Approach Higham Ferrers from the North, South, East or West and your way is uphill - the Town's commanding position above the River Nene gave it great strategic importance that even the Saxons were quick to take advantage of and made it a burgh of no little importance, later the Normans strengthened the rough Saxon fortifications and William the First gave ownership of the place to William Peverel, a capable general, who is reputed to have built the first of two local castles on this hill top site.
The little Northamptonsire town which has through so many centuries stood high in the geographical sense is also of high standing as a mellowed reminder of Old England.
The approaches - along the busy A6 route or the A45, belong to some of the county's chief industrial areas - proclaiming the modern world, but in Higham Ferrers the scene changes. There are raised pavements and grey houses that lead to a market place, and around the market place almost every building is old and historically interesting.
As well as the town itself standing high, the Parish Church stands like a beacon pinpointing the town from all approaches, with its beautiful steeple towering above all.
It has a richly crocketed steeple which, with its pierced parapet, flying buttresses and deep mouldings soars to 170 feet, that looks down upon a picture still matching up with the story of loyal men who from the days of William the Conqueror have treasured and guarded their civic rights, Into that picture came the notable figure of Henry Chichele, Henry V's Archbishop of Canterbury, and it is of Chichele - a native of the Borough - that the visitor is sure to learn.
Some of the buildings are direct links to Chichele, and these together with the magnificent parish church offer much reward to the stranger with a taste for history and an eye for the artistic.
Higham Ferrers was a free borough in 1251, and the first Royal Charter granting Borough status is enrolled on the Charter Rolls. The town grew slowly through the next centuries. Another Charter was granted by Philip and Mary in 1556 which gave the Town a right to send a Member to Parliament. From 1558 right through to 1832 it had it's own M.P..
A castle built by the Ferrers was granted to the Earl of Lancaster and thus eventually became part of the Royal Duchy.
Aerial surveys and excavations have confirmed that settlements existed here during the Roman period - the location of former Roman Baths, and pottery, implements and coins have all been found.
The Doomsday Book of 1086 records its name as "HECHAM", its Saxon name meaning a "SETTLEMENT ON A HILL" - various changes in its name took place over the centuries, but "HIGHAM" was finalised by a Borough Charter granted by William de Ferrers, whose forebears came to this country with William the Conqueror.
The Charter reads as follows:-
"On the morning of the 12th March, 1251, the men and women of Higham were bound serfs - that same evening a Charter founded the Borough, and these men and women became free burgesses, free to come and go, and free to manage their own affairs" - This Charter created HIGHAM as one of the oldest Boroughs within the country.
The addition of "FERRERS" took place in the 16th Century by Earl Ferrers, the then Lord of the Manor.
Its Borough status continued for 722 years, until 1973, when the small Boroughs, by government decree, reverted to Town status.
The Town Mayor is elected yearly, and the Town Council administers the towns affairs within the authority of the East Northamptonshire District Council.
In 1422 Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury founded a college and it is at this College from where we will begin our historic trail. Before we set out on our tour the visitor will soon realise that we cannot begin to talk of Higham Ferrers without first making you aware of this famous son of Higham.
Learn about Henry Chichele »
Begin the historic tour »