The new Treasures exhibition at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery is a once in a generation event, which champions Peterborough's significance as a city.

For years, Peterborough has had the reputation of being just ‘a new town,’ with businesses arriving in the 70s and 80s, stimulating the growth of the area.

While there is certainly plenty of growth in Peterborough, the idea that Peterborough is either ‘new’ or ‘just a town’ could not be further from the truth.


  • Town?
    • Peterborough is one of the United Kingdom’s many proud Cathedral cities, comparable in size to Norwich, Exeter and Canterbury.
  • New?
    • Peterborough Cathedral itself celebrates its 900 birthday this year. Before even then, people have lived in the area that is now called Peterborough for over 3,000 years.

Now, thanks to National Lottery Players and the Weston Loan Program with Artfund, National treasures from institutions across the country (including the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum) are being displayed together for the first time ever at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery.

Each of the treasures on display has either been found in or has a very strong link to Peterborough, such as the Water Newton Treasure found at Durobrivae (Ancient Roman Peterborough) and the Casket of St Thomas Becket which was commissioned by Abbot Benedict of Peterborough in 1177.

Want to know more? Flick through the tabs and discover more about what the exhibition has in store.

* 'Treasures' is open 10am - 4pm.  Entry to Peterborough Museum is FREE, except for special event days. The Museum is closed on Mondays, during term time.

Want your story featured in our exhibition?

Tell us about your most treasured item (or items!). We’d love to hear the stories that go with them.

  • Is it the first cooking pot you ever bought when you came to Peterborough?
  • Might it be the dining table your family has shared every birthday at for generations?
  • Could it be a teddy bear given to you for a special occasion?
  • Maybe it’s even your family copy of the Bible, Qu’ran or 1979 Beano Annual?

Whatever you’ve got that you treasure, we’d love to hear about it and show it off as part of our 2019 exhibition Treasured People and Possessions.

About the treasures

Each of these treasured objects has a significant link to Peterborough. Usually they are kept on display in the treasured collections of significant institutions from around the country.

Now, for the first time ever, they are being put on display together, for the first time ever, at Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery.

The Casket of St Thomas Becket.

Thomas Becket is possibly the most famous saint from Great Britain. Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury and was martyred in 1170 when agents of the King, acting on misunderstood orders, killed him in cold blood. The Abbot Benedict of Peterborough commissioned this casket to hold relics of the murdered saint and took them to Peterborough for safe keeping in 1177. It is widely believe that this is the casket which will have held those relics.

The Water Newton Treasure

Found at Durobrivae (the fortified Roman town near the village of Water Newton), this treasure tells the story of some of the first Christian groups in Peterborough. It is also one of the earliest examples of Christian silver from the Roman Empire.  In the year when the city celebrates Peterborough Cathedral’s 900th anniversary, having this early Christian treasure on display feels especially exciting.

Barnack Burial Assemblage

This example of a ‘beaker burial’ is from the Copper Age and tells us a lot about the cultural traditions of that time. It was likely used to honour the life of someone important - the goods inside include a wrist guard decorated with 18 gold discs - and was donated to the British Museum in 1974. Found only a stone’s throw from Peterborough, this is the first time the objects have been displayed in the area they were found.

Treasured books:

In and amongst the shinier objects, the Treasures exhibition also features some of the most treasured writings and illuminated manuscripts in the country, all of which are from Peterborough. These include:

The Peterborough Chronicle

This collection of writing forms part of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and are a historical account of Peterborough written by the monks of Peterborough Abbey over hundreds of years. Painstakingly written by hand, the Peterborough Chronicle is also the first ever known use of the female pronoun ‘she’ (written as ‘scae’ in Old English).

The Black Book of Peterborough.

Containing a copy of the Magna Carta, possibly a discarded draft, which was sent to Peterborough Abbey in 1215. Although the original document does not survive, its text was reproduced in this book later in the 13th century.

The Lindsey Psalter

This copy of the book of Psalms, which also contains a calendar and litanies of the church, is considered one of the best illustrated and accurately dated religious texts from medieval times.

The Peterborough Bestiary

This book contains magnificent illustrations of various animals - some real, some mythical - and some descriptions of what they are. One particular highlight is the Bonnacon - a horned, mythical, cow-like beast which escapes from its pursuers through a unique defence mechanism - by firing flaming dung behind it.

From expert talks to fun family days out, our events programme has something for everyone to get closer to these amazing treasures.

Treasures talks

Christmas Colours: identifying the pigments in illuminated manuscripts
Tue 4 Dec, 7:30pm, Peterborough Museum

This talk focuses on the original pigments used in illuminated medieval manuscripts (including the Peterborough Psalter, held at the Fitzwillliam Museum). Discussion is based on the results from non-invasive analysis carried out by The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge since 2012.

Dr Stella Panayotova, Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

£3 per person. Booking is strongly recommended. To book, please click here or call Peterborough Museum at 01733 864 663. If you require any further information, please call the museum or email

An illuminated page from the Lindsey Psalter ©The Society of Antiquaries of London

Medieval Manuscripts at Peterborough Abbey
Tue 22 Jan, 7:30pm, Peterborough Museum

This talk is about the medieval library and manuscripts of Peterborough Abbey. Focus will be placed upon illuminated manuscripts held in the Parker Library collection, such as the Peterborough Bestiary and the Peterborough Psalter.

Dr Alexander Devine, Librarian at the Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

£3 for non-members. This talk is part of Peterborough Museum Society's regular evening lecture programme. Entry to this talk is free for members, and no advance tickets are available. Please call Peterborough Museum on 01733 864663 for any queries.

From a medieval illuminated manuscript

The inside story of the Becket Casket
Sat 1  Dec, 2pm, Peterborough Museum


Find out more about this famous casket by the conservator who recently worked upon it. This talk includes aspects of its history, creation, and conservation and includes a gallery tour of the Becket Casket itself!

Diana Heath, Senior Metals Conservator, V & A

£3 per person. Booking is strongly recommended. To book, please click here or call Peterborough Museum at 01733 864 663. If you require any further information, please call the museum or email

Saint Thomas Becket (Samuel Caldwell, 1919)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Tue 19 Feb, 7:30pm, Peterborough Museum

Find out more about the Bonicon, a medieval beast found at Longthorpe Tower, Castor church and the Peterborough Bestiary. This talk focuses on the Romanesque capitals of St Kyneburgha church, Castor and the local landscape in medieval times.

Dr Susan E. Kilby, Medieval Historian, University of Leicester

£3 for non-members. This talk is part of Peterborough Museum Society's regular evening lecture programme. Entry to this talk is free for members, and no advance tickets are available. Please call Peterborough Museum on 01733 864663 for any queries.

An image from the Peterborough Bestiary

For Schools

To coincide with the exhibition a school programme has been devised that links the themes of the exhibition to the National Curriculum. This is a perfect opportunity to support the study of local history; the history of Peterborough and raising pride in living here.

You can visit independently with a short introductory talk (one class of up to 30 at a time and booking essential with a booking confirmation) or visit with one or more of our museum-led activities (charges from £60 per class apply).

Here are some of our museum-led sessions we can offer you. We are happy to adapt where we can so please contact us at or use the enquiry form below.

Gallery session - what's so special about Peterborough?

In the exhibition, enjoy hands-on activities which support the enquiry-based learning. We focus on three key questions:

  • What is treasure?
  • Why were these treasured objects special to people in the past?
  • Why are they special today?

Craft - What is special to you?

Explore the theme of treasure further as you take inspiration from the collection to create your own treasure to take back to school. Choice between an Anglo Saxon or Roman theme. 

Buried Treasure - What do Saxon graves and grave goods tell us about the past?

Pupils will participate in gradual ‘excavation’ of a trench, by means of the removal of layers of fabric. At the bottom of the trench, the children discover a friendly looking cloth skeleton, who has been buried with a range of objects. The children then begin to work out who the person might have been and their status etc.  (limited availability and minimum charge)

Book of Beasts

Get up close to a facsimile of the Peterborough Bestiary, or the Book of Beasts, one of the most important medieval manuscripts used by monks at Peterborough Abbey in the 12th Century. Get an insight into the medieval mind as you consider why and how it was made, the symbolism contained within and why it has always been treasured.  

And, we couldn’t not do a...

Treasure Hunt - What other objects are special to Peterborough? Where are they?

Take a treasure hunt around the museum, searching for objects and collecting clues along the way.

National Curriculum links: History, English, SMSC

The museum-led activities aim to:

  • Raise pupils’ awareness of the history and significance of Peterborough’s past.
  • Celebrate Peterborough’s past, present and future.
  • Develop chronologically knowledge and understanding of local history and how they relate
    to British and world history.
  • Encourage pupils to identify similarities and differences between ways of life in different
  • Encourage pupils to devise historically valid questions about change, cause, similarity and
    difference, and significance.
  • Encourage pupils to construct informed responses from historical sources.
    Develop understanding of how our knowledge of the past is constructed from a range of
  • Develop understanding of what it would have been like to live in medieval times.
  • Develop awareness of the significance of these ‘treasures’, what they tell us about Peterborough in the past and the contributions they made at a national level.
  • Encourage pupils to make connections with the telling of myths throughout history.
  • Develop the ability to recognise right and wrong actions that are portrayed in the Peterborough Bestiary.
  • Encourage pupils to offer reasoned views of beliefs and thoughts from the past and reflect how these morals/teachings are relevant to today.
  • Encourage pupils to appreciate cultural differences to different ways of life in the past and today.
  • Develop a range of social skills.
  • Develop tolerance and awareness of diverse viewpoints from people in the past and from peers today.

For full details, you can download a copy of the teachers' information notes here

Or use our contact form below to contact the Heritage Education Team directly.

Click here to see our full school program.

Type your feedback or message below.


This exhibition has been made possible with support from National Lottery players, a grant from the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund as well as the Government Indemnity Scheme. Vivacity would like to thank HM Government for providing Government Indemnity and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for arranging the indemnity.

Our Funders

The Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, The Heritage Lottery fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow HLF on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported.

Garfield Weston Foundation

Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2018, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded
charitable grant-making foundation which supports causes across the UK with grants totaling over
£60million each year. 2018 also marks its £1billionth donation since it was established.

One of the largest and most respected charitable institutions in the UK, the Weston Family Trustees
are descendants of the founder and they take a highly active and hands-on approach. The
Foundation’s funding comes from an endowment of shares in the family business which includes
Twinings, Primark, Kingsmill (all part of Associated British Foods Plc) and Fortnum & Mason amongst others – a successful model that still endures today; as the businesses have grown so too have the charitable donations.

From small community organisations to large national institutions, the Foundation supports a broad
range of charities and activities that make a positive impact in the communities in which they work.
More than 1,500 charities across the UK benefit each year from the Foundation’s grants.

Art Fund

Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions
and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators. Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 139,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 320 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions and subscription to Art Quarterly magazine. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes Art Fund Museum of the Year (won by The Hepworth Wakefield in 2017) and a range of digital platforms.

Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at

Our lenders

The British Museum

The Water Newton Treasure

The Barnack Burial Assemblage

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Casket of Thomas Becket

Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, with contributions from the Po Shing Woo Foundation, The Art Fund, the Friends of the V&A, the estate of T.S. Eliot, the Headley Trust and many private donations

Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge

The Peterborough Psalter & Bestiary

The Society of Antiquaries, London

The Lindsey Psalter

The Black Book of Peterborough

Have a flick through the exhibition guide below, download your own copy here or pick one up from Peterborough Museum.