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Chatteris ( ) is a civil parish and one of four market towns in the Fenlandmarker district of Cambridgeshire, Englandmarker, situated in The Fensmarker between Huntingdonmarker, Marchmarker and Elymarker. The town is in the North East Cambridgeshiremarker parliamentary constituency.

Mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, the town has evidence of continuous settlement from the Neolithic period and is locally reputed to have been the last refuge of Boudica as she fled from the Romans. The parish of Chatteris is large, covering 6099 hectares, and for much of its history was a raised island in the low-lying wetland of the Fens. Following the draining of the Fens, beginning in the 17th Century and completed in the 19th Century, the town has become a centre of agriculture and related industry.

According to the United Kingdom Census 2001, the town has a population of 8,820 although this is likely to be much higher due to extensive housing developments since the census was taken. Furthermore, due to its proximity to Cambridgemarker, Huntingdonmarker and Peterboroughmarker, the town has emerged as a commuter town.

History

Toponymy and early history

Chatteris's name probably derives from the Anglo-Saxon Caeteric - Ceto meaning a wood and Ric, a river, although it may also derive from "cader", meaning hill fort, suggesting a similar site to the nearby Stonea Campmarker. The town was mentioned in the Domesday Book as "Cetriz" and "Cateriz".

Archeological evidence has been found of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements in the area, and Chatteris possesses what has been interpreted as the only upstanding Neolithic boundaries in Fenland. Saxon evidence is less well preserved, although in 679, Hunna, the chaplain to Æthelthryth of Ely built a hermitage on Honey Hill. More apocryphically, Chatteris is reputed to have been the last refuge of Boudica as she fled from the Romans.

Medieval period

The miraculous story of the first known parishioner of the town, Bricstan of Chatteris, is documented in the Historia Ecclesiastica by the Chronicler Orderic Vitalis (1075 - c.1142). According to the legend, Bricstan was a pious free tenant from the town who had joined the monastery at Ely Cathedralmarker in 1115 to begin training as a monk. However, he was accused of theft and imprisoned in London. The legend recounts that one night he had a vision of Saint Etheldreda coming towards him, and as if by a miracle, his heavy chains fell from him and he was shackled no longer. When he awoke from his dream, he discovered that this was indeed true and he was free of his chains. The wife of Henry I, Matilda of Scotland, heard of the miracle, and she assured herself that he was no rogue or thief, issued a writ of pardon and declared him a free man.

During the Medieval period, the town was dominated by Chatteris Abbeymarker, a small Benedictine nunnery dedicated to St Mary, built in 980 by Alfwen the niece of King Edgar and one of only eight nunneries mentioned in the Domesday Book. Throughout its existence, the Abbey was comparatively poor compared to other foundations, due to a lack of royal patronage and a consequent lack of tithe estates. As a result, the abbey survived the first wave of closures during the dissolution of the monasteries, but was surrendered to the King's commissioners in 1538, by which time there were eleven nuns in residence.
At this date fourteen local families still used the abbey church as parochial but this, unusually, did not save it from demolition, the parishioners being transferred to nearby St Peter and St Paul's church in the area. It has been conjectured that due to the short space between them, the parish church may have been the abbey church, although Claire Breay's Cartulary of Chatteris Abbey discounts this idea, citing that historical documentation clearly defines two separate churches. A range of the cloister buildings survived as part of a mansion known as Park House. This was demolished in 1847 and the site has now completely vanished beneath streets and housing, although the "Park Streets" of Chatteris mark the boundary of its walls and several buildings contain stone originating from the abbey. A large portion of the town was destroyed by a great fire in 1310, which destroyed the nunnery and a large portion of the church, leaving only sections of the base of the tower.

Early modern and contemporary

Later fires in 1706 and 1864 destroyed most medieval and Georgian architecture, and a large proportion of the town's listed buildings date from the Victorian period onwards. However, many of the pasture fields on the outskirts of the town have evidence of ridge and furrow farming practices, although these are under threat by current building proposals.

To the north of the town runs the Forty Foot Drainmarker, a large river also called Vermuyden's Drain, after the Dutchmarker engineer whose name is associated with the fen drainage works of the middle of the 17th Century. Several of the older buildings of the town show evidence of the Dutch architectural style.

Chatteris is a market town and has possessed this designation since 1834, although an earlier market existed in the town, which was discontinued due to poor roads in 1808. A small market is still held every Friday. Following the Beeching Axe, Chatteris railway stationmarker, formerly on the St. Ivesmarker extension of the Great Eastern Railway was closed in March 1967.

Governance

Signpost in Chatteris
The town is in the North East Cambridgeshiremarker parliamentary constituency, with the incumbent MP being the Conservative Malcolm Moss. The constituency has traditionally been considered a safe Conservative seat, although the Liberal MP Clement Freud held the seat from 1973 to 1987. The town is locally governed by Cambridgeshire County Council, Fenland District Councilmarker and Chatteris Town Council, each performing separate functions.

The town is historically part of the Isle of Elymarker, once under the secular jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ely, a power ended by the Liberty of Ely Act, 1837. After various changes throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, following the recommendations of the Local Government Commission for England, on 1 April 1965 the bulk of the area was merged to form Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, and since the Local Government Act 1972, Chatteris has been part of the wider Cambridgeshire County Council.

Under the Police Act 1964 and local government reform in 1974, the Isle of Ely Constabulary became part of the present Cambridgeshire Constabulary. A small police station is situated in East Park Street, open on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Geography

Chatteris is situated between Huntingdonmarker, St. Ivesmarker, Peterboroughmarker, Marchmarker and Elymarker, in the middle of the The Fensmarker—the lowest-lying area in the United Kingdom—with most of the land surrounding the town being below sea level, although the highest point in the Fens (26 feet above sea level) is within Chatteris's parish boundaries. The peaty land surrounding the town is largely used for agriculture, drained by numerous ditches and dykes, and there are two large drainage rivers near the town - the Forty Foot Drainmarker, also known as Vermuyden's Drain, and the Sixteen Foot Drain.

Chatteris is a key turning point on the A141 road (known as the Isle of Elymarker way) and the starting point of the A142 road to Ely and Suffolk (known as Ireton's Way). The town also has important links to Cambridge and the A14 via the B1050 to Bar Hillmarker. The town centre traffic was bypassed in 1986, with the disused route of the former St. Ivesmarker extension of the Great Eastern Railway being used to build the A141 to March and Guyhirnmarker.

There are no Met Office recording stations in the Fens, but an indication of rainfall and temperature of the county town Cambridgemarker on the edge of the Fens shows that rainfall is below the national average, and in a wider study of East Angliamarker, the region had temperatures comparable with London, the warmest part of the UK.

Demography

The United Kingdom Census 2001 found the population of Chatteris to be 8,820 people living in 3809 households, with the average number of people per dwelling 2.31. However, since 2001, there have been significant housing developments which have substantially increased this number. The census found that 98.9% of the population of the town were of the white ethnic group. The parish of Chatteris is large, covering 6099 hectares, equalling an average population density of 1.45, although most of the dwellings are concentrated in a smaller area, the outskirts of the town consisting of farmland.

Economy

Chatteris is sited in particularly fertile agricultural land, and as such, the town's local economy is largely based on this industry. Albert Bartlett Ltd, a major British grower and packer of root vegetables has a large facility in the town with over 2,500 hectares under cultivation, much of it growing the Chantenay carrot. According to their website, one in six of Britain's onions pass through their facilities in Chatteris, as well as a third of Britain's parsnips. Rustler Produce Ltd, also based in Chatteris, is another major player in this industry, and a number of smaller vegetable producers and processors operate in the Chatteris area.

Another major employer in the town is Metalcraft (Stainless Metalcraft (Chatteris) Ltd). The company was established in the town in the late 19th century and over the years has manufactured diamond mining equipment and overhead cranes. The company is now part of the Avingtrans Group and specialises in creating engineered products for the oil, gas, nuclear and medical industries.

The town's main retail outlets are situated in Market Hill and the High Street. The town centre has a post office, a branch of Barclays and a small Budgens supermarket. However, the town generally features more specialist non-branch shops in the centre. A Co-op supermarket is situated on Bridge Street. In 2007, The Petrou Brothers fish and chip shop in West Park Street won the National Chip Shop of the Year competition.

Religion

The Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul, Chatteris
The 2001 Census found that 6,596 (74.8%) of people in the town stated Christian to be their religion, with 54 (0.6%) of other religions and 2163 (24.5%) as having no religion.

The parish church of St Peter & St Paul is situated in the centre of the town. A church has been on the site since at least 1162, although the current tower dates from 1352. The building had fallen into disrepair during the 19th Century, and the majority of the building is the result of an intensive restoration in 1910. This included restoring a pitched roof and adding new aisles, although the nave arches are original. In 1935, a new two manual Harrison & Harrison organ was installed, a fine example of a pneumatic action instrument. Recent years have seen the construction of several new facilities, such as the Bricstan room extension. The church lists itself as being of the low church branch of the Church of England. The church also hosts the town's Catholic congregation.

The Emmanuel Church in East Park Street was created through the union of the Methodist, United Reformed, and Baptist Union churches in Chatteris in 1990. It is based in the former United Reformed building in East Park Street, although several of the former chapel buildings still exist around the town. The town also has a Salvation Army citadel, also in East Park Street.

Education

Chatteris from the church tower, looking South-West towards Market Hill and East Park Street.
The Emmanuel Church, Salvation Army citadel and Cromwell School are visible.
The town has two primary schools, Kingsfield Primary School (created in 2003 by the amalgamation of the former Burnsfield School and King Edward School) and Glebelands School, which opened in the early months of 1994. The town's secondary school is Cromwell Community College, founded in 1939. The Isle College used to have a presence in the town, with a base in Grove House. However, this closed following the College's merger with the College of West Angliamarker. The town has a library run by Cambridgeshire County Council.

Sport and leisure

The town's football club, Chatteris Town, play in the Peterborough & District League. The town also has a cricket club, Chatteris Cricket Club, which was founded in 1879. The club has five senior teams and four youth teams that compete in both the Fenland and Cambridgeshire leagues. Chatteris CC won the St Ivo Midweek League in 2008 going the whole season unbeaten. The town also hosts the Fenland Golf Society, founded in 1999, a bowls club and a tennis club (St Peters). Chatteris Airfield is about north-northeast, which is mainly used for skydiving, and is the base of the North London Parachute Centre.

The town has one swimming pool, the Empress, which is privately owned and is a registered charity run by three trustees. It is open to members and can be booked for private hires or group sessions. It is home of the Chatteris Kingfishers swimming club, who after successes in 2008 compete in Division One of the 2009 "Cambs Cup" competition. Plans for a public swimming pool and leisure centre have been proposed by the council since 1990, but have yet to be approved. Proposals for the development of Cromwell Community College under the government's BSF programme include significant leisure provisions and these are expected to start in 2010.

Culture and community

The town is noted for its annual display of Christmas lights, which are entirely funded by community donations and have been featured on BBC Look East. In 2008, a medieval-themed festival replaced the town's traditional festival week.

The town has a museum run by volunteers, with several permanent exhibitions about local history, the Fens, Victoriana and the Railways. Chatteris also has a Scout club, an Army Cadet force and a youth football team.

Chatteris has morning and evening Women's Institutes, which both meet at the King Edward Centre, and a Rotary Clubmarker which meet at the local fire station, and put on an annual firework display, plus other events in the town. The town's annual entry in the "Anglia in Bloom" competition was awarded a Silver Gilt in 2008, and achieved a Gold in 2009.The town also has a brass band, founded in 1882, which competes in the East Anglian Brass Band Association.

In 2005, cult British indie band Half Man Half Biscuit - best known for "The Trumpton Riots" and "Dickie Davies Eyes", featured a song entitled "For What Is Chatteris" on their award-winning Achtung Bono album. The song extolled the virtues of the town offset against how little the best place in the world can suddenly become to someone when the one they love is no longer resident: "a market town that lacks quintessence/that's Chatteris without your presence". News of the song made the headlines of the Cambridgeshire Times and the Peterborough Evening Telegraph during September 2005, a month before the album's official release.

Notable residents



See also



References

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  2. The Historic Towns of Cambridgeshire, An Extensive Urban Survey: Chatteris, Cambridgeshire County Council publication (draft, 2001), 9
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  4. The Historic Towns of Cambridgeshire, An Extensive Urban Survey: Chatteris, Cambridgeshire County Council publication (draft, 2001), 14
  5. The Historic Towns of Cambridgeshire, An Extensive Urban Survey: Chatteris, Cambridgeshire County Council publication (draft, 2001), 20
  6. Full text of The Ecclesiastical history of England and Normandy at the Internet Archive (note: unedited)
  7. Lois L. Huneycutt, Matilda of Scotland: a study in medieval queenship (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) 91.
  8. Revd John Towers, "Bricstan Hall? Who was “Bricstan”?" Chatteris Parish Magazine. Vol.33 Issue 6. June 2007
  9. Claire Breay (ed.), The Cartulary of Chatteris Abbey , (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1999). ISBN 0-85115-750-5. p.96
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External links

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