Katharine of Aragon, Henry's first wife, eventually moved to
Kimbolton Castle, south of Peterborough, after their marriage was
annulled. She died there in 1536, and was buried at
Peterborough. Henry's dissolution of the monasteries in 1539
included Peterborough Abbey, but it was saved from destruction and
designated a cathedral. It is said that Henry looked favourably
upon Peterborough because it was Katharine's resting place, but
greater influences were probably the co-operation shown by the last
abbot (who became the first bishop), and Peterborough's location.
The town became a city, with the right to elect two members of
Parliament. Although the power of the Church now began to wane, the
Bishop, Dean and Chapter kept law and order in city and country
through regular 'courts'.
Also involved in local affairs were the church wardens, and
religious guilds who gave alms to the poor. In 1547 these were
confiscated by Henry VIII and their lands sold off, but in
Peterborough three citizens - Thomas Robinson, Jeremy Green and
Robert Mallory - bought up the lands and carried on the charitable
work. When Mallory died in 1572, the guild property was passed to
14 local men who continued to run the charities, becoming known as
The old monastic abbey school was refounded by Henry VIII in
1541 and renamed 'King's School'. It provided an education for
'twenty poor boys, both destitute of the help of friends and
endowed with minds apt for learning...'
Most local people worked on the land, or were tradesmen. Records
suggest that Gilbert Bull, the town baker, may have been a
rebellious character - he was fined in 1575 for refusing to allow
his loaves of bread to be weighed, and again in 1580 for allowing
his pigs to wander the streets.
The power of the wealthier local families, who had bought up
church lands, grew in the reign of Elizabeth I. Burghley House was
built by William Cecil (later Lord Burghley), the Queen's Secretary
of State and closest adviser. In 1576 Elizabeth passed the
title of Lord Paramount of the Liberty of Peterborough from the
Bishop of Peterborough to Lord Burghley, whose descendants still
hold this title today.