i) Stilton: a blue-veined cheese, and a village on a road

Stilton lies in the District of Huntingdonshire and the County of Cambridgeshire, approximately 7 miles south-west of Peterborough. The Roman road Ermine Street, later the Great North Road (A1) ran through the village, but the Stilton by-pass was built in 1959 and in 1998 this was upgraded to motorway status. The village is now cut off from the main road at the southern end and entered from the north off Junction 16.

For centuries the road gave Stilton its prosperity; coaching inns and ale houses were well known to travellers. The village was an important posting stage and in its early nineteenth century heyday over 40 coaches travelling between London, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh stopped each day. There was also a thriving local trade to Peterborough, Northampton, and into the Fens.

Stilton : c1900

The blue-veined cheese which bears the village's name is first heard of in 1722, but was not made here. It was brought to the village from Leicestershire and sold by the Angel and the Bell Inns.

This trade came to an abrupt end late in the 1840s, when the railway from London to the north was built 2 miles to the east through the village of Holme. The stage coaches stopped running and Stilton declined in size and prosperity. Recovery was slow, and was due to the growth of motor transport after the First World War. Stilton now became a well-known traffic jam on summer weekends and Bank Holidays, but trade picked up for the inns, cafés and garages that serviced the travellers.

Stilton : c1936 (Henry Rushbury R.A.)

For a second time, almost overnight the traffic was removed by the construction of the by-pass. Salvation came in the shape of residential development. From the late 1960s to the early 1990s new estates were built, pushing the built-up area further into the farmland north and west of the village centre.

Stilton : centre, looking south

This development was not accompanied by a similar increase in facilties; indeed the cricket pitch and tennis courts were built on, the football field returned to cultivation. The local doctor closed the surgery and the police station was removed. The village school, however, was rebuilt and twice enlarged, but takes children only to the age of 11; a recreation ground was leased from a local landowner, and the small village hall renovated; the Parish Church was enlarged and the Bell Inn rebuilt and hotel and conference facilities added.

Stilton : Centre, looking east

The growth in car ownership saw the rise in employment outside the village and the closure of village shops. However, Stilton is lucky in that it retains a Post Office, 2 village stores, a hairdresser, and garden centre. It is possible to get the car serviced locally, one's feet treated by a chiropodist and find a range of tradesmen. The bus still runs to Peterborough quite regularly during the day, but stops early in the evenings. There are organisations and clubs catering for a range of interests and ages, but all need more people willing to take on leadership roles (the Guides and the Youth Club have both closed for this reason). Lack of suitable premises and facilties discourages the start-up of new activities.

Stilton : May Day maypole

Stilton : Stage coach at the May Day Cheese Rolling

There is little room now for further growth unless houses are allowed outside the village envelope. The Appraisal is intended to find out how the present population would like Stilton to develop, in terms of housing, transport, facilities, and the environment.

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