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Peterborough Cathedral

This week we have added 1,219 records from Peterborough Cathedral to the Deceased Online database.

Peterborough Cathedral is one of the most beautiful and historically significant Norman buildings in Britain. The site of the Cathedral dates back to 655 AD, but the foundations of the current building were laid in 1118. Although some of the latest release dates from the 12th century, the complete records begin in 1615. See the database coverage section for more information.

The earliest records for Peterborough Cathedral on Deceased Online are for the early Abbots in the 12th Century although there is an image for 'The Monk's Stone', dating from 870 AD, believed to be the earliest record on Deceased Online.

The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral
The Cathedral has strong royal connections, being the original burial place of two queens. Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon (then referred to as the ‘Princess Dowager’) died in Kimbolton Castle on Friday 7th January 1536 at the age of 49. The King did not attend her funeral in the Cathedral on 29th January, but a contemporary account reveals that this did not lessen the grandeur of the occasion:

Solemn vigils were said that day, and on the morrow the three masses by three bishops: the first by the bishop of Rochester, with the abbot of Thame as deacon, and the abbot of Walden as sub-deacon; the second by the bishop of Ely, with the abbot of Tournay (Thorney) as deacon, and the abbot of Peterborough as sub-deacon; the third by the bishop of Lincoln, with the bishop of Llandaff as deacon, and that of Ely as sub-deacon; the other bishops and abbots aforesaid assisting at the said masses in their pontificals, so the ceremony was very sumptuous. The chief mourner was lady Eleanor, daughter of the duke of Suffolk and the French queen, and niece of king Henry, widower now of the said good Queen. She was conducted to the offering by the Comptroller and Mr. Gust (Gostwick), new receiver of the moneys the King takes from the Church. Immediately after the offering was completed the bishop of Rochester preached the same as all the preachers of England for two years have not ceased to preach, viz., against the power of the Pope, whom they call bishop of Rome, and against the marriage of the said good Queen and the King, alleging against all truth that in the hour of death she acknowledged she had not been queen of England. 

['Henry VIII: February 1536, 6-10', Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536 (1887), 10 Feb. Vienna Archives, 284. Death and Burial of Katherine of Arragon]

Despite her deathbed fears, Katherine is today remembered in Peterborough Cathedral as 'Queen of England'.

The resting place of Katherine of Aragon

Henry VIII’s regard for his first wife remained high, even after their divorce. It is believed that out of respect for her burial place, the King designated the then Peterborough Abbey a Cathedral of the new Diocese of Peterborough in 1541. Today it is known as the Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (1542-1587) was executed at nearby Fotheringhay Castle on 8th February 1587 on the orders of her father’s cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Five months later, Mary’s body was taken from the castle and buried at Peterborough Cathedral with royal honours. Mary was later exhumed by her son, King James I, and reinterred at Westminster Abbey in 1612. However, Mary’s original burial entry can still be found in the registers, which have now been digitized on Deceased Online.

One of the unique characters of the Cathedral was Robert Scarlett (1496-1594). He worked as a grave digger and buried both Queen Catherine and Queen Mary. After living to the grand age of 98, Scarlett was buried in the Cathedral’s grounds and can be found in the records on the database.

The burial entry for Robert Scarlett, Sexton of the Cathedral Church of Peterborough, dated 2 July 1594
Oliver Cromwell came close to destroying the Cathedral in 1643, when serving as colonel of a Cambridgeshire cavalry regiment in the English Civil War. His concern that the Cathedral was too Catholic led to Cromwell and his men to attack altars, choir stalls, windows and paintings.

Peterborough Cathedral continues to function fully as a place of worship as well as a centre of heritage and magnificent architecture. Currently, plans are being laid for its 900th anniversary in 2018. Besides celebratory events, there are long-term plans for a new Heritage and Education Centre, new Cathedral and Community Music School, and improved sustainability.

We are particularly excited about these records as they are the first from an English cathedral to be uploaded to Deceased Online. The only other cathedral with its records on Deceased Online is Brechin Cathedral in Angus, Scotland - but strictly speaking, this is no longer a cathedral. We believe that Deceased Online is the only website which has digitized all burial records of a cathedral and made them fully accessible through a website. 

If you know of any cathedral whose burial records are online, please let us know via the Comments Box below, or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

'Henry VIII: February 1536, 6-10', Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10: January-June 1536 (1887), pp. 98-108. URL:


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