Pages 73-79

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 SE, b SP 77 NE)

The parish covering about 1040 hectares, lies immediately W. of Rothwell. The central and S. parts of it lie on an almost flat Boulder Clay table-land at about 150 m. above OD. From this the land slopes gently away on all sides to a series of streams whose down-cutting has exposed large areas of sands, clays, silts and limestones. Apart from the now fragmentary remains of the deserted village of Newbottle (4) the major monuments in the parish are the site of a post-medieval house and gardens (5), together with earlier fishponds and other earthworks (6). These fishponds are probably the finest and bestpreserved in the county. A rectangular projection of land in the E. of the parish is part of the land of the hamlet of Thorpe Underwood, alleged to be a deserted village (M.W. Beresford, The Lost Villages of England, (1954), 369). No indications of desertion have been noted and it is likely that Thorpe Underwood was never much larger than it is now. In medieval times the land of this hamlet extended E. into Rothwell parish (Fig. 73) and fishponds associated with it remain and are described elsewhere (see Rothwell (9)).

Prehistoric and Roman

a(1) Ditched Trackway (SP 78258007– 78908055; Fig. 71), E. of the village, on limestone at 145 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show a sinuous ditched trackway running S.W.—N.E. (Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 26).

Medieval and Later

a(2) Enclosure (SP 778806), N. of the village, on Upper Lias Clay at 122 m. above OD. It lies on a steep, N.-facing slope, on top of ridge-and-furrow. It is a roughly trapezoidal double-ditched enclosure with ditches some 2 m. wide and only 0.5 m. deep. It has been damaged by later tracks and drains and its purpose and date are unknown (Air photographs in NMR).

Fig. 71 Harrington (1) Ditched trackway

a(3) Enclosure (SP 776806), W. of (2) in the adjacent field and in a similar position. It is a circular ditched enclosure 35 m. in diam., lying on top of ridge-and-furrow. The ditch is 2 m. wide and 0.5 m. deep, with slight traces of an outer bank, but there are no inferior features or entrances. There is a large depression cut into the ditch on the E. side. Like (2), its date and function are unknown (CUAP, SB 54, and air photographs in NMR).

a(4) Deserted Village of Newbottle (SP 777815; Figs. 72 and 73), lies in the N. of the parish, 500 m. W. of Newbottle Bridge, on clay at 115 m. above OD. The site lies within a N.-projecting part of Harrington parish, N. of the R. Ise, which was probably the original land of Newbottle (NRO, Tithe Map, 1839). Both its name and its position suggest that Newbottle was a secondary settlement of Harrington. It is first recorded in 1086 when Domesday Book describes it as having a recorded population of four. It is listed in the Nomina Villarum of 1316. In 1377 it was taxed together with Harrington and Thorpe Underwood (PRO, E179/ 155/27–9). During the 15th century the manor passed to two heiresses, probably non-resident. In 1547 there is a record of 300 sheep on the manor, and by 1583 only a single house remained (K.J.Allison, et al., The Deserted Villages of Northamptonshire, (1966), 43). A group of derelict farm buildings (not shown on Fig. 72) stood on the site until 1970 when they were demolished. They did not exist in the early 19th century (NRO, Map of the parish), but are depicted on the Tithe Map of 1839. The remains of the village have been entirely destroyed and no trace exists above ground. On air photographs taken in 1950 (RAF VAP 541/602, 4183–4) the area is shown as permanent arable though a number of low banks, defining a group of small paddocks, can be seen (shown on Fig. 72). The site of the former farm buildings is now a rectangular soil mark. A quantity of medieval pottery of 13th or 14th-century date has been found in the neighbourhood together with areas of tile rubble. The field in which the remains lie was known as House Ground in the early 19th century.

Fig. 72 Harrington (4) Deserted village of Newbottle

Fig. 73 Harrington Medieval settlements and estates

a(5) House and Garden Remains (SP 773801; Fig. 74; Plates 9 and 26), known as The Falls, lie immediately N.W. of the main street of Harrington village, on land sloping gently N.W. between 36 m. and 45 m. above OD. The underlying rocks are limestone, silts and clays of the Lower Estuarine Series.

The site was originally that of the medieval manor house of Harrington whose fishponds and other remains lie to the N.W. (6). This manor was held by the Knights Hospitallers from 1288 until the Dissolution. By the early 16th century the manor was leased to the Saunders family who continued to hold it after the Dissolution. In 1582 it passed to the Stanhope family, and in 1605 Sir John Stanhope was created Lord Stanhope of Harrington. He died in 1620 and the manor descended to his son Charles who died without issue in 1675. The subsequent history of the manor is not clear and there are discrepancies in the published accounts, but it seems to have been acquired by marriage by Lord Tollemache later third Earl of Dysart, in the late 17th century and remained with that family for some time (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 32–3; Archaeologia, 38 (1860), 389–404).

The date of the construction of the house and gardens is unknown but Bridges, writing in about 1720 when the house still remained, said that it 'was built several times. Lord Dysart's grandfather erected part of it and the present Earl made the garden and built another part . . . . The hall, kitchen, parlour and staircase are part of the old manor house, when belonging to the Priory of St. John of Jerusalem. The stable is said to have been the gateway of the old priory house' (Bridges, op. cit.). Bridges also records that over the front of the house were the arms of Stanhope with three other quarterings, and another writer (Archaeologia, loc. cit.) gives further details indicating that they were the arms of Sir John Stanhope's father. It would seem that the old medieval house was enlarged by Sir John when he acquired the manor and that further additions were made in the 17th century. The gardens must have been laid out after 1675 but before 1712. In the latter year these were described in the following manner: 'For a descent of Garden Walks there is nothing so remarkable with us as that of the Walks in the garden on the Northern (sic) Front of the Earl of Dysart's House at Harrington' J. Morton, Nat. Hist. of Northants., (1712), 494).

Fig. 74 Harrington (5) House and garden remains

The remains of the house lie at the W. end of the area shown on Fig. 74. They now consist of an amorphous series of earthworks of no coherent plan. To the S. is a rectangular sunken garden bounded on three sides by a terrace 1.5 m. high. In the centre is a shallow circular depression, perhaps once a pond, from which radiate four low banks only 10 cm. high which were probably footpaths between flower-beds. On the surrounding terrace is another low scarp, again little more than 10–15 cm. high, which marks the edge between a walkway and further flower-beds. Immediately E. of the site of the house is another smaller terraced area, no doubt another garden. To the W. of the house and sunken garden the ground falls steeply to the natural hillside. Here there is a massive retaining wall of limestone rubble 2.5 m. high which has collapsed at its S. end. To the E. of the house site the main gardens rise up the hillside in a series of broad terraces, edged by well-marked scarps up to 1.5 m. high. These scarps are all cut by small gaps, so providing two paths or walkways leading around the garden in a roughly ovoid arrangement. The lowest terrace is generally rectangular, but with a central section which curves backwards into the hillside. The scarp in the middle is much disturbed and is possibly the site of steps. The terrace itself is divided by low scarps 10–15 cm. high, indicating a former axial footpath with another at right-angles, and at least four flower-beds. The second terrace also has scarps on it, though these are so low and mutilated that they form no coherent pattern. The third terrace has a large trapezoidal pond at its centre, 1.5 m. deep, with a spring in the middle of its rearward edge. Treading by cattle along its edges has exposed a layer of blue clay about 5 cm. thick, which is presumably the original lining of the pond put in to retain the water. At its N. end low scarps indicate the former existence of another footpath and possible flower-beds. The fourth terrace also has slight indications of a footpath at its N. end and flower-beds at its S. end and there are also two rectangular depresssions which were probably once small ponds. The upper terrace is bounded on the E. by a limestone rubble wall and has been damaged at the W. end by a modern house and garden. There are slight rectangular depressions at the S. and two low scarps at the N. In the centre at the point where the main path or walkway ends there is a lozenge-shaped depression, again probably once a pond. Along the N. edge of the site, parallel to the existing bridle track, is a line of tree stumps. These are badly rotted and damaged, but a rough ring-count of the trees, said to have been cut down some twenty years ago, gives an approximate date for their planting in the early 18th century. These trees probably formed the N. edge of the main driveway to the house, which passed along the N. side of the garden and turned W. to the house. A similar line of tree stumps N.W. of the house is probably of the same date. Below them and outside the garden proper ('d' on Fig. 75) are the remains of two fishponds, probably medieval in date (see (6) below; M.W. Beresford and J.K.S. St Joseph, Medieval England, An Aerial Survey, (1958), 69; CUAP, SB 53–4, 56, 58, and air photographs in NMR).

a(6) Fishponds (SP 771804; Fig. 75; Plate 9), lie N.E. of the village in the bottom of a steep-sided valley, on Upper Lias Clay between 114 m. and 130 m. above OD. The remains are among the best preserved in the county. The ponds are presumably medieval in date and were perhaps constructed by the Knights Hospitallers who held the manor of Harrington from 1288 until the Dissolution (see (5)).

The site consists of three large ponds in the bottom of the valley together with associated water channels. The lowest and largest of the ponds ('a' on Fig. 75) is roughly trapezoidal, with an almost flat bottom which has been deliberately levelled back into the hillside for about 2 m. At its N. end the water was retained by a massive dam some 3.5 m. high, now breached in the centre. In its S.W. corner is a small almost square mound, only 1 m. high, which must have been only just visible when the pond was full. Its purpose is unknown, but it may be compared with the larger mounds at Stoke Albany (1) and (2) and Walgrave (8) (see Sectional Preface, p. lix). Above the main pond is the large dam, 2.5 m. high, of the next pond, but this dam is of unusual form in that it has a small elongated depression or pond, 2 m. deep, set inside it with an opening to the lower pond in the N.E. corner. The depression was originally filled with water, perhaps for use as a fish-breeding tank. The second, middle pond ('b' on Fig. 75) is roughly rectangular and flat-bottomed, and above it is another dam, 2 m. high with a gap near its E. end. This held back the water in the third, upper pond ('c' on Fig. 75). Owing to the narrowing of the valley this pond is triangular, edged by low scarps, and was presumably quite shallow at its S. end.

All these ponds were filled with water from a variety of sources. The main stream along the valley from the S. provided much of the water, but in addition at least three springs on the adjacent hillside aided the supply. One of these lies S.W. of the upper pond and a ditch of uncertain date now approaches the ponds from it. To the E. of the main pond two deep, wide channels are cut down the hillside from another spring, and these fed the middle and lower ponds respectively. The source of the more northerly of these channels is occupied by the mutilated remains of two other rectangular ponds ('d' on Fig. 75), lying immediately below the site of the medieval and later manor house. These are probably also medieval in date. In addition to the ponds and the channels that filled them there is a complex series of overflow or relief channels running along both sides of the main range of ponds. On the W. a narrow ditch of uncertain, but probably of medieval date, and a larger ditch, certainly medieval, both begin outside the upper pond and used to carry some water from the stream around the ponds. The narrow ditch ('e' on Fig. 75) runs past all the ponds, cutting across earlier ridge-and-furrow, and regains the main stream well to the N. of them. The larger ditch bypasses the upper and middle ponds, but then both runs into the S.W. corner of the lower pond and continues along its W. side to empty into the main stream below the main dam. On the E. side of the ponds water from the southernmost channel across the hillside not only supplied the upper pond but also passed along its E. side in a narrow ditch and emptied into the lower pond. The whole system of these supply and overflow channels is a remarkable example of medieval hydraulic engineering.

Between the manor house site and the N.E. corner of the lower pond runs a deeply cut hollow-way. This was probably the main access road between the ponds and the manor house. However, as the hollow-way continues W. of the dam it was presumably also a village road running N.W. towards Arthingworth. In this case the dam itself must have been used as a roadway before it was breached. N. and N.E. of the pond is a whole series of undated drainage ditches (partly on Fig. 75) of curious form and uncertain date. They are mostly later than the ridge-and-furrow (M.W. Beresford and J.K.S. St Joseph, Medieval England; An Aerial Survey, (1958), 69; Northants, P. and P., 4 (1971), 306–7; CUAP, AHE 92, LC 46–51, SB 54–8, and air photographs in NMR).

a(7) Settlement Remains (centred SP 775801), formerly part of Harrington, lie in a number of places in and around the village, indicating considerable shrinkage or movement. The modern expansion of the village has obscured many of the remains, but the Tithe Map of 1839 (NRO), together with the surviving remains, indicates the amount of former habitation there. The main earthworks are N.W. of the village (SP 773799), where there is a series of long closes, bounded by low scarps and banks. The house-sites which must have stood at the E. ends of the closes have been destroyed by modern building. At the S.E. end of the village (SP 774798) there is a series of rectangular closes with traces of former buildings within them. A house still stood here in the early 19th century (NRO, undated map), but it had gone by 1839. Immediately E. of (5) (SP 776802) are other abandoned closes with former building sites within them. Some of the low banks edging the closes are marked as hedges on the early 19th-century map, and a building is shown in one of the closes. At the E. end of the village (SP 773803) is a series of embanked closes and other indeterminate earthworks. It is likely that there were formerly house along the N.W. side of the main street immediately N. of Falls Farm, in the area now occupied by the abandoned gardens (5). These, or their sites, must have been destroyed by the construction of the gardens (RAF VAP 82/RAF/865, 0310–2).

Fig. 75 Harrington (5) House and garden remains, (6) Fishponds

a(8) Mill Mound (?) (SP 794806), on the E. edge of the parish, on clay at 140 m. above OD. A mound 1.5 m. high, almost surrounded by a water-filled ditch up to 2.5 m. wide and 1 m. deep, survives (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 44).

b(9) Pond (SP 787795), in the S.E. of the parish, on clay at 137 m. above OD. A large rectangular pond, covering about 1 hectare, has a massive dam, 50 m. long, on its N.E. side. Though not shown on either of the two 19th-century maps of the parish (NRO) it is likely to be of medieval date. Its purpose is unknown. The area is called Podsholm on the 19th-century map (RAF VAP F21 82/RAF/865, 0421–3).

(10) Cultivation Remains. The date of enclosure of the common fields of Harrington is unknown. Field names on an undated 19th-century map of the parish (NRO) suggest that there may have been Hall, Mill, Church and New Fields, but this is not certain. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced from air photographs over much of the parish, arranged mainly in end-on furlongs. It is particularly well preserved on the valley sides N. of the village around the fishponds (6) in an area called The Park on the 19th-century map. Here there are large areas of ridge-and-furrow lying at right-angles to the contours and cut into and across by a series of complex drainage channels of uncertain date (Fig. 75 and Plate 9).

The date of the enclosure of the common fields of the deserted village of Newbottle (4) is also unknown, though it had presumably taken place by the 16th century. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields can be traced on air photographs over large areas of the assumed land of Newbottle (Fig. 73).

Ridge-and-furrow can also be traced in the E. of the parish within the part of it which probably belonged to the deserted village of Thorpe Underwood now in Harrington parish. Much of it has been destroyed by ironstone-mining, but what remains is in large rectangular blocks of markedly reversed-S form. The common fields of Thorpe Underwood had probably been enclosed by the 16th century (RAF VAP 541/602, 3194–3200, 4182–6, 4193–4200; F21 82/RAF/865, 0420–5; F22 82/RAF/865, 0311–4; F22 540/RAF/1313, 0144–8).