AN ICONIC gravedigger who buried Katharine of Aragon has inspired an ale to mark the anniversary of her death.
Robert Scarlett, better known as Old Scarlett, was the sexton at St John’s Church throughout the 16th century, meaning he swept the churchyard and buried the city’s dead.
His role extended to the Cathedral and to mark the 475th anniversary of him laying the former Queen to rest, local brewer Castor Ales has launched a drink in his honour.
The move has the backing of Peterborough Cathedral and the dean, the Very Reverend Charles Taylor was on hand to pour the first pint of the new drink yesterday.
He said: “It is one of the first times I have ever poured a pint but I have plenty of experience drinking them.
“I have not been a regular bar man so I will have to be instructed how to do it.
“Of course religion and alcohol do have a close relationship because for years every monastery brewed lots because the water was unfit to drink.
“We had a survey of the Cathedral’s precincts and it showed it was the site of a monastic brewery.
“The Old Scarlett story is very much a part of Peterborough’s history and he lived a fascinating life.”
Old Scarlett also buried Mary Queen of Scots during his tenure and legend has he made such an impression on William Shakespeare that he became an inspiration for the grave digger scene in Hamlet.
The ale, which is 4.6 per cent in strength, has been brewed to a copper red colour.
It is the brainchild of landlord of the Crown Inn in Lincoln Road Brian Gascoyne, where the beer was launched yesterday.
He said: “I thought it would be nice to do something to mark Katharine of Aragon’s anniversary.
“The Old Scarlett story is a fascinating one and it is a good way to let more people know about him.”
Brian contacted Duncan Vessey from Castor Ales to create the drink to mark the anniversary of one of England’s most famous burials.
Duncan said: “The dark colour reflects the trade he mastered during his 98 years and 10 months of his life.
“I used hops from New Zealand which will give it a really distinct flavour.
“I had vaguely heard of Old Scarlett and my first thought was that it sounds like a great name of an ale.
“But the more Brian talked to me about it, the more interested I became in his life.”
At the launch yesterday local historian Stuart Orme told people in the Crown Inn about the life story of Old Scarlett.
The ale will also be served at the Prince of Wales Feathers in Peterborough Road, Castor; The Ostrich in North Street, Peterborough and the Ploughman in Staniland Way, Werrington.
Factfile: Robert Scarlett
IN his long period as gravedigger for St John’s Church, Robert Scarlett (1493-1591) is thought to have buried around 1,500 people.
As well as Katharine of Aragon, he also buried Mary Queen of Scots after she died at Fotheringhay Castle, near Oundle, in 1587.
Old Scarlett is said to have inspired the gravedigger scene in Hamlet after meeting William Shakespeare in a London pub.
Ironically, he avoided death for decades longer than most at the time, before passing away two months before his 99th birthday.