About this web site

In creating this website I wanted not only to gather and present the history of the village in an easy to access format, but also to put the village into a context; to present a view of the village and the people that shaped it through the landscape and history of England. In 1990 Brian Duncan, then a resident of the village, published a booklet entitled "Great Addington Past & Present" which presented for the first time much of the scattered information about the village. Brian had worked on the booklet for two years before he produced the first edition, and then issued a second edition in 1991, and had started work on a third edition with additional information he had collected.

Shortly after moving to the village in 1993 I purchased a copy of Brian's booklet of which no new copies have been printed since. I was fascinated by the amount of information he had managed to collate. When Brian had been working on the history there was no internet and access to information often meant travelling to local or national archives. Documents, maps, and photographs could only be copied and printed in black and white; and low resolution photocopiers and printers were the only way to produce the booklet. Following his death the documents, papers, and photographs he had collected were kept in boxes and plastic bags and spent nearly 30 years being moved around various homes in the village as people recognised their importance but were unsure what to do with such a wealth of information. I always felt that Brian's work merited a wider audience, and with the growth of the internet and the sheer amount of information now available online I felt that the best thing to do would be to create a website where I could present the information.

Once I started, I realised that there was now much more information available online that could be used to support and add to the information that Brian had been able to gather, and to answer some of the questions that Brian had not been able to solve. As I delved deeper I was able to identify additional information that helps to better understand the village by accessing online archives of information, from local and national archives, through to commercial archives, research papers, academic thesis, and other local history websites.

The original objective remains the same, gather and make available online all the known information about the village and its inhabitants, if only for the interested residents of the village. My intention is that this online history should be a living thing and as more information becomes available, or any errors or omissions identified, I will update the site.

About Great Addington

Great Addington is a small village, nestling within the Nene valley in north-east Northamptonshire, the county of "Squires and Spires", the "Rose of the Shires".

The village is 6 miles east of Kettering, 8 miles north-east of Wellingborough, and only half a mile west of the River Nene. It nestles in the folds of higher sloping ground overlooking the Nene valley and is surrounded by agricultural land. Two streams almost completely encircle the village and meet where a mill used to be before joining the Nene.

The parish is roughly rectangular and covers nearly 500 hectares of land extending in westwards from the river Nene, on generally rising ground between 120 ft. and 300 ft. above sea level. The higher western part of the parish is on boulder clay, but near the Nene the down-cutting of the river and two small tributary streams have exposed the underlying Jurassic limestones, clays and sands on the steep valley side.

Like many villages in England today most of Great Addington's working residents travel elsewhere to work as there is little local employment. The modern marketing analysis of the village classifies it as "gentrified village".

There is a highly popular school, established in 1873, that now has a much larger cohort of children than it was ever planned to have. Village community life revolves around the church, the school, the pub, and the various local communities and societies that use the Memorial Hall, which was built in the 1950s.

A Short History of Great Addington

​Archaeological studies of the Nene Valley have shown that it has been an area occupied for thousands of year. Archaeological projects conducted in the valley nearby have yielded fascinating historical insight into the whole valley area. Impressive Neolithic and Bronze Age discoveries, including a substantial "henge", enormous mounds, barrows, settlements, and burials have all been identified and investigated within a few miles of the village.

​Following on from the Neolithic and Bronze ages, during the Iron Age (800BC to 50AD), hill forts were established at Irthingborough, Raunds and Thrapston; centres of industry, trade and control - with a number of Iron-Age settlements also identified along the Nene valley and around Great Addington village.

​The Romano-British period (50AD to 409AD) probably represented a period of continuity from the Iron Age, with those working on the land and the river continuing their existence, though gradually adopting some aspect of Roman influence. This area of Roman Britain was never militarised to the extent that the north or the coasts were. Past historians have tended to date settlements and objects as "Iron Age" or "Roman" but modern interpretation recognises that during this period many sites co-existed. In many ways the Iron Age settlements had no significant reason to change their traditions, indeed, as many sites cannot be accurately dated other than from the shape of the building then, quite often, "Iron Age" simply means that a settlement has round buildings as opposed to rectangular "Roman" buildings.

Following the slow collapse of the Roman Empire - in Britain from about 350 to 410, Britain became an easy target for Northern European raiders and settlers. Once the Roman administrators and the legions were gone, Britain became controlled by warring tribal factions and open to coastal raiders. Saxon mercenaries, initially hired to help the remnants of Romano-British society to fight, quickly seized the opportunity and instead became colonisers. The Britons were pushed westwards, or enslaved, or just assimilated as the Anglo-Saxons colonised and eventually established the Kingdom of England. The early Anglo-Saxons seem to have inherited and adapted many of the Romano-British practices. For the subsistence farmers of the Nene valley, life may have very well continue as before, just with a new ruling elite.

At some point during the Romano-British or early Anglo-Saxon periods Great Addington must have taken shape as a village community. In 829AD there is the first written record of the village in grant of land from a Mercian king. The village is again mentioned in a number of subsequent land charters between 831 and 968. At this point in time this area was part of the Mercian Kingdom of central England, the shire of Northamptonshire did not yet exist, indeed England as a state did not yet exist. It was around this time that a Saxon house would have been built, probably on land somewhere between the buildings now known as Manor Farm and Home Farm; we also know that there was a church in the village, though again not the one that stands today.

In the Domesday Book of 1086, though a short section as with most entries in the Domesday Book, for the first time we do gain insight both as to the social structure of the village but also a glimpse of the great change that started under the Anglo-Saxons and is solidified under the Norman Conquers; the feudal society had been created and would stay in place for the next 300 years.

​During the 12th Century the parish church as we know it start to take shape – though there will be many alterations and additions over the next 300 years - but at first it was a simple stone building without aisles or tower. It probably stands on the site of the earlier Anglo-Saxon building which may have been made of wood or stone, but like many other Anglo-Saxon buildings was destroyed by the Normans and their descendants.

The next significant written reference is in tax records from 1301 – Edward I "Longshanks" is King - and for the first time the names of the villagers appear – though only those who have to pay tax. Interestingly, at this time Great Addington is the same size as Kettering – which is more an indication that Kettering was also a small village rather than Great Addington being of any significant size.

In 1493 – Henry VII is King and the War of the Roses had ended only a few years before at the Battle of Bosworth with the death of Richard III - and we get a very detailed account of the medieval manor house and the possession of Henry de Vere, Lord of the Manor. Henry de Vere and his family had been closely involved with the House of Lancaster and he is thought to have been at the Battle of Bosworth, where Richard III was killed.

​The next records are from the time of Henry VIII – tax records again – and we see that the village has remained largely the same size, though names and occupations may have changed.

​From this point until 1692 most of the historical facts relate to land transfers and the building of the new Manor House. Though clearly much was happening in England, it is not until 1692 and the parish register, that we again get a detailed view into village life. From this point onwards there is a defacto village diary – although one based on births, marriages and deaths.

During the Georgian and Victorian eras, an interest in the past history of the area led to some interesting discoveries – and thankfully writing about them - including finds from the Pre-Historic, Romano-British, and Anglo-Saxon periods. Much of what is known about the village stems from these finds.

In the Victorian era two significant figures appear in the village, James Rennie Wilkinson who build Shooters Hill house and is a leading figure in reform at a key point in time for local government and the introduction of free education. At the same time Sidney Leveson Lane and his family acquire the Manor House. Between the two men, they own much of the land around Great Addington. Many of the Victorian houses in the village were built at this time by the two men.

​With the introduction of the British Census in 1841, we start to get the final very detailed insight into the village up to modern times. It is with this near 100 years of the United Kingdom Census between 1841 and 1939 that provides the more granular insight into the recent history of the village; we learn where people have come from, when they were born, and what they did for a living.

​Lastly, to this we can add the work done by Brian Duncan and his daughter Roseanne Duncan, and most recently we have received a large number of photographs of the two villages and also the inhabitants.

​In the rest of this website I have tried to provide a deeper understanding of the village at key stages of English history as summarised above.

Historical Research

Information about the village and its history can be found scattered across academic research, reports from historical societies, online articles, historical blogs, and early written histories.

One of the key starting points is the website British History Online (BHO), which is an invaluable source of information about England - Parish by Parish - through the years; and is the digitised publications of the The Victoria County History (VCH) an organisation founded in 1899 as part of a national project to write the history of every county in England. At its inception, the project was dedicated to Queen Victoria, which is how it derives its name. Some VCH publications were produced over a century ago, others are still in progress, and more are planned for the future. The project is led and managed in London at the Institute for Historical Research, but is driven by local County Trusts and their members, most of whom are volunteers.

The earliest historians of Northamptonshire - the gentlemen historians of the Georgian and Victorian periods - were in the main focused on the gathering and recording of facts and oral histories. The key historians were Dr John Bridges (b:1666 at Barton Seagrave and d:1724) and John Cole (b:1792 in Weston Favell and d:1848 in Woodford). These two historians are in many ways still the key sources for information and facts about Northamptonshire and there publications are still used extensively by modern academics. John Morton (b:1671 d:1726) is also a useful source, an English cleric, naturalist and Fellow of the Royal Society, he published a Natural History of Northamptonshire in 1712. Also invaluable to me are modern historians such as Michael Wood, author of Domesday and the Story of England, and also the work of Dr. Glenn Foard. The modern historians provide a detailed understanding of both the changing nature of life, and the amount of continuity there is in England over nearly 2,000 years. Their books help to understand better the life of "ordinary" people in villages such as Great Addington.

We are also fortunate that the Rev. James Tyley, who was Rector of Great Addington church 1799-1831 and again between 1832-1856, had both an interest in history, and in social change. He spent a large of amount of time patiently copying out by hand the earlier parish registers which had been damaged through neglect. In the registers he also added comments relating to both contemporary and historic events. In February 1823 he wrote, in Latin, a long poem about the enclosures that were taking place in the area at that time and how it was affecting the landscape and people. This poem is still referenced in books, research papers, and academic articles to provide an insight into how these changes were viewed at the time.

As mentioned previously, we are deeply indebted to Brian Duncan who, between 1989 and 1991, researched, compiled, and produced the first written analysis of the past history and contemporary life of the village. This was issued in a limited form in the early 1990's, and was sold to raise funds for the Church Maintenance Fund. Brian incorporated both the known facts from the VCH (which was then available only in book form) and also a large amount of other historical information which he personally gathered from sources and contacts across the UK. This was before the internet and all information was either in books (often no longer published) or in Northamptonshire and National Archives. Assisted by his daughter Rosanne, he also recorded oral histories from the oldest residents of the village who could remember village life from just before WW1 and who passed on details of village life that was not to be found in books. Brian Duncan's book is an invaluable foundation to any history of the village.

​Whilst a basic set of known facts about Great Addington can be found on the British History Online, disappointingly many of the facts have never been subjected to modern research. There are a surprising number of ancient sites within the parish, including an early cemetery located on Shooters Hill; a large Romano-British "villa" located between Great & Little Addington; and an extremely rare 5th century Saxon urn was found near the Ringstead Road and now held by the British Museum; yet no archaeological projects have been undertaken and most of these sites were "discovered" over 150 years ago. There are many references in books and also modern academic papers to an "Anglo-Saxon" cemetery on Shooters Hill, yet no research has taken place. Modern interpretations of the Victorian reports and comparison with better researched sites in England would indicate that this site was probably used in the Iron-Age and Roman periods, and may have continued in usage through into the early Anglo-Saxon period, showing a continuity of usage and therefore habitation.

The internet now enables the local historian to quickly search millions of documents, many of which are no longer to be found in the UK. What could not have been achieved in a lifetime can now be done in a matter of minutes. In producing this history I have attempted to cross-reference the information given by earlier authors back to original sources and also to the latest archaeological analysis and historical interpretation.

I also felt that there was little that brought together the historical facts, the people who lived here, and the landscape which helped shape the village. How the village came to be here and how people lived during the different periods has not been written about. Very little previous writing refers to the fact that Great Addington sits in the Nene valley, yet the river and the valley defined the village for its first 1,000 years - its very existence on this spot is entirely linked to a sharp bend in the river. The Nene valley represented for nearly a thousand years the easiest way to move across this part of England, it was a major transportation route providing a path way for invaders, colonisers, and for war. The people, villages and character of Northamptonshire and Great Addington have been defined by the river, though today the Nene and the footpaths that follow its course are largely seen as a leisure location, and a good place to take the dog for a walk.