Peterborough (/ˈpiːtərbərə, -ˌbʌrə/ is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England, with a population of 202,110 in 2017. Historically part of Northamptonshire, it is 76 miles (122 km) north of London, on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea 30 miles (48 km) to the north-east. The railway station is an important stop on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh. Peterborough is also the largest city in the East Anglia area of England.
The local topography is flat, and in some places the land lies below sea level, for example in parts of the Fens to the east of Peterborough. Human settlement in the area began before the Bronze Age, as can be seen at the Flag Fen archaeological site to the east of the current city centre, also with evidence of Roman occupation. The Anglo-Saxon period saw the establishment of a monastery, Medeshamstede, which later became Peterborough Cathedral.
The population grew rapidly after the railways arrived in the 19th century, and Peterborough became an industrial centre, particularly known for its brick manufacture. After the Second World War, growth was limited until designation as a New Town in the 1960s. Housing and population are expanding and a £1 billion regeneration of the city centre and immediately surrounding area is under way. Industrial employment has fallen since then, a significant proportion of new jobs being in financial services and distribution.
Present-day Peterborough is the latest in a series of settlements which have at one time or other benefited from its site where the Nene leaves large areas of permanently drained land for the fens. Remains of Iron age settlement and what is thought to be religious activity can be seen at the Flag Fen archaeological site to the east of the city centre. The Romans established a fortified garrison town at Durobrivae on Ermine Street, five miles (8 km) to the west in Water Newton, around the middle of the 1st century AD. Durobrivae’s earliest appearance among surviving records is in the Antonine Itinerary of the late 2nd century. There was also a large 1st century Roman fort at Longthorpe, designed to house half a legion, or about 3,000 soldiers; it may have been established as early as around AD 44–48. Peterborough was an important area of ceramic production in the Roman period, providing Nene Valley Ware that was traded as far away as Cornwall and the Antonine Wall, Caledonia.
Peterborough is shown by its original name Medeshamstede to have possibly been an Anglian settlement before AD 655, when Sexwulf founded a monastery on land granted to him for that purpose by Peada of Mercia, who converted to Christianity and was briefly ruler of the smaller Middle Angles sub-group. His brother Wulfhere murdered his own sons, similarly converted and then finished the monastery by way of atonement.
In 2020 planning was granted for a new university which will be based on Bishops Road, a five minute walk from the City Centre, the university will be run by Anglia Ruskin University and will be an Employment Focused University which will have the following four faculties. The Faculty of Business, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, The Faculty of Creative and Digital Arts and Sciences, The Faculty of Agriculture, Environment and Sustainability And The Faulty of Health and Education. The University will be named ARU Peterborough and is expected to take its first cohort of students by 2022 with the numbers estimated around the 2,000 region, expected to rise significantly to 12,500 by 2028. It is not expected until at least 2030 when ARU Peterborough will receive its degree awarding powers when a review will take place as to determine its future as a part of ARU or whether it is to become its own entity.
Peterborough has a history of successful economic growth and continues to act as an attractor for investment and an engine of growth. The overarching ambition is to achieve sustainable growth, which can be maintained without creating significant economic problems.
The city has experienced an economic boom compared to the rest of the country, believed in part to be due to the regeneration plan which ran to 2012. In 2005, growth was on average 5.5%, whilst in Peterborough it was 6.9%, the highest in the UK. The city has also led in business population growth, with a 3.78% increase between April and September 2006, according to Royal Mail's Business Barometer.
Figures plotting growth from 1995 to 2004, revealed that Peterborough had become the most successful economy among unitary authorities in the East of England. They also revealed that the city's economy had grown faster than the regional average and any other economy in the region. It has a strong economy in the environmental goods and services sector and has the largest cluster of environmental businesses in the UK.
In 1994, Peterborough was designated one of four environment cities in the UK and began working to become the country's acknowledged environment capital. Peterborough Environment City Trust, an independent charity, was set up at the same time to work towards this goal, delivering projects promoting healthier and sustainable living in the city. The council and regional development agency have taken advice on regeneration issues from a number of internationally recognised experts, including Benjamin Barber (formerly an adviser to President Bill Clinton), Jan Gustav Strandenaes (United Nations adviser on environmental issues) and Patama Roorakwit (a Thai "community architect").
According to the 2001 census, the workplace population of 90,656 is divided into 60,118 people who live in Peterborough and 30,358 people who commute in. A further 13,161 residents commute out of the city to work. Earnings in Peterborough are lower than average. Median earnings for full-time workers were £11.93 per hour in 2014, less than the regional median for the East of England of £13.62 and the median hourly rate of £13.15 for Great Britain as a whole. As part of the government's M11 corridor, Peterborough is committed to creating 17,500 jobs with the population growing to 200,000 by 2020.
Future employment will also be created through the plan for the city centre launched by the council in 2003. Predictions of the levels and types of employment created were published in 2005. These include 1,421 jobs created in retail; 1,067 created in a variety of leisure and cultural developments; 338 in three hotels; and a further 4,847 jobs created in offices and other workspaces. Recent relocations of large employers include both Tesco (1,070 employees) and Debenhams (850 employees) distribution centres. A further 2,500 jobs were to be created in the £140 million Gateway warehouse and distribution park. This was expected to compensate for the 6,000 job losses as a result of the decline in manufacturing, anticipated in a report cited by the cabinet member for economic growth and regeneration in 2006.
With traditionally low levels of unemployment, Peterborough is a popular destination for workers and has seen significant growth through migration since the post-war period. The leader of the council said in August 2006 that he believed that 80% of the 65,000 people who had arrived in East Anglia from the states that joined the European Union in 2004 were living in Peterborough. To help cope with this influx, the council put forward plans to construct an average of 1,300 homes each year until 2021. Demand for short term employees remains high and the market supports up to 20 high street recruitment agencies at any given time. Peterborough Trades Council, formed in 1898, is affiliated to the Trades Union Congress.
The A1/A1(M) primary route (part of European route E15) broadly follows the path of the historic Great North Road from St Paul's Cathedral in the heart of London, through Peterborough (Junction 17), continuing north a further 335 miles (539 km) to central Edinburgh. In 1899 the British Electric Traction Company sought permission for a tramway joining the northern suburbs with the city centre. The system, which operated under the name Peterborough Electric Traction Company, opened in 1903 and was abandoned in favour of motor buses in 1930, when it was merged into the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company. Today, bus services in the city are operated by several companies including Stagecoach (formerly Cambus and Viscount) and Delaine Buses. Despite its large-scale growth, Peterborough has the fastest peak and off-peak travel times for a city of its size in the UK, due to the construction of the parkways. The Local Transport Plan anticipated expenditure totalling around £180 million for the period up to 2010 on major road schemes to accommodate development.
The combination of rail connections to the Port of Felixstowe and to the East Coast Main Line as well as a road connection via the A1(M) has led to Peterborough being proposed as the site of a 334 acres (1.35 km2) rail-road logistics and distribution centre to be known as Magna Park. The Peterborough Millennium Green Wheel is a 50-mile (80 km) network of cycleways, footpaths and bridleways which provide safe, continuous routes around the city with radiating spokes connecting to the city centre. The project has also created a sculpture trail, which provides functional, landscape artworks along the Green Wheel route and a Living Landmarks project involving the local community in the creation of local landscape features such as mini woodlands, ponds and hedgerows. Another long-distance footpath, the Hereward Way, runs from Oakham in Rutland, through Peterborough, to East Harling in Norfolk.
According to the 2011 Census, 82.5% of Peterborough's residents categorised themselves as white, 2.8% of mixed ethnic groups, 11.7% Asian, 2.3 per cent black and 0.8% other. Amongst the white population, the largest categories were English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British (70.9%) and other white (10.6%). Those of Pakistani ethnicity accounted for 6.6% of the population and those of Indian ethnicity 2.5.%.
Peterborough is home to one of the largest concentrations of Italian immigrants in the UK. This is mainly as a result of labour recruitment in the 1950s by the London Brick Company in the southern Italian regions of Apulia and Campania. By 1960, approximately 3,000 Italian men were employed by London Brick, mostly at the Fletton works. In 1962, the Scalabrini Fathers, who first arrived in 1956, purchased an old school and converted it into a mission church named after the patron saint of workers Saint Joseph (San Giuseppe). By 1991, over 3,000 christenings of second-generation Italians had been carried out there. In 1996, it was estimated that the Italian community of Peterborough numbered 7,000, making it the third largest in the UK after London and Bedford. The 2011 Census recorded 1,179 residents born in Italy
Peterborough has one independent boarding school: The Peterborough School at Westwood House, founded in 1895. The school caters for girls and now boys up to the age of 18. Peterborough's state schools have recently undergone immense change. Five of the city's 15 secondary schools were closed in July 2007, to be demolished over the coming years. John Mansfield (now an adult learning centre), Hereward (formerly Eastholm, now City of Peterborough Academy, sponsored by the Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust) and Deacon's were replaced with the flagship Thomas Deacon Academy, designed by Lord Foster of Thames Bank which opened in September 2007.
Queen Katharine Academy (previously The Voyager School), which has specialist media arts status, replaced Bretton Woods and Walton comprehensive. It is part of the Thomas Deacon Education Trust. The schools that remain have been extended and enlarged. Over £200 million was spent and the changes on-going to 2010. The King's School is one of seven schools established, or in some cases re-endowed and renamed, by King Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries to pray for his soul. In 2006, 39.4% of Peterborough local education authority pupils attained five grades A* to C, including English and Mathematics, in the General Certificate of Secondary Education, lower than the national average of 45.8%.
The city has two colleges of further and higher education, Peterborough Regional College (established in 1946 as Peterborough Technical College) and City College Peterborough (known as Peterborough College of Adult Education until 2010). By 2004, Peterborough Regional College attracted over 15,000 students each year from the UK and abroad and was ranked in the top five per cent of colleges in the UK. Greater Peterborough University Technical College is a new education facility set to open in September 2015.
The city is currently without a university, after Loughborough University closed its Peterborough campus in 2003. Consequently, it became the second largest centre of population in the UK (after Swindon) without its own higher education institution. In 2006, however, Peterborough Regional College began talks with Anglia Ruskin University to develop a new university campus for the city. The college and the university completed the legal contracts for the creation of a new joint venture company in 2007, marking the culmination of legal negotiations and securing of funds required in order to build the new higher education centre.University Centre Peterborough opened to the first 850 students in 2009.
Peterborough enjoys a wide range of events including the annual East of England Show, Peterborough Festival and CAMRA beer festival, which takes place on the river embankment in late August.