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.