Architecture in Peterborough: Then & Now

One of the fastest growing, most vibrant cities in the UK, Peterborough has undergone a massive expansion over the last 150 years. This piece will look at its history and what influenced what people live in and enjoy today.

Religion – the city’s first calling

There have been settlements in what is now the Peterborough area since pre Roman times. The Romans built a fort from where they launched an attack on Briton Queen Boudicca only to be ambushed on their way and returned to the fort with only 20% of the men surviving the attack.

The Anglo Saxons saw the area as a great place to live and there has been a number of monasteries and abbeys in the area through history. An abbey was built in the 1100’s where the current cathedral is now. For the next 400 or so years the abbots had total control of the city, with everyone there serving the abbey. Many of Peterborough’s current streets were laid down between the 1100’s and 1200’s under the direction of the abbots of the time.

Religious rule would continue when King Henry VIII enacted the Reformation – the abbey became a cathedral in 1539 and the new Dean and Chapter became Lords of the Manor of Peterborough. In converting from abbey to cathedral, so the village of around 3,000 people became a city.

Today the cathedral is one of the stand out pieces of architecture in the city, and remains largely as it was on completion in 1238. As with many other cathedrals across the UK it has been modified over time including a major refurbishment in the 1800s.

The smallest city in England?

In 1774 the Gentleman’s Magazine described the city as the ‘smallest city in England’. It had grown to 3500 in the 1801 Census and when the railways came to the city in 1850, Peterborough would undergo its first great expansion to 11,732 by 1861 as industry flourished with its access to London. The city was also a busy port, with the River Nene being navigable right up to Woodston Wharf until 1937 when the Grand Union Canal opened the Dog in a Doublet lock 5 miles downstream. Peterborough is blessed with its access by road, railway and for many years by sea. Infrastructure makes a city, and these great links would seed its growth to what we have today.

Railways, roads and canals…

There has been a bridge over the River Nene for hundreds of years. The first Town Bridge was made of wood in 1308 and lasted until 1847 when this was replaced with an iron bridge that only lasted 87 years when it was replaced with the concrete one we have today in 1934.

When the railways were built, they had to cross the Nene too and the iron railway bridge that was also installed remains to this day with some modifications for its age. It is now the oldest surviving iron railway bridge in the UK.

Bricks and mortar – The ‘Fletton Process”

Oxford clay is a fantastic brick making material. It ignites when baked and effectively cooks itself in the kiln. This was recognised by the Romans who built their fort of it, but brick making was a cottage industry at best for millennia. In 1891 however the ‘Fletton process’ was developed, named after the village where it was invented, that sped up brick making considerably and Peterborough would become the national centre of brick making. By 1900 the city would treble in size to over 30,000 people. Oxford clay bricks are a central theme of British architecture and still form a major influence of what you see in Peterborough today.

The Fletton Quays that are undergoing redevelopment today were originally built for the industry of the area – the brickworks that were closed in 1990. The Grand Union Canal took bricks to London.

In 2014 it was announced that the Fletton Quays area would be redeveloped, and over £120 million has been raised to inject a modern vibrancy to the centre of the city with shops, restaurants, green spaces as well as apartments that will be put in the listed buildings of the area. Where once it was the beating heart of the city in terms of the employment from industry, it will soon attract young professionals and again be a major economic powerhouse for Peterborough.

Into the modern day…

In 1967 the government declared Peterborough would become a ‘new town’ and decreed that it would treble in population by 1987. Massive investment followed the announcement – some good, some poor – and by 1991 its population had reached 155,050. This is quite a growth spurt from 3,000 in the 1860’s!

As the city has grown so Peterborough has had to develop greenfield as well as brownfield sites. Where the brickworks at Fletton Quays will soon house and entertain thousands of people in the inner city, new developments on the edges are being developed too. Most notable of these is the Hampton Township on the north western edge of the city. 1900 homes were built in the area beginning in 1996 and construction of the area will not be completed until the early 2020’s.

Hampton isn’t going to be another urban blot on the landscape, with the master developers O&H Properties being cited by Natural England for their good work in building a suburb that is aesthetically pleasing while serving the needs of residents in the area. The developers pledged to make at least 50% of the township open spaces and planted 110,000 trees as part of their development. Many of the homes are zero carbon that will serve the needs of their residents for many years to come as energy prices continue to soar. Much of the town is self supporting with a jobs to homes ratio of 1.25, meaning that most of the residents can live and work there without having to commute.

With a history of over 2000 years the city of Peterborough has seen a lot of changes, but where other cities have faltered and failed in the last century, this city seems to have grabbed the opportunities presented with both hands. This is exhibited in its architecture that in some cases has lasted over 900 years and will remain for centuries to come.

Architects In Peterborough

If you didn’t find what you were looking for, the below establishments might be able to help!

Please note that the following list was put together from publicly available records and was correct to the best of knowledge at the time of posting. If you’d like to remove or edit your business please get in touch via our contact page.

Slinger Peter140 Fletton Avenue, Peterborough

UrbanEdge Architecture Scotgate Mews, Scotgate, Stamford
Graham Handley Architects The Mill, Free Church Passage, Saint Ives
Long Stuart Thrapston House/Huntingdon Rd, Kettering
Julius Geeson Architect 12 North Road, Bourne
Jan Maciag Architects 21 Commerce Road, Peterborough
Sheelagh Shaen-Carter Architect 22 Priory Road, Manton, Oakham
PDG Architects Ltd Toll Bar House, Shrewsbury Avenue, Peterborough
Harris McCormack Architects ArcHaus, Wansford
Terrence Hodgkins Associates 47 High Street, Thrapston
John D Lynch Partnership Clock House, 1 Casterton Road, Stamford
Andrew M Wright Architect 26 Joy’s Bank, Holbeach Saint Johns, Spalding
Marshall Sisson 56 High Street, Hemingford Grey, Huntingdon
Peter Wilmot Architects Firdale Stables, High Street, Morcott, Oakham
David Turnock Architects United Kingdom, Datum House, Commerce Road, Peterborough
Archade Architects Ltd 27 Manningham Road, Stanwick, Wellingborough
Portess & Richardson Architects 193 Lincoln Road, Peterborough
Smallwood Architects 11A High Street, Stamford
McDonald Architects Keepers Lodge, Brigstock, Kettering
Brand Associates 2A Dartford Road, March
Wythe Holland Limited 10 Emlyns Street, Stamford
Paul Bancroft Architects 80 South Road, Oundle Peterborough
K L Elener 6-8 Dartford Road, March
Jefferson Sheard Unit 9, The Forum, Minerva Business Park, Lynch Wood, Peterborough, Peterborough
Andrew M Wright Architect 26 Joy’s Bank, Holbeach Saint Johns, Spalding
McCombie Smith Architects 12 Church Lane, Greetham
Pitts Architects 12 The Waits, Saint Ives
Stamford Architects Stamford
Rutland Architects 20 Orchard Close, Egleton, Oakham
Le Sage Associates 40 Bridge Street, Peterborough
Peter Smith Associates 57 Main Street, Baston, Peterborough
Peter Humphrey Associates Ltd 31 Old Market, Wisbech
Waterland Associates Alconbury
TMV Architectural Design Sawtry
Robert Weighton 10 Broad Street, Stamford
Miller William Architects Ltd 39 High Street, Cottenham, Cambridge
Sustainable Ecological Architecture Ltd 89 Gedney Road, Long Sutton, Spalding
Sisco Architecture Ltd 18 The Broadway, Saint Ives