Now, before the purists yell at me about monorails versus whatever this thing is, I know it’s not really a monorail since it ran on air. But the point is, it ran on an elevated track. And looks pretty futuristic.)

That was pretty much the highlight of Railworld. And that was for free, in the parking lot. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that was the highlight until after I paid my money and wandered around inside. I climbed up on the yellow Union Pacific engine. (Yes, Union Pacific…from the United States…that I could see all the time in Roanoke…they paid to move this thing from America.) I climbed up on a Scandinavian steam engine. I wandered through the displays. I stopped in the chapel. I looked at the model trains. I left. (Unless you’re a die-hard train person, you could probably just stand in the parking lot and look at the RTV31 for free and enjoy it just as much.) (They have plans to expand, really…in fact, they handed me two pages of ideas on my way in. They just need money…)

I also went to the Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery. Before you make a special trip (and I know you were just planning one), you need to know that the top floor of the three-floor museum is closed for ‘essential maintenance,’ as is the archaeology gallery on the second floor, as was the art gallery. But the other two or three galleries were pretty nice. I mean, where else can you see a gallery of ‘Attacks on Peterborough Through the Ages’ or whatever it was called? And they had some fossils. And a Victorian store.

So, basically, if you’re not into shopping, you could spend a nice few hours in Peterborough and leave content knowing that you hadn’t missed much.


Blogger Mum said...

So you can go to Peterborough and see an American train. Perhaps when you return to America, you can see London Bridge.

2:57 AM  

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