Kettering High Street
Kettering is a market town in Northamptonshire. The town is mainly situated on the west side of the River Ise, a tributary of the River Nene which meets at Wellingborough. The name is found earlier as Cytringan, Kyteringas and Keteiringan in the 10th century, the name Kettering is assumed to mean 'the clan of Ketter'.
Kettering traces its origins to an early, unwalled Romano-British settlement, the remnants of which lie under the northern part of the modern town. Occupied until the 4th century AD, there is evidence that a substantial amount of iron-smelting took place on the site. Along with the Forest of Dean and the Weald of Kent and Sussex, this area of Northamptonshire "was one of the three great centres of iron-working in Roman Britain". The settlement reached as far as the Weekley and Geddington parishes. However it is felt unlikely that the site was continuously occupied from the Romano British into the Anglo-Saxon era. Pottery kilns have also been unearthed at nearby Barton Seagrave and Boughton.
Early mediæval period
Excavations in the early 20th century either side of Stamford road, near the site of the former Prime Cuts factory, revealed an extensive early Anglo-Saxon burial site, consisting of at least a hundred cremation urns dating to the 5th century AD, which would be among the earliest Anglo-Saxon penetrations into the interior of Britain.
The first historical reference of Kettering is in a charter of 956 AD in which King Edwy granted ten "cassati" of land to Ælfsige the Goldsmith. The boundaries delineated in this charter would have been recognisable to most inhabitants for the last thousand years and can still be walked today. It is possible that Ælfsige the Goldsmith gave Kettering to the monastery of Peterborough, which grant King Edgar confirmed in a charter dated 972.
In the Domesday Book of 1086, Kettering manor is listed as held by the Abbey of Peterborough, the church owning 10 hides of land. Kettering was valued at £11, with land for 16 ploughs. There were 107 acres of meadow, 3 of woodland, 2 mills, 31 villans with 10 ploughs, and 1 female slave.
The charter for Kettering's market was granted to the Abbot of Peterborough by King Henry III in 1227. The market continued at the Market Place until the bus station was moved away in 1986 to the new shopping centre, which killed the markert trade and led to its closure.
Kettering is dominated by the 180-foot crocketed spire of the parish church of St Peter and St Paul. Little is known of the origins of the church, its first known priest becoming rector in 1219-20. The chancel is in the Early Decorated style of about 1300, the main fabric of the building being mostly perpendicular, having been rebuilt in the mid 15th century (its tower and spire being remarkably similar to the tower and spire at Oundle). Whether the current building replaced an earlier church on the site is unknown. Two mediaeval wall paintings, one of two angels with feathered wings, and one of a now faded saint, can still be seen inside the church.
The nearby stately home of Boughton House, sometimes described as the 'English Versailles' has for centuries been the seat of the Dukes of Buccleuch, major landowners in Kettering and most of the surrounding villages; along with the Watsons of Rockingham Castle, the two families were joint lords of the manor of Kettering.
In June 1607 at the nearby village of Newton, the Newton Rebellion broke out, causing a brief uprising known as the Midland Revolt, which involved several nearby villages. Protesting at land enclosures at Newton and Pytchley by local landlords the Treshams, on 8 June a pitched battle took place between Levellers - many from Kettering, Corby and particularly Weldon, - and local gentry and their servants (local militias having refused the call to arms). Approximately 40-50 local men are said to have been killed and the ringleaders hanged, drawn and quartered. The Newton rebellion represents one of the last times that the English peasantry and the gentry were in open conflict. By the 17th century the town was a centre for woollen cloth.
Nineteenth and twentieth centuries
The present town grew up in the 19th century with the development of the boot and shoe industry, for which Northamptonshire as a whole became famous. Many large homes in both the Headlands and Rockingham Road were built for factory owners while terraced streets provided accommodation for the workers. The industry has markedly declined since the 1970s.
Victorian Kettering was the centre of the 19th-century religious non-conformism and the Christian missionary movement, and this has been preserved in many names. William Carey was born in 1761 at Paulerspury and spent his early life in Kettering before leaving for India as a missionary in 1793. Carey Mission House and Carey Street was named after him. Andrew Fuller helped Carey found the Baptist Missionary Society and he is remembered in the Fuller Church and Fuller Street. In 1803 William Knibb was born in Market Street and became a missionary and emancipator of slaves; he is commemorated by the Knibb Centre and Knibb Street. Toller Chapel and Toller Place are named after two ministers, father and son, who preached in Kettering for a total of 100 years. The chapel was built in 1723 for those who since 1662 had been worshipping in secret.
After several false starts Kettering station was opened in 1857 by the Midland Railway Company, providing a welcome economic stimulus to an ailing local economy, suffering as it was from the loss of wayfaring business since the introduction of railways nationwide. The line was finally linked to London in 1867.
In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described Kettering as:
Kettering, market town and parish with railway station, Northamptonshire, 8 miles N. of Wellingborough and 75 miles from London, 2840 ac., pop. 11,095; P.O., T.O.; 3 Banks, 2 newspapers. Market-day, Friday. Kettering is an ancient place, and was called by the Saxons, "Kateringes". It is a fairly prosperous town, with tanning and currying, mfrs. of boots and shoes, stays, brushes, agricultural implements, and some articles of clothing. It has a handsome town hall, a cattle market, a corn exchange, and a grammar school. Many Roman relics have been found in the vicinity.
In 1921 Wicksteed Park, Britain's second oldest theme park, was officially opened on the southern outskirts of the town, and remains popular to this day.
From 1942 to 1945 the town witnessed a large influx of American servicemen mainly from the US 8th Air Force at RAF Grafton Underwood, 3.7 miles away. The base was soon nicknamed 'Grafton Undermud' in reference to the perceived English weather of 'rain, rain and more rain'. The first bombing raid - targeting the marshalling yards at Rouen, northern France - was led by Major Paul W Tibbets who in 1945 piloted Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima Aircraft from Grafton Underwood dropped the 8th Air Force's first and last bombs of WWII.
- R.L. Greenall: A History of Kettering, Phillimore & Co. Ltd, 2003, ISBN 1 86077 254 4. p.7.
- Domeday Book: A Complete Translation, Penguin Books, 1992, ISBN 0 14 100523 8. p. 596.
- Michael McNay: Hidden Treasures of England, Random House Books, 2009, ISBN 190521183X. p.271.
- John N. Smith, Airfield Focus 44: Grafton Underwood, GMS Enterprises, 2001, ISBN 1 870384 84 9. p. 4.
- John N. Smith, Airfield Focus 44: Grafton Underwood, GMS Enterprises, 2001, ISBN 1 870384 84 9. p. 3.
- John N. Smith, Airfield Focus 44: Grafton Underwood, GMS Enterprises, 2001, ISBN 1 870384 84 9. p. 33.