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 75 NE, b SP 75 SE, c SP 75 SW)
The roughly triangular parish of 550 hectares lies on land sloping gently N., from a ridge on the S. boundary at about 220 m. above OD to a W.-flowing tributary of the R. Nene on the short N. boundary. Much of the N. and the S. of the area is covered by Boulder Clay and glacial sands and gravels; to the N.W. of the village bands of limestone and Upper Lias Clay are exposed.
Prehistoric and Roman
A Neolithic axe was found in the parish before 1902 (T. J. George, Arch. Survey of Northants. (1904), 13; VCH Northants., I (1902), 139).
b(1) Roman Settlement (?) (unlocated). A coin of Antoninus Pius was found somewhere in the parish before 1860 and pottery is recorded from the same location but no details are known (NM Records).
Medieval and Later
c(2) Deserted Village of Courteenhall (SP 762530; Figs. 42 and 43), lies within and to the E. of Courteenhall Park, on the sides of a shallow N.-draining valley, on Great Oolite Limestone between 107 m. and 114 m. above OD. Though it is clear that the village was deliberately removed for emparking in the late 18th century, the actual process is not understood.
The village of Courteenhall is first documented in 1086 when Domesday Book describes it as being divided into two manors. One was of 3½ hides with a recorded population of 15, including a priest; the other was only of half a hide and half a virgate and no population is given (VCH Northants., I (1902), 337, 339). In 1334 the vill paid 44s. 2d. for the Lay Subsidy (PRO, E179/155/3), a sum which is about average for the area. Nothing is known of the size of the village in later medieval times until 1524 when 17 people paid tax (PRO, E179/155/142). Some desertion seems to have taken place after the enclosure of the common fields (5) in the mid 17th century for Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 353), writing in about 1720, said that the parish church then stood 'at the upper end of the town, but within the memory of man had houses standing beyond and about it, which since the enclosure of the parish had been destroyed'. Forty-three householders paid the Hearth Tax in 1673 (PRO, E179/254/14).
A plan made in 1766 (Fig. 43; original at Courteenhall, copy in NRO) showed the village to be made up of three distinct parts. To the E. of the church was a single row of buildings on the N. side of the street, as there is today. To the W. of the church, in the area of the present park, lay the main part of the village, arranged along a N.-S. street with a triangular green at the S. end and the manor house and its garden S. and S.E. again. The manor house is depicted as a long straight range with multiple chimneys and was certainly that described by Bridges (op. cit.) as an Elizabethan building with the date 1580 on it. Further W., to the W. of the present House was another group of buildings on the S. side of the road, including the late 17th-century school which still stands.
It is possible that at this time plans were already being prepared to empark the area, for a note on the 1766 map included the details of a 'New Intended Road' which seems to have been designed to replace the S. end of the main village and its continuation S.W. as far as the church. Sir William Wake, 7th baronet, owned Courteenhall at that time. This plan or a modification of it was presumably carried out soon afterwards and the whole village, except for the manor house, the church and the houses E. of the church, was removed and the area emparked. The magnificent stable block which now lies to the S.W. of the present House was probably erected at the same time. This is usually said to be of around 1750 and to have been built by Sir Charles Wake-Jones, 6th baronet, who died in 1755. However, the stables did not exist in 1766 and must have been built by his successor.
By 1791 Repton's 'Red Book' of the estate (at Courteenhall) shows the manor house standing alone in the park with the stables away on the hill to the W. The manor house, however, seems very different from that shown on the 1766 plan for the old 16th-century range has an L-shaped structure attached to its E. end, apparently with symmetrical 18th-century elevations. It is likely that the 7th baronet carried out the removal of the village, the erection of the stables and the enlargement of the old manor house, all of which were completed well before 1790 and perhaps as early as 1770.
In 1791 Sir William Wake, 9th baronet, who had succeeded in 1785, removed the old manor house completely, and employed Samuel Saxon to design and build the present house on the hilltop to the W. and Humphrey Repton to alter the park. Thus by 1793 the park, house and stables existed in their present form, and the village of Courteenhall was only a few houses to the E. of the church. A map of 1792 (NRO) which only covers the area to the S. and E. of the church shows that the present rectory had been built, but probably very recently (Whellan, Dir., 258). A map of the parish of 1794 (NRO) shows the village consisting of no more than six houses or farmsteads N.E. of the church. By 1839 (NRO, Tithe Map) at least one of these houses, immediately N.E. of the church, had been demolished and the rest had been at least partly rebuilt. In recent years the village has expanded again, with new houses along the road to Quinton.
The remains of the village fall into three parts. Of that section which was between the house and the church, almost nothing survives. Its area can be established accurately by the limits of the ridge-and-furrow, but not earthworks of the village itself remain. The whole area appears to have been flattened, probably by ploughing, after the destruction of the village and before being grassed over. The occupation-areas are marked by dark soil in the molehills but only three features are identifiable. Part of the site of the manor house (SP 76325300) is marked by a large N.-facing scarp about 1.5 m. high. To the S.E. (at SP 76355296) is an L-shaped scarp only 0.25 m. high which appears to have lain inside the area of an orchard in 1766. Further S.S.W. and S. of the manor house site, is a massive bank running almost N.-S., 8 m. wide and 1 m. high, lying on top of ridge-and-furrow ('a' on plan). In part it coincides with an avenue of trees on the 1766 map which was part of a view from the manor house. The bank has large depressions in its sides, presumably the holes where the trees stood. It is not a drive to the manor house, but a raised ridge in which trees were planted. The second area of remains lies N.E. of the Old School ('b' on plan) where a short section of a shallow hollow-way running N.-S. appears to be the road marked 'to Northampton' on the 1766 map. Another low scarp to the S., though approximately on the line of the E. edge of this road, may be the result of later landscaping. The only other earthworks of the village are those immediately N.E. of the church ('c' on plan) where indeterminate remains represent the site of a farm and outbuildings which stood there in 1766. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3024–6; FSL6565, 2011–5; air photographs in NMR)
b(3) Windmill Mound (SP 75635325), lies in the N. corner of a triangular spinney, N. of the main drive to Courteenhall House, on the summit of a hill, on Boulder Clay at 115 m. above OD. The 1766 map of the village (Fig. 43; original at Courteenhall, copy in NRO) depicts a post mill here, standing on a low mound; on the Tithe Map of 1839 (NRO), the mill is no longer shown but the area is called Windmill Hill. An oval mound survives, 20 m. by 16 m. and 0.25 m. high, with a ditch 5 m. across and 0.25 m. deep on the N. and S. sides. It has been much damaged by the removal of trees in recent years.
b(4) Site of Watermill (?) (SP 753534), in the N.W. corner of Courteenhall Park, in the bottom of a N.-draining valley at 90 m. above OD. The area is occupied by a small wood now called Windmill Spinney but on earlier maps called Old Mill Spinney (NRO, maps of Courteenhall, 1794 and 1839). Within the spinney are three small rectangular ponds with a larger roughly E.-shaped one further upstream. To the S.W., in a side valley, is another sub-rectangular pond bounded on the W. by a low stone-rubble dam. They are shown exactly as now on the 1839 map. None of the surviving ponds appears to be the site of a watermill, but they may have been altered as part of the landscaping of the park in the 18th century.
(5) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were probably enclosed in 1631 (Northants. P. and P., 1 (1949), 271). 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 and interlocked furlongs, many of reversed-S form. Some pre-enclosure features are still visible, including part of the original road from Quinton to Courteenhall, N.E. of the park (SP 763534), which remained in use until the late 18th century (map of 1776, copy in NRO). It is now a broad depression 30 m. wide and almost ploughed out passing between end-on furlongs. Ridge-and-furrow survives in fine condition in the park around the site of the original village of Courteenhall (2). Of particular interest are two former end-on furlongs on the S. side of the park (SP 762526) which appear to have been later ploughed as one. The earlier headland between the two original furlongs is a massive scarp at least 200 m. long and 1.5 m. high, now cut into by the later ridges. This scarp is of a nature to suggest that it may pre-date the medieval field system and represent an earlier land boundary. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3020–3, 5021–5; FSL6565, 1001–3, 2011–5, 1800–4)