Peterborough

It is unlikely that the Victorian enthusiast would seek out Peterborough, where the brutalists have had great success, but there is a Museum and Art Gallery, and an impressively-fronted Cathedral for those who find themselves there.

Museum and Art Gallery

This is in Priestgate, a pleasant street in what passes for the old town. We may note a few pictures and three portrait busts. Best among the pictures is Wright Thomas Squire and his Sister Charlotte, by Nathan Fielding, which we may place somewhere in the mid-18th Century. A charming picture of two children on a horse. There are a couple of rather slight, grey oils by the distinguished landscape painter Alfred East. Further landscapes of a rather rustic sort, unfortunately sentimentalised with ornamental yokels, are by the rather less well-known Charles Morris (1861-after 1894). Another small landscape is a characteristic production of Charles Fisher (1841-1893).

There are three notable portrait busts in marble, all donated by Pearl Assurance, by Albert Toft and George Frampton.

That, I think, is all to be said here on the Victorian artwork, though there is a mock-up of a 19th Century Chemist and grocer's shop, and a late 18th C/early 19th C watchmaker shop. It should be added that the Museum houses geological and historical collections of some size, and space devoted to exhibitions of modern art. Among the historical collections is the Norman Cross Collection of bone and straw models by convicts on board ship in the 1800s - the main museum at Hastings has a similar collection.

Peterborough Cathedral

The medieval building dates from the 12th-14th Centuries, with a lengthening at the rear (east) end of around 1500. From 1883, the architect J. L. Pearson carried out some restoration, rather less than he might have done after William Morris called for as little to be altered as possible. The west front of the exterior has many small figures, of which most or perhaps all look to be from Victorian or later times (educated guess).

Inside, most impressive ceilings, apparently some of the earliest painted ones in the country, as well as the rather blue one to the apse due to Gilbert Scott. The sculptural work is rather spare, but includes the very early indeed (dated to 870) Monks Stone, with six draped figures in high relief on each side, standing, full face, fairly expressive in pose. Nearby is the excellent Thomas Deacon Monument, a histrionically proud and sneering bewigged 18th Century noble reclining on a skull, with flamboyantly cut folds to the drapery and equally flamboyant tip-cut shoes with high heels close on two inches. The sculptor, signing on the front, was Robert Taylor. Next to this, the couple of later effigies, by James Forsyth (Archbishop Magee, made 1893) and Walter Ingram (Dean William Clavell Ingram, dated 1903) are tame and conventional. Better are the series of little carved wooden figures of similar date by Thompsons of Peterborough adorning the choir stalls, and Pearson's baldacchino. We may also note in passing early medieval effigies (though most were destroyed by Cromwell), especially Benedict, d. 1193.

Among the stained glass work, there is an 1862 window by Morris, and rather good depictions of Peterborough Cathedral itself and two other churches dating from about 1907.

Square in front of the Cathedral

Exiting through the main gatehouse, the lozenge-shaped square in front of the Cathedral retains a few interesting buildings. We may note the HSBC Bank at the corner of Bridge St, with two nice draped girls in sandstone dating from 1836, and opposite the Nat West with ornate plaster ceiling preseved inside. The Guildhall, raised on pillars (as a corn store?) dates from 1671, and facing it, above a fast food outlet, is a 1911 medieval-style effort with five painted statues of cheerful seaside-style vulgarity.

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