In July 1898 The British Archaeological Association held its annual congress in Peterborough.

It was a major event and brought hundreds of visitors to the city (at a time when the population was little more than 30,000).

The report below was published in the Peterborough Advertiser on 16 July 1898. The archaeological significance of the Peterborough area is highlighted. It also throws interesting light on the opinions and social mores of the time.

The British Archaeological Association was founded in 1843 and rode a wave of enthusiasm for archaeology during the 19th Century.  Their annual congress was considered a fund raising event and was held each year in a city with significant medieval heritage; a local dignitary from the city visited was (at that time) appointed as President. The Association continues to this day and member benefits include access to the full archive of their Journal.

The Association returned to Peterborough in 2015. An excellent book encompassing papers delivered was published in 2019 – “Peterborough and the Soke”. Topics include a comprehensive overview of the Anglo-Saxon Abbey, Roman Buildings of the Nene Valley, and the Stone Quarrying at Barnack.

Antiquarian Congress at Peterborough


The British Archaeological Association opened a week’s Congress at Peterborough on Thursday. A stupendous programme of excursions and meetings have been arranged. The Association has made the Grand Hotel its headquarters, and there are upwards of 100 influential members attending. The Bishop of Peterborough (Hon, and Rev, E Carr Glyn) is the President for the year.

Although the Association – with its painstaking Secretary, Mr George Patrick, ARIBA – has lined out its own programme, yet it has received valuable assistance from a local Committee of about fifty prominent residents in the City and the district, having at their head the Dean of Peterborough as chairman. This committee met at the Museum on Wednesday, when Mr Patrick submitted the programme. The Mayor (Mr Jos. Hunting) presided, and also present were – Lord Melville (vice-presidnt), Canon and Mrs Alderson, Miss Argles, Mrs Mansel, Mrs Terrott, The Dean of Stamford, Very Rev Dean Swann, Messrs W Boyer, C H J Butterfield, Rev L L Cooper, Dr Cane, Mr S Egar, Rev J P Flood, Mr G J Gray, Mr J T Irvine, Mr Frank Loomes, Rev W D Sweeting, Mr H M Townsend, Mr L B Woodforde, and the admirable hon local secretaries – Mr J W Bodger and Mr C Dack. It was found, owing to the absence from home of Capt Vipan, that the fine Elizabethan mansion, Stibbington Hall, could not be visited, and Mr Gray, on behalf of the President, urged the inclusion of Fotheringhay and its church in the programme. This was ultimately accepted. The Mayor offered the use of the Guild Hall for the assembling of the visitors each morning, and expressed his desire to do all he could to assist the Congress. Unfortunately his home was small, and his purse limited, or he should have been glad to have extended hospitalities, but he might say that, when he believed the suggestion was impossible he was given to understand that there would be 400 visitors (laughter). After formal business, certain matters of detail were left to a sub-committee.


On Thursday the members were made acquainted with the intensely interesting history of the old Benedictine Monastery and its church at Peterborough, the church of which which is now the Cathedral of the far-reaching diocese. The Dean occupied the pulpit, and addressed the visitors, who were seated under the Lantern and in the Transcepts. It was a clear, historical exposition, tracing the establishment of the first Saxon monastery, its destruction by the Danes, the erection of the Second with the deeds of Hereward, its effacement by fire, and then the rearing of the present structure, and the saving of the present Church at the Reformation through what he called the splendid generosity of Henry VIII. Fortunately, there was no dynamite in the days of Cromwell, or he feared there would not have had even the present beautiful Cathedral standing today. Later on, in conducting the party round the Cathedral, he pointed out the stone said to be erected by Godriens of Crowland over the grave of Abbott Hedda and his eighty-four slaughtered monks. Although Mr Bloxam, in the earlier Sixties, at the former meeting of the Society, had sought to prove that the stone belonged to a period many years later, and was not a commemoration stone at all, yet he felt sure himself that it was the original stone, and this opinion was shared he believed by everyone whose opinion was considered anything at all. The recent discovery of the Saxon Boundary Wall (circa 980) was commented upon, and members essayed(?) to climb the massive scaffolding of the West front to closely inspect the recent magnificent restoration, “concerning which,” said the Dean, “the Restoration Committee were at first foolishly criticised by numbers of ignorant people.” Afterwards (at 4.30) the Company assembled in brilliant weather, the guests of the Bishop and Lady Mary Glyn, at a

The numerous guests were received by the charming Hostess and their Rt Rev Host, who seemed throughout to take a personal interest in the happiness of all. The Borough Band supplied the music, and the whole affair will be ever memorable as a brilliant success.

GUESTS WHO ARE MEMBERS OF THE CONGRESS     [A list of over 90 names follows]

GENERAL GUESTS    [A list of over 330 names follows]


There was large attendance of delegates and others at the Grand Assembly Rooms, Wentworth Street, on Thursday evening, when the Society was welcomed by the Mayor of Peterborough (Councillor Jos Hunting), who presided at the commencement of the meeting. Among those on the platform were the Bishop of Peterborough, President of the Congress, and Lord Alwyne Compton, Bishop of Ely. The Mayor said that he yielded to none in his admiration for the work which the Society was doing (applause). He, with all members of the Peterborough Corporation, was anxious to do all he could to render pleasant the stay of the members in Peterborough.

The Bishop opened the 55th Congress with an admirable address. He recognised that as an antiquarian his presence was something of an anomaly, but in his official capacity he bad pleasure in welcoming the British Archaeological Society to the Cathedral City of Peterborough (cheers). In the matter of population and industrial importance, Peterborough was below the class of town which the Congress usually made its venue, but the locality had much of archaeological interest to recommend it. That being the case, he wished the delegates a hearty welcome, and a pleasant and a profitable sojourn among the people of Peterborough (hear, hear). They not only desired that that particular congress might in some way start a new epoch in the life of the Association; not merely be the result of sending each member a step forward in the science of his choice ; not only to take away from this locality a fund of knowledge and archaeological—mental pabulum which in the coming winter might be reduced to valuable pamphlets, treatises, and reports; not only leave behind them at Peterborough memories of their eight days’ stay and pleasant friendships; but that there might remain some practical efflorescence, some imperishable memory (cheers). The Lord President proceeded to deal with the programme of the congress, and alluding to the visit to Fotheringhay Castle, said that place possessed historic interest a parallel of which would hardly be found throughout the length and breadth of the land. He characterised Fotheringhay Church as a splendid structure melting slowly away,” and urged the paramount necessity of rescuing that beautiful fabric from impending rain, and maintaining it as a suitable English memorial to the memory of Mary Queen of Scots. Were that congress to result in a development such as he had indicated it would not have been held in vain. The character of the nation’s life was changed by work such as that undertaken by the Society. The young country had no past from which to draw the lessons of day. She might be smarter, more go-ahead, quicker in her intentions, more pliable and self-adaptable; but America, for example, would give a large slice her national wealth for such a treasure-house of archaeology as England possessed. (Cheers). America knew what an influence this was in making character and forming men. She knew the value of that power of retrospect, and that a nation’s greatness in the past was a large factor in her present power and future strength. Bishops owed another debt of gratitude to the Society for its work in the formation of English character and the steadying of English lives. They all knew the value of the study of archaeology in the rectories and vicarages of the clergy. When golf, bicycles, tennis and croquet made such demands upon men’s time, it seemed especially desirable that such higher pursuits – which were more suitable, perhaps, to the employment of the spare time of the members of the learned professions – as the great science of archaeology should commended both by example and precept to the attention of the country clergy. Proceeding, the Bishop dwelt on the historical and archaeological interest attaching to Little Gidding and to Peterborough Cathedral. In the latter connection he spoke as the 28th Bishop of Peterborough, and the direct successor of forty-five Abbots.” In tracing the history of the Cathedral, the Bishop spoke of the association of Hereward the Wake with the place, and quoted references from Charles Kingsley’s novel—to the gifted author of which he happily referred as “my hero-worshipping uncle.” The Bishop dwelt with the success the restoration work so far as it had gone, and commended the outcome of the recent work to the attention of the eminent archaeologists present.

Dr T J Walker then read his excellent paper on ‘‘The Roman and Saxon Occupations at Peterborough,” which, being new to the visitors, created the greatest interest.

At conclusion of Dr Walker’s paper, a vote of thanks was accorded on the proposition of Rev. H. J. Dukinfield Astley, M.A., of Swaffham.


The members and visitors left Peterborough this (Friday) morning at nine o’clock by carriage and brake for Barnack. The party included the Mayor and Mayoress. The day’s proceedings consisted of inspection of Barnack, Wittering, Wansford, and Castor Churches, with luncheon Barnack Rectory (Rev Canon Syers) and tea at Milton (Mr G C W Fitzwilliam).


Saturday. Stamford Churches; Priory; Bede Houses; Burghley House.
Sunday. Special Services at Cathedral.
Monday. Spalding Church and Gentlemen’s Society; Garden Party in early evening at the Vineyard, Peterborough (Mis. H. P. Gates’); Inspect Ruins of Tithe Barn; Meeting in evening.
Tuesday. Glatton, Little Gidding, Connington Castle, Yaxley Church, Fletton Church and Cross; Evening Meeting.
Wednesday. Woodcroft, Helpston, Maxey, Glinton, Northborough, Peakirk ; Formal Closing Meeting of Congress at night.
Thursday (extra day). Fotheringhay, Apethorpe, Cotterstock, Tansor, Warmington, Chesterton, Orton Longueville.

The editor of the Peterborough advertiser, Frank Loomes, was secretary of the Peterborough Archaeological Society. One of his personal interests was Fotheringhay Castle where he led a project to raise upright a section of the wall of the keep. This one remaining piece of stonework is preserved to this day behind iron railings. Another newspaper article celebrates this achievement.