The Yaxley Festival isn’t just about community and entertainment – it’s also about heritage, specifically celebrating the rich local history of Yaxley and the Great Fen.
For nearly 900 years the magnificent cathedral at Peterborough has flung a shadow across Peterborough and the surrounding region. Its grand gothic arches have survived the skirmishes of the Norman invaders and Hereward the Wake, the destruction of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the vandalism of the English Civil War and a catastrophic 21st century fire.

It’s therefore not surprising that the history of neighbouring Yaxley has been largely overlooked by historians and the public at large. Save for the Norman Cross Depot, the world’s first purpose-built prisoner-of-war camp, little is spoken of the village’s past.
However, for those who care to dig deep enough their is a wealth of treasure to unearth in Yaxley’s rich black soil.

How many are aware that until the middle of the 19th century, Yaxley was home to Southern England’s largest lake, a body of water so expansive that it hosted sailing regattas? That Yaxley was home to the mysterious Black Mill, one of the great wonders of Huntingdonshire that served as a lighthouse of the Fens?

The Yaxley Festival History Exhibition promises to open a portal to our storied past, revealing the titanic struggles of our ancestral battle to tame the Great Fen. Wade through the mysterious waters of the Meres to discover a forgotten world of floating chapels, razor-sharp corridors of sedge and a society torn-apart by the technologies of the Industrial Revolution. Meet the characters who built Yaxley, including the Abbot whose heart was interred in the walls of St Peter’s Church and the man who discovered real treasures on the bed of the Whittlesea Mere. Look forward to the future as the arrival of the Great Fen Project opens another chapter in the cyclical story of the ongoing struggle to tame a landscape, promising to once again transform Yaxley socially and economically in the 21st Century.

The exhibition runs from the 17th-18th May 2014 and the exhibitors are as follows:

  • Peterborough & District Family History Society
  • The Brickyards presented by Andrew Mortlock
  • Huntingdonshire Family History Society (Saturday only)
  • Fens and Meres presented by Eric Day (Saturday only)
  • The Great Fen Project – Whittlesea Mere presented by Lauren Stonebridge
  • Huntingdonshire Archives presented by Caroline Clifford (Saturday only)
  • Yaxley Community Archive

We will also have a heritage bus service to Norman Cross and expanded living history re-enactment on the event field at Yaxley – more details coming soon…