Walk 28: Higham Ferrers town centre

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2 miles (3.22 km)

Time to walk: You could probably walk this non stop in 30 mins, but there’s quite a bit of history to stop & look at & coffee shops etc

Difficulty: All on hard paths

Parking: We parked on road off Cemetery Lane

Public toilets: Pubs & cafes

Map of the route: None, but all of the walk is centred around the High Street so it’s really easy to follow

So what can we tell you about Higham Ferrers, which we visited on a cold sunny day in February 2014? Well firstly courtesy of East Northants Council it has an excellent Heritage Trail which we used for the basis of our walk.

It originally was an Anglo Saxon settlement known as ‘Hecham’ meaning an important enclosure high on a hill. The Romans also settled here.

The first Charter was granted in 1251. The then Lord of the Manor, William de Ferrers, created the Borough which was a prosperous community.

Today Higham Ferrers is a mix of  new & old properties & always worth a visit. Many of the old buildings refer back to Henry Chichele who was born in the town & later became Archbishop of Canterbury – we’ll refer to him several times along the walk.

So…let’s pick up on the history as we go along. Come on…let’s go!

1. We parked up just off Cemetery Lane & head further along it where on the left we come across The Saffron Moat.

The Saffron Moat is known locally as ‘the cup & saucer’. Water was supplied to it by a spring. The moat measures approximately 35m x 44m, and is surrounded by a ditch up to 2m deep and 4m wide.

It’s generally thought that it may have been used as a fishpond to supply fish to the nearby college which we’ll visit shortly.

The moat derived its name from the fields it was originally situated in, once called Saffron Close. The Canons of the nearby college grew crocuses in these fields & sold the saffron derived from them, hence the name

2. Right let’s head back along Cemetery Road passing the cemetery on the left heading towards the main road through the town which at this stage is called College Street

We'll turn right when we come to the T junction

We’ll turn right when we come to the T junction

3. On turning right we’re heading towards the centre of the town & get our first glimpse of the church spire that can be seen from virtually everywhere

4. When we visited The Saffron Moat we mentioned that it probably supplied fish to the local college. So the next place we come to along here on the right is Chichele College

The English Heritage link above gives more details, but it was established in 1422 by Henry Chichele. Taken from the ENC leaflet, the college once provided accommodation for 8 canons, 4 clerks, 6 choristers, a song master & a grammar master.

The college fell into disrepair following the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII. In 1542, following dissolution, it became an inn & then later a farm

So…you want a free closer look?

Then turn right up the alleyway just past the college…

…& pass through the open gate (hopefully) into the recreation of the cloister gardens…

The shell of the outer wall we saw from the street

The shell of the outer wall we saw from the street

The western door

The western door

The well

The well

5. Right come on let’s move….head back out towards the main road & there’s more lovely old properties…

…again we turn right, but over the road is an important building…The Green Dragon Inn

This 17th century coaching inn was a stop off on the route to London. Let’s walk through the archway to have a look at the stables & much more…

Beautiful courtyard

Beautiful courtyard

6. There’s another purpose for us coming through the inn courtyard. In the car park turn left & head towards the green area below

This is the site of what once was Higham Castle which was built in the 12th century & demolished in 1523.

It was one of the baronial castles built shortly after the Conquest, probably by one of the two Peverels. Little is known of its history.

A map of the castle

A map of the castle

The main feature of this site though remains the impressive Dovecot…

Who knew this was here? Impressive!!

Who knew this was here? Impressive!!

This dovecot probably dates from the 17th century – loved finding it & Northamptonshire never fails to throw up new treasures!!

7. As the pub’s not yet open let’s head back through the courtyard & continue along the main street which now becomes the High Street & we now enter a fabulous market square

Love the sign

Love the sign

Higham Ferrers' beautiful market square

Higham Ferrers’ beautiful market square

8. Ok let’s have a look around…firstly on the left is The Church House.

This is supposedly one of the oldest buildings in the town & is believed to have been linked to the Washingtons of Sulgrave (see our walk there) & America’s President George Washington

9. Let’s have a look around this area. If we wanted to we could turn up the alley & visit the church but we’ll save that until later

Over the road is a great looking B&B called The Old House for anyone that’s visiting & fancies staying in the area

The Old House

The Old House

10. On the right hand side is the old Town Hall…

This building was erected in 1808 & served both as a court house & jail until about 1930.

Might be worth a visit?

Might be worth a visit?

11. Behind the Town Hall is one of Higham Ferrers’ longest standing bars/restaurants…The Carriage House – can’t believe it doesn’t have its own website

12. Right let’s move on & head left down the High Street again

They do superb filled rolls if you're peckish

They do superb filled rolls if you’re peckish

13. So let’s work our way down the left hand side of the High Street & it’s good to see that traditional shops are still alive here…

…& if you’re now ready for a break try The Griffin

14. After about 5 minutes walk on the left of the road is 67 High Street…

IMG_7519

…which is believed to be the birthplace of Henry Chichele. If you ever visit Canterbury Cathedral tip your hat to him as he’s buried there

15. Right cross over the High Street & let’s head up back the other side…

…& half way up from this side of the road we get a great view of the Methodist Church which sadly is now a derelict building & it’s sad to see the broken windows that the birds are getting through

16. We had a great chat with a few locals around here & it was clear that they’re all very proud of their town. There’s some more local businesses along here…

Well at least you know when we walked around here

Well at least you know when we walked around here

Curry anyone?

Curry anyone?

Or a light refreshment?

Or a light refreshment?

Not us! Honest me Lord !!

Not us! Honest me Lord !!

17. Right..now let’s go & have a look at the church whose spire’s been stalking us all around this town.

Walk down the alleyway at the side of The Church House & walk through the gates of the church

18. This is an incredible area of history. Firstly let’s tackle the church which unfortunately today was closed… St Mary’s The spire is around 170 feet &, as we can’t get inside it’s well worth spending some time looking at the incredible carvings around the front door

19. On the left in front of the church is The Chantry Chapel – another listed building

This building looks very like King’s Chapel at Cambridge which we visited on an earlier walk

On the right is The Bede House.

This building was founded by Henry Chichele for 12 poor men & a housekeeper to live in. They were given one penny per day & in return had to live by a strict regime of prayer

A view of the church from across the graveyard

A view of the church from across the graveyard

Well that’s our short town walk around Higham Ferrers done. We used to live quite close to here, but it’s not until you spend time researching & walking that you realise the history of places like this

Go visit…there’s more to it than meets the eye!!

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