Stilton high street has many fine and interesting buildings, which date back to the time when this road was part of the Great North Road (previously Ermine Street). The road was bypassed by the A1M in the 90s and is now free of traffic making it a very pleasant place to visit.
Visitors Enjoying the Cheese Rolling Festival © TAB
Early each May crowds come to enjoy the village's traditional cheese rolling festival, started in the 12th-c by the landlord of the local Bell Inn.
During the era of horse-drawn coach travel (circa 1630 to 1840), the village became an important stopping-off point for travellers on the route between London and York. Journeys along the road were much more dangerous back then, when Dick Turpin (a notorious highwayman on this road, circa 1730s), is said to have often hidden in the Bell Inn. Several of these old coaching inns remain, and are still open for business along the High Street (see descriptions below), providing the modern traveller with a hearty meal and a place to stay.
The straight lines of the old Roman road are still visible
The origins of Stilton can be traced back to the Roman occupation (circa AD 70) and beyond, from local Roman and Neolithic finds. It is believed that the village grew-up around the main north-south Roman road (later called Ermine Street by the Saxons), at a point where an east-west drover road (Church Street/Fen Street) crosses Ermine Street.
Stilton is mentioned in 1086 in the Doomsday Book but it is not till the 15th-c that the village become popular as a staging point, when at least 14 inns and ale houses were then offering a busy trade to travellers. The advent of the railway, and later the A1 motorway, has seen the village decline into a sleepy little satellite/commuter town for Peterborough and Cambridge.
Stilton Cheese (a hard crumbly cheese with very strong flavour, laced with blue/green mould), traditionally manufactured towards the west, around the Leicestershire area, has been sold in the village for centuries, from whence it took its name.
The stone built Bell is the oldest known inn in Stilton, mentioned in 1500, but rebuilt in the mid 17th century.
The 16th century Angel Inn (rebuilt in brick after a fire in the 18th century) was once a very popular staging point for horse-drawn coach travellers.
The Talbot, another popular coaching inn in its time - now a popular family run pub that also serves traditional English food.
Formally called 'The George', the Stilton Cheese took its current name in 1926. However, there has been an inn on this site since the early 16th century. The current public house was built around 1800 and is now a listed building.