Higham Ferrers 1251–1914

A portrait of a town and its people through its historic charters

new commemorative book

This new book, by Brenda Lofthouse, Gwen Tobin and Rachel Smyth, has been produced to commemorate the town achieving Heritage Lottery Funding to restore the Town’s Charters for everyone to see and enjoy.

Presented in a family-friendly way, this commemorative book focuses on how events, both national and local, had an impact on the people of Higham Ferrers.

It is the first book to chart almost 700 years of the development of Higham Ferrers in one go, from the tentative steps of 91 people gaining some freedom from serfdom, to a fully-fledged autonomous town that at one point sent its own MP to Parliament.

The book launch will coincide with the Town Council’s Charter Celebration Day on Saturday 29 June 2019 to celebrate the conservation of the Town Charters. You can buy the book for £20 on the day at Chichele College.

Did you know?

Image: Bridgeman Images

In the Middle Ages the Chaplain of Chichele College, Robert Ireland, was charged with haunting suspect places, particularly the house of Elizabeth Bere, even during divine service?

Image courtesy of Rushden & District History Society

A report on the state of the St Mary’s churchyard in the seventeenth century found that there were dung heaps in the churchyard that were large, extremely offensive and malodorous?

Image courtesy of Eric Fowell

After Lord Bryon died in Greece his body was brought back to England and the coffin stopped the night in the Green Dragon?

Image: Bridgeman Images

George Malim, the Vicar of Higham, wrote two letters (in total 21 pages long) to the Earl Fitzwilliam in 1819 protesting that his nephew had not shot some geese because he was a very indifferent shot?

More about the book …

This beautifully illustrated book, structured around each of the Town’s charters, describes how Higham Ferrers developed from a small village in Norman England to the fully-fledged town of today.

  • Charter of William De Ferrers 1251
  • Charter of Philip and Mary 1556
  • Charter of James I 1604
  • Charters of Charles II 1664 and 1668
  • Charter of Queen Victoria 1886.

Each chapter begins with the original charter and an explanation of the key points. This is followed by illustrated articles on the social, political and democratic development in the town, in the intervening period up to the next charter, showing how both national and local events shaped the lives of the people in Higham Ferrers.

There are many articles relating directly to life in the town, such as:

  • how the Mayor tried to stop people leaving the entrails of slaughtered animals on the roadside
  • the fines imposed on people playing tennis.

These are all brought to life by beautiful illustrations of the period.

Image: Tudor vagrant being whipped through the streets (Bridgeman Images)

Elizabethan Poor Laws made begging illegal. Those who flouted the laws were dealt with harshly.

Image: Bridgeman Images

Ralph the Cobbler was one the people who bought their freedom from serfdom in 1251, a forerunner of the boot and shoe industry that was a major source of employment in the town for centuries.

Woven into this are the stories of who lived and worked in Higham Ferrers over the centuries, including:

  • Henry Chichele
  • Thomas Rudd
  • Alfred Hacon.