New strategy for Irchester's Chester Farm to be considered

The 'refreshed' strategy includes an artisan shopping courtyard and installation of an outdoor play area

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 11:15 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 11:18 am
This picture of Chester Farm is from our archives, taken several years ago (file picture)

A refreshed strategy which will showcase the rich cultural heritage of Chester Farm while ensuring the project’s commercial viability will be considered by Northamptonshire County Council’s Cabinet next week (November 10).

The nationally-important scheduled monument has evidence of human activity going back more than 2,000 years, including indications of two Iron Age farms, a Roman walled town and a medieval village known as Chester–by–the-Water.

The county council has a statutory responsibility to preserve and maintain the site’s heritage.

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Support of £3.97 million was secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2013, which enabled the authority to embark on an ambitious project to develop the site.

Then, Cabinet agreed in December 2019 to support a further capital investment of £1.374 million following a comprehensive options appraisal.

The revitalised programme will now include:

- An artisan shopping courtyard

- Increasing the amount of visitor events and introducing a second wedding venue

- Using the residential flat in the main farmhouse building as a bed and breakfast for customers attending events such as weddings

- A designated building to present the entire Chester Farm story, through an interpretation project, as a museum piece, enabling Chester Farm to apply for museum accreditation

- Making Chester Farm a free to enter site by removing the car parking charge, making it more attractive as a destination.

- Installing an outdoor play area

Work is ongoing to develop key partnerships in support of the future delivery of the business plan and of an education and outreach programme.

Developing partnerships include those with the University of Leicester where there is agreement for the university to carry out university-led digs at Chester Farm within the walled garden.

The University of Leicester will also involve many local schools and community groups.

Other emerging partnerships are with University College London, Moulton College, Tresham College, Northampton College and the University of Northampton.

Discussions underway cover a range of opportunities such as student placements, courses for archaeological fieldwork, archiving, land management, retail, events and marketing / social media.

Additionally there is scope for educational activities to include artificial and virtual reality technology; geophysical surveys of the site, 3D modelling, land management, site restoration projects and agricultural education experiences.

The launch date for the new strategy is December 1 this year and it is envisaged that the complex will be open to the public in October 2021.

Cllr Lizzy Bowen, deputy leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: “Northamptonshire has a rich and unique history and nowhere is this more evident than at our own Chester Farm, which has evidence of human activity going back two millennia.

“I’m delighted to see this revised strategy for the complex before Cabinet.

"Not only does it preserve the cultural integrity of the site but it also maintains the commercial viability.

“We have a statutory duty to preserve the site’s heritage and I’m pleased that we have found a sustainable way in which this can be done.”

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