You can unsubscribe at any time.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy noticePeterborough and its surrounding areas are steeped in history.Whether it’s Burghley House’s connections to Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots’ execution at Fotheringhay Castle or the burial of Katherine of Aragon at Peterborough Cathedral, the region has played a significant role in Britain past.However, one location near the city has a definitive claim to military history and can count itself as a landmark in the evolution of warfare.Constructed at the end of the eighteenth century, Norman Cross Prison was the world’s first purpose built prisoner of war camp.Previously, regular prisons, army barracks and civil buildings had been used to house captured soldiers, but this was only meant to provide short term incarceration.Read MoreThe tiny bits of history you miss as you walk through CambridgeThis system had to change as a consequence of British involvement in war with revolutionary France and then in the Napoleonic Wars, as the capture and retention of prisoners became a significant part of eighteenth century warfare.Britain had control of an unprecedented number of captives, which saw a demand for purpose built facilities.This saw the construction of Norman Cross, which was built by the Navy to hold prisoners of war.Used from 1797 to 1814, it could house almost seven thousand inmates at any given time.Spanning 15 hectares, the site of what once was the prison is just five miles from Peterborough and in the vicinity of Yaxley, Folksworth and Stilton.It was said to have been chosen as a site because it was on the Great North Road, approximately 80 miles from London, and was seen to be far enough from the coast to stop escaped prisoners from being able to flee back to France.Construction began in December 1796 and the camp was staffed and in a position to hold prisoners by the following March.Prisoners were marched to Northern Cross after their capture, with many passing through Peterborough. Officers who were captured were often given parole and they tended to stay in nearby towns.Captured soldiers often brought their families with them, who would stay temporarily in Yaxley.Once inside Norman Cross, the incarcerated soldiers were allowed to make and sell craft objects. They would carve items such as toys and models from wood or stone, which they could take to regular markets, where business was done between prisoners and the local population.Over 500 artefacts from the prison can now be found in Peterborough Museum.

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