The Chester House Estate near Irchester is set to open to visitors for the first time this weekend after years of restoration work on the site.

North Northamptonshire Council purchased the site in 2004 and secured grant funding through working with the National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop a sustainable visitor destination with access for the public.

The project is hoped to allow visitors to learn about the history and heritage, as well as becoming the location to house countywide archaeological finds on the site.

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Located on the banks of the River Nene and built on a former Roman town, the site now includes the Northamptonshire Archaeological Resource Centre (ARC), a learning centre, a free-to-enter museum, a courtyard, farm shop and events space.

The Chester House Estate project has been supported by a grant of £3,967,200 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and with a Government Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage award of £719,700.

The third and final phase of the project, jointly funded by North Northamptonshire Council, West Northamptonshire Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund was the restoration and conversion of the site’s 17th Century Grade II listed Farmhouse into a restaurant and bed and breakfast.

Kerry Purnell, Assistant Director for Housing and Communities and Jack Pishhorn, Business Manager, took the lead with the project in early 2020 and have seen it through to completion.

The surrounding farmland has been cleared of scrub and a new pontoon has been installed on the River Nene to allow access to those who arrive on foot and by water, as well as a new car park and footpath entrance in Claudius Way.

The footbridges, explained Pishhorn, “will connect us to Wellingborough, as well as a footpath from Rushden Lakes through to the Estate as part of the Greenway Link.”

Cllr Helen Howell, North Northamptonshire Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Sport, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “For more than a decade, The Chester House Estate – a jewel in the county’s crown – has stood in ruin and thanks to the support of North Northamptonshire Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund we’re now able to say we’ve restored it for generations to come.”

The site will open to the public with pre-booked entry from the 23rd October.

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