Heritage & Culture

Tea and cake at Peterborough Cathedral…

There’s always that moment when you’re wandering round a city centre when you need a cup of tea and a slice of cake. You may be shopping, visiting some of the historic sites or simply enjoying an autumn day mooching around the city centre. Now, a nice sit down and some much-needed refreshment comes with the added bonus of the best view in the East of England – thanks to Peterborough Cathedral’s Tea Room

Just inside the Cathedral’s gateway, handily placed for the main city centre and Cathedral Square, is Becket’s Tea Room. Located in an historic medieval chapel, Becket’s serves freshly prepared locally sourced light lunches, homemade cakes and afternoon teas. They also offer a take-out menu of drinks, sandwiches and snacks, including ice cream. Becket’s Tea Room is a collaboration between Venture Catering, a division of Peterborough Regional College (PRC) Ventures, and Peterborough Cathedral. Its aim is to provide high quality food and excellent service to city centre customers, including Cathedral visitors. All the profits from the enterprise will go to support both the Regional College and the Cathedral.

It’s a win-win situation, as Stuart Orme, Director of Operations at the Cathedral, explains: ‘We’re delighted with the new Tea Room, as the response so far has been very positive. The Cathedral has been without a refreshment facility for the last three years, and it’s been the thing that visitors have been consistently asking for. With Venture Catering’s high standards of food preparation and the Cathedral’s spectacular setting we offer something unique to our customers. Anyone who chooses to eat or drink here can be sure that any profits are helping to support the education of students at the Regional College and the maintenance of the Cathedral – two outstanding Peterborough institutions.’ Barbara Grange, Managing Director of PRC Ventures, agrees:

‘Venture Catering staff are chosen not only for their professional expertise, but also for their enthusiasm for passing on their knowledge. Apprentices will be joining the team in due course, and the emphasis will be on excellence. Our share of the profits will support teaching and learning at the College, where our dedicated staff work with students to help them realise their potential, whatever their starting point.’

Part of the attraction of visiting is Becket’s location, inside the historic Becket Chapel from which it derives its name. The building dates substantially from around 1175, built to house holy relics of St Thomas Becket, including his bloodied under-robes, brought to Peterborough by Abbot Benedict. It was remodelled in the 1320s, with the insertion of its beautiful east window. On the Dissolution of the Monastery and creation of the abbey church as the city’s Cathedral in 1541, the building became the schoolroom for the newly founded King’s School. After King’s moved to Park Road in 1885, it then became the first home for Peterborough Museum. More recently it has been used as a Chapter House, meeting room and rehearsal space for the Cathedral Choir.

The beautiful east window was voted the East of England’s best ‘window with a view’ in a public vote last year. As part of the Tea Room development the building has been sympathetically restored and decorated in a style that fits with its historic surroundings, but with a contemporary twist. There’s also the opportunity for al fresco dining with an outdoor terrace overlooking the Cathedral green and the spectacular view of the west front of the Cathedral itself. The creation of the new Tea Room has only been made possible by a number of generous donors and supporters. Several small grant bodies and private donors helped fund the redecoration and fit-out. Furniture was been kindly provided by the Peterborough based furniture company AHF. They have not only donated tables and chairs, but also sofas for a relaxed seating area in the Tea Room.

Becket’s will continue to develop over the coming months. An additional entrance to the Tea Room will be opened later in the year, supported by generous funding from Perkins Engines Limited. Perkins became the Cathedral’s 100th corporate partner earlier this year, one of a network of businesses across the city who have helped support the improvements to the Cathedral’s visitor facilities in advance of its 900th anniversary in 2018. Perkins’ support of the development will enable the Tea Room to have not only a secondary entrance, but a secondary seating area, which will be decorated with displays of historic photographs from the Perkins archive. Stuart Orme is looking forward to this added development.

‘Perkins have been very generous in their support of this project, and we’re delighted to be able to display some of their huge archive of photographs. As well as the Cathedral’s 900 year story, we can also showcase some of the stories from the city’s more recent past, present and future by working alongside one of Peterborough’s engineering giants.’

So, next time you’re in Peterborough and find yourself in need of a drink and a sit down, Becket’s may well be the place you’re looking for. The Tea Room is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Saturday, and 10.00am to 4.00pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. It is also available for business meetings or receptions during and outside these hours.

For more details visit the Cathedral’s website at www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk  

This feature has been supported by Peterborough-based Perkins Engines Company Limited, one of the world’s leading suppliers of off-highway diesel and gas engines

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