Perhaps the solid nature of Peterborough’s people, industry and culture is rooted in a key product of its industrial past: bricks. The area benefitted from a type of clay that provided an ideal raw material for brick making – first exploited by the Romans, abandoned after they left and again revived in the 1400’s by local craftspeople who created the material for building locally. By the turn of the 20th century, the production of bricks was being undertaken by companies such as the London Brick Company, Eye Fletton Brick Company and Northam Brick Company, portions of which operated up until about 1990. The production of bricks in Peterborough was revolutionary in that they were some of the most ‘green’ bricks every produced, meaning the city’s reputation as an ‘Environment City’ is well-earned.
The 1850 opening of rail lines between London to York with a stop at Peterborough brought the town into the industrial age. This opened up distribution routes for its sturdy bricks, which were then used to build thousands of homes and businesses in England and Scotland. At one point, a full ten per cent of the Peterborough population was engaged in brick making. Other manufacturing businesses grew up in the city as well, including those in diesel engines, other industrial machinery, beet sugar processing and building societies.
The region’s recorded history stretches back to the 1st century when the Romans established a fortified town which was eventually succeeded by a Christian monastery in the 7th century. The grander, current Peterborough Cathedral was constructed between 1118 and 1375 and is renowned for its unique three-arched façade dedicated to the saints Peter, Paul and Andrew. The magnificent and well-preserved edifice was not constructed of brick but of Barnack limestone, transported via riverboats from a nearby village of the same name.
First and Second World Wars:
First and Second World Wars of course touched the city with more than one thousand men from the town lost in the First World War. In the Second World War, the city was bombed several times between 1940 and 1942, with 250 bombs dropped on 10 August 1942, six of which hit the Cathedral roof. Air Raid Protection volunteers effectively protected against extensive damage. Post-Second World War, the city suffered alongside many other with shortages and a difficult economy.
Peterborough Development Corporation:
In 1968, the Peterborough Development Corporation was formed, in part to work with London’s overspill population. A modern city emerged, surrounded by four planned townships and a shopping centre known as Queensgate. Roads and parkway construction facilitated higher car ownership and use. Population growth was significant in the 1970s and 1980s. The city transformed from the industrial to service sector industry, including the relocation of Thomas Cook travel and Pearl Assurance from London.