Longthorpe Tower: City’s heritage has tower power

Heritage regeneration officer Alice Kershaw, with trainee conservation officer Janine Siciliano, left, outside Longthorpe Tower, which has been listed in the top 100 most important buildings in Britain. (METP-31-05-11PF041) Picture: Paul Franks/Peterborough ET
Heritage regeneration officer Alice Kershaw, with trainee conservation officer Janine Siciliano, left, outside Longthorpe Tower, which has been listed in the top 100 most important buildings in Britain. (METP-31-05-11PF041) Picture: Paul Franks/Peterborough ET
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A hidden gem in Peterborough’s heritage has been named as one of the top 100 historic visitor attractions in the country.

Longthorpe Tower, in Thorpe Road, features in a book out this week called “100 Places That Made Britain”.

The building is described as a “non-descript tower” on the outside, but once visitors enter they are wowed by the 14th century paintings which are thought to be the most important examples of their kind in northern Europe.

The book was compiled by Dr David Musgrove, editor of BBC History Magazine, who wrote to 100 historians asking them to nominate a site they felt was particularly significant.

The only rule was they had to be open to the public and sees Longthorpe Tower alongside the likes of Canterbury Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Anglo-Saxon burial site Sutton Hoo.

Dr Musgrove said: “It doesn’t look like much from the outside but once you get in there are these amazing Medieval paintings.

“They are rare examples of non-religious paintings from the first half of the 14th century.

“When you walk in there you really get a feel of how the Medieval mind works. It is really quite astonishing.

“You do get paintings of this period, not often, but usually in churches.

The tower, built in 1310 as a fortified home, is part of a larger building which is not open to the public.

At some point after the Medieval period the walls of the home were white washed, preserving the paintings for hundreds of years.

They were not discovered until after the Second World War when the Home Guard returned it to the original owner, who discovered the art when he started to refurbish the building.

Since then, the building has been owned by English Heritage and is open to the public by appointment only and on the first Sunday of every month.

But Alice Kershaw, heritage regeneration officer for the city, hopes that the publicity it gets from the book will encourage more visitors and prompt managers to open it up more frequently.

She said: “It is a very significant tower and absolutely beautiful inside. It is really interesting to see the diversity of life in Peterborough at the time and is really worthy of being in the list.

“It is well worth a visit. It is never going to be a massive tourist attraction because it is so small, but it is another draw to the city.

“We are hoping it will be open for our Heritage Open Days and as a real bonus hopefully English Heritage will open it up more often.”

The tower is only open on the first Sunday of the month and only for those who have booked a guided tour.

For more information call 01536 203230 or visit www.english-heritage.org.uk

About Longthorpe Tower

LONGTHORPE Tower is one of the oldest buildings in Peterborough and considered of high importance to the nation’s heritage.

It has Grade I listed status as well as being a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the highest preservation orders in the country.

Its place on the top 100 list now ranks it alongside the likes Tower of London, Belfast’s Titanic Dockyard and Stirling Castle.

Less well-known places on the list include Swansea’s White Rock Copper Works, which saw the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, and Porthcurno, the heart of the Victorian telegraph network on the far west coast of Cornwall.