The first house on the site of the Peterborough Museum was built in 1538 for the Orne family, with land given to them from Henry VIII. The house was called ‘Neville Place’ and is seen on a 1611 map of Peterborough. In 1816 the house was transformed into a private mansion house for Thomas Cooke which was then sold to the third Earl Fitzwilliam in 1854. The mansion was turned into a hospital, ‘the Peterborough Infirmary’ and was used as a hospital from 1857-1928. The building opened as a museum in 1931 and the Art Gallery was added in 1939.
The museum underwent a major renovation in 2011, but the spectacular Georgian features are still able to be seen and even old traces of the hospital use can be seen too. The modern conservation room, which used to be the old operation theatre, was restored back to originality during the refurbishment in 2011, and now looks exactly like the operating theatre would have looked in the 1800-1900’s. Many people are hoping this will entice more paranormal activity to occur. During the renovation, builders reported strange noises and the sense of being watched.
The profound history of the building has resulted in the museum being dubbed the most haunted building in the city. Living TV’s ‘Most Haunted’ visited in 2005 and experienced some frightening ghostly occurrences!
The most regular ghost is a grey figure seen on the stairs; legend has it he was an Australian soldier called Thomas Hunter who died from his wounds in 1916. The nurse tending to him saw his ghost minutes after he died so she was able to confirm it was him! A dark male figure has been sighted in the Recreation Period Shop and a Roman Soldier is also said to wander the Archaeology Area. The Geology Area is supposedly haunted by a little girl and the back stairs are guarded by a kitchen maid who fell to her death. The cellar is said by many to be a paranormal ‘hotspot’ with many accounts of doors slamming, noises and unexplained poltergeist activity.