£4million funding success for Chester Farm

The Chester Farm project has been awarded £4 million of funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The money will be used to open up the county council-owned site to the public, bringing to life thousands of years of Northamptonshire’s archaeology and heritage.

Chester Farm, which is owned by Northamptonshire County Council

Chester Farm, which is owned by Northamptonshire County Council

Officials hope the site will become a major education and visitor destination for the county as it provides evidence of thousands of years of settlements, from at least Mesolithic times to the present day.

The site, which is off the A45 near Irchester, includes traces of Iron Age enclosures and ancient field systems. Below ground there is extensive Roman settlement including a Roman walled town and recent excavation has shown that key elements of the town, such as roads, temples and other buildings, have survived. 

There was also medieval settlement on the site including the remains of the deserted village of Chester-by-the-Water.

Chester Farm is just one of the key historic sites to receive a share of £47 million Heritage Lottery Fund cash.

The funding boost is targeted at six existing and potential tourist attractions around UK to help promote the country’s heritage tourism economy, which the Heritage Lottery Fund said was already worth £26 billion a year.

Chester Farm, which was hot by fire in May 2010, will get £4 million in order that it can be developed and opened to the public.

The project will include an archaeological resource centre and excavations will be carried out to uncover the stories of people who lived on the site.

Carole Souter, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “We know that heritage is a huge draw for visitors from home and abroad.

“More than a quarter of all UK holiday activities undertaken by UK residents now involve heritage.

“These projects all offer the public the chance to explore and enjoy our rich and complex history.”

Leader of the County Council, Jim Harker, said “Chester Farm is a spectacular asset that has remained unexploited for far too long.  It is a heritage site of national importance, with over 2,000 years of our county’s history on one site, including a complete Roman town. It is a great educational opportunity to involve the people of Northamptonshire, of all ages, in exploring and discovering their heritage, and I am so pleased that the Heritage Lottery Fund has recognised this in their award today.”

Deputy leader and cabinet member for customers and communities Councillor Heather Smith said: “I am delighted that our funding bid has been successful and the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded us this money to develop Chester Farm.

“Chester Farm is a hugely-significant heritage site. This money will allow us to bring this history to life, by developing the site and opening it up to visitors so that they can learn about the county’s past.

“This is the start of something big. It’s a fantastic asset for the county that offers remarkable education and learning opportunities.  We want everyone to know about Chester Farm as we truly believe that it could become a site of international importance.” 

Northamptonshire County Council submitted the application for funding for Chester Farm earlier this year, following an initial Heritage Lottery Fund award of £135,800 to kick-off the project and carry out detailed planning to identify how the site should be developed.

The Heritage Lottery Fund recently announced new research showing that heritage-based tourism is now worth £26.4bn to the UK economy - £5.8bn higher than the previous estimate published in 2010.