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Summer 2024: The site is now operating summer hours, and the carpark is locked at 7pm.

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HISTORY OF STANWICK LAKES

Learn how the site changed from quarry to nature reserve

Home > Our History

Before quarrying started at the site in 1985, archaeological excavations were carried out that uncovered thousands of years of heritage at Stanwick Lakes.

Neolithic – Bronze Age

Neolithic Long Barrows (c 3,700-3,500BC) and Bronze Age Round Barrows (c 2,500–1,500BC) were discovered at the Irthlingborough end of the site. Pottery, Auroch skulls (large native cattle) and a skeleton were all found during excavations of the barrows.

Iron Age – Roman

Closer to the centre of the Stanwick Lakes site archaeologists discovered the remains of around 50 Iron Age roundhouses (c 400BC – 43AD) and this settlement would have continued after the arrival of the Romans. Next to the roundhouse site the archaeologists uncovered the remains of a large Roman villa (c250 – 400AD) which would have replaced a more modest original building. One of the mosaics from the roman villa was returned to Stanwick Lakes in 2013 and can be seen on display in the Heritage Museum in the Visitor Centre.

Saxon – Medieval

At the northern end of the site, towards Ringstead, the excavations revealed the remains of a late Saxon water mill and timber hall that was later rebuilt in stone as a small Norman manor house. The original Saxon buildings were from c950AD and the Norman manor house was finally abandoned shortly after 1150AD. Following the abandonment of the manor house the adjoining peasant hamlet of West Cotton continued as a settlement through to the middle of the fifteenth century. Some of the objects found from these excavations can be seen on display at the Visitor Centre.

19th Century

Stanwick Lakes site continued to be a large area of meadowland during the following centuries, surrounded by the open field ridge and furrow farming system and a few early enclosed fields. By the late 1830s, the entire landscape had changed to enclosed fields, including the meadowland which was now a series of large fields.

1845 saw another major change with the opening of the Northampton and Peterborough railway, the track connecting the stations at Irthlingborough and Ringstead ran through the middle of what is now Stanwick Lakes. There were five trains each way on weekdays and Saturdays with two on a Sunday; the line was closed in 1964.

On the 22nd February 1944, a mid air collision between two US B17 Flying Fortress Aircraft occurred over Irthlingborough, resulting in the deaths of seventeen airmen. The crash site was on land now part of the Stanwick Lakes site. This was a major incident of the time due to the community links with the various United States Air Force bases in the local area. Find out more about the anniversary ceremony of remembrance and exhibition on our B17 Virtual Exhibition page.

Today

Visitors to the site see a landscape that was largely shaped by the subsequent industrial activities of the late 20th century. Hanson began quarrying for gravel in 1985 at the Northern end of the site and continued extraction until the end of 2004 when the site was purchased by East Northamptonshire Council. The restoration work carried out by Hanson over this period saw the planting of trees and creation of the lakes that now make Stanwick Lakes such an important wildlife habitat within the Nene Valley.

Neolithic (Stone Age)

Prehistory 3700 – 3500 BC

Bronze Age

Prehistory 2500 – 1500 BC

Iron Age

Prehistory 400 – 43AD

Roman

History 250 – 400 AD

Saxon

History 950 – 1150 AD

 

These are the dates from the settlements found at Stanwick Lakes, not the eras in history.

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