The Saxon village and church that made up the original settlement of Peterborough on the banks of the River Nene was called Medehamstede meaning ‘meadow homestead’ and was taken from the meadows that were either side of the River Nene.
Peterborough, like many other places up and down the east coast of England, was ransacked by Danish and Viking raiders during the 8th and 9th centuries. One particular raid on the town in 870 AD completely destroyed the church.
When the new church was rebuilt a century later in 972 AD as an abbey, it was also deemed necessary to build some defences around the monastic site as the country was still not safe from raids from the continent.
The entire Precinct was fortified in 1005 AD with a defence called a burgh (or burh). This is likely to have consisted of an earthwork with additional defences made from stone and/or wood. It was when the burgh was constructed that the name of Medehamstede was changed first to Goldenburgh and then Peterburgh (after the saint dedication of the church and the presence of the fortification burgh).
An accidental fire destroyed most of the abbey in 1116 and when work began to rebuild it two years later the town was moved from its original position to the east to the west of the abbey with a planned layout around a central market place. It is the 900th anniversary of this new building in 1118 that will be celebrated in 2018.
Peterborough abbey was closed in 1539 as part of the dissolution of the monasteries across the country by Henry VIII, but instead of being destroyed it was made into a cathedral in 1541. It was also in this year that the King’s School was founded.
Photo: The ground penetrating radar (gps) survey of the site carried out in 2015.