St Nicholas' Church, Kennett
Kennett is a small village at the very eastern tip of Cambridgeshire, on the border with Suffolk, and somewhat trespassing over it. It stands on the banks of the little River Kennett, a tributary of the River Lark, and takes its name from the river. The name appears to be of the old British language in origin, as is that of the River Kennet in Berkshire.
The parish church has been dedicated to St Nicholas since the 13th century. The building consists of a chancel and an aisled nave with north porch and west tower. The oldest parts of the building are the nave and north porch which were built in the 12th century, with the chancel dating from the 13th century. Its impressive 15th-century tower dominates the local landscape and contains three bells, including one from the 13th century.
The small parish of Kennett covers 1,431 acres at the easternmost point of the spur of Cambridgeshire that stretches into Suffolk.
The parish is roughly square in shape, and borders Suffolk to its east and south. The eastern border is largely made up of the meandering mediæval course of the River Kennett, though the river has been straightened in sections since the border was defined. The border deviates to the east of the river for half a mile or so, such that the land around Kennett Hall falls into the parish. The straight southern border with Suffolk follows the ancient Icknield Way. The relatively straight west and north borders are former field boundaries that separate it from Chippenham.
Kennett is listed as Chenet in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The river was forded at the southeast of the parish in around 1161 (from which the village of Kentford takes its name) and was apparently nevertheless navigable until at least the early 14th century, on a riverine route leading eventually to King's Lynn. A 13th century ferry across the Kennett was known as Kentfayre, and the Newmarket to Bury St Edmunds road had a bridge over the river added in around 1600 on what became a busy turnpike. Occasional flooding of the Kennett would damage the east of the parish, and a flood in 1968 destroyed the railway bridge at Kennett End. A pumping station was built just to the east of the church in 1977 to control flow.
The railway reached the parish in 1854 and Kennett railway station was opened at the south-east of the parish. It closed to goods trains in 1965 and became unstaffed after 1967, though trains between Cambridge and Ipswich still stop there, the only stop between Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds.
The Newmarket by-pass opened in the early 1970s (now the A14) and runs alongside the railway at the south of the parish.
Kennett Hall, on the site which served as the manor house from the 12th century, was built in around 1870 by William Godfrey. The house has Neo-Palladian windows on the three-bayed south-west front. In 1958 it was divided into flats, and rented by members of the American armed forces.
The Bell Inn, the only pub in the parish, stands at the crossroads at Kennett End and dates from the 16th century. Village playing fields were opened to the east of Station Road in 1951 and are shared with Kentford in Suffolk.
A former quarry at the north west of the parish was bought in 1991 for use as a centre for off-road activities, claiming to own the largest collection of privately owned military vehicles in the country.
- History of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely, Victoria County History
- . Newmarket Journal. 16 May 1996.
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