Pictures from Peterborough, England

Stuart Forster makes a day trip to Cambridgeshire and shares pictures from Peterborough, England, plus tips on things to do and see in the cathedral city.

Peterborough is an English city that I’ve passed through many times while travelling on trains. Curiosity eventually got the better of me. I decided to head there for a look around.

While considering the pros and cons of a trip to Peterborough I thought of George Mallory, the British mountaineer who died climbing Mount Everest in 1924. You may be wondering about Mallory’s connections with Peterborough? As far as I’m aware, there are none (though he did read history relatively nearby at Cambridge, 30 miles southeast of Peterborough).

Ceiling, Bosses, Peterborough Cathedral
Ribbed bosses decorate the ceiling of the central tower in Peterborough Cathedral.

Visiting ‘because it’s there’

When asked by a New York Times reporter why he planned to participate in a third expedition to climb the world’s highest mountain, after two failed attempts, Mallory answered, “Because it’s there”.

Classical Architecture, Town Hall, Peterborough
Classical…the town hall in Peterborough.

Because it’s there. That, ultimately, was the reason I wanted to visit Peterborough. That and a handful of things I’d read about the city’s cathedral, which turned 900 years old in 2018.

Peterborough Cathedral, Fan Vaulting, Ceiling, Church
Fan vaulting on the ceiling of the Lady Chapel in Peterborough Cathedral.

Visiting Peterborough by train

The city is located on Britain’s East Coast Main Line, less than an hour from London. For me, the journey down to Peterborough from Durham took a few minutes over two hours. I decided to make my visit a day trip, with an early start and a good book to pass the time on the train.

One of the great disadvantages of living in Britain is that spontaneous days out using rail transport can be ruinously expensive. Consequently, to get the best possible deal, I booked my tickets weeks in advance.

William Connor Magee, Peterborough
Lying down. Memorial to William Connor Magee (1821 – 1891), the Archbishop of York, in Peterborough Cathedral.

The result? A day of bad weather. Awful weather. Exactly the kind of weather to spend at home with the heating on full blast.

Thick fog engulfed Peterborough station upon my arrival. Stepping out through the doors I couldn’t help but think of one of those smog scenes in old Sherlock Holmes films. (Probably down to a combination of the fog and the fact that a man with a large Alsatian entered as I was leaving, making me think of The Hound of the Baskervilles.)

English Perpendicular, Fan Vaulting, Peterborough Cathedral
Ornate sculpting on the ceiling of Peterborough Cathedral’s Lady Chapel.

Rain intermittently splashed down throughout the day. If you do visit Peterborough, hopefully you enjoy exploring in better weather than I did.

Things to do in Peterborough

My day started with a quick visit to the Queensgate shopping centre. I was surprised at how many people were talking in eastern European languages as I wandered through the mall. One fella approached me speaking Latvian, which has never happened to me previously on the streets of Britain.

Scotland, Scottish, Mary Queen of Scots
Scottish flags mark the original grave of Mary Queen of Scots.

One of the most eye-catching buildings in central Peterborough proved to be the Guildhall on Cathedral Square. It dates from 1671 and has, in the past, served as the town hall.

Guildhall, Butter Cross, Peterborough
The Guildhall (sometimes called the Butter Cross) in Peterborough.

Peterborough Cathedral is a gem. Mary Queen of Scots was, for a time buried within the 12th-century place of worship. Her remains were moved to Westminster Abbey in 1612 but Scottish flags mark the spot where she once lay. Katherine of Aragon, a former wife of King Henry VIII is still buried in the cathedral.

Katherine of Aragon, Tomb, Peterborough
The tomb of Katherine of Aragon.

The building’s ornate wooden ceiling and sculpted stone fan vaulting make it worth looking up while mooching about. The Hedda Stone, depicting a total of twelve figures, is Anglo-Saxon in origin.

Hedda Stone, Monk's Stone, Anglo-Saxon, Peterborough Cathedral
Detail from the Anglo-Saxon Hedda Stone in Peterborough Cathedral.

A quick visit to Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery proved worthwhile for the gory medical exhibits. It was formerly the site of the city’s infirmary.

As you may have noted, most of my photos are of indoor scenes. Testimony to the shoddy weather during my trip.

Why did I call this post pictures from Peterborough, England? The reason is to avoid confusion with Peterborough in Ontario, Canada.

Further information

Find out more about things to do and see in and around the city via the Visit Peterborough and Visit England websites.

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Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster of Why Eye Photography. Why Eye Photography is available for travel photography commissions and photography training in the UK and beyond.

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