Council on way to securing £4m for major excavation project

Chester Farm aerial view
Chester Farm aerial view

Funding has been secured that could pave the way for a major archaeological project that will reveal thousands of years of Northamptonshire’s and heritage.

The Heritage Lottery Fund today announced Northamptonshire County Council’s Chester Farm project has been successful in securing a £135,800 development grant, the initial part of what could be up to £4.1m of funding to unlock the secrets of what County Hall says is a “hugely significant historical and archaeological site”.

The initial funding will enable detailed development work to be undertaken, including funding a feasibility study into locating a countywide archaeological archives store and public access point on the site, near Wellingborough.

Chester Farm provides strong evidence of thousands of years of settlement, from at least Mesolithic times to the present day.

These include traces of Iron Age enclosures and ancient field systems while below ground there is extensive Roman settlement including a Roman walled town.

Recent excavation has shown that key elements of the town, such as roads, temples and other buildings, have survived.

There was also medieval settlement on the site including the remains of the now deserted village of Chester-by-the-Water.

According to experts, the site includes a complex of farm buildings, dating from the 17th to the 20th century together with the remains of formal gardens, orchard and parkland.

Extensive ironstone extraction took place in the area during the Victorian period and there are the remains of an ironstone tramway across the site.

County council leader Jim Harker said: “Chester Farm is a true heritage jewel, with over 2,000 years of history in one place.

“Its heritage survives under the ground, in the landscape, in the buildings, in the written archives, the maps and photographs and in people’s memories. Heritage Lottery Fund support is vital to this project, enabling us to open up and bring Chester Farm to life.

“Not only is the site of huge historical and archaeological significance, it also offers remarkable education and learning opportunities which we believe can play a role in supporting our rapidly growing county and helping everyone who lives here to understand the rich heritage of our county.”

Emma Sayer, head of Heritage Lottery Fund East Midlands, said: “The Chester Farm site is one of Northamptonshire’s archaeological gems and we’re pleased to be giving our initial support for plans to transform it into an archive centre and heritage attraction. Obviously it’s early days but this is a very positive first step and we’ll be working closely with the council in the coming months as the project develops further.”