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Archaeology uncovers Civil War turmoil

Friday 7 April

An exhibition on display in the Cathedral Visitor Centre until 25th May highlights discoveries made during the community archaeology dig in the Garden House area of the Precincts in June last year.

Since the dig was completed the experts at Access Cambridge Archaeology have been examining the finds and can now reveal some of results of their research. 

An enormous amount of information about the history of this ancient site was revealed, from Roman times onwards, but one of the most significant is that sometime in the late 1640s or 1650s a series of refuse deposits were dumped in the area. The tight date range of the material suggests that it comes from a particularly interesting period in the Cathedral’s history – the Civil War.

Peterborough was captured by parliamentary forces in April 1643, following which troops were quartered in the Cathedral Precinct whilst Cromwell himself lived in The Vineyard on the eastern edge of the grounds. Both contemporary and later accounts suggest that the soldiers were not respectful of their surroundings and that a considerable amount of damage was done during their stay.

These accounts mention great damage to the Cathedral’s windows and the Garden House deposits show a large quantity of painted window glass and fragments of lead. The troops were only present at the Cathedral for about a month before moving off to Crowland, but what they left behind gives an insight into what they were doing whilst at the Cathedral.

The dump is dominated by drinking vessels, bottles, a huge quantity of clay tobacco pipes and animal bones from prepared food.

The archaeologists say that these Civil War finds, and what they reveal about the soldiers' encampment, are likely to be of national importance.

You can see some of these items, and pieces from other periods, in the Discoveries exhibition, which is open from Monday to Saturday, 10.00am - 5.00pm and on Sundays and Bank Holidays, 11.00am - 4.00pm.

More about Access Cambridge Archaeology and the June 2016 dig