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Historically part of Northamptonshire, it is 73.6 miles (118.4 km) north of London, on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea 30 miles (48 km) to the north-east.
The railway station is an important stop on the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh.
Railway lines began operating locally during the 1840s, but it was the 1850 opening of the Great Northern Railway's line from London to York that transformed Peterborough from a market town to an industrial centre.
Lord Exeter had opposed the railway passing through Stamford, so Peterborough, situated between two main terminals at London and Doncaster, increasingly developed as a regional hub.
Coupled with vast local clay deposits, the railway enabled large-scale brick-making and distribution to take place.
The area was the UK's leading producer of bricks for much of the twentieth century.
Thirty years later it employed more than a tenth of the population of Peterborough, mainly at Eastfield.
In 1576 Bishop Edmund Scambler sold the lordship of the hundred of Nassaburgh, which was coextensive with the Soke, to Queen Elizabeth I, who gave it to Lord Burghley, and from that time until the 19th century he and his descendants, the Earls and Marquesses of Exeter, had a separate gaol for prisoners arrested in the Soke.