An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 1, Archaeological Sites in North-East Northamptonshire. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1975.
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(OS 1:10000 a TL 09 NW, b TL 09 SW)
The parish covers nearly 730 hectares of land, between 100 ft. and 230 ft. above OD on both sides of Willow Brook, here draining S.E. to the R. Nene in a broad open valley. The stream has cut deeply into the surrounding Jurassic deposits, and although the higher parts are still covered with Boulder Clay and Oxford Clay, the soils over most of the parish are derived from limestones. These light soils have enabled the ring ditch (1) and a trackway (2) to be discovered by air photography and were, perhaps, the reason for the siting of the large Roman villa (3) found in the 19th century.
The parish was formerly a chapelry of Yarwell and the village may have originated as its daughter-settlement. The deserted village of Hale (4), previously unlocated, has now been discovered in the S. of the parish (Fig. 20). This village is one of the few known from documents to have been deserted as a result of the Black Death in 1349, but unfortunately the remains have been completely destroyed.
Prehistoric and Roman
a (1) Ring ditch (TL 02209640), on N. side of Willow Brook, on limestone at 120 ft. above OD. Diam. 30 m., ploughed out. (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 31; 6 (1971), 3, Apethorpe (1); air photographs in NMR)
a (2) Trackway (TL 03889670–04019647), on N. side of a small valley, on limestone at 200 ft. above OD. It consists of two parallel ditches, 15 m. apart, orientated N.W.-S.E., visible on air photographs for a distance of 230 m. It extends into the adjacent parish of Nassington. (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 31; 6 (1971), 3, Apethorpe (2); air photographs in NMR)
b (3) Roman villa (TL 02639493; Fig. 21), S. of Apethorpe Hall on the W. side of the Willow Brook on limestone at 100 ft. above OD. It was discovered and partly excavated in 1859 and consisted of a group of buildings arranged round a central courtyard. The site measured approximately 80 m. by 80 m. with the main block lying on the N. side of the courtyard. Only five rooms and part of a corridor were discovered although much else must still survive. One room had a hypocaust, two others mosaic pavements, one of unusual design, and another a plaster floor painted with a linear pattern. On the W. side of the courtyard a large rectangular building, sub-divided into a number of small rooms, was revealed, while on the E., parts of a bath block and some indeterminate walling were found. Finds included part of a stone column, Collyweston roof slates, flue tiles, samian and Nene Valley wares, glass, a lead weight and animal bones. Two small altars were also discovered. Most of the coins were 4th-century. (Ass. Arch. Soc. Rep., 5 (1859), 97–107; VCH Northants., 1 (1902), 191–2, Figs. 19 and 20)
Medieval and Later
b (4) Deserted village of Hale (centred TL 015943; Figs. 20 and 22) at Cheeseman's Farm, on a high spur of limestone and clay, between 220 ft. and 180 ft. above OD. The earthworks which still existed in 1947 have now been destroyed. The reasons for the final desertion of this village are exceptionally welldocumented.
The settlement perhaps originated as a daughter-hamlet of Apethorpe, but it was always very small. In 1086 only three people are recorded at Hale on a manor gelding for one and a half virgates (VCH Northants., 1 (1902), 318). In about 1272, ten individuals, including the Prior of Fineshade and three named de Hale are listed as holding land (Cal. Inq. Misc. 1 (1219–1307), 157, no. 474). Only three tenants are listed in 1304 (Cal. IPM, II, 226, no. 332) but Hale was mentioned by name in the Nomina Villarum of 1316. Rents continued to be collected from unrecorded tenants as late as 1344 (Cal. IPM, VII, 354, no. 491). However by 1356 the village had been abandoned, for in that year it is recorded that 'the premises are worth nothing now because no one dwells or has dwelt in Hale since the Pestilence' (Cal. IPM, X, 246, no. 284). The village was not resettled, for in 1381 it was still worth nothing 'because the messuages are wasted' (Cal. IPM, XV, 150, no. 366). As early as 1720 J. Bridges noted that the ruins of houses and traces of 'three long streets' were visible (Hist. of Northants. II (1791), 288; see also Lambeth Palace Archives, Fineshade Cartulary, f. 12). On the Enclosure Map of Apethorpe of 1778 (NRO) the existing farm is shown, and fields to the W. and N. are called 'Old Walls'; the names 'Long Walls' and 'Grass Walls' are also recorded (NRO, Field Name Survey 1932).
The village church or chapel which was first mentioned in 1250 was dedicated to St. Nicholas and the last-recorded institution was in 1448 (VCH Northants., II (1906), 543 and 547; K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants., (1966), 41).
Until recent destruction, a number of earthworks of the village remained (Fig. 22, based on air photographs RAF VAP CPE/UK 1925, 1122–3). The most prominent feature was a deeply cut hollow-way running roughly W. from the existing farm and widening to form a funnel-shaped entrance S.E. of Tomlin Wood. Near its E. end another, smaller, hollow-way ran parallel to and S. of it, and a number of slight platforms lay between them. Further N. was a low bank and at least one other platform with traces of a further hollow-way existing E. of the farm. All these remains have been destroyed, but large quantities of medieval pottery can be found to the W. and N.W. of the farm in modern arable, all of the 12th to early 14th centuries, including much Lyveden ware and some Stamford ware.
a(5) Settlement remains (TL 02609585) formerly part of Apethorpe village, are traceable within the Park and N.E. of the church. These consist of a few indeterminate banks and scarps now largely overgrown. The remains are the sites of houses lining a street; the houses still existed in 1778 (Enclosure Map in NRO) and were removed in the 19th century when the Park was enlarged.
(6) Cultivation remains. Only a relatively small area of the medieval common fields N. of the village was enclosed by Act of Parliament of 1777 (NRO, Enclosure Map, 1778), and judging from early 18th-century maps of individual groups of fields, the major part of the parish had been enclosed before 1725. The ridge-and-furrow of the common fields of Apethorpe survives on the ground around the village or can be traced elsewhere on air photographs. It is arranged in long curving furlongs but much has no relation either to the modern or to the early 18th-century field pattern.
In the S. of the parish similar blocks of ridge-and-furrow can be traced around Cheeseman's Farm (TL 016942) and Halefield Lodge (TL 028933) and are presumably the remains of the common fields of the deserted village of Hale (4). (RAF VAP CPE/UK 1891, 1043–8, 2214–8; 1929, 1119–23; 2109, 4094–4100, 4233–5)