Retro: Delving into fascinating past of Rockingham

Children by the Market Cross in Rockingham
Children by the Market Cross in Rockingham

Rockingham is a picturesque estate village just outside Corby.

Looking out across the stunning Welland Valley and the ancient Jurassic Way, it is a village with a fascinating past

Its history spans from before its description in the Domesday Book as a “wasted Saxon settlement”, through its development as a market town, as a hive of activity during the English Civil War and through its Victorian modifications, including a village school and church extension, to modern day.

Many of the village’s key historical developments are owed to the village’s status as part of the Rockingham Castle estate, which was granted by Henry VIII to Edward Watson, ancestor of the present owner James Saunders Watson.

Each generation of this lineage has helped to shape this largely agricultural vicinity and also maintained a consistency which has ensured that the village standing today, largely comprised of post-Civil War ironstone and thatched cottages, reflects little of the area’s more recent evolution.

Rockingham History Group was launched in October 2012, to investigate and share the history of the village and surrounding area through meetings, visits, talks, tours and walks.

Women's Land Army in Rockingham in the 1940s

Women's Land Army in Rockingham in the 1940s

It meets once a month to work on projects, including an exhibition on the village’s history, research its past and prepare material for schools.

Laura Elliott, who helps organise meetings and co-ordinates projects, said: “It’s been a fascinating few years for the history group and we’ve been very lucky to attract both residents and people interested in the area who have contributed research, ideas and skills to share the village’s history with others.”

So far the group has enjoyed talks from Ann Redshaw, who spoke about Rockingham schooling and the Victorian former school room, now the village hall, David Shipton, the head guide at Rockingham Castle, who spoke about the village during the Civil War and celebrated historian Dr Peter Hill, who gave a talk on its history.

Laura said: “The group has also undertaken a series of village walks and research to develop a heritage trail. You can get free copies from Rockingham’s tea rooms and village shop and the castle.

Children and teacher in Rockingham village schoolroom

Children and teacher in Rockingham village schoolroom

“Visitors can also find out more about St Leonard’s Church and the graveyard when undertaking the trail.

“We are very keen to attract new group members and talk to anyone who may be able to help further.”

A major project completed by the group is The Story of Rockingham, its mobile exhibition made up of four panels, each giving a brief introduction to key periods of Rockingham’s history.

It is available for other history groups, societies or local organisations to borrow.

The group is now working on a fun education programme which aims to bring the history of Rockingham to life.

It will be centred on the village’s newly refurbished hall, which was built as a Victorian school room and educated local children for more than 100 years. The programme will include sessions on local history and geography study, the Victorian period and the Second World War.

Recently group members have been corresponding with former Rockingham resident Pat Dando (nee Barlow) whose grandfather Edward Wright Barlow and his wife Mabel took over the village forge in 1924.

Pat’s memories and images will soon be incorporated into the history group blog and may also be used in future exhibitions.

Laura said: “If anyone has similar memories to share which would assist the history group in picturing Rockingham’s past, we would be pleased to hear from them.”

Another project which is under way is being researched by history group member Paul Johnson.

He has been finding out more about the men of Rockingham who served in the Great War. He’s experienced some difficulties in gathering information and is inviting anyone who can help to contact the group.

Rockingham History Group usually meets on the last Tuesday of the month but the next meeting is on Saturday, when members will visit Claude Smith’s Collyweston slate mine.

Slate from the mine has been used by builders in the area for hundreds of years.

It is not known if quarrying of stone slates in the area was continuous from Roman times but they were sent to Rockingham Castle in 1375 and 1390, when the slate industry was already established.

The mine members will be visiting is about 34ft deep and is accessed by a ladder.

For those attending, sensible footwear and clothing will be essential, as well as torches.

Entrance will be at members’ own risk as no insurance is available, although the mine is considered safe.

Depending on weather and transport, there will also be an optional walk around the old quarry, known as The Deeps, which is now a conservation area, and a brief exploration of the former royal palace site, which was demolished in 1640.

Car-sharing from Rockingham and Northampton should be available for people interested in the visit.

Anyone who is interested in Rockingham History Group, its mobile exhibition, the project for schools or its research into the village men who fought in the First World War, is asked to get in touch with the group.

People can contact Laura Elliott on 01536 770894, email or message via the blog at

More announcements about the group’s programme will be made in March.