Bronze Fish Head Spout
circa 100BC

Anglo Saxon Spear Head
6C to 8C AD
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Felmersham History Part 1

Felmersham History: Part 2 | Part 3 | Then & Now
Local History Book

Felmersham -
The History of a Riverside Parish

 Full Details
Early Felmersham

A bronze bowl, a fish-head spout and other bronze fragments were found during gravel extraction in January 1942 in what is now known as Felmersham Nature Reserve. These significant Celtic grave goods were possibly placed in the grave of an important Celtic chief who lived over some 2000 years ago.
 More on the Celtic Grave Goods         Celtic Bronze Bowl in Bedford Museum. >>>

The name Felmersham is of Saxon origin, denoting that the place was the riverside dwelling of Feolmar and his people. There is, surprisingly, very little evidence of Anglo-Saxon occupation (circa AD 400 to 1000). During archaeological excavations of the Plough site in 1993 two Anglo-Saxon inhumations and a spearhead were found and they are believed to date from the 6C to 8C AD. Excavations in the early 20th century, 150m west of the church, identified the remains of occupation from Anglo-Saxon times to the 12th century. 

It is likely, therefore that there has been a continuous settlement at Felmersham from at least  100BC and it is possible that the site of the church and the river crossing had important ritual and communication functions in the later prehistoric and Roman periods.

Felmersham is recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as Flameresham and was divided into two manors both held by Gislebertus fitz Solomon. One manor belonged to King William and the other to his niece the Countess Judith. The book describes the size (1320 acres) and number of tenant farmers (6) and smallholders (10). There would also be other smaller farmers not mentioned.

Early Radwell
Evidence of an Iron Age settlement has been found at Radwell together with evidence of a Roman-British farmstead, so it is likely that there has been continuous occupation of Radwell from the Iron Age to the present time. There is a full account of the archaeological dig at Radwell in the recently published book:
Felmersham - The History of a Riverside Parish, click for details.

The Building of St Mary's Church
After Domesday the next most significant event in the history of the village was the building of St Mary's church between 1220 and 1240 by the monks of Lenton Priory in Nottinghamshire. Just why they should choose to build a church in Felmersham is not known, but a likely explanation is that they were going to build a satellite monastery in the village and ran out of resources. Whatever the explanation, they built, what is regarded today as one of the finest Early English Gothic buildings in the region.
Unlike most other churches the ground plan is original, however the nave roof was later raised and flattened to accommodate the 8 clerestory windows, the tower was also raised and most of the windows replaced, but essentially much of the main structure is as originally built by those 13C monks from Lenton Priory.    More on St Mary's church.
The Advowson

The advowson of the church (the right to appoint clergy to the living) was originally with Lenton Priory, however it passed to the crown in 1283 and by the time the Tithe barn was built in 1428 it was with Kings Hall, Cambridge (later to be part of Trinity College).

The living was generated by bequests and a 10% tax levied on all parishioners and generally paid in kind. It was the corn, hay and straw etc. received as tithe payments that were stored in the Tithe barn.

Conjectural view of St Mary's AD1240 Felmersham Church from the west. c. 1840
From a water colour by John Higgins

Felmersham Church from the north.
 From a water colour by Thomas Fisher 1772 - 1836


The Medieval Period

Our knowledge of life in the village during the medieval period is based on a few surviving official records which include: documents on property and rent, taxes, law and order, wills and ecclesiastical records. These records do not in themselves reveal the nature of life in the village but provide snap shots from which we can draw our own conclusions. 

Events both regional and national together with the surviving parish records provide the fodder from which the local historian feeds. For instance no mention is made in any local parish records of the Black Death in 1348. However with one third of the population dying from the disease it is safe to assume that it had a devastating impact on the local population, workers were in short supply, and as a result the relationship between the local landowner and worker changed for ever.

"Felmersham - The History of a Riverside Parish"   Felmersham and Radwell local history book.

Medieval Jugs
found buried in the Churchyard in 1926

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Page last updated: 04/09/08   K F Shrimpton 2006