Leonard Thiessen 1944


Wadcroft is the oldest street name in Kettering and is comprised of ‘wad’, the Northamptonshire dialect word for woad, the plant widely grown to produce a blue dye, and ‘croft’, an area of land. The first reference to it is in 1292 in the Compotus, or bailiff’s account, for that year.

The mention of ‘wad’ suggests that woad was grown in the area. There was a flourishing woollen industry in the town from the mid-17th century to the end of the 18th century, which could well have made use of any woad still being grown. A further indication of this industry can be seen in a map dated 1721 showing Wadcroft itself and an area below it known as Dam Meadow in which are shown four rows of tenters. A tenter is the frame on which woven cloth was stretched on tenterhooks to be bleached and shrunk in the open air.

There are very few early maps of Kettering but the one dated 1721, drawn by Thomas Eayre II, not only shows Wadcroft but Wadcroft Lane. Eayre’s father had bought property in Wadcroft Lane which Thomas then increased until, at his death, he had a cottage, six small tenements as well as the ‘Founding House & the Warehouse’, all in Wadcroft Lane. See Bell Foundry Lane for more information.

Wadcroft remained a public common up to the early 19th century when the Enclosure Act for Kettering was passed.

Some larger buildings were built at the High Street end of Wadcroft including a leather dressers and the Salem Chapel. Sadly this area became known for the state of the housing that was built there and the extreme poverty of the inhabitants. Unfortunately, during the first half of the 20th century, it was not unknown for children’s bad behaviour to result in their being told that they would either end up in Wadcroft or asked if that was where they’d come from.

Wadcroft Lane is now primarily a service road running behind the High Street businesses whilst Wadcroft itself is a council car park, so still, to some extent, an open area.

Researched by Delia Thomas

Four rows of tenters
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