Pages 11-12

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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Table of contents


(OS 1:10000 a SP 78 NE, b SP 78 SW, c SP 78 SE)

The parish is roughly square and covers 1160 hectares close to the Leicestershire border, S.E. of Market Harborough. A small N.W.-flowing stream crosses the parish in a broad, open valley, floored by Lias Clays, between 91 m. and 122 m. above OD. Near the N.E. and S. boundaries the land rises steeply to a Boulder Clay upland at about 152 m. above OD. The major monument of the parish is Braybrooke Castle (1) which lies E. of the village. Adjacent earthworks of a former settlement (2) suggest that the castle may have been constructed over part of this settlement.

Medieval and Later

c(1) Braybrooke Castle (centred SP 768845; Fig. 22; Plate 6), lies immediately E. of the existing village, on the S. side of a small W.-flowing brook on Upper Lias Clay at 100 m. above OD. On either side of it to the N. and S. are other remains, probably once part of the village of Braybrooke (2).

The history of the site has been described in great detail and only a brief summary is given here (W. Paley Baildon, Braybrooke, Its Castle, Manor and Lords, (1923)). The castle was apparently situated in an area known as East Hall, so-called to distinguish it from the existing village which was usually called West Hall. The capital messuage, later to be the castle, is first mentioned in an undated document of the mid 12th century. Around 1200 'Henry de Braybroc released to the Abbot and Convent of Pipe well all his rights in the dam which Robert de Braibroc his father had made in Braibroc ... so that the water of the dam may have its course to Henry's fishpond as it used to have'. This suggests that part of the existing fishponds was constructed in the late 12th century. In 1213 the same Henry de Braybrooke was given timber from the Forest of Leicester for build ing 'a fair chamber' at Braybrooke. At the end of the 13th century the manor passed by marriage to the Latimer family and in 1292 they were holding a capital messuage with a garden. In 1303–4 Thomas de Latimer had 'licence to strengthen his manor house at Braybrook with a stone wall and to embattle it' and soon afterwards had 'the roof of his great chamber at Braybrooke of the timber of the Abbot and Convent of Pipewell'. These documents suggest that the existing moated castle site was constructed at this time. Certainly by 1329–30 there was 'a capital messuage inclosed by water, with a close outside the gates', while the 'fishing around the inclosure' was worth nothing. There are a number of later references to the castle, as in 1334–5 when the 'houses within the moat' are mentioned. The castle and manor passed to the Griffin family in the early 15th century, but by the mid 16th century the castle buildings were in poor condition. The Griffins moved to their new home at Dingley in 1549–50 and the castle became a farmhouse. The buildings were finally pulled down in the early 17th century and in 1633 some stone from them was re-used in repairs to Walgrave church. A new farmhouse was then built and this stood until 1960 when it was demolished. This was an L-shaped stone building with mullioned windows of mid 17th-century date (Photographs in NMR).

The castle itself ('a' on Fig. 22) lies in the centre of the site. It has been much damaged by recent agricultural activity and farm buildings, and an old garden still exists on its S. side. The remains suggest that it was little more than a simple square moated island, completely surrounded by a wide ditch. This is still largely undamaged on the E. and N. sides where it is nearly 2 m. deep, though on the W. it is only a shallow depression less than 0.5 m. deep. N. of the castle and lying parallel to the stream is a large pond ('b' on Fig. 22) bounded on the N. and W. by a massive bank up to 2 m. high which retained the water. It is difficult to see from where the water was obtained, for it is considerably higher than the adjacent stream, and a gap through the bank on the N. side, leading to the stream, appears to be an overflow leet. The interior of the pond is covered with ridge-and-furrow up to 7 m. wide but extremely short, especially at the E. end where it is only 15 m. long. This is later than the pond for not only does it ride over the base of the bank on the N. side but in the S.W. corner it also crosses a clear scarp which apparently marks the edge of the former water. At the E. end of the pond is another smaller one ('c' on Fig. 22), nearly 3 m. deep, joined to the first by two channels which form either side of a large quadrilateral island (see Sectional Preface, p.lix, Stoke Albany (1) and (2) and Walgrave (8)). To the W. of the castle is a series of rectangular flat-topped mounds ('d' on Fig. 22), three large ones surrounded by ditches up to 2.5 m. deep, and two small ones bounded by shallow ditches only 0.5 m. deep. The latter have small depressions in them, 1 m. deep, while the easternmost of the large mounds has a rectangular depression 2.5 m. deep. No explanation for these mounds can be given, though it has been suggested that they are fish-breeding tanks (Northants. P. and P., 4 (1971), 306). S. of the mounds, parallel to the modern road, is a large rectangu lar pond, now dry, extending N. to join the ditch of the easternmost mound. This appears to be a former fishpond. E. of the castle is a series of low banks and shallow ditches ('e' on Fig. 22) forming a set of irregular paddocks. One of them has a small area of ridge-and-furrow within it (Air photographs in NMR and CUAP, AGU 46).

c(2) Settlement Remains (SP 769857 and 769844; Fig. 22; Plate 6), formerly part of Braybrooke village, lie on either side of the castle (1), on Upper Lias Clay at 100 m. above OD. The site may represent an early part of the village later abandoned as a result of shrinkage, or possibly removed deliberately to make way for the castle and its associated earthworks. It is perhaps the place called West Hall, and as such could originally have been a settlement separate from the present village. In the available population statistics of the medieval and later periods there is no evidence of massive shrinkage at any time. Domesday Book gives a recorded population of 21 (VCH Northants., I (1902), 318, 321, 334–5, 350, 352). In 1323 the vill paid 72 s. in tax, and 77 s. in 1348–9 (PRO, E179/155/3). In 1377 163 people over the age of 14 paid Poll Tax (PRO, El 79/155/28) and 49 people paid the Subsidy in 1524 (PRO, E179/155/133). In 1674 84 people paid the Hearth Tax (PRO, El79/254/14) and there was a total of 378 people in the parish in 1801.

The remains fall into three distinct parts. Immediately N. of the stream and N.E. of the castle ('f' on Fig. 22) is a series of indeterminate earthworks much damaged by later quarrying and separated from the adjacent ridgeand-furrow by a bank. Though these are difficult to interpret there is at least one clearly defined sunken rectangular building platform and part of one rectangular ditched paddock. The W. end of the area has traces of ridge-and-furrow on it. Further N.W. is another area of earthworks ('g' on Fig. 22) bounded on the N. and S. by broad hollow-ways. The southernmost hollow-way meets an existing lane at its W. end, so forming part of the present road pattern in the village. The northern hollow-way which is exceptionally broad, has no clearly defined W. end, but at its E. end it turns N. and passes into the adjacent ridge-and-furrow. The land between the hollow-ways is covered by indeterminate earthworks of no coherent plan except at the E. where a single long croft, with a well-marked building site at its S. end, is still preserved. The area immediately to the W. may be another, larger croft. Both crofts have ridge-and-furrow within them. S. of the castle ('h' on Fig. 22), on what is now permanent arable, are slight traces of a series of long rectangular closes, bounded by much-reduced banks. At the E. end is a rectangular mound, ploughed over and only 0.5 m. high, surrounded by a shallow ditch. Elsewhere, within the village, are more abandoned housesites and other features. These include a hollow-way associated with some small embanked paddocks S. of Green Lane (SP 766841) and house-sites and small enclosures N. and E. of Top Farm (SP 764840) and now largely built over (Air photographs in NMR and CUAP, AGU 46).

(3) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish certainly existed in 1207 when a document mentions three open fields. In the early 14th century Sir Thomas de Latimer, after an exchange of lands, made 'a great enclosure on the south side of a certain old enclosure ...' It is not known whether this involved arable land and it is possible that it was in fact the group of fields on the Arthingworth boundary S. of the village (SP 767830) known as Mill Closes in 1849, which have traces of ridge-and-furrow in them (NRO, Tithe Map). Certainly in 1329–30 three open fields were still in existence. In 1649 two of the three fields, then known as Loteland and Blackfield, were enclosed by agreement. These appear to have occupied most of the E. half of the parish, for a crude map of c. 1778 (NRO) shows the then existing open field furlongs covering only the W. part of the parish. This area was finally enclosed in 1778 (W. Paley Baildon, Braybrooke, Its Castle, Manor and Lords, (1923)). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced from air photographs over much of the parish, arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs. A large area still survives in good condition N.E. of the village, immediately N. of the settlement remains (2). The ridge-and-furrow in the W. of the parish appears to agree with the furlongs shown on the 1778 map. There is also ridge-and-furrow within the closes of the abandoned settlement remains (2) (Fig. 22), indicating subsequent ploughing of the area. The ridge-and-furrow within the bed of the fishpond attached to the castle (1) is perhaps the result of specialised agricultural practices associated with fish-breeding (see Sectional Preface, p.lix; RAF VAP CPE/UK/2109, 3280–1; 541/602, 3182–9, 3228–33, 4183–8).