An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 2, Archaeological Sites in Central Northamptonshire. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1979.
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40 MEARS ASHBY
(OS 1:10000 a SP 86 NW, b SP 86 NE, c SP 86 SW, d SP 86 SE)
The parish, occupying some 675 hectares, lies to the W. of Wellingborough. The higher land in the N. and E. is covered by Boulder Clay and rises to a height of 122 m. above OD. A band of Lower Estuarine sands and clays separates this from the slightly lower areas of Northampton Sand. The latter predominates in the W. and S. and is cut by the steep-sided valleys of S.S.E.-flowing streams where Upper Lias Clay is exposed down to a height of 76 m. above OD. Fieldwork and air photography have led to the discovery of a number of prehistoric and Roman settlements in the parish.
Prehistoric and Roman
A Neolithic polished flint axe was found in the parish in 1972 (SP 85216564; Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 4), and a broken flint point was discovered in 1974 (at SP 854664; Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975), 151).
a(1) Barrow (?) (SP 83996537), in the S. of the parish, on sand and gravel at 100 m. above OD. It is 20 m. in diam. and 1 m. high and has been spread by ploughing. There is no trace of a ditch. A single sherd, of Bronze Age date, was found on the site in 1970 (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 6). The site has been identified as the meeting place of Hamfordshoe Hundred, known as Low Hill, at least as early as 1565 (VCH Northants., IV (1937), 112).
a(2) Enclosures (SP 83526668; Fig. 99), immediately W. of the village, on Northampton Sand at 103 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show at least two rectangular enclosures and linear features (OS Record Cards; BNFAS, 6 (1971), 15, Mears Ashby (1)).
a(3) Enclosure (SP 835661), 300 m. S.W. of Hill Farm, on sand at 100 m. above OD. Air photographs (RAF VAP F21 543/RAF/943, 0091–2) show, very indistinctly, a sub-rectangular ditched enclosure covering just under one hectare. No entrance or interior features are visible.
a(4) Enclosures (SP 842659), immediately E. of Ward's Barn, on Northampton Sand at 98 m. above OD. Air photographs (RAF VAP 541/337, 3173) show cropmarks of a double ring ditch and rectangular enclosures (OS Record Cards).
a(5) Iron Age Site (SP 850656; Fig. 101), immediately N. of Field Barn, on Northampton Sand at 99 m. above OD. Excavation of a pipeline trench in 1966 revealed two areas of pits, dug into the ironstone, with a layer of greenish slag at the bottom of one of them. Iron Age pottery was found, and a flint blade 8 cm. long in one of the pits (BNFAS, 1 (1966), 6). To the E. and S.E. (at SP 852656 and 853654) two barbed-and-tanged arrowheads have been found (Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975), 151).
ab(6) Iron Age and Roman Settlement (centred SP 850663; Fig. 100), in the E. of the parish, on Northampton Sand and clay between 90 m. and 107 m. above OD. A number of cropmarks and finds have been noted over an area of some 17 hectares. Roman material in particular, including samian and grey wares, is widely scattered over several fields. Specific finds include:
(a) at SP 85316641, a V-shaped ditch, 2 m. deep, and several smaller ditches and pits with probable Iron Age pottery, revealed during excavation of a pipeline trench in 1966 (BNFAS, 1 (1966), 6). Immediately to the S. air photographs (in NMR) show, rather indistinctly, what may be part of an irregular enclosure.
(b) at SP 851663, air photographs (in NMR) show a small sub-rectangular enclosure with an entrance to the N.E. and some indistinct internal features. Immediately to the E. is a group of small interlocked enclosures and ditches. Field-walking has produced worked flints, including a thumbnail scraper (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 5).
(c) at SP 850663, N.W. of (b) and in the same field, three sides of what may be a large enclosure (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 15, Mears Ashby (2)). A scraper has been found near by (Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975), 151).
(d) at SP 849663, air photographs (in NMR) show a semi-circular enclosure, 40 m. in diam. (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 15, Mears Ashby (2)). A scraper has been found in the area (Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975), 151). To the S., in the next field, is a small rectangular enclosure with two pits near its S. side and another, more irregular enclosure attached to its N. side.
(e) at SP 849661, air photographs (in NMR) show a sub-rectangular double-ditched enclosure with an entrance on the W. and pits in the N.W. and S.E. corners, and to the S. of its is a second small enclosure and associated ditches. To the E., part of a double-ditched trackway is visible. In this field and the adjacent ones Roman pottery, including samian and grey wares, lime-stone, iron slag and worked flints have been discovered (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 15, Mears Ashby (2)).
(f) at SP 848661, a small clay-lined oven was excavated in 1967 (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 11; 6 (1971), 15, Mears Ashby (2)).
a(7) Roman Settlement (centred SP 850652; Fig. 101), in the S. of the parish, on Northampton Sand at 91 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show what appears to be a large rectangular double-ditched enclosure, a long section of linear ditch and other associated features. However the presence of extensive frost-wedging makes the extent and nature of this site uncertain. Field-walking has produced a scatter of lime-stone, Roman pottery, including samian, red clay tesserae, large tiles and a rotary quern. A small coin of the late 3rd century and a glass bead have also been discovered. There is a large quantity of worked flints in this area (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 10; 6 (1971), 15, Mears Ashby (3)). A little to the N.E. (at SP 85226535) Roman pottery and worked flints have been found over a number of years (OS Record Cards).
a(8) Roman Settlement (SP 849656), on Northampton Sand at 98 m. above OD. Roman pottery, including samian, colour-coated and grey wares, has been found, with a scatter of burnt stones, roof tiles and worked flints (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 10; OS Record Cards).
a(9) Roman Settlement and Kiln (centred SP 838666), under the present village, on sand at 100 m. above OD. Roman pottery has been noted at two places, N. of the church (at SP 838667) and S. of the village (at SP 841665; BNFAS, 4 (1970), 11). In 1899 3rd-century Roman pottery and kiln furniture were discovered N. of Bakehouse Lane (about SP 839668; NM; VCH Northants., I (1902), 218; Ant. J., 49 (1969), 75).
Medieval and Later
a(10) Settlement Remains (centred SP 838667), formerly part of Mears Ashby, lie in and around the present village. The site falls into three parts. Along the steep valley side, immediately W. of the church, are several embanked and scarped closes projecting beyond the existing house plots, presumably former closes now abandoned. Many have been destroyed by housing development. In the bottom of the valley is a small rectangular pond (SP 83786666), much altered by recent landscaping, but bounded by a massive earthen dam 2 m. high on its downstream side. It may be medieval in origin.
To the W. of Dale Farm (SP 83986654), in a rectangular pasture field, there is a large, nearly square enclosure bounded by a scarp and banks up to 1.5 m. high on the W., S. and N.; it is probably a paddock belonging to the farm. Between the enclosure and the surrounding lanes the ground is much disturbed but a number of small closes and building platforms suggest the former existence of houses edging these lanes. The site was clear of any building in 1834 (1st ed. 1 in. OS map (1834), sheet 53). Immediately N. of the Hall, on the W. side of Lady's Lane is a series of low, mainly indeterminate earthworks, amongst which are a number of clear, rectangular plat forms, indicating that there was once a line of houses alongside the lane. From their position, fronting the Hall, it is possible that they were demolished at a relatively late date to provide a view of the church from the Hall. However no buildings existed here in 1834 and the Hall gardens were extended and enlarged in 1854 (Short History and Guide to the Village and the Church (No date), 38; RAF VAP 3G/TUD/UK/118, 6229–31).
(11) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by Act of Parliament of 1777. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields can be seen on the ground or traced from air photographs in some places, particularly around the village. Most of the furlongs that survive throughout the parish are orientated E.–W. and suggest an original arrangement in end-on furlongs, though there is a group of interlocked furlongs immediately E. of the village, N. and S. of Wilby Road (SP 843666). The N. part of the parish was known as Ashby Wood in 1587 (NRO, Map of Hardwick) and there is no trace of ridge-and-furrow in this part (RAF VAP F21 543/RAF/943, 0090–6; F22 543/RAF/943, 0094–5; F21 543/RAF/2409, 0128–31; F22 540/RAF/ 1312, 0243–6; CPE/UK/1925, 1361–4; CPE/UK/2546, 3037–9; 3G TUD/UK/118, 6229–30).