Centuries old secrets of Civil War revealed

The Peterborough Cathedral Dig by University of Cambridge archaeologists and Peterborough volunteers in the grounds of the Deanery. Children from All Saints C of E primary school taking part EMN-160628-153734009
The Peterborough Cathedral Dig by University of Cambridge archaeologists and Peterborough volunteers in the grounds of the Deanery. Children from All Saints C of E primary school taking part EMN-160628-153734009
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The Civil War secrets of Peterborough Cathedral have been revealed after laying hidden for hundreds of years.

An archaeological dig held in the Deanery Gardens at the cathedral last year saw a range of discoveries - from evidence of Roman life hundreds of years ago to coins just a few decades old.

But, archaeologists who worked on the dig last summer said the evidence about the Civil War takeover of the cathedral was most exciting.

The finds provide evidence of how the soldiers who commandeered the cathedral for a few short weeks lived.

Alison Dickens, of Access Cambridge Archaeology and Cambridge Archaeological Unit, said: “It was very unexpected to find a dump of material from the 17th century.

“There is a lot of information, so we could date it to the 1640s, and it is evidence of the occupation of the cathedral by Parliamentarian soldiers during the Civil War.

“The occupation is well documented, but now we have found tobacco pipes, evidence of alcohol consumption with bottles and tankards, and even a bullet, all found in the south west corner of the garden.

“They were found during last year’s Heritage Festival, and this year’s festival will be about the Civil War.”

Alison said the finds would go on display in Peterborough, either at the cathedral or at the museum.

She added: “We had more than 900 people come and look at the dig while it was going on, and also plenty of volunteers who came and took part.

“We also had schoolchildren come and dig, and make finds - children really ‘get it’ with the history.

“We also want to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding the project.”

Stuart Orme, historian and Head of Operations at Peterborough Cathedral said: “This report from Access Cambridge Archaeology and their colleagues makes exciting reading for anyone who was involved in the dig at the cathedral last year.

“We knew that there was evidence of Roman activity on the cathedral site already, and we knew that there was much destruction of medieval structures here during the Civil War, but now we have even more tangible evidence of these things.

“The collection of finds from that crucial six week period when Parliamentarian troops were stationed at the cathedral in 1643 is fascinating, not just for us, but also as part of the bigger picture.

“It is of national significance in what it reveals about a Civil War soldiers’ encampment – and another reason to put Peterborough and its history on the map.”

You can find out more about this period when Stuart leads a Civil War Talk and Tour at the Cathedral on Tuesday, June 13, at 7.30pm, as part of the city’s Heritage Festival. For details visit www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk or call 01733 452336.