Society concerns for the future of the Embankment area

Please read the Peterborough Telegraph article written by our chairman David Turnock over our concerns regarding various planning proposals that are being floated, which would in our opinion have a negative impact on the future of the Embankment.

Peterborough Town Investment Plan Bid

Please read the Peterborough Telegraph article written by committee member Kem Mehmed about this important document and its significance for the future development of the city.

Westgate Market Hall - a proposal

The content that was here has now been moved to a dedicated page Westgate Market Hall.

The adopted Peterborough Local Plan

Read our views and find out more on the Peterborough Local Plan by following the link.

Society announces 15 new blue plaques

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We have reently installed 15 further blue plaques bringing the total to 36.

In 2017 the Society installed twenty blue plaques in and around the city centre. These were on a variety of subjects – people such as St Thomas Becket, John Thompson Jnr., Thomas James Walker, Arthur James Robertson, and Thomas Hake and places such as Peterborough County Court, Embassy Theatre, Public Library, Theatre Royal, Great Barn, Shopping Arcade, Cumbergate, Deacon’s School, Parish Burial Ground, Angel Inn, Town Hall, the Lido, Town Bridge, Customs House and Abbot’s Gaol & Lodging.

The scheme was a great success and many people, both from Peterborough and afar, learnt a great deal of new information about our city. Over the past couple of years I have given about forty talks on these plaques to a variety of local organisations. The interest in the plaques in particular, and Peterborough’s history in general, is really high.

In 2018, to honour the end of the 1914-18 War, the City Council paid for an additional plaque to be erected to commemorate the Recruitment Office in Long Causeway, thus making the total twenty-one.image missing please notify webmaster

It is not surprising that there were soon requests for the Society to extend the scheme so that’s just what has happened. We asked for suggestions from the general public and received quite a few. Sadly, the person who received the most nominations was Mr Peterborough himself, dear Peter Boizot. Unfortunately, since Peter died in December 2018, he is not yet eligible for a blue plaque – the rules state that a person has to have been deceased for a minimum of ten years.

The Society agreed that we could fund a further fifteen plaques, with financial assistance from the City Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Charles Wells brewery. These new plaques continue to be largely in and around the city centre and were installed June 2020.

We were very aware that we were short of illustrious women, consequently this time we have included mention of five – Edith Cavell, Margaret Gibson and Annette van Dissel (all associated with Laurel Court in the Cathedral cloisters), Marjorie Pollard (a notable sportswoman) and Daphne Jackson (an eminent professor of physics and champion of women working in the sciences).

We have also included notable buildings and people not included in the first phase, some individuals many will not have heard of before. That is one of the main reasons for the plaques – to inform people and to make us all think and say, “I never knew that!” and ensure the history, significance and importance of the buildings and people commemorated are not forgotten.

An updated Peterborough Plaques booklet has been produced and is available. For more details on how to obtain one and find out more about all our 36 blue plaques, please visit the Blue Plaques page.

Well before the current range of Blue Plaques we have been installing plaques since 1985 and this range can be found at
Society Plaques 1985 to 2012.

Peterborough Civic Society

Guildhall, Cathedral Square - can you help?

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We are looking to assist Peterborough City Council in devising/designing a scheme to bring the ground floor of the splendid Guildhall into use. It can be anything so get those creative juices flowing and "think outside the box" but bear in mind it is grade 2 listed so cannot be strucurally altered.

The arches though could be filled in with glass panels for example, but would need a system that would not damage the fabric of the building. Also, would you, or someone you know, be able to finance the project, due the Council having very limited funds. Any suggestions please email them to

The Guildhall rightly stands pride of place in Cathedral Square, and as with all things if they are not used, they can degrade through latent neglect and sadly it has lately been attracting the wrong sort of behaviour.

The Society writes a monthly column for Peterborough Telegraph, one of which featured the Guildhall and can be read here

Peterborough Civic Society

Canary Cottage saved for posterity

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Canary Cottage, Knarr Farm, Thorney is to be given Grade II listed status by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, on the advice of Historic England who have labelled it a time capsule, showing what Fenland gricultural life was like.

This iconic eye catching structure with its yellow door and window frames stands in the flat Fenland fields, visible from the A47 on the way to Thorney.

It is a rare mid-18th century thatched relic gained the name ‘Canary Cottage’ in the early 20th century, when the owners the Dixon-Spain family colour-coded their buildings. The L-shaped cottage housed farm workers for over 250 years, offering basic living conditions, complete with an outside toilet, open fire, mains water and a gas powered water heater.

It is pleasing to know that the current owners, Dalton Seeds will ensure its preservation.

Peterborough Civic Society

Northminster car park closure

The sudden closure of Northminster car park, read our concerns kindly publicised through the Peterborough Telegraph. What is going on?

Peterborough Civic Society

Peterborough in Detail Greetings Cards

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Peterborough Civic Society have created these lovely cards using photographs taken during the preparation of our acclaimed book, 'Peterborough and its Villages in Detail'. They are for sale via our
for sales page where they can be viewed full size.

The Society took up this challenge following a call from our Committee that we should take further steps to support our wonderful Cathedral. Once the production costs of the cards have been covered, all profits will be donated to the Cathedral to assist with the maintenance of its fabric.

The collages have been prepared by our vice-chairman, Toby Wood. We would like to acknowledge the support given by the Peterborough Photographic Society and Fisherprint Ltd. in their realisation.


Peterborough Civic Society

Will Serpentine Green shopping centre expansion damage the City Centre? - press release

The proposals to upgrade and extend the Serpentine Green shopping centre have been enthusiastically welcomed by 800 or so people who visited an exhibition held recently in Hampton. The plans include additional shops, a large unit for leisure uses, an outdoor town square and a decked car park. The prospect of leisure uses appears to have grabbed the public attention and top of he list was a swimming pool, with a bowling alley, indoor skiing and a climbing wall also favoured.

The scheme is said to cost £45 million and will create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs. So what's not to like? For residents of Hampton and its neighbours, the answer is; very little. The difficulty comes when we look at the wider impact of such a large expansion of a district centre on the city centre and the other district centre nearby at Ortongate. Will this proposal damage the viability and vitality of these two?

Ortongate is in a sorry state the causes being many fold and a mystery to most of us. One thing for certain is that its lack of success in attracting retailers to fill its empty buildings can be put down to competition from Serpentine Green. Adding to the retail and leisure offer of Serpentine Green will set back the recovery of Ortongate a number of years.

The city centre is also not in the best of health in shopping terms. In 2015 when planning permission for the extensions to Serpentine Green, currently under construction, was applied for the assessment of the City Council planners was that the centre was too big for the population it served and that any increase in retail space might be detrimental to the city centre. On balance it was not considered serious enough to justify a refusal, bearing in mind the buoyant state of shopping in the city centre at the time. There has been a good deal of activity since then. Many shops have changed hands and many have been converted to restaurants. Queensgate has planning permission to; remodel one of the malls, slightly increase retail space, install a food court and a multi screen cinema. Their approval has almost certainly damaged the likelihood of a much needed regeneration of North Westgate based on a strikingly similar contents list.

We live in unpredictable times where some stability and continuity in planning of our shopping and social infrastructure is needed. Any proposals which divert investment in shops, social and leisure facilities from the city centre should be resisted in the interests of maintaining and improving a city centre in which we can be proud.

What may be best for Hampton may not be best for the city as a whole.

Kem Mehmed 18th July 2017.
On behalf of the Peterborough Civic Society committee.

Peterborough Civic Society

Fletton Quays

All matters relating to Fletton Quays can now be found on our planning applications page.

Peterborough Civic Society

New Theatre (formerly Broadway Theatre)

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The planning application to replace the theatre with apartments met with strong objections both locally and nationally. Amongst them were substantial and well-argued letters from two national bodies, The Theatres Trust and the Cinema Theatre Association. Confidential information on viability and a business plan were submitted from Bill Kenwright Ltd who operated successful seasons in 2013 and 2015. Here are some summaries/extracts from the former:

The Society has been in touch with a local group looking to save The Broadway and has submitted its own objections to the planning application. We await the City Council's decision, and, especially, what happens thereafter.

Update - With events being held again at the Broadway (now renamed New Theatre), did you ever wonder what happened to the application to, in effect, demolish the theatre and create around 60 apartments? In a word, it was quietly refused by the City Council on 8th August, as a decision delegated to officers. The officer's report, on the Council's web site (reference 16/02096/FUL), makes interesting reading.

The main refusal reason was the applicant's failure to demonstrate that the Broadway was "not viable as a cultural/entertainment/leisure venue". Peterborough people came out in force to fight for the theatre. 214 individual letters of objection were submitted and an on-line petition had 1787 'signatures'. Over 80 separate points were made. And some of the most revealing came from outside the city, especially from the national bodies, the Theatres Trust and the Cinema Theatre Association (see our newsletter of December last year). Did we really know that "The Broadway auditorium is now one of the finest remaining Odeon interiors in the country"?

But the key argument came down to the one of viability. The recent Bill Kenwright seasons had demonstrated that the theatre could stage major shows, draw an audience from a wide area and make a profit. But the theatre "had never been managed by an experienced theatre operator - or been properly put out to tender to find an experienced theatre operator of the type required to programme a 1200 seat receiving theatre" (Theatres Trust).

So is the theatre saved for good? On page 18 of the August report we are told that since the application was submitted the owner had signed an agreement with the Peter Dawe Charitable Trust to lease the property for three years, though with various clauses to terminate, extend or purchase at different timescales. "The Trust has sublet the premises to an operator who is preparing a programme to use the property as a bar and for live events. The agent has advised that the owner has decided to take one last opportunity to see if the facility can operate as a viable concern. Although the lease is for three years it is expected that viability can be proven in the next twelve months. It has been agreed with the agent that the Council will refuse the current application rather than this being withdrawn."

It is not unusual for owners of property to withdraw applications heading for refusal to avoid a refusal appearing in the records. In this case a refusal helps to give some confidence to the theatre operator of the owner's good intentions. Whether it reduces the high expectations of the redevelopment value of the site is less certain. Let's hope that the programme is popular and that the owner, the lessee and operator all stay the course. It's certainly a varied programme and good to see it extending throughout the coming 12 months.

Let's buy some tickets.

December 2017 Peter Lee

Peterborough Civic Society

Peterborough and its Villages in Detail

Peterborough and its villages in detail is a hardback book produced by the Society covering the fascinating and architectural detail of distinctive local buildings and includes superb photographs. The book can be purchased from the Society at a special reduced price. For more details and price, please see our items for sale page to order. Alternatively the book can be purchased at our open meetings, see our talks and visits page for the date and venue of the next meeting. It is for sale elsewhere but normally at its full published price of £18.00.

Peterborough in Detail
Peterborough Civic Society

The Story of RAF Peterborough (Westwood)

The Civic Society secured a grant from the Local Heritage Initiative (part of the Heritage Lottery Fund) to produce a DVD and teachers resource pack featuring the story of Westwood Airfield (known as RAF Peterborough in the 1930s and WW2). Local film company, Blue Slate media, have produced the DVD and the Heritage Education team at Peterborough Museum have produced the teachers’ pack.

The Society was particularly keen to record, through interviews, the stories of people who served at Westwood, as well as recording on film the few remaining airfield buildings before they are lost. The DVD also sets the airfield in the wider context of the war experience of Peterborough and European events through the use of archive film from local and national sources. Copies of the DVD can be purchased through the Society by following this link, or can be purchased at our open meetings please see our programme page for the date and venue of the next meeting.

Peterborough Civic Society

page last changed 12 January 2021, last reviewed PL 12 November 2020.