The History of Stilton in Cambridgeshire

Historical notes about the town of Stilton in Cambridgehsire.

The Parish of Stilton

 

The parish of Stilton contains 1,637.5 acres of land, the subsoil being mainly Oxford Clay, with a small area of Cornbrash. It was inclosed in 1805 by private Act of Parliament. A few surface implements of the Neolithic age or later have been found, but of the Roman occupation the only trace recorded at Stilton is a heavy silver seal ring, perhaps dropped by some traveller along the Ermine Street. From the position of the village on the Ermine Street, now part of the Great North Road, it obtained a certain importance as a posting station, with inns of a considerable size. The office of post-master was much sought after in the 17th century by the rival innkeepers, one of whom offered to take the post not only without salary, but would pay down £20 to £40 to obtain it.

Of the present-day inns, although both have been rebuilt, the Bell Inn, an interesting stone house rebuilt in 1642, with mullioned windows and a very fine wrought-iron sign, was in existence before 1515. In 1613 the Herald sat at the Angel Inn to hold his visitation for this part of the county, and in 1620 it belonged to the Apreece family. Until recent years it was a fine 18th-century red brick house, but has ceased to be an inn, and is now divided into several tenements. It was partly burnt down in 1923. Both inns claim to have been the first place to sell Stilton cheese, and in 1725 young Lord Harley, passing through Stilton, tasted and disapproved the cheese sold at the Bell. The cheese is said to have been made at Stilton before 1720, but was popularised by Cooper Thornhill, landlord of the Bell, about 1730, who, selling more than he could obtain locally, had it made by his relatives in Leicestershire.

The Bell Inn

The Bell at Stilton (circa 1911)

The Bell at Stilton (circa 1911)

 

The village suffered from very serious fires in 1729, 1798 and 1895, while the Manor House, which stands north-west of the church, was the scene of a fire in 1907. There are a Wesleyan and a United Methodist chapel in the parish.

Victoria County History - A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 3 - 1936