Pages 401-412

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 5, Archaeology and Churches in Northampton. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1985.

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In this section


(OS 1:10000 aSP 75 NW, SP 76 SW)

The parish is roughly triangular in shape and covers 31 hectares. It is bounded to the S. by the R. Nene and to the N. partly by Berrywood Road which follows the line of the Roman road between Duston and Whilton Lodge (Bannaventa). The ground slopes from 119 m. above OD in the N. to 61 m. above OD. in the S. Boulder Clay covers the N. part of the parish, with alluvium and river gravel in the valley bottom. In between there are strata of the Estuarine Series, the Lias and the Northampton Sands.

Prehistoric and Roman

Worked flints have been found at eight locations in the parish, although no marked concentrations are apparent (SP 71826064; NM; NDC P169. SP 71826040; NM; NDC P171. SP 71456071; NM; NDC P172. SP 72016019; NM; NDC P174. SP 70596109; NM; NDC P175. SP 70596173; NM; NDC P176. SP 71486059; NM; NDC P177. Located to parish only; George 1904, 20; NDC P26). Of particular interest is a neolithic ground flint axe found at Upton in 1968 (SP 720605; NM; NDC P28). A looped middle Bronze Age spearhead was ploughed up in 1970–1 at SP 70726088 (BNFAS 7 (1972), 6–7; NDC P144) and five worked flints were found in the same field (NM; NDC P144). Part of a Belgic vessel was discovered in 1954 at SP 710610 (NM; NDC P152).

Roman finds have been made at various locations throughout the parish. In 1969 Romano-British sherds including colour-coated wares were found at SP 71076088 (BNFAS 4 (1970), 13; NDC R49). A complete colour-coated beaker and grey-ware sherds were found at SP 718605 (OS; NDC R52). Roman coins, including a sestertius of Nero, were discovered in 1947 at SP 71956024 (OS; NDC R53). Survey work in 1974 produced much Roman pottery, mainly grey-ware at SP 72126000 (Northamptonshire Archaeol 11 (1976), 194; NM; NDC R115) and more Roman pottery at SP 72306030 (Northamptonshire Archaeol 11 (1976), 194; NM; NDC R116).

A silver coin of Severus Alexander is recorded from Upton parish (VCH Northamptonshire I, 221; George 1904, 20; OS; NDC R48).

a(1) Enclosures (?),Ring Ditches (?) (SP 71105990 and SP 71255975), W. of Upton Hall Farm, on gravel at 65 m. above OD. Two possible rectilinear enclosures and ring ditches (?), but very indistinct on air photographs (BNFAS 6 (1971), 18; NM; NDC A24 and AP41–2).

a(2) Mounds, E. of Upton Mill on alluvium at 61 m. above OD. SP 72355910, a round mound about 1 m. high and approximately 25 m. in diameter with a central depression, possibly the result of early excavation, may be a round barrow, although no ditch is visible (Northamptonshire Archaeol 13 (1978), 180; NDC P80). Alternatively, the mound could be the remains of a post-mill or be natural. At SP 72305921 is a long mound, about 30 m.–40) m. by about 15 m. and approximately 0.5 m. high (NDC P137).

(3) Iron Age Settlement, Neolithic and Roman Finds (SP 71586023) on Northampton Sands at 83 m. above OD. Excavations in 1965 revealed several phases of ditch possibly demarcating an enclosure outside which 42 pits were found. The pottery was of late Iron Age date, assigned in the report to a range of 3rd-2nd century BC. Finds included a neolithic type discoid flint scraper from one of the pits and a fragment of late Roman bottle (perhaps Castor Ware) from a context of Anglo-Saxon date, possibly re-used as a weight or whorl. See also Upton (5) (Jackson et al 1969; NDC P55, R50; finds in Ashmolean Museum).

Medieval and Later

Anglo-Saxon finds have been made at SP 708611. A bronze undecorated swastika brooch of 6th to 7th-century AD date was found in 1970 together with a fragment of Saxon pottery and a piece of bronze strip with punched dot decoration, possibly from a buckle plate and probably of similar date (BNFAS 5 (1971), 45; NM; NDC AS7). Medieval pottery has been found at two locations (SP 720600, SP 708600; NM; NDC M310–311).

(4) Church of St. Michael (SP 717602 fiche Fig. 34; Plate 32)


The walls of the nave and chancel appear to survive intact from the 12th century except for an extension at the W. end. Their thickness is uniform throughout the building. The nave and chancel are of the same width and appear never to have been structurally divided. The N. and S. doorways, of c. 1150 are in situ. and it is alleged that the other openings of Romanesque character are also in situ. In the 13th century there appears to have been an extension to the W., of half a bay, perhaps to support a bell-cage. In the early 14th century parapets were added to the N. and S. walls of the nave and a clearstorey formed on the S. side. A century later the tower and the W. wall of the nave were inserted. The use of the floored compartments created to the N. and S. of the tower is obscure. There appears to have been no easy access to the upper compartments. The stair turret may be a later addition since the masonry is not bonded with the tower and the recess in the S. compartment which formerly gave access to the stair had to be built out from the original W. wall. In the post-medieval period, perhaps in the 18th century, a small projection was added at the E. end of the S. wall, to house a squire's pew. In 1892–3 the church was extensively restored by M.H. Holding. The pew was removed as were all the furnishings. Three Romanesque windows and the clearstorey windows were uncovered and a recess in the N. wall for the former rood stair was excavated. The roofs were totally replaced (Faculty NRO 332P/19; Northampton Mercury, 17 March 1893)


Since the manor of Upton was royal demesne in 1086 with soke over Harlestone (DB f. 219d) and was also the Hundredal Manor of Nobottlegrove Hundred (Liber Feodorum I, 604, 1177 (1237); Cal Inq I, no. 168 (1249/50)) it is likely that the manor was once part of the original parochia of St. Peter's, Northampton. Upton church was a dependent chapelry of St. Peter's throughout the medieval period (e.g. Lincoln LAO Register VII f. 82r).

Fig. 34 Church of St. Michael.

A church is likely to have existed long before the first explicit reference to it in the arrangements for the appropriation of St. Peter's by St. Andrew's Priory. These refer to a previous incumbent holding the church in the reign of Henry II (BL Harl Chart 44.H.34; Franklin 1982, 103). Upton Church was clearly in existence by 1189. It is just possible that, because it was only over Kingsthorpe that St. Peter's control was disputed in 1155–8 (Franklin 1982, 83–4), Upton church did not then exist.

The alienation of the royal demesne to Robert Fitz Sawin by Henry II (Rot Hund II, 9) is perhaps more significant. Robert first appears as holding Upton in 1158–9 (Pipe R 5 Henry II, 16) and it may be that this change in tenure led to the rebuilding of the church in its present form at some time between 1158 and 1189.


The church consists of a Chancel, Nave, South Porch and Tower with compartments adjoining the Tower to the north and south.


There is no structural division between nave and chancel, except for internally a step in the floor and a change in the roof and, externally, a change in the height of the parapet. At the W. end of the N. wall is a straight-headed window with two trefoil-headed lights and a crude external hood mould, and at the E. end a round-headed single-light window. The rear-arch of the N.W. window seems to be 19th-century; that of the N.E. window is depressed rather than semi-circular, although the masonry between the head of the window and the rear-arch might be Romanesque. Externally the N. wall has been severely re-pointed and possibly to some degree refaced. In the lower courses are random blocks of dark brown stone. The jambs and arch to the E. window are medieval although its mullions and geometric tracery are 19th century (Clarke). At the S. end of the E. wall is a small straight-headed recess, perhaps an aumbry. Adjacent to it at the E. end of the S. wall is another recess, smaller but deeper. Next to the latter recess is a trefoil-headed piscina. Above it is a window of two narrow trefoil-headed lights. The rear-arch of its opening appears to be earlier than the window and might be 12th-century; the W. splay appears to have been shifted to the E. to avoid the adjacent Romanesque doorway. The doorway is round-headed, with two unchamfered orders and chamfered jambs (Plate 35). The impost moulding appears only in the soffit (cf. Weston Favell). The rear-arch of the doorway is segmental. To the W. of the doorway is a window similar to the S.E. window. The rear-arch again appears to be Romanesque. The W. jamb of the doorway intrudes into the E. splay of the rear-arch. The tie-beam roof of the chancel is late medieval in form, but dates from 1893.


At the W. end of the N. wall is a round-headed doorway of three unchamfered orders with a label and double-chamfered jambs. The rear-arch is depressed. To the E. of the doorway is a large three-light window, the head and jambs of which are medieval but the tracery late 19th-century. Next to the window is a wide, arched recess containing steps. The arch is depressed and hollow-chamfered. There are four steps which begin 1 m. above floor level. Within the recess is a Romanesque round-headed window. There is no chancel arch. The large two-light window at the E. end of the S. wall is 19th-century, replacing a small projecting squire's pew which contained a window of two round-headed lights (Clarke). The Romanesque round-headed window to the W., uncovered in 1893, has a depressed rear-arch. The window to the E. of the S. doorway has two straight-headed lights with trefoil heads; the rear-arch is depressed. Above this window is a quatrefoil clearstorey window. The S. doorway is similar to the N., with three unchamfered orders and a simple impost moulding. The rear-arch is depressed. Immediately to the W. of the doorway is a straight-headed window of two cusped lights with cusped sub-lights above. The W. part of the nave has been sealed off by a wall and is divided internally between the tower and two compartments N. and S.; they will be described in the 'Tower' section. The inserted W. wall is not bonded with either N. or S. nave wall. Set low in the S. end of the wall is a straight-headed three-light window, similar to the westernmost window in the S. wall but of timber. (October 1983 the window has since been removed from the wall and is loose in the church). Above the window is a pierced quatrefoil opening. The archway into the tower has a two-centred head and is single-chamfered. To the N. of the arch is a pierced cruciform opening, similar to the quatrefoil on the S. There is a low clearstorey on the S. side of the nave only but parapets to both N. and S. walls. The nave roof is similar to that of the chancel.

South Porch

The porch has a tall, steep gable with a date stone, inscribed '1594 BK, HC'. In the E. wall is an oculus, in the W. a straight-headed square opening. The outer S. doorway has a four-centred head and is broadly chamfered.

Tower and Compartments

It is possible that the area of the tower and compartments constitutes a W. extension to the original nave. There is a break in the masonry half way along the S. wall of the S. compartment. (A second quatrefoil clearstorey window is just to the E. of the break.) The insertion of the tower, however, post-dates the W. wall since its N. and S. walls are not bonded with the W. wall and run into the rear-arches of the two lancet windows in the W. wall. The tower is square and battlemented. The two-light belfry openings have quatrefoil tracery in their heads. Attached to the W. wall between the lancets is a polygonal stair turret. It has a large buttress on the W. side and is pierced by slit windows. The compartment to the N. of the tower is now featureless. It was formerly floored over at a height of about 2 m. above floor level but the joists have been sawn through. The S. compartment was also floored. In its W. wall is a recess to give access to the stair turret, which is now entered by a doorway over 1 m. above floor level. The doorway to the recess has a shouldered arch.

(5) Anglo-Saxon Settlement (SP 71486023), on Northampton Sands at 83 m. above OD. Immediately to the E. of the Iron Age features discussed above (Upton (3)) an Anglo-Saxon sunken-featured building of unusually large proportions (approximately 7.5 m. by 4.5 m.) was identified. The large number of loom weights (over 60) found, together with the absence of a hearth and domestic debris in any quantity, suggested that it may have been a 'weaving-shed' (Jackson et al 1969; finds in Ashmolean Museum NDC AS13).

a(6) Deserted Village of Upton (SP 719599; Fig. 17), lies 350 m. S.E. of Upton Hall and church and immediately S. of Park House, on land sloping gently S. between 78 m. and 70 m. above OD. The main part of the site is on Upper Lias Clay, overlain by glacial sands and gravels at its S. end.

The well-preserved earthworks are cut through at their N. end by the Garden Remains (7). Both the form of the earthworks and their distant relationship with the parish church pose problems in the interpretation of the site.

Upton is first mentioned in Domesday Book when it was held by the Crown with a recorded population of 20 (VCH Northamptonshire I, 306). The manor passed from the Crown to the Chaunceux family of Northampton in the late 12th century and remained in their hands until 1348. In 1301 49 taxpayers are listed in the Lay Subsidy (PRO E179/155/31) and in 1308–9 there were six free tenants and 31 sokemen on the manor (PRO C134/9/1). The place is mentioned by name in the Nomina Villarum of 1316. The vill paid 72s. 6d. in the 1334 Lay Subsidy (PRO E179/155/3), a figure similar to its surviving neighbours.

In 1420 Upton was bought by Richard Knightley and it became part of the extensive Northamptonshire estates of that family. In view of the family's activities in sheep farming and depopulation (see RCHM Northamptonshire III, Fawsley (1) it is likely that the village was largely cleared in the latter part of the 15th century. The oldest remaining part of Upton Hall is probably of late 15th-century date and perhaps represents part of the improvements carried out at Upton at that time. Certainly only nine taxpayers are listed in 1523–4 (PRO E179/155/122). In 1600 the Knightleys sold Upton to Sir William Samwell (NRO, 566), who probably re-modelled the existing house and perhaps created the gardens (7). His descendants were responsible for alterations and improvements to Upton Hall during the late 17th century and the first half of the 18th century. The establishment of the surrounding parkland probably dates from this latter period and may have involved yet further depopulation. In 1674 13 households paid the Hearth Tax (PRO E179/254/14) and about 1720 Bridges (Bridges 1791 1, 538) noted that there were 11 houses in the parish. By 1800 this had been reduced to four.

The remains of the village have a remarkably regular overall form. They consist of a central N.-S. well-marked hollow-way up to 1.5 m. deep, formerly the main street, edged on both sides by short closes bounded by low scarps, most of which have traces of former buildings within them. The W. side of the site is bounded by a continuous scarp only 0.25 m. high while the E. side has a shallow ditch or hollow-way, perhaps once a back lane, only 0.5 m. deep. At the N. end the remains are cut across and overlain by the terraces of a former garden (7).

The regularity of the site is reminiscent of similar sites in northern and eastern England for which a planned 12th-century origin has been suggested (RCHM Lincolnshire I forthcoming). If this site is comparable then it is possible that the village acquired its form as a result of the transfer of the manor from Royal to lay hands in the late 12th century. The most curious aspect of the surviving earthworks is their distance from the parish church. It is possible, but unlikely, that the village could once have extended as far as the church, the intervening remains having been destroyed by later emparking. It is much more likely that the surviving earthworks are either one part of a polyfocal village, the other part being once near the church, or that they represent the result of a re-location of the village from an earlier position around the church. The location of the Saxon Settlement (5) 300 m. W. of the church may also be part of a complex sequence of development. (Allison et al (1966), 47; Northamptonshire Archaeol 9 (1974), 110–11; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4029–30; 35 TUD UK 118 pt. 11 0137–8; NDC M12)

(7) Garden Remains (SP 719600; Fig. 17), lie 300 m. S.E. of the church and S.E. of Park House on Upper Lias Clay at 78 m. above OD. The site consists of a series of low terraces, less than 0.5 m. high, which lie across the closes at the N. end of the deserted village of Upton (6) and block its central hollow-way or former main street. In the N.E. corner is a large rectangular area cut back into the rising ground and bounded on the S. by low banks. The bank at the W. end turns S. to form a broad terrace or raised path. At the extreme N. of the site, W. of the modern farm buildings, are more amorphous earthworks which may be the site of a former building.

The remains are of a formal terraced garden dating from the late 16th or early 17th century. They must therefore have been laid out by the Knightley family shortly before they sold Upton or, more likely, by the Samwell family who bought the estate in 1600 and who were certainly responsible for alterations to Upton Hall.

The remains are, however, some distance from the hall itself and can hardly have formed part of a garden arrangement associated with it. Nor is there a record of any other house at Upton whose status would have necessitated such a garden. The most likely explanation for a garden in such a position is that it was perhaps associated with a detached garden house or banqueting hall similar to that at Lyveden New Bield (RCHM NorthamptonshireI, Aldwincle (22)).

a(8) Fishponds (SP 715599; fiche Fig. 35), lie in Upton Park, 300 m. S.S.W. of Upton Hall and 300 m. W. of (6), on Upper Lias Clay, between 68 m. and 80 m. above OD.

They consist of three linked ponds extending in a line down the hillside and terminated by a larger more regular pond lying across the slope. They are all probably of medieval date. The ponds were supplied by a spring which emerges to the N. of the site, at the junction of the Northampton Sands and the Upper Lias Clay. The water now feeds a circular pond of 19th-century date, but a broad ditch emerges from beneath the latter and once carried water into the uppermost of the fishponds. This is rectangular, and up to 1.5 m. deep. At its S. end are the remains of its earthen dam which divided it from the next pond; this is also roughly rectangular and 1.5 m. deep and has the stub-ends of a broken dam at its S. end. Below it is the third, larger, rectangular pond, of similar depth, which has a broad ditch entering it in its N.E. corner. This again has the remains of a dam on the S., beyond which is a larger irregular pond, much damaged by later alterations and modern dumping, and cut across at its W. end by the 18th or 19th-century park wall. A shallow rectangular basin in its N.E. corner may have been a breeding-tank. Slight earthworks to the E. and N.E. of this pond, including mounds and scarps, are enclosed by a low bank which cuts across earlier ridge-and-furrow.

(9) Cultivation Remains. The date of the enclosure of the common fields of Upton is unknown. Bridges (Bridges 1791 1, 538), writing about 1720, reported that part of the lordship 'hath been enclosed within these few years' but that the rest was old enclosures. It is possible that the earlier enclosure dates from the years following the acquisition of Upton by the Knightley family in 1420.

Fig. 35 Fishponds.

Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs in a number of places in the parish, notably on the side of the valley of the R. Nene where rectangular end-on furlongs run down the slope (SP 722600). The major area of surviving ridge-and-furrow is in Upton Park where well-preserved end-on furlongs exist in pasture. In this area are a number of minor features which show alterations to the field system. In the area immediately W. and N.W. of the deserted village of Upton (7) for example, there is evidence of the over-ploughing of a former headland and the creation of the new one as well as the over-ploughing of the earlier features, now only represented by a low scarp (Fig. 17). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 1254–7; V58–RAF-1122, 0203–11, 0260–73)