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 nearly 550 hectares, immediately S.E. of Market Harborough (Leicestershire), on the S.E. side of the R. Welland which forms its N.W. boundary. The land rises S.E. from the river at 70 m. above OD to a maximum height of 155 m. above OD, and the area is cut deeply by a series of N.W.-flowing streams with high interfluves all of Lower and Middle Lias Clays. The village, in the W. of the parish, is situated on a small outcrop of Northampton Sand, while elsewhere the clay is overlain by small patches of Boulder Clay.
Prehistoric and Roman
An Iron Age coin of Cunobelinus, and a glass bead, said to be Roman, were found in the parish before 1712 (lost; J. Morton, Nat. Hist. of Northants., (1712), 499– 500; JBAA, 11 (1847), 101, 346; J. Northants. Natur. Hist. Soc. and FC, 19 (1917), 169; D. Allen, Coins of the Coritani, (1963), 233).
Medieval and Later
(1) Settlement Remains (centred SP 770877; Fig. 38), formerly part of Dingley village, lie immediately N. of the church and the now ruinous hall on land sloping N. between 122 m. and 130 m. above OD. The subsoil is Boulder Clay and Upper Lias Clay.
The village of Dingley is first mentioned in 1086 when Domesday Book gives a recorded population of 31 (VCH Northants., I (1902), 322, 334–5). In 1332 the vill paid a tax of 36s. 8¾d. (PRO, E179/155/3), the smallest sum in the Hundred. In 1524 (PRO, E179/135/ 160), 23 taxpayers are listed in the Subsidy Roll, and in 1674 34 people are recorded in the Hearth Tax Returns (PRO, E179/254/14). In 1801 the parish of Dingley had 143 inhabitants. These figures suggest that, though always fairly small, Dingley has not suffered any major desertion, and that the surviving earthworks may be the result of movement rather than of shrinkage. It is thus possible to interpret the remains as part of the original village lying around the church and the medieval manor house held by the Knights Hospitallers (VCH Northants., II (1906), 142–4). The village may have been displaced and rebuilt to the S. when the hall was erected by Edward Griffin in 1558–60, or perhaps, more likely, when the gardens and park were laid out after the rebuilding of the house by Sir Edward Griffin in 1680.
The layout of the existing village should be considered in the interpretation of the surviving earthworks. It is likely that the medieval village was arranged around a N.–S. road, which survives as Church Lane, running towards Sutton Bassett. It then perhaps passed immediately W. of the hall and crossed the present park. In the park, N.N.W. of the hall, is a broad, shallow hollow-way ('a' on Fig. 38), which although damaged and on the line of an 18th or 19th-century carriageway, may be the original medieval road. N. of the church ('b' on Fig. 38), on land sloping steeply N., are traces of partly destroyed earthworks in the form of mutilated platforms and ditched and embanked enclosures. These appear to be the remains of former buildings. Local village tradition speaks of houses which once stood in this area, but none is shown on the Tithe Map of 1839 (NRO).
(2) Moat (?) (SP 77288764; Fig. 38), lies 200 m. S.E. of Dingley Hall and E. of the former stables, on ground sloping gently N. on Boulder Clay at 137 m. above OD. It may have been a medieval moat, though it has certainly been much altered. If it is of medieval origin it may be the site of the main manor house of the village before the present hall was built in the mid 16th century.
It consists of a small rectangular island whose flat surface has no features. On the S. and E. sides the surrounding ditch is 2 m. deep and 8 m. wide and is usually dry. On the W. side the ditch is wider, 1.5 m. deep, and water-filled. The N. side is occupied by a large pond with a small island in it. In the external S.E. corner is a late 18th or early 19th-century well-head, enclosed by a stone building with a pedimented front and plain doorway. The moat is shown on a map of the parish of 1837 (NRO) exactly as it is now, but with the ditches completely water-filled.
(3) Dam (SP 873762; Fig. 37), lies across the former course of a small stream, on clay at 91 m. above OD, and 300 m. N.W. of Warren Lodge Farm. The dam is 10 m. wide and up to 2.5 m. high, with a well-marked ledge on the upstream side. At its S.W. end it turns S.E. and extends as a low scarp along the edge of Dingley Warren Wood for about 100 m. before fading out. There is a similar scarp on the other side of the valley which also runs S.E., but for a longer distance. These scarps mark the edge of the former pond behind the dam. Above it to the E. is a modern channel which carries the water round the N.E. end of the dam. Between this channel and the adjacent ridge-and-furrow is an old track leading to the dam. The original course of the stream is still visible in the valley bottom as a winding depression. To the S.W. of it is a block of short ridge-and-furrow 5 m. wide which overlies the scarped edge of the former pond and is therefore later than it. Traces of similar ridge-and-furrow exist N.E. of the course of the stream in the bottom of the pond. Below it and N. of the dam are other slight earthworks. The field was known as Warren Hill Meadow in 1839 (NRO, Tithe Map).
The site may be that of a medieval watermill, with the mill itself at the N.E. end of the dam, powered by the present stream. However the pond must have had a different function, and was perhaps a fishpond. The overlying ridge-and-furrow may represent later cultivation of the area, or may indicate a rotation of arable and fish farming as at Braybrooke (1) (see Sectional Preface, p. lix).
(4) Cultivation Remains (Plate 28). The date of enclosure of the common fields of the parish is unknown. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields can be traced on the ground or from air photographs over most of the parish except for a broad band in the N. along the Dingley Brook and the R. Welland. Much of it is arranged in end-on furlongs. A number of well-marked headlands remain in this area. One of these, some 700 m. long, (from SP 760886 to 768885), is of knuckled form, and in its E. half some short sections have been ploughed away completely. This is the result of over-ploughing of an earlier headland to make two end-on furlongs continuous, and the gaps perhaps represent individual strips where the ploughing has totally removed the headland. Parallel with this and 150 m. to the S. is a second headland of exceptionally massive form. Much ridge-and-furrow still survives within Dingley Park. Close to the hall and the settlement remains (1) there are unusual low scarped divisions between some blocks of ridges (Fig. 38) (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1925, 1182–90, 541/602, 3228–32, 4204–8, 3205–8).