Chester House Estate ready to welcome visitors from 23rd October
£14.5m project complete on time
Northamptonshire’s largest free family attraction is gearing up to open its doors to the public for the first time on Saturday, 23rd October. The Chester House Estate near Irchester will be the jewel in the county’s crown and its much-anticipated opening comes after years of restoration work on site.
Perfectly located on the banks of the River Nene, the third and final phase of the project, joint funded by North Northamptonshire Council, West Northamptonshire Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund was the restoration and conversion of the 17th Century Grade II* listed Farmhouse into a restaurant and bed and breakfast.
Kerry Purnell, Assistant Director for Housing and Communities and Business Manager, Jack Pishhorn took the lead with the project in early 2020 and have seen it through to completion, introducing new and exciting plans for the site, which itself can be dated back 10,000 years.
The 84-acre scheduled monument is built on a former Roman town and includes the Northamptonshire Archaeological Resource Centre (ARC), a learning centre, a free-to-enter museum, an artisan courtyard and farm shop and an events and wedding space, as well as the flagship farmhouse. The surrounding farmland has been cleared of scrub and a new pontoon has been installed on the River Nene to allow access to those who arrive on foot and by water, as well as a new car park and footpath entrance in Claudius Way.
Jack said: “We’re excited to announce that The Chester House Estate will open on time on 23rd October, despite navigating a pandemic and a few complex issues on site.
“The plans have changed a lot since we started and we’ve made some bold and exciting decisions, ensuring the project would have a sustainable business model that wouldn’t be a burden on taxpayers. Along the way we’ve made some long-lasting partnerships and been proud to support local charities and businesses. We look forward to welcoming visitors to site to show everyone what we’ve been working on.”
Cllr Helen Howell, North Northamptonshire Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Sport, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “For more than a decade, The Chester House Estate – a jewel in the county’s crown – has stood in ruin and thanks to the support of North Northamptonshire Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund we’re now able to say we’ve restored it for generations to come.”
Cllr Jason Smithers, Leader of North Northamptonshire Council said: “It has been vital to the council that we create a space that will not only attract visitors to our fantastic green corridor, but also to create a fun, free and educational resource for locals to use. I’m proud to say we have delivered that.”
The Chester House Estate project has been supported by a grant of £3,967,200 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and with a Government Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage award of £719,700.
Anne Jenkins, Director, England, Midlands & East, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted to have been able to support the ambitious Chester House Estate renovation project. The 84-acre site is a nationally significant part of our heritage and new buildings such as the learning centre and museum, will enable people to explore and enjoy 10,000 years of human activity in Northamptonshire for the first time. We’ve been impressed with how the project team has overcome the challenges they have faced, and, are pleased to have been able to support them to deliver an exciting visitor attraction that we know National Lottery players will love.”
The restaurant will serve local produce and cater for events held in the new events space, as well as provide accommodation for wedding parties and tourists to the area.
The site will open to the public with pre-booked entry from 10am on 23rd October. During half-term week (23rd – 31stOctober) there will be a pumpkin patch on site for visitors to enjoy for just £5 per pumpkin.
But the project is far from over with additional access routes high on the agenda.
“The next step for us is to get the footbridges over the River Nene completed which will connect us to Wellingborough, as well as a footpath from Rushden Lakes through to the Estate as part of the Greenway Link,” Jack added.
Pre-booking to visit the Chester House Estate is essential and can be done via www.chesterhouseestate.org/plan-your-visit/where-to-find-us