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 roughly rectangular parish, covering about 915 hectares, lies E. of Northampton and N. of the R. Nene which forms its S. boundary. From the river, at 48 m. above OD, the land rises gently across extensive areas of river gravel and then more steeply across Upper Lias Clay to a flat-topped ridge of Northampton Sand, capped by glacial deposits at around 100 m.–108 m. above OD. On either side of this N.–S. ridge the ground falls steeply into the valleys of two S.-flowing streams which form the E. and W. boundaries of the parish. The parish is remarkable for the large number of prehistoric and Roman sites which have been discovered as a result of fieldwork, air photograph and excavation. The most important area is in the N. of the parish (5–12), though other complex areas of settlement are also listed from further S.
Prehistoric and Roman
Two probable Palaeolithic flakes have been found during gravel-working (SP 837617; Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 3–4; NM). Two Palaeolithic axes have also been found (SP 828616; NM Records). A polished flint axe has been found at SP 831644 (NM), and a small loopedand-socketed bronze spearhead in 1968 at SP 831616 (NM). A coin of Cunobelinus (BM) and another of Andoco (lost) are both recorded from the parish (Archaeologia, 90 (1944), 30, Pl. 2; S.S.Frere (Ed.), Problems of the Iron Age in Southern Britain, (1959), 233, 236).
b(1) Neolithic and Beaker Settlement (SP 83896165), in the S. of the parish on alluvium at 46 m. above OD. Excavations in advance of gravel-digging re vealed a hearth and a shallow pit containing charcoal and pebbles, together with a number of shallow hollows. Several hundred sherds of pottery of Ebbsfleet and Mortlake types were recovered, as well as Beaker wares. In addition 660 waste flakes and a number of flint tools including scrapers and knives and a fragment of a polished flint axe were discovered. Pollen analysis indicated an open grassland environment. Field-walking in the adjacent area led to the discovery of a number of burnt patches as well as more Neolithic and Beaker pottery. An antler pick was also recorded (Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975), 3–30, final report with all references).
b(2) Iron Age Trackway (?) (SP 841618), on gravel at 46 m. above OD. During gravel-working a length of cobbles, possibly a trackway, was found, together with several cattle bones and fragments of baked clay (Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 4).
b(4) Iron Age Settlement (?) (SP 837617), on gravel at 46 m. above OD. During gravel-working in 1971–2 several ditches containing Late Iron Age pottery were discovered (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 11, Ecton (9); Northants, Archaeol., 8 (1973), 4). Immediately to the N.E. (at SP 836618) air photographs (in NMR) show a number of indistinct ditched features.
(5–12) North Ecton Complex (SP 821653– 828640; Fig.49) occupies some 35 hectares of land N. of Ecton village, on sand and glacial gravel between 90 m. and 107 m. above OD. The site extends to the N. into Sywell parish. Air photographs (CUAP, ABV 51–2, BBX 95–9, in NMR and RAF VAP F21 543/RAF/943, 0089– 90) show a remarkable complexity of cropmarks. A number of important discoveries have been made in the area.
a(5) Roman Settlement and Kilns (centred SP 822652). Air photographs show a number of overlapping enclosures, one double-ditched, associated with at least 13 ring ditches, most of which are probably hut-sites. Field-walking has produced immense quantities of Roman pottery together with patches of burnt clay. The sites of at least 50 kilns have been identified, and a small excavation in 1962 recovered details of four of them. These showed that a wide range of pottery was being made here during the 2nd and 3rd centuries. A number of Roman coins have been discovered, as well as part of a rotary quern, a brooch and a bronze bracelet. Worked flints, including arrowheads, scrapers and cores, have been picked up over the whole site but are concentrated at SP 822652. Part of a polished flint axe has also been found (Ant. J., 49 (1969), 75–97; BNFAS, 2 (1967), 9; 3 (1969), 9; 4 (1970), 8, 31; 6 (1971), 9, Ecton (1); Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 6; 9 (1974), 89).
a(6) Ring Ditch (SP 82276517), 30 m. in diam., visible on air photographs, lying within an irregular enclosure. Traces of a small inner ring are visible. It was excavated in 1970 after field-walking had revealed traces of cremation burials, but it seemed that modern ploughing had destroyed all trace of burials and only a few sherds of Bronze Age or early Iron Age pottery were recovered. Numerous Roman ditches, Roman pottery, a ring-headed pin and a flint fabricator were discovered (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 2; 6 (1971), 9; Ecton (1); Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 31–8; 9 (1974), 43).
b(8) Enclosure and Ring Ditches (centred SP 824648). Air photographs show three incomplete rectangular enclosures associated with a number of pits with a linear ditch extending N. to join (5). To the S. and S.W. of the enclosures is a series of ring ditches which may be barrows or hut-circles (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 9, Ecton (1)).
b(9) Roman Settlement (SP 824642). Air photographs show a complex of enclosures and linear ditches forming no coherent pattern. A little Roman pottery has been found in the area (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 32; 4 (1970), 31; 6 (1971), 9, Ecton (3)).
b(14) Roman Settlement (SP 824628), S.W. of the village, on clay at 64 m. above OD. Roman pottery, including samian, as well as fragments of roof tile have been discovered. Cropmarks are also said to be visible from the air. In the field to the S. more pottery and some flint scrapers have been discovered (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 11, Ecton (7); OS Record Cards).
b(15) Roman Settlement (centred SP 836635; Fig.50), immediately W. and N.W. of South Lodge, on Northampton Sand at 90 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show a series of cropmarks, including a markedly rectangular enclosure with interior features, a possible ditched trackway and part of another large rectangular enclosure, with pits and other ditches. However, the whole area is covered with extensive frost-wedging and absolute certainty about the extent and nature of the site is impossible. A few sherds of Roman pottery as well as a single Iron Age sherd were found in 1966 at the N. end of the site (SP 836636; BNFAS, 2 (1967), 9; NM Records).
b(16) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 834638), E. of Ecton Hall, on sand at 95 m. above OD. Rectangular ditched features were seen from the air in 1964. Nearby, in drainage ditches, Roman pottery has been discovered (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 11, Ecton (5)).
b(17) Roman Settlement (SP 837627; Fig.42), in the S.E. of the parish, on clay and gravel at 57 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR; CUAP, ADO 91, ZE 29–30) show what is perhaps a large rectangular enclosure divided into three parts, associated with a large number of pits, probable pit alignments, and numerous linear ditches. Roman pottery has been found in the area (BNFAS, 1 (1966), 7; 6 (1971), 11, Ecton (8); Rescue Publication 2, Northampton–Wellingborough Expressway Arch. Survey, (1972), Map 3).
b(18) Roman Settlement and Pit Alignment (SP 837624; Fig.42), 300 m. S. of (17), on gravel. Air photographs (CUAP, AFX 10–11) show a pit alignment running E.–W. and intersecting three parallel ditches. To the S. are numerous pits and some ring ditches or small enclosures some of which may be hut-circles. Roman pottery has been found in the area.
b(19) Enclosures and Linear Ditches (SP 841627; Fig.42), 400 m. E. of (17), in a similar position. Air photographs (in NMR) show a series of indeterminate cropmarks of linear ditches and enclosures. Worked flints have been found in the area (BNFAS, 1 (1966), 5; 6 (1971), 11, Ecton (8); Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 26).
b(20) Roman Settlement (SP 819624), in the S.W. of the parish, on gravel at 38 m. above OD. A rectangular enclosure has been seen from the air at this point, and a few sherds of Roman pottery have been found on the ground. Worked flints have also been discovered (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 11, Ecton (6); Rescue Publication 2, Northampton Wellingborough Expressway Arch. Survey, (1972)).
Medieval and Later
b(21) Anglo-Saxon Cemetery (SP 830637), found in 1762 in the gardens of Ecton House. Several inhumation burials, orientated E.–W., were found, apparently together with two silver coins, one of Ethelred II (Meaney, Gazetteer, (1964), 189).
(23) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1759. A map of 1703 (NRO) shows that there were already extensive old enclosures at that time. Around 1720 Bridges described the parish as 'generally open fields with very little enclosure or wood' (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 142). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields can be seen on the ground or traced from air photographs to the W. and S. of the village on land that was old enclosures in 1703. S. of this in a field called Flaxland, and E. to the parish boundary, the blocks are arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs, in general radiating E., W. and S. from the village down the slopes of the broad spur on which it stands. In the N. of the parish is an area called Great and Little Brackes in 1703. The name suggests a relatively late intake of land from the waste and two fragments of ridge-and-furrow survive within it. The S. of the parish, close to the R. Nene and now mainly occupied by the sewage farm, was formerly Great Cow Pasture, Sheep Pasture and Great Meadow (RAF VAP 543/RAF/943, 0087–92; F22 543/RAF/943, 0086–92, 0049–54; F21 543/RAF/ 2409, 0126–30, 0154–7; F22 543/RAF/2409, 0126– 30; 3G TUD/UK/118, 6182–3; CPE/UK/2546, 3124–9).