Chatteris - A Delightful and Historic Traditional Market Town
Chatteris, a quiet market town in The Fens that traces its roots back to the Stone Age is home to some intriguing and notable historical events. How many of the citizens going about their normal daily business in Chatteris, realise that this small rural town was once the last refuge of Boudicca, the Iceni Queen who led an uprising against the entire Roman empire?
In 980, King Edgar's niece, Alfwen (or Alwina - there is some discord amongst academics about this) and wife of Athelstan, Earl of the East Angles, built a Benedictine nunnery (or convent, but I'm not altogether sure what the difference is, if indeed there is one) in Chatteris and although little of the original structure remains, there are many remaining references to its presence to be found. The nunnery was annexed to the Church of Ely at some time during the reign of Henry 1 and was eventually dissolved in 1538.
Chatteris is recorded in the Domesday book as "Cetriz" and "Cateriz" and is also referred to by some old authors "Chateriz"
In 1115, Bricstan, an apprentice monk was freed by the Queen following a vision of Saint Etheldreda. Whether this was brought on as a result of his entering a true a state of divine enlightenment or simply as a result of having included unusual and suspicious mushrooms in his stew, we will never know, however Bricstan became the first known parishioner of Chatteris.
At some time between 1306 and 1310, it is reported that a small boy playing with a mirror started a massive fire which raged through Chatteris and destroyed the nunnery and a large portion of the church as it tore through the many timber framed and thatched properties.
Since 1162, the town is centred around the parish church of St Peter and St Paul although the current tower dates from 1352. By the 19th Century this building was in poor condition and in 1910, was subject to a complete refurbishment.
Between 1649 and 1653, Sir Cornelius Vermuyden, the Dutch engineer responsible for draining the Bedford Level, constructed the Forty Foot Drain and a large river called Vermuyden's Drain to the north of Chatteris.
Historic evidence has been unearthed showing that there were markets in Chatteris as early as 1808, but it was only in 1834 that Chatteris was officially termed a market town. A small market is still held every Friday.
In 1864, history repeated itself and during one of the driest Summers on record, a farm fire swept into the town and destroyed more than 70 houses although by 1851, the town had recovered to the extent that it was reported as being "considerable" with a population in excess of 5000 (who were probably a fun loving bunch since they kept 15 inns and 40 beer houses busy) served by "gas lighting", with "handsome housing and good shops".
From 1873, Chatteris was controlled by a Local Board and under the provisions of the "Local Government Act, 1894" (56 and 57 Vict. c. 73), the town became governed by an Urban District Council in that year.
Sadly, Chatteris fell victim to the Beeching cuts in 1967 with the closure of its railway station. However, March, Once the largest rail marshalling yard in the country, is still a thriving rail hub and is only a short drive away providing very good rail links.
Chatteris is also home to the following
- Dave "Boy" Green, the boxer who won the British Light-Welterweight Championship (Lonsdale Belt) in June 1976 and went on to win the European Light-Welterweight championship in December of that year. In March 1977, Green defeated Stracey to gain his first WBC title and followed this with his second European victory. He was first floored by Carlos Palomino in Wembley in his WBC bout. Green lost his belt to Jorgen Hansen in June 1979 and being a true gentleman and sportsman, applauded when the belt was presented to Hansen. Green's final challenge for the WBC belt was in 1980 against Sugar Ray Leonard when he was fairly beaten by a better boxer. Green's final fight was in November 1981 against Reg Ford. The fight ended when his manager, Andy Smith threw in the towel. Dave Green is understood to still be closely linked with Chatteris, both on a personal and commercial footing. We wish him every happiness and success for the future.
- Joe Perry, the snooker player is nicknamed the "Fen Potter" for his obvious ability and "the Gentleman" for his likeable nature. He was runner up in the 2001 European Open Championship and semi-finalist in the 2008 World Championship he is currently ranked at 12th. He was awarded an MBE in 1996 and has appeared as a studio expert with Steve Davis on the BBC, as a captain in "A Question of Sport" and he supports Everton FC which some might think is a shame, but then nobody is perfect although he does appear to come close.
- George William Burdett Clare was a truly deserving Victoria Cross recipient who was acting as a stretcher bearer on the 28th and 29th of November 1917, at Bourlon Wood in France. At one period, when all the garrison of a disparate post had become casualties, Clare crossed to them through very heavy enemy gun fire and after dressing and caring for all the wounded, he then manned the post single-handed until a relief could be sent. As if this were not enough, he then carried a seriously wounded man through intense fire to the dressing station and then, in what can only be described as a an act of extraordinary and exemplary courage and still under heavy fire, he went to every company post warning them that the enemy were using gas shells. This gallant gentleman was subsequently killed.
- Joseph Rushton, Engineer and MP. In 1957, Rushton joined the Lincoln based company of Proctor and Burton forming the engine building company of Ruston, Proctor and Company which became limited in 1899. This company built up a name of repute and standing for both steam traction engines and steam railway locomotives and indeed, some of their rolling stock is still in operation today. Politics today would probably be far more civilised and decent if we had a more Engineers like the gentlemanly Joseph Rushton and fewer career politicians representing us in The House of Commons.
- "Half man, half biscuit", a cult band from Birkenhead best known for "The Trumpton Riots", Dickie Davies Eyes" sang forth about the beauty of Chatteris in "For What is Chatteris" (on their award winning album, "Achtung Bono"). Strange and obscure, but as facts go, rather irresistible isn't it?
- Petrou Brothers Fish and Chip shop won the "National Chip Shop of the Year" in 2007, so you won't have an excuse to go hungry on a Friday night when you don't feel like cooking.
The town is well served by a good range of shops and facilities:
The town benefits from two primary schools, Kingsfield and Glebelands and also the Cromwell Community College secondary school.
The annual Christmas lights are notable and have been featured on the BBC's "Look East" program.
In June, there was an annual Flower Festival after which the local brass band put on evening concerts but this had now been replaced a medieval festival which sound like fun.
Chatteris has a local museum, a Scout Group, an Army Cadet Force, a Womens' Institute and a Rotary Club who organise the annual firework display.
The town has its own football club, Chatteris Town, which attracts strong local support (with the possible exception of Joe Perry) and the Chatteris Cricket Club was formed as far back as 1879!
Chatteris also has one swimming pool, The Empress and there are apparently plans afoot to build a new public swimming pool and leisure centre but the way things are at the moment, don't hold your breath and believe it only when you see it for yourself.
Chatteris is a fine place to live and is still a traditional market town that affords people room to breathe; the atmosphere is relaxed, the people are happy and feel secure.
It is as good a place to start and bring up a family as it is a good place to retire to.
So why would you want to look elsewhere for your new home?