Looking Back: ‘How Peterborough’s Cathedral Square could have been very different’

Looking back at the history of Cathedral Square.

Sunday, 15th November 2020, 3:57 am
Cathedral Square.
Cathedral Square.

The Peterborough Story - a Peterborough Evening Telegraph special publication from 1992 - chronicled the city’s history for the 30 years fron 1962. It is an invaluable source of information for this column.

The newspaper’s long serving librarian and local history expert Alan Cleaver penned this fascinating piece I’ve reproduced here...

When the Peterborough market was removed from its centuries old site on the Market Place in September 1963 it was the intention of the city council to realign the roads surrounding the site to improve the flow of traffic.

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The Queen statue.

Within days, work began on the taking down of the Gates Memorial - a pseudo gothic monument to the city’s first mayor Henry Pearson Gates - erected in 1898.

Meanwhile, the council asked the public through the press to help them rename the Market Place.

The name Cathedral Square was submitted by a Stamford woman and subsequently chosen.

Four sculptors were selected to submit designs to replace the Gates Memorial. And in February 1964 - just to be on the safe side – the council brought in the art experts to advise on whether the redesigned Market Place should have a new sculpture or a renovated Gates Memorial .

The following month the council disclosed that the three experts were unanimous in agreeing that the new sculpture – known as the Seated Queen – met with their approval.

The council decided to test public opinion and put the model of the Seated Queen on display.

One councilllor said: “Inevitably anything of a modern sort is going to create comment from those who don’t understand it.’’

He wasn’t wrong either – nobody wanted to understand it! In fact the locals couldn’t stand it and didn’t want it.

Councillors appropriately chose April 1 to delete the offending sculpture from the estimates!

So The Seated Queen passed into history and the Gates Memorial went to Bishop’s Road Gardens.

From the fountains to the infamous fake white bubble Christmas tree there’s always been lots of debate about Cathedral Square and what should go in it but judging by the picture I think the councillors of the day saved themselves from a whole heap of trouble with their decision to abandon the plan and ensure the Queen never got off the drawing board.

This is a long shot, but does anybody have any idea of the identity of the woman who named Cathedral Square?