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 44 SE, b SP 54 SW)
The long narrow parish covering some 680 hectares lies E. of the R. Cherwell which forms the short W. boundary. The much longer N. boundary follows a W.-flowing tributary stream. Apart from a flat alluvial area in the N.W. at about 100 m. above OD most of the parish lies on a steep N.W.-facing scarp rising across Lias Clay and Marlstone Rock to a maximum height of 152 m. above OD.
Prehistoric or Roman
b(1) Enclosure (SP 504442), lies in the E. of the parish, on Marlstone Rock at 130 m. above OD. Air photographs (CUAP, ABW89, 90) show the cropmark of part of a large, perhaps rectangular enclosure with an entrance in the S. side. The only side which is completely visible is almost 100 m. long.
Medieval and Later
a(2) Site of Augustinian Priory (centred SP 488439), lies immediately W. of the village, on river gravel and alluvium at 100 m. above OD. The priory was founded by Hugh de Chacombe, lord of the manor of Chacombe in the reign of Henry II. Little is known of its early history, although some details of its later life are recorded. It was dissolved in 1536 (VCH Northants., II (1906), 133–5).
The present house is partly of early 17th-century date but there are many later additions and alterations. Only one medieval structure, containing some 13th-century features, and said to be a chapel, exists at the E. end of the house. The S. and E. boundaries of the grounds around the house are defined by a continuous water-filled ditch with a total length of about 500 m. In its present form this is an 18th-century landscape feature. At its N.E. corner the line of the pond is continued N. and W. by two rectangular depressions 10 m. wide and up to 1 m. deep linked by a short channel and further W., along the N. and W. sides of the priory grounds, there is a wide ditch or pond 10 m. wide and 1 m. deep. These channels, forming a continuous line of water along the N. and W. sides of the priory grounds, lie beyond the landscape gardens of the existing house, and have not been altered: they indicate that the whole of the medieval priory precinct was bounded by a wide, water-filled ditch or fishpond.
Within the precinct, immediately N. and N.W. of the house, are two further ponds, one rectangular, the other of more irregular shape. They are both ornamental, but may have originated as medieval fishponds of the priory. At least three medieval coffin slabs have been found in the grounds of the priory, including one of 13th-century date (Arch. J., 1 (1845), 393; 15 (1858), 88). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/ 1926, 1205–7; F21 58/RAF/1567, 0080–1; F21 58/RAF/3963, 0010–11)
a(3) Site of Manor House (SP 491439), lies at the N.W. edge of the village, within a large pasture field known as the Berry Close immediately E. of the church (NRO, Tithe Map, 1840), on Lower Lias Clay at 114 m. above OD. The site, with the church, occupies a low rounded hill which dominates the village. A roughly rectangular enclosure, orientated N.E.-S.W., 50 m. by 25 m., is bounded on all but the S.W. corner by a scarp up to 2 m. high at the N.E. end, but elsewhere only 1 m.-1.5 m. In a few places there are slight indications of an external ditch but quarry pits along the outer edge of the scarp, as well as within the enclosure itself, have removed most traces of the ditch and any interior features. Although the site is in poor condition the topographical relationship of manor house, church and village is of interest. To the E., within the same field, are other remains associated with the village (see (4) below). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1205–7; F21 58/RAF/ 3963, 0010–11)
a(4) Settlement Remains (SP 491439), formerly part of Chacombe village, lie immediately E. and N.E. of (3), in a similar situation. The village consists of two conjoined loops from which radiate several roads or tracks, some now abandoned. One track runs N. down the valley side from the N.E. corner of the N. loop. The S. part of it is still a street, Silver Street North, with houses on its E. side; a hollow-way 15 m. across and up to 1.5 m. deep continues its line for some 100 m. into the valley bottom. On the W. side of the hollow-way and of the existing street are the very fragmentary remains of rectangular closes bounded by shallow ditches or low scarps. Disturbed areas at their E. ends suggest former buildings. The southernmost closes end just below the massive scarp which bounds the E. side of the manor house site (3). The area was already devoid of buildings in 1840 (NRO, Tithe Map). There is no evidence in any of the surviving medieval or post-medieval national taxation records of a decline in the size of the village at any time.
On the S. side of the village another of the radiating lanes, now used as the drive to Chacombe House, runs on as a hollowed track through the adjacent ridge-and-furrow (SP 492435). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1205–7; F21 58/RAF/ 3963, 0010–11)
a(5) Fishponds (SP 490441–493442), lie along the S. side of the small stream which forms the parish and county boundary, immediately to the N. of the village, on Lower Lias Clay between 103 m. and 106 m. above OD. At the upper, N.E. end there was formerly a large pond. some 180 m. long and 20 m. wide, slightly curved in plan. cut back into the valley side on the S. and embanked on the N. side above the stream. This has now been largely destroyed by a sewage works; only its N.E. corner and part of the W. end survive. Downstream to the W. is a similar but smaller pond. 80 m. long and 20 m. across, cut back into the hillside on the S. and bounded on the N. by a large bank 10 m. wide and 1.5 m. high. What appears to be a later leat has been cut along its S. side and continues W. beyond the pond. This and other damage make it impossible to be certain about the original form of the W. end of the pond. The purpose of the leat is unknown. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1205–7; F21 58/RAF/3963, 0010–11)
(6) Cultivation Remains. The exact date of the enclosure of the common fields of the parish is not known, but Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 153). writing in about 1720, said that the whole lordship was then enclosed and had been so 'for near a 100 years'. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over much of the parish arranged in end-on or interlocked furlongs. Much of it is still well preserved and good examples of hollow-ways and headlands are visible in a number of places running between end-on furlongs (e.g. SP 474428 and 487435). Elsewhere end-on furlongs have been joined together; the point of junction is indicated by a sudden change in direction of the ridges and in some places by the merging of two or more ridges into a single one (e.g. SP 482431 and 477429). On the low-lying ground in the extreme W. of the parish where a number of small streams meet the R. Cherwell large areas of permanent grassland have no trace of ridge-and-furrow on them and appear always to have been meadowland. One area (SP 472433) was known as Burston Meadow in 1840 (NRO, Tithe Map). To the N. are two small 'islands' of ridge-and-furrow, on areas slightly raised above the low-lying flood-plain (at SP 468434 and 472435). These suggest that every suitable piece of land was taken into cultivation at some time in the medieval period. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1203–11; F21 58/RAF/1567. 0080–4; F21 58/ RAF/3963, 0009–11)