Peterborough Cathedral

Peterborough Cathedral

Introduction

The first abbey was established at Peterborough (originally called Medeshamstede) in 655 AD and largely destroyed by Viking raiders in 870. In the mid 10th century a Benedictine Abbey was created from what remained, with a larger church and more extensive buildings. The abbey's ancillary buildings were destroyed in Hereward the Wake's resistance to the Norman takeover in 1069, but the church survived until an accidental fire swept through it in 1116.

The present building was begun in 1118, consecrated in 1238 and the structure of the building remains essentially as it was on completion. Most significantly the original wooden ceiling survives in the nave, 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.

The main beams and roof bosses of the tower date back to the 1370s and those of the Presbytery to 1500. The renewal of the Presbytery roof coincided with an extensive building programme which included the processional route provided by extending the East End of the church. This 'New Building' is an excellent example of late Perpendicular work with fine fan vaulting probably designed by John Wastell, who went on to work on Kings College Chapel in Cambridge.

In 1539 the great abbey of Peterborough was closed and its lands and properties confiscated by the king. However to increase his control over the church in this area he created a new bishop and Peterborough Abbey church became a Cathedral.

Two queens were buried in the Cathedral during the Tudor period. Katherine of Aragon's grave is in the North Aisle near the High Altar, whilst Mary Queen of Scots was buried on the opposite side of the altar, though her grave is now empty (she was re-buried in Westminster in 1612).

St Oswald's Arm (the Abbey's most valued relic) disappeared from its chapel about the time of the reformation but the chapel still has its watch-tower where monks kept guard over it day and night.

The Central tower was rebuilt for a second time in the 1880's and after this the whole central and eastern area of the church required refurbishment. This provided an opportunity for the creation of the fine, hand carved choir stalls, cathedra (bishop's throne) and choir pulpit, and the marble pavement and high altar which are at the centre of worship today.

In the 21st century the Cathedral still follows its traditional pattern of daily worship, as well as serving as a vibrant and developing community with outreach and education programmes, and performances and civic events.

Peterborough Cathedral

Highlights

The Nave ceiling

The Nave ceiling

This original hand-painted wooden ceiling dates from around 1230-1250 and is the only one of its type surviving in Britain.

The Choir Stalls

The Choir Stalls

These magnificently carved wooden stalls date from the late 1800s.

Katherine of Aragon's tomb

Katherine of Aragon's tomb

The first wife of King Henry VIII was buried here in 1536.

Mary Queen of Scots' former resting place

Mary Queen of Scots Tomb

The former Queen was buried here in 1587 and remained until her body was moved to Westminster Abbey in 1612.

The Hedda Stone

The Hedda Stone

This stone survives from the very first church on the site and was carved over 1,200 years ago.

Admission & opening hours

Open 364 days a year (closed on Boxing Day). There is no admission charge but donations are politely requested.

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 9am - 5.15pm
Saturday 9am - 3pm
Sunday 12pm - 3.15pm

Tours & education

Guided tours

Our guided tours provide a fascinating insight into the history of the building, the key points of religious, architectural and historical interest, and the many stories and legends associated with the Cathedral. Tours last about 60-75 minutes and are held at scheduled times on most days throughout the year.

You can also prebook one of our group tours if you have a group that would like to take a tour together; we can also provide a package that includes refreshments ranging from tea and coffee to a buffet lunch. For more information or to book a group tour, please contact Amber Homer-Wooff on 01733 352676 or email amber.homer-wooff@peterborough-cathedral.org.uk.

School visits

All school visits need to be booked in advance. This is to avoid the disappointment of arriving and finding that access is not possible for some reason. To book or find out more please call the Education Office on 01733 355300 and speak to Mark Tomlins, Schools & Families Officer. Alternatively, you can email mark.tomlins@peterborough-cathedral.org.uk.

Amenities & facilities

Accessibility

Two disabled parking bays.

Wheelchair access.

A touch/hearing centre and specially formulated written material are available for the blind and partially sighted and a sensory tour can be organised with prior arrangement.

Loop system for the hard of hearing.

Toilets for disabled.

Refreshments

There is an onsite coffee shop offering refreshments. It does not serve hot meals but has a delicious range of cold snacks and hot drinks available for our guests.

Opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 10am - 3pm

Gift Shop

A range of cards, books, calendars, CDs, bookmarks, thimbles, keyrings, plates, mugs, burns crystal, icons, crosses and gift items are all available from the Souvenir Kiosk. Located just inside the main Cathedral door, the Souvenir Kiosk is open during normal visiting hours and is also often open at various evening and weekend events.

Library

Peterborough Cathedral has a fascinating and well stocked library available to the public for research and academic projects. We deal with a steady stream of enquiries and personal callers wishing to research family history, local events and Cathedral connections or personnel. The library does not have regular opening hours but can be accessed for research by arrangement with the Librarian.

Local Interest

In the City

  • Cathedral Square with 15th Century St John the Baptist Parish Church and 17th Century Guildhall.
  • Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery on Priestgate; highlights include a fine collection of Jurassic fossils, fascinating carved bone models made by French Prisoners of War in the early 19th century and regular exhibitions.
  • Flag Fen, one of Europe's most important Bronze Age sites.
  • Nene Valley Railway running into the City Centre from Stibbingon (exhibits at Stibbington include Thomas the Tank Engine).

Nearby

  • Burghleigh House: 01780 752451, www.burghley.co.uk
  • Sacrewell Farm Park
  • Thorney Heritage Museum: 01733 270908
  • Elton Hall: 01832 280468
  • Prebendal Manor: 01780 783575, www.prebendal-manor.co.uk
  • Crowland Abbey: 01733 210499

To the top

Contact Details

Peterborough Cathedral
Minster Precincts
Peterborough
Cambridgeshire, PE1 1XS
England

Telephone
+44 (0) 1733 355 315
Email
Website
www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk
Further Information
Worship time & details
Events at Peterborough
Social Media
Facebook
Twitter

How to find us

Please see our Map for full details.

Plan your visit now.