Chatteris is one of four market towns in the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire situated in The Fens between Whittlesey, March and Ely. It is reputed to have been the last refuge of Boudica as she fled from the Romans. Its name derives from the Anglo Saxon Caeteric - Ceto meaning a wood and Ric, a river. The town was mentioned in the Doomsday book as Caterig.
Chatteris was once the site of a Benedictine nunnery, built in 980 by Alfwen the niece of King Edgar. Little of it remains today, although the "Park Streets" of Chatteris mark the boundary of its walls. In 1115, the apprentice monk Bricstan was freed by the Queen following a vision of Saint Etheldreda - he was the first known parishioner of Chatteris.
A large portion of the town was destroyed by a great fire which raged between 1306 and 1310, and destroyed the nunnery and a large portion of the church, leaving only sections of the base of the tower. The fire was allegedly started by a boy playing with a mirror.
The parish church of St Peter & St Paul is situated in the centre of the town. A church has been on the site since at least 1162, although the current tower dates from 1352. The building had fallen into disrepair during the 19th Century, and the majority of the building is the result of an intensive restoration in 1910.
To the north of the town runs the Forty Foot Drain, a large river also called Vermuyden's Drain, after the Dutch engineer whose name is associated with the fen drainage works of the middle of the 17th Century. Several of the older buildings of the town show evidence of the Dutch architectural style.
Chatteris is a market town and has possessed this designation since 1834, although there is evidence of an earlier market which was discontinued due to poor roads in 1808. A small market is still held every Friday. The town's Chatteris railway station, formerly on the St Ives extension of the Great Eastern Railway was closed in March 1967.
The town has two primary schools, Kingsfield Primary School and Glebelands School, which opened in 1994. The town's secondary school is Cromwell Community College, founded in 1939.
The town is noted for its annual display of Christmas lights, which are entirely funded by community donations and have been featured on BBC Look East. There is an annual festival week and street carnival with a concert by the Chatteris Town Brass Band. There are a variety of local and national retailers, doctors' surgeries, a dentist, cafés and many other shops and businesses. In 2007 The Petrou Brothers fish & chip shop in West Park Street won the National Chip Shop of the Year competition.