St Mary's Church from

the bridge

HISTORY OF KETTON

 

EARLY HISTORY

  • In the Jurrasic period, the regional area around Ketton was the bed of a shallow tropical sea. It was from this sea bed made up of deposits of sand and shells that the oolitic limestone, for which Ketton is famous, was formed.

  • In 1900/1901 two human skeletons, believed to be Neolithic burials, were uncovered, but no accurate record was taken of the discovery.

  • In 1902 several square yards of Roman tesselated pavement were discovered off the north side of High Street. This suggests that the area may have supported rural villas, with the main local settlement being at Great Casterton.

MEDIEVAL PERIOD

  • It was in the medieval period that Ketton first emerges as a settlement.

  • The name Ketton is of very old derivation and comes from the Celtic word for the River Chater, Chetene, meaning a forest stream.

  • Surrounding Ketton were a number of small hamlets and villages. Witchley, on the high heath to the north, is now a lost village, but once gave its name to this administrative area of Rutland. Also to the north, but nearer, was Newbotle, while Frogthorpe stood to the east on the tip of the spur between the Chater and Welland valleys and Kelthorpe lay to the south. Further to the south west is Tixover, which is a chapelry of the parish of Ketton and still retains its largely 12th-century church.

  • Like Stamford, Ketton was owned by the crown at the time of the Domesday survey in 1086. It may be estimated that the population then was around 200. There is mention of a mill, which may have been on the site of the current water mill off Church Street. Tixover (see separate page) was listed as part of the manor.

  • The village was granted to Richard de Humez in 1156 and in the next fifty years the church was rebuilt on an ambitious scale, with a cruciform plan and a central crossing tower. Part of the reason for the scale of the work may be down to the fact that Ketton became a prebendal estate of the Diocese of Lincoln in 1146. This means it was now an estate under the jurisdiction of a canon of the cathedral, and these prebends may have been instrumental in the project. Building work recommenced in the 1240s, after an appeal from the Bishop of Lincoln, and the transepts, aisles and tower were completed. Finally, like St Mary's in Stamford, the broach spire was added in the 14th century.

  • The early village was probably centred on the area around the church. Of particular importance was The Priory, a farm or dwelling house which stood immediately south of the church and was adminstered by the Lincolnshire Priory of Sempringham. It was certainly in existence in 1304. The site is now occupied by a later building of various dates which retains the name.

  • Being owned by the crown, Ketton didn't develop as a classic single manor village. Instead, a number of smaller manors developed. In addition to the Prebendal Manor, which stood on the site of the current Ketton Hall, there was Greenham's Manor, Grey's or Whitwell's Manor, Hutchins' Manor and Kelthorpe Manor. The latter, located to the south of Ketton still has traces of sunken fish ponds.

  • Greenham Manor house was situated in Aldagte about a quarter of a mile south-east of the church above the Chater. The remains of the house were in a forlorn condition by 1811, but exhibited evidences of very respectable antiquity in some of the windows, in a curious piscina in the oratory, and in the arched roof of timber of the hall.

  • The oldest domestic buildings in the village are now the range of houses opposite the entrance to the school, nos 94-96 High Street. This row of stone cottages contains medieval fabric, both externally in the butresses and blocked carriage arch, and internally with several gothic-arched doorframes. It is possible that this was a gatehouse for a medieval manor house - the Prebendal Manor is described as having a gatehouse in 1650, but the relationship seems improbable.

  • It was during the medieval period that the stone pits to the north of the village began to be systematically quarried for limestone. However, the early structure of St Mary's Church in Ketton was built in Barnack stone, indicating the quarry industry was not developed at that stage. Royal grants for quarrying survive from the late 13th century.

  • Remains of medieval strip farming methods can still be seen in pasture fields in Aldgate, which are accessible via a public footpath.

  • A notable one-time resident was Robert of Ketton (c.1110-c.1160) who was a pioneering translator of Arabic scientific texts, including treatises on alchemy, mathematics and astronomy. He was the first person to translate the Quran into Latin. He worked mainly in Spain.

16th - 18th CENTURIES

  • By the early 16th century, Ketton supported almost 50 households, with a conjectured population of around 250 (1524 lay tax assessments). This is no larger than the village had been in the 11th century, probably the result of population reduction after the Black Death and the migration of the wool trade into east Anglia - Stamford suffered a similar decline.

  • In 1594, the royal manor of Ketton was transferred by Queen Elizabeth I to Richard Stace. The deed recording this event is on display in Rutland County Museum and has attached the 2nd Great Seal of the Queen in wax.

  • The six-arched stone bridge over the River Welland on the road to Collyweston was built in 1620, with three segmental and three pointed arches. It probably would have replaced an earlier wooden bridge.

  • It was during the 17th and 18th centuries that the quarrying industry in the stone pits to the north of the village became well-established. As well as local buildings, the stone was used in important buildings such as Burghley House, Cambridgeshire (1558-87), Audley End, Essex (early 17th century) and numerous Cambridge colleges including Clare College Old Court (1638), Pembroke College Chapel (1655) and the Wren Library of Trinity College (1676-95).

  • The village expanded through the 17th and 18th centuries, mainly along High Street towards Stamford, infilling the areas around farms, such as Home Farm and Manor Farm. Manor Farm still retains a 17th-century canted bay and both have surviving stone-built dovecots of the 18th century. Areas of development included Bull Lane, which has buildings dating back to the 17th century (Dairy Cottage), and Redmiles Lane which has a house dated 1699 (No. 2). Evidence of building expansion can also be found in 17th-century houses in Geeston (Nos. 9-11), 3 Aldgate (Chater Cottage) and at Garden Cottage, Church Road, where the canted vernacular gable is dated 1629 and there is a thatched tithe barn behind. The Priory was also rebuilt in this period and has two 17th-century dates stones, together with a later 5-bay Georgian garden range, probably dating from after 1732 when it came a private residence.

  • The first of the modern-period Ketton Halls was erected in 1683 on the site of the old prebendal manor. This was an early-classical house, and followed the same form, on a smaller scale, to Belton House, near Grantham, which was built 1685-88. The gate piers onto the main road survive from this period.

  • A licence was granted in 1672 for Presbyterian meetings in a private house in Ketton owned by Evers Armyn, an active parliamentarian and Justice of the Peace. Armyn wrote reports on ecclesiastical matters in Ketton in 1639 and 1640.

  • The open fields within the parish of Ketton were enclosed in 1768, allowing private owners to develop the land as they wished. Most of the old manorial estates, except the prebendary estate, fell into the hands of John Rushout of Northwick Park, near Evesham (Worcestershire). He became Baron Northwick in 1797 and gives his name to the pub in the village. Members of the Noel family of Exton Park (Rutland) lived at Ketton Hall through the 18th century, while the Heathcote family of Normanton Hall, just north west of Ketton, bought the Kelthorpe estate.

1768 enclosure map of Ketton

19th CENTURY

  • The 19th century saw Ketton being gradually transformed through increasing industrialisation and population growth. In 1841, the population had risen to 954, while by 1881 it was 1116.

  • The quarries, mainly owned by Lord Northwick, were further developed and local masons were able to rent and quarry certain sections. The growth of mechanisation allowed the stone to be more easily handled and transported, thereby increasing production. Prominent buildings using Ketton stone during this period were Downing College, Cambridge (1818-1820), King's College Gatehouse, Cambridge (1824), the Chapel at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (1824-27) and Victoria College, Jersey (1850).

  • Formal education began in Ketton around 1830, when a school for girls was established from the charity of Miss Sophia Elizabeth Edwards of Ketton Hall. By 1846, this had become a National School for boys and girls and a new school building was erected in 1857 to cope with the growing numbers of children.

  • After much dispute from local landowners, the Midland Railway opened the Peterborough to Syston line in 1848. This ran through a cutting between Aldgate and Geeston, with a gothic-style station designed by Sancton Wood. The line was supported by 150 residents, but with a counter petition led by George Sowerby of Ketton Hall. Adjacent to the railway was established the Midland Hotel and the village Gas Works (1860).

  • Ketton became something of a brewing centre in the late 19th century and a large maltings was built close to the station to cater for the industry. The most ambitious scheme was the Rutland Brewery set up by Thomas Molesworth in the 1870s. This was a medium-scale enterprise with large brewery building, manager's house and offices, all situtated next door to the Northwick Arms. It's success was short-lived and it shut before 1908 - the buildings were demolished in 1926. Other breweries included the Ketton Brewery Company run by by the Whincups behind the Northwick Arms and the Geeston Brewery, which built up a sizable trade, particularly in the London area, prior to its closure in 1914.

  • Public house numbers grew to cater for an expanding population, boosted by several beer houses or retailers. By 1893, there were eleven licensed premises in Ketton. A group of pubs was clustered along and around the eastern arm of High Street and may have served thirsty quarry workers as well as the road trade. There was the Northwick Arms (still open), the White Hart (31 High Street), the Crown (44-46 High Street), the Pied Bull (49 High Street), the Aveland Arms (corner of Bull Lane/High Street), the Barley Mow (Bull Lane). Other pubs included the Railway (still open on Church Road), the Blue Bell (65 High Street), the Exteter Arms in Aldgate and the Geeston Tap.

  • Ketton Hall was rebuilt in the Tudor style in 1873 and was bought by the music publisher, John Turner Hopwood who installed a huge French pipe organ in a magnificent music room. The Firs, another late Victorian mansion, was erected by the Molesworth family at the corner of Pit Lane.

  • St Mary's Church was extensively restored through the Victorian period. Sir Gilbert Scott undertook work in the nave in 1861, including the replacement of the west window. In 1863, Thomas Jackson was brought in to create a new chancel in the Early English style. A Congregational Chapel was opened in 1829, while a proper Methodist Church was erected in 1864 at the bottom of Bull Lane.

20th and 21st CENTURIES

  • This period saw a significant expansion in the size of the village, with several large estate developments. These began in the 1950s with the council estate off Empingham Road, and continued in the 1960s and '70s with estates off the main Luffenham Road to the west, and also in Geeston/Kelthorpe. The population of Ketton was 1041 in 1901 - by 2011 it was 1926. 106 new houses are planned in the next few years.

  • The growth in housing has coincided with a decline in local trades and village employment. Many of the farms, which had been the mainstay of village life, such as Home Farm and Manor Farm,  ceased to function. The number of public houses declined, so that now there are only two in the village. Likewise, retailers shut shop as shopping habits changed. Now there is only one village store and post office on the High Street. Most people who now live in Ketton commute elsewhere to work.

  • However, the stone quarries to the north-east of Ketton were the catalyst for a new industry - cement manufacture. This began in 1921, when a Sheffield builder called Frank Walker bought 1174 acres in Ketton parish from Lady Northwick. In 1928 the Ketton Portland Cement Company was founded. This has since expanded into one of the largest cement works in Europe, currently operated by Hanson, with vast quarries stretching north and west towards Empingham.

  • The old National School was replaced in 1969 with the current school building. This incorporates a plaque from the Victorian school. Stone from the demolished building was used to build the current library building. The school is currently operated by Rutland Learning Trust.

  • Ketton and Collyweston station closed in 1966 as part of the Beeching cuts and the gothic station building was demolished in 1973.

  • Check out the Village of Stone video below which is a 1950s promotional newsreel filmed by Perkins who ran the Ketton cement works. It features some footage of the village before going on to cover the business.

West doorway

St Mary's Church, c.1190

17th century bay window, Manor Farm, High Street

Hibbins House, 1890,

High Street

Hanson Cement,

High Street

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Redmiles Lane

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