Chester House Estate is a nationally significant heritage site, being one of the few places in the country which can demonstrate over 10,000 years of human activity.


Chester House Estate is a unique destination with 10,000 years of Northamptonshire’s heritage brought to life. Explore our timeline below to find our more.

Before 10,000 BC

Before 10,000 BC

Palaeolithic

 

A period of extreme weather with the seasonal meltwater gouging valleys into the countryside. Limited human activity, but at Chester Farm flint tools have been found and animal bones of mammoth and woolly rhino.

(10,000 – 4,000 BC)

(10,000 – 4,000 BC)

Mesolithic

 

The last Ice Age left a wide flood plain criss-crossed by easily fordable shallow water courses. Attractive to both birds and fish, and also to the ‘hunter gatherers’ who followed the food supply across the countryside. Numerous small flints from the period.

(4,000 – 800 BC)

(4,000 – 800 BC)

Neolithic / Bronze Age

 

Bronze Age burial found just 500m to west of site. Analysis of pollen found during excavation shows a domination of lime trees, still found at Chester Farm today.

(800 BC – 43 AD)

Iron Age

Iron Age

 

People lived in small family farms, comprising round houses within a square ditched enclosure. One was excavated in the area now occupied by the neighbouring warehouses and two are known to survive under the ground at Chester Farm.

Roman

Roman

Roman

 

The shallow crossing point of the Nene here was vital to the conquering Romans and as the thriving and important route developed, so did the town. This period is the first time that any settlement that could be called a town existed in Britain.

Saxon

Saxon

Saxon

 

Misleadingly called the ‘Dark Ages’ it is a period for which archaeological evidence is often very slight. Saxon pottery has been found and evidence of buildings nearby.

Medieval

Medieval

Medieval

 

By the 13th century a small hamlet called Chester on the Water or sometimes Chester by the Water existed, first documentary evidence occurs in 1236. The population by 1309 is described as 24 villains, tenants and cottars.​

17th and 18th Century

17th and 18th Century

17th and 18th Century

 

Chester Farm was acquired from the Crown in 1616 by Thomas Ekins. An inventory of 1662 describes a reasonably substantial home with hall, parlour, a room next to the parlour, kitchen and buttery on the ground floor, all with chambers over them, together with a wash-house and dairy-house.

19th Century

19th Century

19th Century

 

Cart barns and limestone walls that surround the property built. An orchard planted and primitive archaeological excavations undertaken. River Nene was navigable by goods vessels called lighters, and two railway lines passed close by, one Northampton to Peterborough the other Leicester to London.

Ironstone Quarrying

Ironstone Quarrying

Ironstone Quarrying

 

Ironstone dug to the east of Chester Farm in the 1870s and again in the 1920s. Extraction was by hand digging, in a method called ‘barrow and plank’. The wagons of ore crossed the site and the embankment of the light railway can clearly be seen.

Modern Farm

Modern Farm

Modern Farm

 

The current farm buildings are what remains of a mixed farm used for cattle and cereals. Land was sold for gravel extraction and for the nearby industrial estate reducing its viability. Some temporary structures will be removed to make way for the Archaeological Archive Resource Centre.

2004

Land Bought

Land bought

 

​Northamptonshire County Council buy the 84 acre Chester Farm. It is due to the extraordinarily rich and shallow archaeology that this is a failed farm.

2010

Fire at Chester Farm

Fire at Chester Farm

 

​Chester Farm severely damaged by fire, Chester House was gutted internally. Although the fire was a disaster, it did give the team a previously impossible opportunity to analyse the building’s fabric.

2012

Heritage Lottery Funding

Heritage Lottery funding – round 1

 

​Round 1 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the restoration of Chester Farm was approved. The HLF process is over two stages – Round 1 is about the vision for the site; Round 2 is the far more detailed ‘how will it be achieved’.

2014

Heritage Lottery Funding round 2

Heritage Lottery funding – round 2

 

Round 2 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund approved – November 2014 Landscaping work begins at Chester Farm led by site manager Andy Russell. Brush and nettles are cleared together with decades of accumulated farm junk.

May 2016

Open!

Open!

​Grounds of Chester Farm are opened to the public.

July 2016

Go-ahead given

Go-ahead given

 

​Planning Permission granted by Wellingborough Borough Council for the restoration works. Cllr Heather Smith, Leader of Northamptonshire County Council said “This is a very exciting time for Chester Farm and the team that have worked so hard to get it to this stage.”

September 2016

September 2016

Contractors begin on site.

June 2019

Shaylor Group (our previous contractor) fell into administration and building work stopped.

April 2020

Re-tender process for building work collapsed due to Covid-19.

May 2020

May 2020

New management appointed.

Jack Pishhorn, The Chester House Estate Manager, started his role on the project with ambitious plans to move the project forward.

September 2020

September 2020

Natural England Stewardship Scheme starts on site.

December 2020

December 2020

Powells (new building contractor) starts on site.

January 2021

January 2021

Rebranded: The Chester House Estate was born!

We said goodbye to the name ‘Chester Farm’ and created a new brand along with a business plan for The Chester House Estate.

January 2021

January 2021

Restoration work start on site.

February 2021

February 2021

Project Launched.