By Tim Lambert
Kettering began as an Anglo-Saxon village. Its name was Ketter ingas, which means the people of Ketter. Kettering was first mentioned in history in the year 956. Then in 972, the manor of Kettering was granted to the abbey at Peterborough.
By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 Kettering had a population of about 150. By the standards of the time, it was a large village. Kettering also had 2 watermills where grain was ground to flour for the villagers. In the Domesday Book Kettering was called Cateringe. By 1146 it was called Ketteringge. Furthermore by the 12th century Kettering had a church.
In 1227 Kettering was made into a small market town. In that year the king allowed it to have weekly markets. (In the Middle Ages there were few shops and usually if you wanted to buy or sell something you had to go to a market. Afterward, Kettering was a flourishing settlement but to us, it would seem tiny with a population of only about 1,200.
During the Middle Ages, the Abbot of Peterborough was Lord of the Manor of Kettering. However, the abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1540. At about that time John Leland described Kettering as a pretty market town. Kettering also has a grammar school, which was founded in 1577.
However in 1665 Kettering suffered an outbreak of plague, which killed 80 people. Then in 1688 Edmund Sawyer provided money to build almshouses in Kettering.
In the early 18th century Kettering was described as a ‘well traded, populous market town’. By then it had a population of over 2,600. To us, it would seem tiny but by the standards of the time, Kettering was a reasonably large town. The main industry in the town was the manufacture of wool.
Kettering suffered fires in 1744 and 1766 but each time it soon recovered. In 1801 at the time of the first census Kettering had a population of over 3,000.
Meanwhile, in 1778, the boot and shoe industry in Kettering was begun by a man named Thomas Gotch. However, boot and shoemaking did not become the main industry in Kettering until the 19th century.
During the 19th century amenities in Kettering improved. Kettering gained gas light in 1834. The railway reached Kettering in 1857. A Waterworks opened in Kettering in 1872 and Kettering was given an urban district council in 1894. Kettering General Hospital opened in 1897.
In the early 19th century the old wool industry in Kettering collapsed. However in the 19th century Kettering was transformed by the boot and shoe industry, which boomed.
Meanwhile, the famous artist Alfred East was born in Kettering in 1849.
During the 20th century life in Kettering continued to improve. A public library opened in Kettering in 1904. Also in 1904 Kettering gained an electricity supply. Alfred East Art Gallery opened in 1913. Wicksteed Park opened in 1921. On a more sober note, Kettering War Memorial was unveiled in 1921.
In the late 20th century the boot and shoe industry in Kettering went into a rapid decline. However new industries came to the town. Newborough Shopping Centre opened in 1977. In 1990 it was enlarged and its name was changed to the Newlands Centre. In 2020 the population of Kettering was about 103,000.