Pages 11-13

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 4, Archaeological Sites in South-West Northamptonshire. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1982.

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Table of contents


(OS 1:10000 a SP 43 SE, b SP 53 SW)

The large, rectangular parish occupies 930 hectares of land in the extreme S.W. of the county and is bounded by Oxfordshire on the S. and W. The N. and N.E. part of the parish is an almost level table-land of Great Oolite Limestone at about 145 m. above OD. From there the land slopes steeply to the S.W. and more gently to the S. across deposits of Northampton Sand and Upper and Middle Lias Clay to the valleys of the Ockley Brook on the S. and the R. Cherwell on the W. The latter, flowing in a broad open valley at around 80 m. above OD, has extensive spreads of alluvium alongside it.

Prehistoric and Roman

A bronze flanged axe is recorded from Aynho (NM; BAR, 31 (ii) (1976), No. 262).

b(1) Bronze Age Burial (?) (perhaps SP 514340), found close to the N. boundary of the parish, and possibly within Kings Sutton parish. Baker (Hist. of Northants., I (1822– 30), 558), said that 'near the portion of the Portway north of (Aynho) village a grooved brass celt was found a few years since with a number of skeletons laying north to south'. The 'celt' was a bronze looped palstave (J. Evans, Ancient Bronze Implements (1881), 73) and is in private hands (BAR, 31 (ii) (1976), No. 809).

b(2) Prehistoric Burial (?) (around SP 518332), found in the early 19th century, in Aynho Park, E. of the village. Baker (Hist. of Northants., I (1822–30), 558) records the discovery of a crouched inhumation in a stone cist when the ancient trackway known as The Port Way was being levelled. It has been suggested that this was a Saxon burial (A. Meaney, Gazetteer, 186) but a prehistoric origin is more likely (VCH Northants., I (1902), 139).

b(3) Prehistoric Burial (?) (around SP 521323), near the parish boundary, on the S. side of Aynho Park, and perhaps in Souldern parish, Oxfordshire. Baker (Hist. of Northants., I (1822–30), 558) noted that discoveries similar to those at (2) above had been made in the early 19th century near the Portway, S. of the village. Beesley (Hist. of Banbury (1841), 37) specifically mentions a skeleton 'lying at full length . . . discovered at the declivity of the hill between Aynho and Souldern'. These burials, if there were indeed more than one, may have been Saxon (Meaney, Gazetteer, 186).

b(4) Enclosures and Ditches (SP 527346; Fig. 87), lie in the extreme N. of the parish, immediately S. of Rainsborough hill fort (Newbottle (1)), on limestone at 146 m. above OD. On air photographs taken in 1964 (PPS, 33 (1967), Plate XXIII) some indeterminate ditches, perhaps forming a series of overlapping enclosures, are visible. These may be associated with the occupation of the fort.

b(5) Roman Settlement and Burials (?) and Pit Alignment (SP 533343), lie in the N.W. corner of the parish on Oolite Limestone at 137 m. above OD. In 1872 a line of stones 10 m. long, possibly the foundations of a wall, was ploughed up in a field called Spitchel. Soon afterwards, in 1874, a Roman urn placed upright with stones on top of it was discovered. It was surrounded by an area of burnt stones, animal bones and fragments of Roman pottery. In 1884 5 stone cists, each containing a skeleton but with no datable finds, were found in the vicinity (The Antiquary, 4 (1884), 78). The name Spitchill Common is shown for this area on a late 18th-century map of the parish (NRO) and the land to the S. where the find spot is located by the OS is called The Warren on the same map. If the location given here is correct then these finds must have been discovered close to a pit alignment visible on air photographs in the same field (SP 534344 Northants. Archaeol., 9 (1974), 44, listed under Croughton). Further Roman material, possibly from the eastern extension of this site, has been found in Croughton parish (Croughton (1)).

For Roman Road 161a, The Port Way, see Appendix.

Medieval and Later

For possible Saxon burials, see (2) and (3) above.

b(6) Settlement Remains and Hollow-Ways (centred SP 511332), formerly part of Aynho, lie on the W. side of the village, on Northampton Sand and Upper Lias Clay between 105 m. and 120 m. above OD. Some of the remains result from the alteration of the road system on this side of the village following the enclosure of the common fields in 1793, but the rest represent earlier changes. The remains fall into three parts:

(a) At SP 510334, along the S. side of the present main A41 road N.W. of the village, is a large broad bank now ploughed over, 10 m.–12 m. across and 0.5 m. high. This is the S. side of the hollow-way of the pre-enclosure road which was straightened and moved a little to the N. in 1793. The bank is also the headland on which adjacent ridge-and-furrow ended.

(b) At SP 511330, S.W. of the village and W. of Aynho House, in the N.W. corner of the park, are the remains of a broad hollow-way up to 15 m. wide and 2.5 m. deep at its W. end. This was the original road out of Aynho to the S.W. which, until the late 18th century, continued the line of the existing road on the S. side of the village alongside Aynho House in a S.W. direction, until it met the present road some distance beyond the village (at SP 508330). This original road is shown on the Enclosure Map of 1793 (NRO), but on a slightly later map (NRO, undated but before 1807) it is depicted as having been abandoned, presumably because Aynho Park had been extended shortly before and the road stopped up.

(c) At SP 511332, on the S. and S.W. sides of College Farm are other earthworks. To the W. of the farm is a broad hollow-way, 15 m. wide and I m. deep, running down the hillside and fading out at the head of a stream near a large rectangular pond. This hollow-way had already been abandoned by 1793. At its W. end, within and S.W. of the garden of the farm, are several low banks and scarps. Some of these represent buildings existing in the late 18th century, but others are perhaps the remains of older structures and property boundaries. They may represent, at least in part, the site of a separate medieval settlement, known as Cotnam, which is said to have comprised the S.W. end of the village (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 134). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4208–9; CPE/UK/1929, 2168–70, 3167–9)

Fig. 28 Blakesley and Woodend Medieval settlements and estates

(7) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were finally enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1792. By that date however, the greater part of the W. half of the parish was already divided into hedged fields while along the E. boundary lay areas known as Spitehill Common, The Warren and Old Down (NRO, Enclosure Map, 1793). Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 134), writing in about 1720, stated that extensive areas were already enclosed, including The Warren.

Ridge-and-furrow of the common fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over most of the area already enclosed in 1793; these are almost entirely on the Upper and Middle Lias Clay deposits. Here there are rectangular interlocked and end-on furlongs, mainly of reversed-S. form, with well-marked headlands or accessways between them, especially in Aynho Park. To the W. of the village (SP 505330) the existing rectangular field pattern reflects almost exactly the end-on furlongs of ridge-and-furrow, suggesting that the individual furlongs were enclosed as separate fields. Elsewhere in the parish, on the lighter sandstone or limestone soils, no ridge-and-furrow remains and only in a few areas close to the village (e.g. SP 519335) can it be traced on air photographs. This is probably the result of post-enclosure ploughing, which has destroyed the ridge-and-furrow there more easily than on the heavier land. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4208–10; CPE/ UK/1929, 2165–74, 3165–73; 106G/UK/1488, 3228–35)