CHESTERTON: PRE 1800 HISTORY

ANCIENT TIME AND THE ROMANS

The village of Chesterton is rich in ancient history with Neolithic Flints being found all over the parish. It is, however, more famously associated with Roman occupation.
In his pamphlet detailing the history of the village, Mr A. Guest described the appearance of the Romans as follows...

"The Roman conolisation of the parish was impressive. Their first appearance was military, a five acre fort at Water Newton on the North border of Chesterton, which was built in the mid first century to guard the crossing of the Nene.
A Civil settlement soon appeared at the gates of the fort, this became Chesterton with its North and West boundary being the River Nene and Billings Brook respectively. Durobrivae was contained within this boundary, with a Roman Signal Station at its highest point near its Southern border"

According to "Gatehouse" a web site concerned with detailing Medieval fortifications of England and Wales, what they term the "Chesterton Mound" was described as follows...
"The mound is a substantial earthwork with a flat platform top. Its profile indicates a 0.6m top layer added for later reuse, possibly as a Medieval mill mound...."

Durobrivae was to become an important producer of Pottery, the so called "Castor Ware" pottery which has been found as far afield as Germany. This pottery was traded from 125 AD and reached its peak in the 4th century.

Although the area has never been preperly excavated many important finds have come to light. The earliest evidence of Christianity in Roman Britain dates from the 4th century ad. A collection of silver vessels and other pieces found in the area is now in the British Museum and bears Christian dedications and appear to be church plate. Also found were 30 gold coins whilst in the recent past some archaelogical work was done on a Roman Cemetry which was situated at the side of the A1.

More research by Mr Guest in his history of the village indicated poorly recorded excavations undertaken by Artis Esq in 1820/27. Many artefacts were found including lead and stone coffins as well as many coins. Visitors to Peterborough Museum today will find a stone coffin from the area proudly on display.

POST ROMAN TIMES UNTIL 1800.
Following the Roman withdrawl from Britain Chesterton suffered Viking and Saxon invasions. The area was a brutal place to live at times and I can remember as a child being shown a human skull found in one of the gardens with a large hole in the side, an axe head being found a at the side of the skull. The Domesday Book, written in 1086 reveals a Chesterton much reduced in size with "...a Lordship in two ploughs, 10 villagers and two smallholders who have three ploughs, a Church and a Priest..."

The Church of St Michael dates from the first half of the 13th Ccentury and contains monuments to the Beville family who were Lords Of The Manor of Chesterton. Contained in Chesterton Church is a tomb for William Beville who died in 1487 and a fine Tudor monument for Sir Robert Beville showing him, his wife opposite son and daughter in law with children below. This dates from 1611 and photos of both can be found in the St Michaels Church page of this site.

The Beville family had been granted land after the Norman Conquest and had setled in Chesterton after John Beville's marriage to Agnes Walderchef in 1378/79. The luxurious Chesterton House was built by the first Robert Beville in the early 1600's and was later passed to the Dryden family (artist impression at foot of page). The famous poet John Dryden was born in the Northamptonshire village of Aldwinkle in August 1631. He was a frequent visitor to his cousins who lived at Chesterton House. John Dryden is buried in Westminster Abey and there is a monument to the Dryden family in St Michaels Church.

Another famous landmark in the village is at Kate's Cabin, the building at the side of the A1 which was known as Dryden's Head. During re-biulding in 1754 10 - 11 Roman Graves were found with one grave in particular being of great interest. This was a male who wore silver plate on his breast and was buried with glass, jet and bronze ornaments, coins and a piece of white wood with Greek and Latin inscriptions. As the 1800's started the population of the village was a little over 100 residents.

chesterton manor