Peterborough Museum, Peterborough, Huntingdonshire, UK

Norman Cross, near Peterborough, was one of the largest prisons in UK. It was opened in 1797,

and French and Dutch Prisoners-of-War were kept here in custody until 1815. Most of their work,

objects of carved bone and ivory, model ships (many of the prisoners were sailors), automation

(working toys), straw pictures establish the largest and finest collection of such items in the

world. Some of the delicate items, especially the original rigging of the bone ship models, have

deteriorated over time. In 2002, the Norman Cross Conservation Project was lauched to care for

the items in most need of conservation (the previous text is partly based on the Museum's

website text). Some results of this conservation project can be seen when comparing the photo

of a Dutch war ship with two gun decks as given on page 153 in Mondfeld (1989), and the photo

taken by the author of this website during his visit in the Peterborough Museum in July 2005

(see below, E100). The rigging which was in a deplorable condition during the 1980s when the

Mondfeld photo was taken, was in good shape during 2005. There seems, however, still work to

be done on some of these beautiful bone ship models as can be seen from model E99 (shown


E100: British Man-o-War warship, with 76 brass cannon, two gun decks, two long boats, and a bearded figugurehead
E103: First rate warship with three gun decks, paper sails, 82 brass cannon and a soldier figurehead.
E105: First rate warship with three gun decks, 120 cannon and a warrior figurehead.
The ship was purchased at Norman Cross by Mr Smith, a brewer of Oundle *) who together with Mr Buckle of Peterborough supplied beer to the Officer's Mess, staff and prisoners at Norman Cross.
E094: British war ship, with two gun decks, 74 cannon and a Roman warrior figurehead. In the background: other objects made by Prisoners-of-War at Norman Cross

*) "There were, indeed, the occasional war-time porter contracts to the capital houses, and always particularly placed firms such as ... , or the small business of John Smith at Oundle, when large barracks for the militia and French prisoners were established at Norman Cross. He seized the opportunities which a military mass-market offered, and sent over 9000 barrels of beer rumbling across ten miles of country lanes to the Great North Road between December 1798 and March 1800.1

1John Smith (Oundle): Sales Book, 1798-1800; Barley Book, 1824-28. I have seen these accounts through the courtesy of Mr Ludlow, of the brewery, Oundle. See Barnard, Noted Breweries of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. iv, pp. 5-6." taken from: Peter Mathias, The brewing industry in England, 1700-1830. Cambridge University Press, 624 pp., 1959. ISBN-10: 0521056918

E099: British war ship, with two gun decks, 74 cannon and a Roman warrior figurehead. Needs restoration.