Below is a whole host of information and links to answer all your questions about archaeology and history in Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire and the surrounding area

Archaeology and History Societies

Council for British Archaeology
Educational charity working throughout the UK to involve people in archaeology and to promote the appreciation and care of the historic environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

Council for British Archaeology South Midlands

Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire & Oxfordshire.

Council for British Archaeology East Midlands

Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire & Rutland.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme
The Portable Antiquites Scheme was set up to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public.

Council for Independent Archaeology
Body looking after the interests of amateur archaeologists.

English Heritage
English Heritage champions historic places in the UK and works to protect them for future generations. There are 400 sites open to the public including Chichele College in Higham Ferrers.

The National Trust
The National Trust protects and cares for historic houses, gardens, mills, forests, coastline etc.

Other national sites of interest:

Other local sites of interest:

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The HiFARS archive

The Society has built up an archive of books and printed material. Members are welcome to make enquires about using them for their own research. See CALENDAR for details of the HiFARS Heritage Open Day.

The HiFARS finds

The Society has a collection of finds from local archaeological sites and digs. These are displayed at various HiFARS events. The Bates Boxes are a portable collection of Roman finds from the Kings Meadow Lane site and are also displayed regularly. If you are a HiFARS member and a teacher and would like to use the Bates Boxes as a teaching aid in your school please get in touch with HiFARS.

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Education and courses

Go to and for adult education in History and Archaeology.

For online courses go to, and the Open University

The UCL Institute of Archaeology is the largest and one of the most highly regarded centres for archaeology, cultural heritage and museum studies in Britain. Go to for more information about courses and lectures.

Knuston Hall

Irchester, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire NN29 7EU
Knuston Hall is an Adult Education centre in the county offering residential and non-residential courses in many history related subjects. Check their website and the HiFARS CALENDAR for details.

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Places of Interest

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The British Museum

Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG
FREE admission, open daily
The British Museum has an extensive collection and many ticketed events, see CALENDAR and their website for details.

The Museum of London

150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN
Permanent galleries showing 450,000 years of London history.

Northampton Museum & Art Gallery

Guildhall Road, Northampton, NN1 1DP
FREE admission
The archaeology collection covers Bronze Age pottery, Iron Age finds from Hunsbury, Roman finds from Duston and Irchester, pottery, weapons and jewellery from Anglo Saxon cemeteries. Also the Ancient Egyptian Collection, geology, military history, coins & medals, fine & decorative art. The museum also holds the nationally recognised shoe collection.

Manor House Museum and Alfred East Art Gallery

Sheep Street, Kettering, NN15 7QX
FREE admission
The archaeology collection consists Roman and Saxon artefacts, also prehistoric and medieval. Roots is an image database of the museum's arachaeological collections. Also natural history, geology, social and industrial history.

Wellingborough Museum

Dully's Baths, 12 Castle Way, Wellingborough, NN8 1XB
FREE admission
Local archaeology, Victorian and WWI artefacts, a 1940s living room and kitchen, a haberdashery shop and ironmongers, a working model railway and a GPO sorting office. Lots of local history and regular events.

The Higgins Bedford

Castle Lane, Bedford MK40 3XD
FREE admission. The museum had a major redevelopment in 2013. The settlement gallery highlights the human journey through time. Illustrated with objects from the archaeological collections.

Others local MUSEUMS of interest:

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Houses, Buildings and Monuments

The Prebendal Manor, Tithe Barn Museum and Gardens

Prebendal Manor, Church Street, Nassington, near Peterborough, Northamptonshire PE8 6QG
Prebendal Manor is one of the most historic properties in Northamptonshire. Archaeological excavations have been in place since 1984 and Time Team visited in May 2003.

Kelmarsh Hall and Gardens

Kelmarsh, Northampton, NN6 9LY
An 18th century house in rolling countryside 5 miles from Market Harborough. Famous for its Festival of History which takes place in the summer each year.

Eleanor Cross

Geddington, Northamptonshire
Monument dating from 1294 and thought to be the best surviving example of the Eleanor Crosses, the resting places in the funeral process ion of Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I. There is another surviving cross in London Road, Hardingstone, Northamptonshire.

Others BUILDINGS of interest:

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Northampton Castle
Now situated under the train station car park, but importantly the site of Parliament for over 200 years.

Bedford Castle

Off Newnham Road, Bedford MK40 3NX
The remains of a motte and bailey castle built by Henry I overlooking the River Great Ouse.

Rockingham Castle and Gardens

Rockingham, Market Harborough, Leicestershire LE16 8TH
A castle built on the instruction of William the Conqueror and now family owned but open to the public with a full programme of events.

Fotheringhay Castle

Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire PE8 5HZ
Probably founded around 1100 by the Earlof Northampton. King Richard III was born there, and Mary Queen of Scots was tried and executed there in 1587. It fell into disrepair and was later demolished. Now a scheduled monument, all that can be seen are the earthworks and some masonry.

Barnwell Castle

A ruined castle south of Oundle. It is a scheduled monument and not open to the public.

Kimbolton Castle

High Street, Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire
Originally a medieval castle, now a school, but visits are possible by arrangement.

Yielden Castle

Bedfordshire MK44
12th century motte-and-bailey, in decay by 1360. A scheduled monument with only earthworks visible today.

Others CASTLES of interest:

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Archaeological Sites

Chester Farm

Near Irchester, Northamptonshire
Archaeological site with evidence of Mesolithic, Iron Age, Roman and Medieval activity. Chester Farm Heritage Park is a £12m project funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Northamptonshire County Council.

Flag Fen

The Droveway, Northey Road, Peterborough PE6 7QJ
Flag Fen is an archaeology park most famous for its 3,500 years old wooden causeway. Open to the public – tours, events and workshops available.

Stanwick Lakes

Stanwick roundabout on the A45, Northamptonshire NN9 6GY
Stanwick Lakes is a 750 acre countryside attraction and nature reserve in Northamptonshire. The Heritage Trail depicts the history of the site from Neolithic to Medieval times, and the Exhibition Centre houses a small exhibition of the finds from the excavated Roman Villa and the deserted medieval hamlet of West Cotton.

Naseby Battlefield

Naseby, Northamptonshire
The site of Battle of Naseby 1645, the decisive fight of the English Civil War.

Bosworth Battlefields

Sutton Cheney, Leicestershire

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Higham Ferrers

Higham Ferrers is a small market town in East Northamptonshire. It is situated where the A6 and the A45 meet, 15 miles from the county town of Northampton. It has a population of 6,000 people and boasts many fine old buildings including a beautiful church.

Originally a Roman town on the east bank of the River Nene with a temple and a row of workshops, then a Saxon settlement 'High Ham'. The Vikings settled in Northamptonshire but after they were driven back, Higham was established in its present location with a market and a manor.

By the time of Domesday in 1086 the estate of Higham belonged to William Peverel and a Norman castle was reputed to have been built in the 12th century. In 1155 Peverell forfeited Higham estate to King Henry II, who gave it to Robert Ferrers, Earl of Derby. In 1266 Higham Ferrers was granted to Edmund Earl of Lancaster, and it became part of the Duchy of Lancaster, returning to the crown under Henry IV. Another castle was probably built by the Earl of Lancaster or the Ferrers family, but demolished in 1523. Nothing visible remains except the Castle Field earthworks and the Dovecote.

The town grew slowly but surely, gaining Charters and Borough status, and returning a member of Parliament until the Reform Act of 1832. The development of the boot and shoe industry was slow in Higham Ferrers, the landowners reluctant to sell their land for the factories so they went elsewhere in the Nene Valley, to nearby Rushden and Raunds. At the end of the twentieth century the town began expanding, the Duchy had sold off some land for new housing and with it came opportunities for archeaological digs.

Kings Meadow Lane

This is a track that leads from the north end of Higham Ferrers down towards the River Nene. This is the site of the Oxford Archaeology excavations, lasting for 9 years and uncovering a wealth of evidence for the origins of Higham Ferrers.

St Mary's Parish Church
The Church dates from the 13th century. The 170ft spire and part of the tower collapsed in 1650 but was rebuilt with the original stone, and then renovated again in 2006. Features of special interest are the original font, the sculptures around the West door, the rood screen and the double nave.

The Chantry Chapel, Churchyard

A 15th century building in the 'Perpendicular' style. Originally the Grammar School until 1906, famous for its schoolboy graffitti in the wooden porch.

The Bede House, Churchyard

The Bede House was founded by Archbishop Henry Chichele in 1423, built to provide accommodation for 12 Bedesmen and 1 Bedeswoman ('bede' meaning prayer) who prayed daily for their patrons. Bedesmen lived here until the 18th century. It has a magnificent oak roof and original fireplace.

Chichele College, College Street

FREE admission to gardens, regular exhibitons in the college
In 1422 Archbishop Chichele founded a college, built around a quadrangle which housed 20 members – 8 chaplains, 4 clerks, 6 choristers and a song and grammar master. Their prime concern was to offer prayers for the souls of the patron and his family as well as education. Henry VIII dissolved the College in 1542 and it laid semi-derelict for many years. In the 18th century part of it was used as an inn, and in the early 20th century it was a farm cottage with an attached granary. The college was taken over by the Ministry of Works in 1948 and restored. The main surviving part is the gabled front with its Tudor door and windows with square hood mouldings. Above the door are empty niches which once held statues. Now managed by English Heritage and Higham Ferrers Tourism the building is used for exhibibtions and the restored Cloister Garth with its exposed foundations is open to the public. Go to for more information about Chichele College.

Medieval Fish Ponds, Saffron Moat

Created in the 15th Century to supply the Chichele College with fish. Known locally as the 'cup and saucer' because of their construction – an inner pond surrounded by a moat fed by drainage ditches from adjoining Saffron Meadows.

Market Square

A square of fine well-preserved limestone buildings including Church House and the Town Hall. The Market Cross erected in the 14th century and 14ft high is one of four originals, two surviving. A Farmer's Market is held on the last Saturday of every month.

The Town Hall

The Town Hall built in 1808 to replace an older building, it has many original features and is still used for council meetings. Until the 1930s it also housed the 'lock-up' and acted as Court House for the town. It houses the Borough Charters, Town Mace and official mayoral robes and chains.

The Manor House

Now a private house at the corner of Wood Street and Midland Road. Once leased by Lawrence Washington, ancestor of George Washington.

The Castle Field

An open space bordered by Midland Road and Kimbolton Road with a 'moat' running along two sides. Possibly the site of the castle, although many think the castle was closer to the church.

The Green Dragon

Originally a coaching inn situated in College Street. Within its grounds is the 16th century Castle Dovecote, recently restored.

For more information about the archaeological history of Higham Ferrers see The Roots of an English Town: Exploring the Archaeology of Higham Ferrers by Alan Hardy & Peter Lorimer, Oxford Archaeology Unit Ltd 2004. Available at events organised by HiFARS.

For more information about the town and forthcoming events go to and

Henry Chichele

Henry Chichele was born in Higham Ferrers in about 1362. The building thought to be his birthplace is marked by a plaque and can be found at the Toll Bar. The youngest of three sons of a local draper Thomas, who himself was Mayor several times. Henry was sent to Winchester School and then to New College, Oxford. He entered the church and rose quickly to prominenece. He was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1414 to 1443 and the founder of All Souls' College, Oxford. He also commissioned Chichele College and the Bede House in his home town. He died in 1443 and is buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

George Washington

George Washington, the first President of the United States was born into the Washington family who had migrated to Virginia, America from Northamptonshire in 1656. His ancestors originated in Washington, Sunderland from the 12th Century. When Lawrence Washington, born in 1500, married widow Elizabeth Gough of Northampton he became owner of various properties including a Northampton townhouse and Church House in Higham Ferrers. He also leased the Manor House in Higham Ferrers in 1530. He was a prosperous wool merchant, became mayor of Northampton in 1532 and 1545, and bought Sulgrave Manor, Northamptonshire in 1539. Go to for more information.

H E Bates

Herbert Ernest Bates was born in Rushden in 1905 and educated at Kettering Grammar School. He was a prolific writer, often setting his stories in Northamptonshire. His many works include The Darling Buds of May, Love for Lydia, My Uncle Silas and The Sleepless Moon which was set in Higham Ferrers. He married Madge Cox, a Rushden girl in 1931. They moved to Kent and raised a family of four children. Bates was created CBE in 1973 and died in 1974. The money for the Bates Boxes, a portable collection of Roman finds from the Kings Meadow Lane excavation site, was kindly donated by the H E Bates Society.

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HiFARS Dig-for-a-Day

A project for members of HiFARS to get hands-on experience of archaeology and learn practical digging skills under the leadership of HiFARS member, Stephen Morris. The site is in Higham Ferrers and owned by Spire Homes who have kindly allowed us to use the land for our training digs.

We aim to dig once a month from Spring to Autumn, weather permitting. We start at 10.30am on either a Saturday or Sunday, please refer to the CALENDAR for upcoming dates, and cancellation. HiFARS has insurance but any member taking part must read and sign our risk assessment form.

Members must dress sensibly according to the weather – waterproofs in wet weather; sunhats and suncreen in summer. Please wear sturdy footwear – steel toe capped boots are recommended – and a pair of gloves.

Please bring your own tools as required – trowel, spade, bucket, sieve, metal detector etc. Finds trays and bags will be provided by HiFARS. You might want to bring a pen and paper, and a camera.

There are no facilities on site. Please bring water, a drink or a flask of coffee! a packed lunch and snacks, and a blanket to sit on. Members can come and go as they please (there are no toilets on site), and we finish when everyone is too tired to carry on! usually mid afternoon.

The location of the site will only be given to HiFARS members when they let us know that they want to take part in the project. Parking is restricted at the site as it is in a residential area so please park considerately.

If you are already a HiFARS member and want to take part go to CONTACT. If you would like to become a member of HiFARS please go to JOIN US on this website.

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Higham Ferrers Test Pit Project

An ongoing community project excavating one metre square test pits in residential gardens in and around Higham Ferrers. Full reports will appear in the HiFARS newsletter. If anyone would like to volunteer their garden go to CONTACT and send an email.

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All information on this website is correct to the best of our knowledge. Please go to CONTACT with any corrections.