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 covers a long narrow strip of land of about 1200 hectares, extending S.W. from a small tributary stream of the R. Ise, S.W. of Kettering. The higher, S.W. end of the parish is on Boulder Clay between 122 m. and 140 m. above OD, but to the N.E. the down-cutting of a small stream has exposed large areas of Northampton Sand and Upper Lias Clay. The village of Great Cransley lies in the centre of the parish on high land at 107 m. above OD, and evidence shows that it has markedly changed its form in recent times. In addition there is the hamlet of Little Cransley which lies against the parish boundary with Broughton and is now physically part of Broughton village. Ironstone-working in the parish in the late 19th century led to the discovery of the Bronze Age burial (1) and the Anglo-Saxon Cemetery (4).
Prehistoric and Roman
Two light-coloured Roman jugs, and a third of late Iron Age type, were found in 1892 between Cransley Wood and Mawsley Wood (T.J. George, Archaeol. Survey of Northants., (1904), 13; VCH Northants., I (1902), 217; PSA, 9 (1882), 93).
a(1) Bronze Age Burial (SP 839778), found S. of Bottom Lodge Homestead in ironstone-workings at 91 m. above OD. A Collared Urn, one of the Primary Series (BM), is recorded from here. It was found with Anglo-Saxon material from the same site (see (4); VCH Northants., I (1902), 142; PSA, 9 (1882), 93–5; J. Aber cromby, Bronze Age Pottery, (1912), Fig. 25; PPS, 27 (1961), 296, No. 116).
a(2) Enclosure (SP 83467747), E. of Allotment Spinney, on sand at 107 m. above OD. Air photographs (RAF VAP F21 540/RAF/1312, 0160–61) show somewhat indistinctly a sub-rectangular enclosure, orientated E.-W., 50 m. long and 25 m. wide, with a markedly curved E. end. The interior is occupied by a circular feature. At least two possible linear ditches are visible immediately to the S.W.
a(3) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 84747709), about 1 km. N.E. of the village, on day at 94 m. above. OD. Roman pottery, including samian, and part of a quern were found. Lumps of white limestone on the surface suggest a building (OS Record Cards).
Medieval and Later
a(4) Anglo-Saxon Cemetery (SP 839778), in the same situation as (1). A number of finds were made from 1879 onwards, including an iron spearhead, two circular bronze brooches, a bronze tube 5 cm. long, perhaps a horn mount, a silver wire ring, a sword blade 70 cm. long, a skillet or bronze bowl with a handle and traces of gilding in the interior, a work box, and beads, three of patterned terracotta and one of blue glass. They were found at a depth of about 1 m., close to very decayed human bones of both sexes. There were also two pots, one of which was a black jug 15 cm. high, roughly made, with lugs on the bellied part (PSA, 9 (1882), 93–5; VCH Northants., I (1902), 240; Meaney, Gazetteer, (1964), 188; Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975), 165; CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 6 (1976), 20; J.N.L. Myres, Anglo-Saxon Pottery and the Settlement of England, (1969), Fig. 9, No. 2272; BM).
a(7) Motte (?) (SP 82477670; Fig. 32), in Cransley Wood, on Boulder Clay at 122 m. above OD. It consists of a mound 40 m. in diam., 3.5 m. high, and with a flat top 16 m. across. There is a well-marked surrounding ditch, only 1 m. deep except on the W. where it has been recut in modern times. A partially filled-in trench is still visible across the top of the mound, but there is no record of an excavation here. The site is perhaps a motte, placed to overlook and protect the village to the S. However it is possible that it is post-medieval in date and connected with landscaping. The present ditch is certainly too small and narrow for the ditch of a motte, but the existence of what may be part of an earlier ditch on the N.E. is perhaps significant. There is no trace of a bailey or of stonework. The mound is not shown on a map of the village of 1598 (NRO) though this may not be of significance.
a(8) Settlement Remains (centred SP 829767; Figs. 33 and 34; Plate 13), formerly part of Great Cransley, lie in and around the existing village on land sloping S. between 91 m. and 114 m. above OD. The surviving earthworks together with the map of the parish of 1598 (NRO; Plate 13) show that the village has been greatly altered in late and post-medieval times.
The late 16th-century map provides a picture of the village as it was then, lying along the main E.–W. High Street, now Church Lane, with a small loop road to the N. The houses in the village were almost entirely confined to the main street, the loop road and the S. end of Loddington Road. There was also a lane running W. through the fields to the N. of the village, while to the S. another road ran towards Broughton, some distance S.W. of the present road which did not then exist. The next cartographic representation of the village is not until the early 19th century (1st ed. 1 in. OS map (1834)). By that time marked changes had occurred. The N. loop had been abandoned, together with some former houses along it, and all the houses along the N. side of Church Lane between the Hall and the present crossroads had disappeared. In addition other houses further W. had gone. However, the road to Broughton still ran S.E. from the Hall in the same position as in the 16th century. The enlargement of the Hall grounds and the creation of a small park and fish ponds in the 19th century led to the closing of the old Broughton Road and its replacement by the existing one, together with the removal of further houses on the S. side of Church Lane E. of the Hall.
The surviving earthworks complement and add to the evidence of the maps. The lane through the fields, shown on the 16th-century map, still survives as a shallow hollow-way bounded by ridge-and-furrow, and its junction with the W. end of Church Lane also remains. The loop road too is virtually intact except where it crossed the Loddington Road. This is a massive hollow-way up to 2.5 m. deep. The old Broughton Road can also be traced across the park S.E. of the Hall as a broad hollowway, though this may have been used as a later drive to the Hall in the 19th century. On the N. side of Church Lane, N. and N.E. of the Hall, nothing remains of the houses depicted there on the 16th-century map. The edge of the lane has been levelled and planted with trees. However, in the field beyond are slight traces of banks and scarps, all much damaged by later activity, which probably represent former closes, though these do not agree with boundaries on the map and thus may be either older or more recent. A low mound ('a' on Fig. 33), only 1 m. high and rather irregular and disturbed by later digging, is the site of a dovecot which is shown on the map in approximately this position. The field was known as Dovehouse Close in 1598. The site of a house shown on the 1598 map survives as earthworks at the S. end of a small close N.W. of the church.
N.W. of the present crossroads (Fig. 34 and 'b' on Fig. 33) and on the N. side of the hollow-way of the loop road, are at least five rectangular closes separated by low scarps and bounded on the N. by a shallow ditch. At the S. end of four of the closes are sunken platforms or rectangular scarps indicating the sites of former buildings. In 1598 at least two of these houses still survived, each with its own close. Thus the house-sites and closes represent partial abandonment of the area before the late 16th century. All the closes have been overploughed with ridge-and-furrow which has pulled down and partly spread the division scarps. No date can be assigned to this ploughing (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1925, 1229–30; CUAP, AWQ 66).
a(9) Windmill Mound (?) (SP 82997734), W. of Allotment Spinney, on Northampton Sand at 110 m. above OD. A mound is shown on the map of 1598 (NRO) and called Mill Hill. Now only a slight rise 20 m. in diam. and 0.25 m. high remains.
a(10) Mound (?) (SP 82927708), described as a tumulus (Archaeologia, 35 (1853), 394, Plate 16). There is no evidence for a tumulus and there may be a confusion between this and (9). The site is under a modern house, and there is now a scarp, slightly curved, 1.5 m. high, on the N. side of the house which may be the remains of a mound. On air photographs taken before the construction of the house this scarp appears to be part of a headland associated with the adjacent ridge-and-furrow (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1925, 1229–30).
(11) Cultivation Remains. The date of the enclosure of the common fields is unknown. On the fine map of 1598 of part of the parish (NRO) it is not very clear what the position was at that date, but it appears that at least part of the parish was then enclosed. Certainly a Great North and a Great South Field are depicted as occupying the N.E. part of the parish, but no indication is given as to whether there were still open strips.
Ridge-and-furrow of these fields and others exists on the ground or is visible on air photographs over much of the parish. None can be traced in the area of the Great North Field of 1598, but in the former Great South Field a number of furlongs are visible, along the N. side of a small valley (SP 840772 – 849779), laid out with the ridges at right-angles to the stream. In the S.W. of the parish on the higher, flatter ground are areas of ridge-and-furrow arranged mainly in end-on furlongs with a general N.W.—S.E. trend across the contours. This area is not shown on the 1598 map. Around the village is more ridge-and-furrow, a large amount of which was in old enclosures in 1598, within existing field boundaries. Much of it appears to have been once part of the common fields. That in the field known as Boyle Close in 1598, N.E. of the village (SP 830770), shows evidence of an older headland overploughed by later ridge-and-furrow. Immediately to the S., within the area of the settlement remains (8), further ridge-and-furrow overlies the abandoned closes there (Fig. 34; Plate 13; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1925, 1224–33, 4358–65; F21 540/RAF/ 1312, 0136–42, 0157–63; F22 540/RAF/1312, 0156– 8; F21 82/RAF&1312, 0410–4; 541/612, 3001–71; CUAP, AWQ 66).