Explore the Vaults

Explore the Vaults

Each of the rooms in the Priestgate Vaults is related to a different period in the building’s history.

You will meet a different character in each one, brought to life as an apparition from the past. Explore these pages to be introduced to each of the characters you’ll meet…

Beware as some of the spookier secrets of the Museum may also be revealed…

Sir Humphrey Orme 

Cavalier and Justice of the Peace

Sir Humphrey lived in the original house on this site, a grand mansion called Neville Place, parts of which can be seen in the vaults. It had been built around 1536 by his father.

He was a leading local Royalist during the English Civil War, captured by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers when they took Peterborough in 1643. His tomb, constructed during his lifetime as a family monument in Peterborough Cathedral, was vandalised by Roundheads and can be seen today.

In 1815 the Orme family left Peterborough and sold their house to Thomas Cooke.

You’ll hear about see parts of that original house and more stories of the Orme family from Sir Humphrey himself…

John Webb

Butler to the city’s Magistrate

By 1816 this had been rebuilt as a substantial Georgian townhouse, the core of the current museum building. Its owner was the city’s magistrate, Thomas Cooke.

John Webb was born in Great Wilbraham near Cambridge, in 1800. In 1841 he was the butler to Thomas Cooke, and responsible for managing the servants at the grandest house in the city. Later in life he ran a pub!

As you meet John Webb in the original wine cellar, you’ll hear stories of some of the lavish parties held in this house, local criminals judged here – and some of the family scandals too…

Nurse Ethel Reynolds

Nurse at the Peterborough Infirmary

After Thomas Cooke’s death, this building became the Peterborough Infirmary, the city’s first hospital. It was a charitable institution, charging those who could afford it for treatment and providing free care to the poor where it could.

In 1901 Ethel Reynolds was working long shifts as a nurse inside this building. She was 26 years old and from Hamilton, near Northampton.

Ethel is a sociable soul, who will be happy to tell you about life in the Infirmary as she fetches coal from the cellar. She will talk about some of the treatments carried out and reveal what happened inside the operating theatre…


Daughter of the Museum’s Caretaker

In 1928 the Infirmary moved out of this building, which was then bought on behalf of the city to become a permanent home for the Museum collections. The new Museum was opened in 1931, and had a caretaker who lived on the premises.

The Vaults were used as an air raid shelter for the Museum during the Second World War. On 10 May 1941 an air raid took place on this part of Peterborough City Centre, with bombs being dropped on Priestgate…

You’ll meet Abigail, the fictionalised daughter of the caretaker, who will tell you more about living in the museum. You’ll also experience with her the terror of the air raid going on outside…

The Haunted Room

Dare you enter…?

There have been ghost stories told about the Museum building for many years, and the building’s spooky happenings have attracted paranormal investigators from far and wide.

This room will tell some of the ghost stories associated with the building… including those in the cellar. Beware though, as the tales progress, strange things might start to happen!

You have been warned…

If that doesn’t worry you, sometimes visitors to the Vaults have even caught a glimpse of the real thing, perhaps catching a ghost on camera!

The Vaults

The other character in the Vaults experience is the historic building itself…

Whilst we have restored and dressed the rooms to represent different periods in the Museum building’s long history, we have preserved and enhanced the original historic features to tell the 500 year story of this remarkable building. As such the Vaults are an evocative and atmospheric space.

There are yet more historic cellars under the Museum which we do not currently have access to… perhaps in the future these too will be opened up as well…