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High Street, Irchester - - 266898.jpg
High Street, Irchester
Grid reference: SP8967
Location: 52°16’42"N, 0°39’20"W
Population: 4,745  (2011)
Post town: Wellingborough
Postcode: NN29
Dialling code: 01933
Local Government
Council: Wellingborough

Irchester is a village and parish in Northamptonshire, adjacent to the border with Bedfordshire. The village lies two miles south-east of Wellingborough and two miles south-west of Rushden. The population at the 2011 Census was 4,745.[1] Little Irchester and Knuston also lie in the parish.


Irchester was spelt Yranceaster in 973 and Irencestre in the 1086 Domesday Book. A. D. Mills wrote that name was formed from the Old English personal name Ira or *Yra with the suffix ceaster denoting a Roman station,[2] but another theory is that Iren Ceastre was an Anglo-Saxon name meaning "iron fortress".[3] In the 11th century, it was spelt Erncestre or Archester and had evolved to Erchester by the 12th century.[4]

Chester Farm

Chester Farm is one mile north of the village of Irchester, with the A45 road to its south and the River Nene to the north. The area "represents a unique piece of historic landscape of high importance... preserving in a small area a wide range of historic features spanning several thousand years"[5] and is a scheduled monument protected by law.[6] Mesolithic flints have been found, with signs of later prehistoric settlement and a "nationally important" walled Roman town.

The Roman name of the settlement has been lost, but evidence has been found of many buildings, a cemetery, occupation outside the town walls, and a causeway across the Nene floodplain.[5] A Romano-Celtic temple was recorded inside the town boundary. Square-shaped, it faced south-east; its outer portico measured 38 feet square and the inner cella about 17 feet square. The walls were around two feet thick. The tombstone of a Strator Consularis - 'a transportation officer of the consular governor' - was also found at the town,[7] and an inscription found at Irchester suggests evidence of an organised horse breeding operation.[8]

A road through the middle of the site (running north-south) and three rectangular buildings to the west of the road have been identified. As only one Roman road has been found leading away from the site, to the south, it is "highly likely" that the river was used as a means of transport and communication with other Roman settlements at Duston, to the south-west, and Thrapston, to the north-east.[7]

Next to the Roman walled town, there are remains of the mediæval hamlet of Chester by the Water (which may have existed since Anglo-Saxon times) and the later Chester House and Farm which had gardens and parkland. In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, ironstone quarrying took place to the south-west of Chester, but most of the site avoided serious damage. The tramways and other industrial artifacts have since become "historically important" in their own right.[5]

In 2004, Northamptonshire Council received a grant of £1.2 million[9] from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and purchased Chester Farm, including the walled Roman town and the deserted medieval village of Chester on the Water. Wellingborough's Local Plan states that "planning permission will be granted for a heritage park in association with the archaeological remains of the Chester camp ancient monument"[10] as part of the planned River Nene Regional Park. The aims of the development of the park are to make Chester Farm accessible to the public and provide opportunities for education, leisure and recreation. However, the park plan stalled, due to the lack of "a viable business plan and subsequent pressure on resources."[5] A county council report of November 2007 stated that "In order to safeguard the heritage asset, Cabinet is asked to... declare Chester Farm surplus to the operational requirements of the Council and to approve its sale."[11] Subsequently, in 2010, the farmhouse was gutted by fire.[12]

In 2013, the Chester Farm site received £4m from Heritage Lottery Fund to open it to the public. The site is owned by Northamptonshire Council. The project will include an archaeological resource centre. The 17th century farmhouse on the site was badly damaged by a fire in 2010. The council received a £1.9m insurance payout for repairs. The lottery money will be used to build a classroom, a conference space and an archaeological resource centre. The site is partially open to the public with car parking to the West of the site. [13][14]

Possible mediæval identification

Interestingly, the 12th-century historian Henry of Huntingdon mentions a Roman "town on the river (Nene), in Huntingdonshire, which is entirely destroyed" as one of his interpretations of the 28 cities of Britain. This town is again mentioned by William Lambarde in his Dictionarium Angliae Topographicum & Historicum.[15]

Henry names this town as Dormchester a name which he translates from the Celtic Kair-Dorm. The '-Dorm' element may translate as water (Dwr in modern Welsh and a common root for place-names throughout England), if so, there is a possible continuation of the name into English as Chester-on-the-Water. Currently however, no modern study has entirely rejected or accepted this hypothesis.[16]


Irchester lies to the south-east of the town of Wellingborough and to the south-west of Rushden, in the east of the county of Northamptonshire.[17] It is 11 miles north-east of the county town of Northampton and 58 miles north-west of central London (in a straight line).[18] The border of the parish is formed by the River Nene in the north and west; the adjacent parishes are Wellingborough, to the north-west, Great Doddington (south-west), Wollaston (south), Podington in Bedfordshire (south-east) and Rushden in the east. The height above sea level ranges from around 130 feet in the river valley, to 300 feet south of Irchester village.[17]


At the 2001 census, the population of the parish of Irchester was 4,807 people living in 2,020 households: 2,397 men and 2,410 women, with a mean age of 41 years. Of the people aged between 16 and 74 years and economically active, 2,352 were employed and 80 unemployed. In 1851, the parish population was 960 people and in 1861, 1,168; writing in 1872, John Marius Wilson attributed the increase to "the opening of the railway, and from the discovery of iron stone."[19]


The nearest motorway is the M1 - junction 15 is approximately 13 miles away. The nearest railway station is at Wellingborough, approximately two miles from the village. Places served by direct trains include London, Luton, Bedford, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield. Irchester itself once had a railway station located to the east of the village, which closed in 1965.

The main bus service serving the village is the X46: It connects the village with Wellingborough, Rushden, Northampton, Earls Barton, Higham Ferrers and Raunds.[20] Luton Airport, 30 miles south, is the nearest passenger airport, though there is an aerodrome at Sywell,[21] 10 miles north-west.


A playgroup meets at the village hall in School Road. Irchester Primary School, nearby in School Lane, has around 330 pupils with an age range of 4 to 11 years.[22] The nearest secondary school is in the village of Wollaston.


The village has a health centre, car repairs and car sales garage[23] a pharmacy,[24] library[25] and a post office.[26] Shops include a Co-operative supermarket,.[27] There used to be a gift shop and an estate agent but these have now closed. There are two pubs and a fish and chip shop, Chinese and Indian takeaways.

Sport and leisure

The local football team, Irchester United, known as The Romans, play in the United Counties League. The ground is in Alfred Street.[28] Irchester Bowls Club on the High Street, also known as The Romans, has a county standard class "A" Green.[29] Irchester Cricket Club was founded in 1897 and play at Alfred Street, in the Northamptonshire Cricket League.[30] Irchester Players is an amateur dramatic society which puts on a variety of performances, including shows, musicals and pantomimes, at Parsons Hall in the village.

Country park

The village has a large country park which is managed by Northamptonshire Council.[31] This was created after the local opencast ironstone quarries were allowed to revert to a wilder landscape, having been worked out some decades after the war. The removal of the ironstone and some of the limestone that overlaid it have lowered the landscape within the circuit of the working face by several metres, though this is not particularly apparent except near the vehicle entrance. Within the park there is a highly unusual "ridge and furrow" topography with several metres' relief. This is a consequence of the movement patterns of the machines that stripped the overburden to expose the ironstone. The park offers maturing woodlands (planted circa 1965) and grassy meadows with trails around the park. A children's play area, and café are also at the park.

Irchester Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in the country park features a selection of working steam and diesel locomotives among more than 40 items of rolling stock. A 270-yard-long demonstration track can also be seen.[32]


  1. "Civil Parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 July 2016. 
  2. Mills, A.D. (1998). A Dictionary of English Place-names. Second Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford. p197. ISBN 0-19-280074-4
  3. Holmes, Clive. Irchester. Northampton Chronicle and Echo. 7 March 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  4. Parishes: Irchester with Knuston and Chester-on-the-Water, A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4 (1937), pp. 21-27. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Northamptonshire County Council - Chester Farm: Additional Background Information. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  6. English Heritage - The Schedule of Monuments: Listing and Other Types of Designation. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  7. 7.0 7.1 Romano British Town - Irchester. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  8. Applebaum, Shimon. Agriculture in Roman Britain. British Agricultural History Society. 06.2 (1958). Retrieved 4 May 2009
  9. Collins, Catherine. Roman town site could be sold for protection. Northants Evening Telegraph. 7 December 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  10. Borough Council of Wellingborough - Interactive Local Plan: Chapter 11 - Rural Area Sites. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  11. Northamptonshire County Council - Cabinet: Subject: The future of various properties and land at Chester House, Higham Road, Irchester, Wellingborough, NN29 7EZ collectively known as Chester Farm. 11 December 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  12. Northampton Chronicle and Echo, 4 May 2010,
  13. BBC News website accessed 20 July 2013
  14. Northamptonshire County Council website - with images accessed 30 July 2013
  15. Lambarde, William (1730). Dictionarium Angliae Topographicum & Historicum. Great Britain: Fletcher Gyles. p. 93. 
  16. Henry of Huntingon. "Historia Anglorum". 
  17. 17.0 17.1 Streetmap: 1:25,000 mapping. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  18. Google Maps. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  19. Visions of Britain - Irchester Northamptonshire through time. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  20. Stagecoach Bus: X46 route map. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  21. Sywell Aerodrome. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  22. Northamptonshire County Council: Northamptonshire Schools Directory: Irchester Primary School. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  23. Irchester Surgery. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  24. The co-operative pharmacy: find us. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  25. Northamptonshire County Council: Welcome to Irchester Library. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  26. Post Office branch finder. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  27. The co-operative: find us. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  28. Irchester United Football Club. Retrieved 4 May 2009
  29. Irchester Bowls Club. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  30. Irchester CC - Play Cricket The 1st team are captained by Craig McDonald and the 2nd by Jonny Grove. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  31. Northamptonshire County Council: Irchester Country Park. Retrieved 3 May 2009
  32. Irchester Narrow Gauge Railway Museum. Retrieved 3 May 2009

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Irchester)