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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(OS 1:10000 a SP 65 SW, b SP 64 NW)
The modern parish covers about 1050 hectares and contains the land of the medieval settlement of Blakesley itself and of the now deserted settlements of Seawell (2) and Foxley (3) (Fig. 28). The medieval parish included what is now the parish of Woodend. Blakesley parish lies on land sloping generally S., drained by several streams which join, on the S. boundary, an E.-flowing tributary of the R. Tove. Upper Lias Clay, Northampton Sand and small out-crops of limestones are exposed on the valley sides. On the higher ridges, above 120 m. above OD, there are patches of Boulder Clay.
A late Neolithic flint chisel was found in 1978 (SP 64685113; NM; Northants. Archaeol., 14 (1979), 102).
Medieval and Later
There are references to a medieval deer park at Blakesley (Northants. P. and P., 5 (1975), 220) but this has not been located.
a(1) Settlement Remains and Hollow-ways (centred 625502; Fig. 29), formerly part of Blakesley, lie in and around the existing village, on Jurassic Clay and Boulder Clay between 122 m. and 130 m. above OD.
The village of Blakesley has a plan which is unique in the county. Before modern development it consisted of two almost completely separate units joined by a central green. In the N. was a straight street extending N.E., with the church on its E. side and a minor lane running N. from the centre of its W. side. In the S. was a neat L-shaped arrangement of streets. The origins of this plan are obscure and it is possible to interpret it in a number of ways. The streets in the N. around the church may be the oldest part, and the S. part a planned extension, with the green being created even later. On the other hand it may have been a polyfocal village with two original centres, later joined by the green. A further possibility is that the green may be the old centre and that there was later expansion to the N. and S. A further complication is the small group of houses known as Quinbury End which lies immediately N.W. of the green and until recently was quite separate from the rest of the village.
The surviving earthworks and other material noted here do not help to elucidate the problem to any great extent. Only three features are of note. At the N. end of the village ('a' on plan) a hollow-way continues the line of the minor lane and runs N.E. to meet the existing lane N. of the village. In the triangular area left between the hollow-way and the modern road there are no indications of former buildings, though later quarrying may have obscured any. In the S.E. corner are two small embanked ponds. To the W. of the hollow-way ridge-and-furrow survives undamaged. The existence of the hollow-way means that there was once a diamond-shaped area edged by roads in this part of the village, which might be interpreted as a former green, now partly abandoned and partly built over. If so this part of the village might be the older centre. Further support for this is the existence of a second hollow-way ('b' on plan) which continues the line of the Maidford Road E. towards the assumed green, from the point where the road turns S. at Quinbury End on its way to the present green. This may indicate that the road from Maidford once entered the N. part of the village and was later diverted.
In the S. part of the village, construction work at the time when the Commission was carrying out its survey led to the discovery of considerable quantities of medieval pottery, all apparently of 12th to 14th-century date including some Potterspury wares. These finds were made on the previously empty plot at the S.E. end of the main street ('c' on plan). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1047–9; air photographs in NMR).
a(2) Deserted Village of Seawell (SP 630525; Figs. 28 and 30), lay in the N. of the parish, N.E. of the present Seawell Farm, in the bottom of a small E.-draining valley, on Northampton Sand and Upper Lias Clay at 137 m. above OD. The village had its own land unit occupying the N. part of Blakesley parish (Fig. 28). It is first mentioned in 1086 when Domesday Book lists it as a single manor with a recorded population of 13 (VCH Northants., I (1902), 333), but thereafter nothing is known of its size until the early 18th century. It is mentioned by name in the Nomina Villarum of 1316 and in late medieval times Seawell was divided into two manors, both held by non-resident families. By 1547 400 sheep were grazed on its land (K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 45). Bridges, writing about 1720 (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 235), said that it was 'an hamlet only of two houses, but was formerly a more considerable place'. These two houses are marked on a map of Seawell of 1726 (NRO), one lying on the edge of the village but the other, a large farm, well to the S. and apparently on top of earlier ridge-and-furrow (SP 63105228). On a plan of 1837 (NRO) these two buildings are shown, with a third, perhaps only a barn, to the N.E. The farm was demolished in the mid 19th century and replaced by the present Seawell Farm to the W. By 1883 (1st ed. OS 25 in. plan, Northants. L16) another cottage, the present Seawell Cottage, had been erected on the site of the village, but the building to the N.E. had gone. The other house shown on the 1726 map was demolished early in this century.
Apart from Seawell Cottage and the stone foundations of the house to the W. nothing remains on the site of the village. No earthworks are visible on air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3046–7) and in 1970 only a mutilated dam of a former pond was noted (OS Record Cards). Since then the area has been landscaped and a series of small ponds have been constructed in the valley bottom. A few sherds of late medieval pottery have been found in the area.
a(3) Deserted Village of Foxley (SP 640518; Figs. 28 and 31), lies in the N.E. corner of the parish, on the N.E. side of a small S.E.-flowing stream, on Northampton Sand and Upper Lias Clay between 120 m. and 137 m. above OD. Foxley was once a settlement with its own land unit and fields (Fig. 28) but its history is largely unknown. It is not mentioned as a holding by name in Domesday Book although it certainly existed at that time for its name was then given to the hundred which was later known as Greens Norton Hundred. The earliest reference to Foxley as a settlement is in 1190 (PN Northants., 40). Although it is named in some national taxation records, it is always included in Cold Higham and no indication of its size can be ascertained until the early 18th century when Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 234) stated that there were only three houses there. (K. J. Allison et al., Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 40).
The earliest map of the village, dated 1819 (NRO), shows the two groups of farm buildings and the cottage on the S.W. which remains today, but it also shows two buildings within a small paddock to the S.W. of the cottage. By the late 19th century these had gone but a new farm had been erected to the N. (OS 1st ed. 25 in. plan, Northants. L16) apparently on the site of older houses (see below). The farm has since been demolished.
The remains of the village are very slight and fragmentary. From the small green on the N. side of the remaining farm traces of a hollow-way extend down the hillside, following the bed of a small stream ('a'-'b' on plan). On the N. side of the hollow-way, but set curiously askew to it, are the remains of seven small closes, separated by low scarps and with a well-marked boundary ditch on the N.W. Two of these closes contain irregular depressions which may be the sites of former houses, but the later farm, now demolished, has destroyed any trace of earlier buildings in the N.E. closes. These earthworks are probably the remains of a row of houses and paddocks which once lay along the hollow-way, but their unusual arrangement and the fact that the close boundaries continued the line of the unusually short ridge-and-furrow to the N.W. suggest that the ridge-and-furrow once extended as far as the hollow-way and that the houses were erected on former arable land.
Some disturbed ground immediately S.E. of the existing cottage ('c' on plan) is the only other indication of houses on the site. Other earthworks lie in a large pasture field to the S. and S.W. but none of them appear to be part of the village and they may be associated with a manor house site. The main feature is a roughly triangular embanked pond with a small low island in it ('d' on plan). The island is depicted on the 1819 map. The pond is approached from the N.E. by a narrow channel, leading from another pond now mainly filled in, higher up a small valley. A second channel leaves the main pond at its W. corner, runs down the hillside and enters a long narrow depression embanked on its W. side. This feature ('e' on plan) may also once have been a pond. On the S.E. edge of the site, a ditch with a large bank on its N.W. side runs down the hillside, along the present hedge-line, from the former pond to the N.E. as far as the stream in the valley bottom. This appears to be a water channel but its function is obscure.
On the N.W. part of the site are the fragmentary remains of ditched closes, the largest of which has traces of ridge-and-furrow within it. At their S. ends, near the present road, is a disturbed area much of which appears to be later quarrying. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1044–5, 3045–7; CUAP, XT43–6, AKS3; air photographs in NMR)
(4) Cultivation Remains (Fig. 31). The common fields of Blakesley were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1760 but nothing is known of their layout. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over much of the part of the parish attributable to the village of Blakesley. It is arranged mainly in interlocked furlongs, often showing careful adaptation to the broken ground and thus ensuring that, where possible, the ridges run across the contours.
The common fields of the deserted village of Scawell (2) had been enclosed by the 16th century, but the exact date is not known. Very little ridge-and-furrow remains in the land of Seawell because of destruction by modern agriculture. Some survives E. of Seawell Farm (SP 627521) and air photographs show a more extensive area of interlocked furlongs. The names Banky Meadow on a map of 1837 (NRO) and Banky Close on a map of 1726 (NRO), refer to a low-lying field in the N. of the parish where ridge-and-furrow was presumably once well marked (SP 627531).
The date of enclosure of the common fields of the deserted village of Foxley (3) is also unknown but enclosure had certainly taken place by 1819 (NRO, map) and probably by the 16th century. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground, especially around the site of the village, and can be traced elsewhere on air photographs. It is arranged in interlocked furlongs, except along the valley sides of a stream to the S.W. of Foxley where the ridges run across the contours to the valley bottom. Even where the ridge-and-furrow has been destroyed, well-marked headlands survive as low ridges (e.g. SP 646511 and 646513). As at Seawell, the map of 1837 (NRO) records three fields as Banky Ground or Banky Close. All still have well-marked ridge-and-furrow within them (SP 635515 and 647512). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1043–51, 3044– 7; CPE/UK/1944, 2083–7, 4167–70)