Tributes to one of Peterborough’s greatest figures who left a ‘legacy which is unequalled’

Tributes have been paid to the man behind Peterborough’s transformation into a modern city.

Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 1:04 pm
Wyndham Thomas

Wyndham Thomas was head of the Peterborough Development Corporation which turned Peterborough from a market town into a flourishing city with attractions including Queensgate Shopping Centre and Nene Park.

The father of four has now passed away in his mid-90s, but his legacy will live on according to former city council leader Charles Swift who helped appoint Mr Thomas to his role with the development corporation back in 1968.

Mr Swift said: “He made a fantastic contribution to the expansion of Peterborough.

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Wyndham Thomas

“You knew where you stood with him. If he asked someone to do the work you did it.

“Over the history of Peterborough he made one of the largest contributions ever in the city and left a legacy which is unequalled.

“He was dynamic, very far-sighted and he made a wonderful contribution.”

Mr Thomas was made a freeman of the city back in March 2015 when he was aged 90 in recognition of his 14 years in charge of the development corporation which was tasked with turning Peterborough into one of the government’s sought after New Towns in order to take pressure off of London.

Among his triumphs was the creation of Nene Park (including Ferry Meadows), the parkway system and Queensgate, which opened in 1982 with a flagship John Lewis store.

He also engineered the arrival of former travel giant Thomas Cook into the city.

The development corporation, before it was shut down by the Government, created 26,000 new houses, 25,000 new jobs and 26 miles of a new parkway system.

The population increased by 50,000 during this time, while the city saw Lynch Wood business park opened in 1988 by the Queen and Showcase Cinemas come to the city

Current Peterborough City Council leader Cllr John Holdich said: “I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family of Wyndham Thomas at this difficult time.

“With his passing we have lost a wealth of experience and knowledge of our city’s past.

“The Peterborough that we know today would not exist without Wyndham’s tremendous contribution as chairman of the Peterborough Development Corporation, a position he held for more than 14 years. We have him to thank for the many aspects of our city that we are proud of today, including Nene Park, our fantastic parkway system and Queensgate.

“Wyndham will always remain one of the most instrumental men in the development of Peterborough and it was for this reason ​he was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City in 2015, the highest recognition the council can bestow.”

Peterborough Civic Society said: “Members were sad to learn of the death of Wyndham Thomas, an adopted son of Peterborough.

“Wyndham Thomas came to Peterborough as the general manager of the Development Corporation in 1968. He was a man with vision and a mission who could see the potential to transform this historic city into a place where people and businesses could make a new future for themselves.

“As you drive around the city today you may be on a parkway, a system of high capacity roads within landscaped parkland, a concept Wyndham saw in the USA. He was a fervent advocate of the garden city and his vision of a family house with a garden set in a neighbourhood full of trees and landscaped open spaces was an ever present in his time here.

“The transformation of the city centre was a vital part of his thinking and we still enjoy the shops of Queensgate and the traffic free landscaped streets he worked to create.

“Some might say the jewel in the crown of his legacy is Ferry Meadows, the centrepiece of Nene Park which runs through the city for its entire extent from the Great North Road in the west to the Fens in the east.

“He was a vigorous advocate for this concept of a public park for all the people which was part of the plan for the city from the very beginning. There are many other things that he promoted which we still benefit from and which are part of his legacy.

“To paraphrase a well known epitaph; “if you seek his monument, spend some time in Peterborough.”

Mr Thomas was born in born in south Wales in 1924. He joined the Army, serving as a lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers from 1943 to 1947.

He married Elizabeth in 1947 and moved to Hemel Hempstead where he became mayor. At the time he would have been the youngest mayor ever to be appointed.

He was made vice-president of the Town and Country Planning Association in 1992 as well as a member of the council of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

He was also awarded the CBE for his work in the New Towns project.