Little Chesterford is a small village and civil parish in Uttlesford Essex, eastern England and close to the Cambridgeshire border. It is built principally along a single sunken lane to the east of a tributary of the River Cam or Granta. It is located 1 km southeast of Great Chesterford and some 5 km northwest of Saffron Walden.The small hamlet of Springwell is just to the south of the village. Up the hill to the east is Chesterford Park, with a mid-19th-century mansion in a 250 acre (approx. 100 hectare) estate and now a science park called Chesterford Research Park.
The grouping of church, manor house and village hall form the heart of the village. The church of St Mary dates from the early 13th century and retains much of its original form, having a long aisleless nave and chancel under a single roof. The main furnishings of interest are the simple 15th century screen, the recently restored monument of James Walsingham (1728) – an early work by Henery Cheere - and the brass to George and Isabel Langham (1462). The church was restored during the 19th century including the addition of a vestry and the building of a bell-cot for two bells at the west end.
The manor also dates from the 13th century and is one of the earliest inhabited houses in Essex. It was built in three separate phases – an early to mid-13th century timber-framed aisled hall, flanked by a slightly later solar wing, and an earlier and extremely rare stone survival in Essex that was converted into a services wing. It now has the form of a classic H-shaped manorial house and retains much of the original stone and woodwork.
Amongst other buildings of interest, the former school was built in 1862 for 24 children, but was closed by 1902. The building (a typical example of a Victorian school) was used as the Sunday school and now serves as the village hall. Opposite is a 16th-century hall house, later floored, the cross-passage blocked by a fireplace but with the frame of the original front door exposed. There are more timber-framed and plastered houses up the village towards the Saffron Walden road. A small brick bridge over the Cam, built in 1791 to replace an earlier sixteenth century one, forms the village’s western boundary.
Little Chesterford has always been a small village. The earliest evidence of habitation are Neolithic remains found west of the village in the area of Bordeaux Farm and to the east, in Chesterford Park, Bronze and Iron Age artefacts have been found. Evidence has also been found of at least three Romano-British homesteads in the grounds of Chesterford Park. The manor of Manhall stood in the area of Chesterford Park, and before Domesday and at the conquest the manor was held by Siward and an unnamed Saxon freeman. The manor house became disused and fell into disrepair during the 17th century and is no more. There is documentary evidence to suggest that the site may be the location of a castle built in the 13th century.
The population of Little Chesterford has changed little over the years. The Domesday Book entry records some 27 householders which suggests an overall population of just over 100. The first National Census of 1801 gives a population of 120. This peaked at 276 in the census return of 1861. The population reported in the 2011 census was 215.
Similarly, the physical size of the village has changed relatively little from that described in the enclosure awards published in 1810 – the only real change to the village envelope being the addition of 20 or so houses on the Saffron Walden road in the mid-20th century. From the 16th century until 1840, Chesterford Park was a major farm with an estate in the region of and a series of owners which included Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Harvey, later the first Earl of Bristol, Harrold Pickersgilt-Cunliffe, inventor of the umbrella shooting stick and Lord Inchcape, Chairman of the P&O Line. Since the war the site has been used as a research and development facility for another series of owners - Boots, Fisons, Aventis and Schering. Today it is owned as a joint venture by Aviva Investors and Churchmanor Estates.
Two key events, in 20th-century Little Chesterford, made the national press: