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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The parish is of irregular shape and covers 730 hectares, immediately S. of the R. Nene, here flowing at about 50 m. above OD, which forms its N. boundary. From the river the land rises steeply across outcrops of clay, sands and limestones to a Boulder Clay table-land at about 90m.-100m. above OD. This is bisected by a steepsided, narrow valley. The modern parish is made up of the medieval parishes of Cogenhoe and Whiston and the two villages are each situated on the edge of the high land overlooking the Nene. Both show evidence of shrinkage or movement. At Cogenhoe the remains of a small undocumented medieval settlement (14) have been noted. As elsewhere in the surrounding area fieldwork in the parish has produced a wealth of prehistoric and Roman material.
Prehistoric and Roman
Neolithic and later flint-working sites have been found in a number of places in the parish. E. of Whiston church (SP 853606) one barbed-and-tanged and two leaf-shaped arrowheads have been recovered (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 6; 6 (1971), 7, Cogenhoe (9)). Other places where flints have been recorded include SP 839607, 830604, 836596, 826608 and 855600 (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 7; 3 (1969), 4; 6 (1971), 8; 7 (1972), 2; OS Record Cards).
a(1) Enclosures and Ditches (SP 841605; Fig. 26), immediately N. of The Firs, on limestone at 76 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show a series of indeterminate ditches or enclosures and one circular feature. In the same area a number of flint tools, including a transverse arrowhead, two barbed-and-tanged arrowheads, scrapers and cores have been discovered. A scatter of bones, perhaps human, has also been noted (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 7, Cogenhoe (4); 7 (1972), 2; Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 3).
a(2) Round Barrow (?) (SP 841614), N.W. of Cogenhoe village, on alluvium at 50 m. above OD, close to the R. Nene. It is about 30 m. in diam. and 0.25 m. high, with a broad, almost flat top 2 m. across. There is no trace of a ditch (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 7, Cogenhoe (1)).
a(3) Iron Age Site (SP 831605), S. of Cogenhoe village, on sand at 70 m. above OD. When a large area of land was cleared in 1971 a length of ditch containing Iron Age pottery was discovered (BNFAS, 7 (1972), 2).
a(4) Iron Age and Roman Settlement (centred SP 839600; Fig. 26), immediately S. of The Firs, on limestone at 91 m. above OD. Air photographs (CUAP, ZJ 66–9, and in NMR) show a series of enclosures and linear ditches forming no coherent pattern and clearly representing a number of different periods. Fieldwalking here has led to the discovery of Iron Age pottery and iron slag, centred SP 837600. In this area also four burials, two of them of children, were found during ploughing in 1959. One of the latter had two pewter dishes associated with it. Further E. Roman pottery, building stone, roof and flue tiles and tesserae indicate a substantial building, while other less pretentious buildings seem to surround it. Other finds from the general area include animal bones, oyster shells, bronze, iron and lead objects, fragments of glass and worked flints. A large number of 4th-century coins have also been found. To the E., close to a small stream (SP 840597), other patches of iron slag, worked flints, Roman pottery and a coin are recorded (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 20–1; 3 (1969), 18; 4 (1970), 13; 6 (1971), 7, Cogenhoe (8); 7 (1972), 19; CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 6 (1976), 19). The site pro bably extends further S.W., for an 'Iron Age' quern has been found (SP 837597; OS Record Cards) and N.E. of Whiston Warren (SP 835593), on Boulder Clay, Iron Age pottery was discovered in a pipe trench in 1966 (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 8, Cogenhoe (10)).
a(5) Iron Age and Roman Settlement (centred SP 826607), W. of Cogenhoe village, on Boulder Clay and sand at 76 m. above OD. Various discoveries have been made in this area over many years. In 1951 three inhumation burials, two of them of children, were found. The adult had a bronze bracelet with snakeshead terminals. In 1962 excavations were carried out on an E-shaped corn-drying oven of the 3rd or 4th century. This was later preserved and incorporated into the front garden of a house in Corn Kiln Close. Subsequent finds include worked flints, Roman pottery, roof tiles, animal bones and antlers, querns, a bronze brooch and buckle and numerous coins of the 3rd and 4th centuries. In 1970 a crushed human skeleton, and Roman ditches, were noted during building work, while other ditches contained animal bones and black shelly pottery, perhaps of Iron Age date (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 9; 3 (1969), 4, 9; 6 (1972), 7, Cogenhoe (5); District Councils Review, 3 (1974), 42; OS Record Cards). Further N.W. (at SP 828609) air photographs (not seen by RCHM) are said to show a series of ditches. The Roman urn and coins discovered during the 18th century may be from this site (J. Morton, Nat. Hist. of Northants., (1712), 521; J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 347; Archaeologia, 32 (1874), 13). For Saxon finds, see (7).
a(6) Iron Age and Roman Finds have also been discovered in two other places in the parish. Immediately S. of Whiston (SP 848605) a late 3rd-century coin and some Iron Age sherds are listed (OS Record Cards). Roman sherds and some worked flints are also recorded further W. (SP 837605; BNFAS, 6 (1971), 7, Cogenhoe (3)).
Medieval and Later
a(8) Moat and Fishponds (SP 847606; Fig. 27), lie in the bottom of a steep-sided valley draining N.E. to the R. Nene, on gravel and clay at 53 m. above OD. They are situated immediately to the W. of the village of Whiston, surrounding Place House. Though local tradition states that the site was once owned by King John, there can be little doubt that it is the moated house of the single medieval manor of the village, held by the Abbey of Ramsey from the late 10th century until 1554. A series of under-tenants held Whiston from Ramsey throughout the medieval period and one of these presumably constructed the moat and fishponds (VCH Northants., IV (1937), 288–9).
The remains, though much overgrown and mutilated, consist of a small rectangular moated site ('a' on Fig. 27). On the N. side the ditch has been filled in, but elsewhere it remains complete, up to 2 m. deep. The water which filled the ditch was drawn from the existing stream, along a broad ditch which enters the moat at its W. corner. After passing, through the moat this water apparently ran out via the N. corner into a large L-shaped pond ('b' on Fig. 27). The water was held there by a massive dam or retaining bank up to 2 m. high which forms the N.W. and N.E. sides of the pond but which now has a large gap in the N. corner. N. of the moat, standing on a roughly rectangular platform above the pond, is the existing Place House. This is a much altered structure which still incorporates some parts of a medieval building of the 14th century or earlier. This building perhaps represents a new structure after the original moated house was abandoned and thus the actual construction of the moat would date from the late 12th or early 13th century when the manor house was held by the de Whiston family.
a(9) Settlement Remains (SP 850605), formerly part of Whiston village, lie immediately S. of the village. All the remains have been destroyed by ploughing or by modern houses, but air photographs (RAF VAP/CPE/ UK/2546, 4129–30) show a series of embanked closes extending S.E. from the existing houses and ending on a hollow-way which can be traced W. across the present road, through ridge-and-furrow, to the bed of a small N.-flowing stream (at SP 846604), but it is unlikely that these earthworks were more than abandoned paddocks of the existing houses. The area was certainly devoid of occupation in 1840 (NRO, Tithe Map of Whiston). The unusual situation of the isolated church, set on a high hill-top with the village some distance away, might suggest that settlement once existed nearer the church. However nothing more than a few sherds of postmedieval pottery are recorded from the field N. of the church (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 29) and more recently a few abraded sherds of medieval date and pieces of medieval floor tile, probably from the early church, have been found (RCHM). Moreover, the area was formerly covered by ridge-and-furrow. In the pasture field S. of the church (SP 85186045) is one rectangular platform 35 m. by 15 m., built up on the hill-slope, but no other features are visible. On available evidence it is unlikely that the village was ever situated round the church.
a(10) Settlement Remains (SP 831611; Fig. 29), formerly part of Cogenhoe village, lie immediately N.E. of Cogenhoe Church on both sides of Mill Lane, on clay land sloping N. to the R. Nene, between 52 m. and 74 m. above OD. To the W. of the lane are two long closes of unequal length, bounded by scarps up to 1.5 m. high. There are slight traces of a former building at the E. end of the N. close, but a sewage plant has destroyed the E. end of the S. close. To the W. of the latter is a large embanked pond, and to the S., between it and the existing houses, is a series of low platforms and scarps, possibly the sites of former buildings. E. of Mill Lane are further remains, though these have been ploughed over, and almost destroyed. Only two long scarps and a number of indeterminate platforms, possibly the sites of former buildings, remain. On the S. are traces of a broad hollow-way which continues the line of the existing street E. and passes between the settlement remains to the N. and ridge-and-furrow to the S. (Air photographs in NMR, and FSL 6565, 1906–8). The whole site had already been abandoned by 1630 (NRO, Map of Cogenhoe). At that time the land E. of Mill Lane was known as Cowpasture, while that to the W. was called Mill Close.
a(11) Ponds (SP 829612–831612; Fig. 29), lie N. of the village, parallel to the old railway and the Cogenhoe Mill Stream, on clay at 53 m. above OD. There is a line of three ponds, 1 m. deep, all now dry. The largest is now divided into two parts, and both this and the one immediately to the W. are bounded on their N. sides by a continuous bank up to 2 m. high. There is no visible inlet or outlet channel and the ponds may have been filled by seepage of water from the adjacent hillside. The third pond lies some distance to the E. and is a simple depression. It may not be contemporary with the others. The adjacent ridge-and-furrow to the S. terminates well short of the ponds and is likely to be contemporary with or later than them.
a(12) Fishponds (SP 83846115; Fig. 28), lie just under 1 km. E. of Cogenhoe church, on alluvium at 48 m. above OD. They consist of two roughly rectangular ponds cut into almost flat ground to a depth of 0.75 m. and surrounded by a large bank, up to 0.25 m. high at the S. end but rising to just over 1 m. high at the N. The division bank between the two ponds is only 0.25 m. high. The W. side has been re-used for an ironstone tramway, and is part of a complex series of cuttings, embankments and loading bays connected with the railway to the N. The tramway has damaged the sides of the ponds and obscured any original leet from the adjacent stream. On the E. both ponds have a gap in their sides. The northernmost has a slight channel extending E. and S.E. from it which may have been an outlet leet. The ponds are likely to be medieval in origin, and certainly existed in 1630 as they are marked on a map of that date and called Fish Pooles. The adjacent furlong to the N. was known as Fish Poole Furlong (Map in NRO; air photographs in NMR, and FSL 6565, 1907–9).
a(13) Hollow-Way (SP 832606), lies at the E. end of the village immediately N. of and parallel to the existing road on the steep side of a valley. It is the original road out of the village and formerly joined Church Street N. of the present crossroads. It is 10 m. wide and 1.5 m. deep. Both the hollow-way and the present road were in use in the 17th century (NRO, Map of Cogenhoe, 1630) and the hollow-way was not aban doned until after 1829 (NRO, Enclosure Map). Some indeterminate earthworks, including a scarp up to 1.5 m. high, at the E. end of the hollow-way are the remains of buildings still shown on the 1829 map.
a(14) Settlement Remains (SP 833605), perhaps part of a once separate medieval settlement, lie at the extreme E. of the village on the E. side of a small valley opposite Cotton Farm. The site consists of a series of rectangular closes bounded by low banks, with at least two former building platforms cut back into the hillside at their lower ends. The remains have been much damaged by a 19th-century ironstone tramway which has been cut across the site. The field in which the earthworks lie was known as Cotton Closes in the mid 17th century (NRO, Map of Cogenhoe, 1630) and then stood some distance from the village centre. The existing Cotton farmhouse is dated 1709. Though there is no documentary proof that a separate settlement existed, the position and name suggest that this may have been the case (cf. Grendon (14), Gretton (8) and Castle Ashby (9)).
(15) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were finally enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1827 (NRO, Enclosure Map, 1829). Immediately before that date there were three open fields to the E. and S. of the village, Lower, Middle and Upper Fields. The N.E. part of the parish was then already enclosed. Part of this latter area immediately E. of the village (centred SP 824610) was enclosed by 1630 (Map in NRO) and known as Round Hay Pasture, but the rest of this sector of the parish was still divided into strips and therefore was enclosed between 1630 and 1829.
Ridge-and-furrow still exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs in a number of places in the parish, and where it lies in areas shown as open fields in 1630 it agrees exactly with the layout of the strips and furlongs. There are extensive remains on the S. side of the Whiston Road (SP 835604–842607) running at right-angles to the contours, all of which lay in Rye Hill Furlong in 1630. By 1829 this was enclosed.
The common fields of the old parish of Whiston had been enclosed by 1840 (NRO, Tithe Map) but the exact date of enclosure is not known. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields remains on the ground or can be traced from air photographs around the village to the S. of Whiston Road, and also in the S.E. of the parish around Whiston Slade (SP 844589). It is arranged mostly in end-on furlongs, orientated N.N.W.-S.S.E., at right-angles to the contours (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 1191–5;/2546, 3124–30, 4126–31; /1926, 4009–13; F21 543/RAF/ 943, 0049–56; F22 543/RAF/943, 0049–55; F21 543/RAF/2409, 0154–8; F22 543/RAF/2409, 0130–1, 0154–9).