17. CHESTERTON (B.b.).
(O.S. 6 in. (a)II S.W., (b)V N.W.)
Chesterton is a small parish on the S. bank of
the Nene, 4 m. W. of Peterborough. The Roman
station and the church are the principal monuments.
a(1). The Castles, an earthwork, in the N. angle
of the parish, roughly hexagonal in plan and
rather more than 45 acres in area, encloses and is
surrounded by Romano-British structures, and
may therefore be of Roman date. The work
occupies very slightly rising ground in a loop of
the River Nene, which bounds the site on the E.
and, less closely, on the N. For much of its
length on these sides the main defence, so far as
visible, consists of an artificial escarpment, rising
towards the S. and E. to a low bank some 70 ft.
broad. Outside this are intermittent indications of
a ditch or ditches, from 50 ft. to 100 ft. wide,
best marked on the N., where the maximum depth
below the top of the escarpment is 10 ft. Stukeley
records the discovery of a S.E. gateway of stone
by drainers in 1739 and states that the defences
included a stone wall, but no trace of masonry
can now be seen. At a distance of about 80 ft.
from, and parallel to, the main eastern defences
are remains of a small bank which may be contemporary with the work; if so, its purpose was
presumably to hold back the flood-waters of the
Nene rather than to provide an outer line of
defence. (See Plans, Plate 1 and p. 35.)
Across the interior of the enclosure from S.E.
to N.W. runs a broad low ridge which represents
the Roman road (the Ermine Street) to Ancaster
and Lincoln. This road can be seen approaching
the site from the S.E., and is visible for a few yards
immediately outside the N. escarpment. The
ditch of the earthwork is here cut abruptly through
the road in such a way as to suggest (without
proving) the priority of the latter. At this point
a milestone of Florianus (A.D. 276) was dug out
of the ditch in 1785; it records the distance of
"one mile" from a place which is not named but
can only have been the Roman settlement at Castor,
N. of the Nene, in Northamptonshire. Another
milestone (Plate 2), of Victorinus (A.D. 265–7),
was found here at the spot marked on the plan,
and is now in the garden of Orton Longueville
Hall. (Haverfield R. Britain in 1913. Br. Acad.
Suppl. Papers ii, 1914, p. 32–3. Vict. Co. Hist.
Approximately in the middle of the N.E. side
of the earthwork, at the point where the defences
change direction, is a gap which may represent
a former gateway, and a less certain interruption
at the corresponding point on the S.W. side may
be the site of a fourth entrance. Near by, within
the earthwork, are doubtful indications of a mound
of unknown date and now of indeterminate extent
(see Monument 3).
Within the defences the ill-recorded excavations
of Artis in 1820–7 seem to have revealed the
foundations of twenty-two Roman structures, but
little is now known of their character or alignment.
The buildings included hypocausts walled with
herring-bone masonry and were, in at least one
case, lined with slabs of local Alwalton marble
and with white tesserae. From a wall "on the
north side of the fortified ground" Artis records
a stone inscribed Marto, and close by was found
a fragmentary bas-relief of Hercules.
Outside the earthwork, other buildings, together
with kilns and burials, have been found at various
times. Near the N.W. gate Stukeley records the
discovery of urn-burials, and Artis of stone coffins.
A stone coffin still lies in a field ¼ m. S.W. of the
site, and another in the parish churchyard. On
the S.W. and S. sides, in making the turnpike
road in 1739 and in digging for a foundation in
1754 near 'Kate's Cabin' workmen unearthed
coffins of stone and lead, urns, glass "lackrymatories," "innumerable corpses," coins of all
periods of the Roman occupation but "chiefly
about the time of Constantine the Great and
after," and fragments apparently of bone inscribed
partly in Latin (VTERE FELIX) and partly, it seems,
in Greek. Within 400 yards of the N. defences
Artis noted the discovery of six or more structures
which he (rightly or wrongly) identified as potters'
kilns, and near by he indicated eight Roman
buildings. These link up the fortified area with the
main Roman settlement across the river at Castor.
The pottery from the site and its immediate
neighbourhood extends in date from the end of
the 1st to the end of the 4th centuries, and so
coincides with the evidence of the coins. The
latter are especially numerous from the middle of
the 3rd century to Theodosius. The remains from
both sides of the river indicate a prosperous town
with extensive potteries and some iron-workings,
but, in the absence of scientific excavation, offer
little information of chronological value. Of the
date of the earthwork all that can be said is that
the disposition of the numerous inhumation-burials
round its outskirts is consistent with its existence
in the 4th century. Since Camden's day the site
of Castor has been identified, perhaps correctly,
with the Durobrivae of the Antonine Itinerary. It
is likely enough that, in the Vth. Iter, Ancaster,
as the first suitable Roman site S. of Lincoln,
may be Causennae and that Castor, as the next
station southwards, may therefore be Durobrivae;
but this identification involves alterations in the
mileages of the Itinerary, and cannot be regarded
Chesterton: "The Castles"
[See Stukeley's Letters (Surtees Society's Publications 80), III, 59, etc.; E. T. Artis, The Durobrivae of Antoninus, 1828; K. Gibson, A comment
upon part of the fifth journey of Antoninus through
Britain (London 1819); Archdeacon Trollope,
Archaeological Journal XXX (1873), 127–40;
F. Haverfield, Victoria County History, Northants,
I, 166 ff.]
b(2). Parish Church of St. Michael stands
200 yards N.W. of the Peterborough - Oundle
road. The walls are of local stone with Barnack-stone dressings and the roofs are covered with
lead. The Nave is probably of 12th-century date.
The South Aisle was added early in the 13th
century and the West Tower begun about the
same time though the building of it probably
continued until the middle of the century. About
1300 the chancel-arch and North Aisle were built
and about thirty years later the clearstorey was
added to the nave and a stone spire to the W.
tower. In the 18th or early in the 19th century the
Chancel was re-built, a South Porch added, new
windows inserted in the walls of the aisles, the
aisles-parapets re-built and the building was generally restored. A further restoration took place in
The Church, Plan
Architectural Description—The Chancel (22 ft.
by 17½ ft.) has been entirely re-built but the lower
parts of the E. and N. walls are mediæval and the
old foundations also show below the S. wall.
The chancel-arch, of c. 1300, is two-centred and
of two chamfered orders, with a moulded label and
mask-stops on the W. face. The arch has been
filled in and is completely visible on the W. side
only; on the E. side the flat ceiling to the chancel
cuts across the arch just above the springers.
An 18th-century screen extends across the full
width of the chancel and completely covers the
The Nave (48½ ft. by 19 ft.) has a N. arcade of
c. 1300 of four bays with two-centred arches of
two chamfered orders with a moulded label towards
the nave with two head-stops; the piers are
octagonal with moulded capitals and bases; the
capital to the third pier has been partly broken
off. The outer order is continued down the
responds and the inner rests on moulded corbels.
The S. arcade (Plate 6) is of early 13th-century
date and of four bays with two-centred arches of
two chamfered orders with stops above the first pier
and E. respond; the label towards the nave has two
foliated stops. The responds are half round, with
moulded capitals, moulded semi-octagonal abaci
and moulded bases; the E. capital is carved with
'stiff-leaf' foliage. The first pier is octagonal and
has a capital carved with 'water-leaf' foliage,
the second pier is round and has a capital carved
with 'stiff-leaf' foliage and the third pier is
octagonal with a moulded capital; all have
moulded bases. Externally against the E. wall
of the nave the line of the former roof to the
chancel is visible.
The clearstorey was added c. 1330 and has in
both the N. and S. walls a range of three windows,
each of three trefoiled lights under a square head
with a moulded label and mask-stops and at the
E. end of the S. wall is a single ogee-headed
trefoiled light which originally lighted the rood-loft. The walls are finished with an embattled
parapet with a moulded string-course below, and
'ball-flower' ornament on the S. side.
The North Aisle (8½ ft. wide) has in the E. wall
parts of the jambs of a blocked window. In the
N. wall are three 18th-century windows; at the
E. end of the wall is the E. part of an earlier blocked
window and between the first and second windows
the splays and inner head of another blocked
window: further W. is a blocked doorway now
partly destroyed by the second window; parts of
the old string-course at the level of the sills of the
original windows remain. In the S. wall, to the E.
of the E. respond of the nave-arcade, is the W.
jamb of the blocked upper doorway to the rood-loft. In the E. and W. walls are the angle-quoins of
the N. angles of the original nave.
The South Aisle (6½ ft. wide) has in the S. wall
two 18th-century windows; the first window is
set in the blocking of an earlier window; the S.
doorway is of early 13th-century date and has a
two-centred head of three moulded orders with a
moulded label; the inner order of the jambs is the
same as that of the arch and the two outer orders
of the arch are carried on detached shafts with
much damaged capitals all carved with 'stiff-leaf'
foliage except one to the E. jamb which is carved
with a human head; the mouldings of the capital
are continued round the inner order on the E.,
with foliage carving, but on the W. the necks
moulding is absent; the inner shaft to both jambs
has a moulded base but the outer shafts have the
lower stones covered by the seats to the porch;
on the inside, the wall over the doorway bulges
considerably and is carried on a rough straight-sided arch, hollow-chamfered on the edge. On the
E. side of the doorway the lower part of the E.
wall of an earlier porch has been incorporated in
the E. wall of the existing porch. In the W. wall
the angle-quoins of the original nave remain.
The West Tower (10½ ft. square) is of two
stages (Plate 37) of early to mid 13th-century date; it is surmounted by a 14th-century
broach-spire of stone rising off a corbel-table
with carved head-corbels; the tower stands on a
plinth and has a stair-turret at the S.W. angle.
The tower-arch is two-centred and of three chamfered orders, the outermost continuous and the
two inner orders carried on half-round responds
with moulded capitals and bases; on either side
of the arch, projecting into the nave at the level of
the sills to the clearstorey - windows is carved
corbelling ornamented with mask-stops, carrying
the eastern buttresses of the tower. In the S. wall
is a tall lancet-window with wide splays and an
external rebate; the sill is set high up in the wall
and built into it are the bottom stones of a window
with more acute splays; there is a break at the
springing of the inner heads; below the window is a
blocked 18th-century doorway. In the W. wall
is a similar lancet-window. The top stage has in
each wall a window of two pointed lights with a
pierced spandrel in a two-centred head with a
chamfered label; the head is of a single chamfered
order and the jambs have detached shafts with
moulded capitals and bases; between the lights is
a similar shaft; the head of the light in the N. wall
is modern. The spire has on each of its cardinal
faces two stone gabled dormers, each with a window
of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head.
The Roof of the nave is perhaps of the 17th century and is of five bays with cambered tie-beams
and shaped cantilever-beams; above is a flat
plastered ceiling. The roof of the N. aisle has five
curved and stop-chamfered tie-beams with wall-posts rising from them against the wall of the nave.
Fittings—Bells: three, 1st probably by Thomas
Norris, 1621; 2nd probably by John Walgrave,
first half of the 15th century, inscribed "Sancta
Margareta ora pro nobis"; 3rd probably by John
Mitchell, late 15th-century, inscribed "O Trinitas
Sancta istam campanam conserva." Bell-frame,
old. Chest: In N. aisle—of deal with cambered
oak lid and wrought-iron angle-straps, probably
17th- or early 18th-century. Coffin: In churchyard
—W. side, rectangular stone coffin and lid, probably Roman. Cross: In churchyard—S. of
church, base only with moulded stops and splays of
former octagonal shaft, and much worn circular
sub-base, probably 15th-century. Monuments:
In N. aisle—at E. end (1) of [Sir Robert
Bevill and his son Sir Robert] large monument (Plate 38) of white freestone with
figures of two men wearing ruffs and armour
kneeling on either side of prayer-desk dated
1611; each man with his wife behind him,
wearing turn-over head-dress, ruffs, stomacher,
and farthingale; figures set in recess with twin
round-headed arches above, carried in middle on
carved console-bracket, and at sides on panelled
responds and flanked by detached and fluted
Composite columns standing on panelled pedestals
and supporting the continuous entablature; above
figures and under each arch is a plain tablet
surrounded by scrolled ornament; base below
principal figures carved on N. side with kneeling
figures of two sons and seven daughters (fifth and
sixth coupled together) and on S. side with similar
figures of three sons and five daughters all in costume of the period, achievement and two shields-of-arms. In S. aisle at E. end (2) to John Driden,
1707–8, large white marble monument with inscription-panel flanked by fluted pilasters with
carved acanthus-leaf caps with scrolls and fruit
swags at sides and surmounted by entablature of
the Doric order and curved pediment with fruit
swags at sides and enclosing achievement-of-arms;
flanking and surmounting pediment, vases, and, at
bottom of monument, panelled base carved with
drapery and at sides, panels carved with emblems of
death; iron railing round monument, of same date.
In N. aisle—in recess in N. wall (3) to William
Beivele, 1483–4, low altar-tomb with original
marginal inscription in 'black-letter' on slab.
Piscinae: In S. aisle—with chamfered jambs, two-centred head and square drain, 13th-century.
Plate: includes a cup of 1569 and a cover-paten of
the same date inscribed "1569" in modern figures
and with "Chesterton" engraved on bottom.
Recess: In N. aisle—in N. wall, with shouldered
triangular head, chamfered and with moulded
label with carved head-stop above apex on moulded
string-course to wall, over Monument (3).
a(3) Mound. Within 'The Castles' earthwork
are faint traces of a mound, (see plan Plate 1),
which has been found to contain human skeletons
apparently representing at least twenty bodies
thrown in haphazard at the same time. Three
of the skeletons, including that of a child, had
each a plain bronze bracelet upon the wrist. In
the earth of the mound were a few sherds of late
Roman pottery, and the burial is therefore of late
Roman or post-Roman date. It suggests the
clearance either during a "plague" or after a
massacre; if the latter, the absence of orientation
probably indicates the pagan Saxon period.
[Information from G. Wyman Abbott, Esq., F.S.A.]
b(4). Mound, ½ m. S. of the church, is roughly
circular, about 60 ft. in diameter and 9½ ft. high.
It is surrounded by a shallow-ditch and has an
inclined causeway on the N. side, running up to
within 2 ft. of the top. (Plan p. 55.)