(OS 1:10000 a TL 09 NE, b TL 09 SW, c TL 09 SE)
The parish (Fig. 49), of some 1290 hectares, lies in the
angle of a large bend in the R. Nene which forms its E.
and much of its S. boundaries. The parish is low-lying,
between 40 ft. and 160 ft. above OD, and there are
extensive areas of river gravels along the Nene and the
Willow Brook, which flows E. to join the Nene, N.E.
of the village. Elsewhere the underlying rocks are mainly
limestones, sands and marls except in the extreme N.W.
of the parish, where on the high ground there is an
outcrop of clay. The latter formed the basis of a large
medieval deer park (36).
The parish is notable for a large number of prehistoric
and Roman sites, including a considerable 'village', probably of Roman date, associated with a villa (12) and (13).
The modern name of Walcot Lodge, 'Cote of the Britons
or serfs' may reflect this (PN Northants., 202). The majority of these remains have been discovered by air photography as a result of the existence of large areas of gravel
and other light soils.
Fig. 48 Fineshade (3) Castle and priory
The major monument is Fotheringhay Castle (34),
the scene of many momentous events in English history;
it is now reduced to little more than an earthen motte
and bailey. The remains of the late medieval college,
attached to the church, are of some interest.
Fig. 49 Fotheringhay
(34) Castle and (36 and 37) deer parks
Prehistoric and Roman
c(1–15) Fotheringhay Lodge complex (Fig. 50; Plate 3) lies
in the N.E. of the parish on gravel and limestone, along the
edge of the flood-plain of the R. Nene, at about 50 ft. above
OD. The major part of the site consists of a Roman 'village'
(13), with a main 'street' or trackway running through it.
Most of this settlement lies in Nassington parish but it is described here for convenience. To the S.E. of the settlement is a
villa (12), with which it is presumably associated. In addition
there are a number of ring ditches (1–8), most of which are
probably the remains of round barrows although some may be
hut-circles. Those that lie within Nassington are listed under
that parish (Nassington (1–14)). Other finds of the prehistoric
and Roman periods have also been made in the area (15). (Air
photographs in NMR; CUAP, ADR30–34, AVD52–54, ZF39–48)
c(1) Ring ditch (TL 08109494), diam. 25 m., with a small
circular, eccentric ditch within it. (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 11,
c(2) Ring ditch (TL 07729471), diam. 10 m., with a linear
ditch extending W. from it.
c(3) Ring ditch (TL 07519425), diam. 30 m., in which are
two eccentric pits, one extremely large. In the same field three
barbed-and-tanged arrowheads and some flint scrapers have
been found (inf. J. A. Hadman; BNFAS, 4 (1970), 31; 5 (1971),
c(4) Ring ditch (TL 07499419), diam. 16 m.
c(5) Ring ditch and enclosure (TL 07559419). The ring
ditch has a diam. of 33 m. with a small circular ditch within it
on the W. side. It is intersected by a larger egg-shaped enclosure.
c(6) Ring ditch (TL 07489396), diam. 36 m.
c(7) Ring ditch (TL 07559395), diam. 17 m.
c(8) Double ring ditch (TL 07509390) consists of two concentric circles of 20 m. and 33 m. diams. A well-marked central
pit is visible. The ring ditch lies immediately inside an oblong
enclosure with rounded corners having a large gap on the S.
c(9) Bronze Age burials (TL 08009476), discovered in an
old quarry. In 1888 a 'Food Vessel' was 'found between the
skulls of two skeletons'. The pot, now in BM, was in fact a
Beaker (see also (15) for Roman finds and other burials from
the same site). (VCH Hunts., I (1926), 216; Arch. J., CX (1953),
c(10) Pit alignment (TL 08019520–07929443) runs for
almost 1 km. along the E. of the complex in both Fotheringhay
and Nassington parishes, roughly parallel to the R. Nene. Its
form is sinuous and although there is a gap near the S. end,
caused by quarrying and a modern drainage ditch, it is likely
to have once been continuous.
c(11) Pit alignment (TL 07669465–07759468), traceable for
only 65 m. It meets a linear ditch at its W. end.
c(12) Roman villa (TL 079944), just above the R. Nene
flood-plain at 50 ft. above OD. Air photographs show a
rectangular building, 36 m. by 13 m., orientated E.-W. with
traces of internal walls. Further S. is another similar building
and to the W. a large rectangular enclosure. On the ground
both buildings are marked by dense patches of limestone and
similar areas nearby indicate the existence of further buildings.
Finds include roof tiles, tesserae, pottery including samian, and
glass. A small trial excavation on the main building in 1970
revealed a stone floor (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 17–18; inf. J. A.
c(13) Roman Settlement (TL 07559549–07759449), to the
N.E. of (12) on the crest of a gravel ridge about 50 ft. above
OD. In spite of frequent air photography over many years,
only part of the site is ever visible from the air, and it probably
extends on either side of the crest. The most prominent feature
of the site is a long ditched trackway, running N.-S. with
enclosures or paddocks on either side; many of these are not
completely visible on air photographs. In the N. half, in Nassington parish, a number of ring ditches appear to lie under the
settlement (Nassington (1–14)); at least one may be a hut-circle.
Roman pottery has been found in small quantities over the
whole area. The trackway is again visible further S. (at TL
07659405), N.E. of (7), for a short distance, and what may be a
continuation of it is also traceable 1.5 km. to the S. (31).
c(14) Roman building (TL 07489524), S.W. of (11) between
it and Lyveden Farm, 75 ft. above OD. Air photographs show
a rectangular stone structure, orientated roughly E.-W. No
interior features are visible. Roman pottery has been found in
the area (BNFAS, 8 (1973), 8).
c(15) Iron Age and Roman burials and finds (TL 08009476),
found in an old quarry after the discovery of (9) above.
Pottery of Iron Age and Roman dates was discovered here as
well as Roman coins, a bronze ring, two bronze mounts and
two iron knives. Many of these finds are now in Taunton
Castle Museum. All were apparently associated with 20 contracted skeletons. (R. F. Whistler, History of Elton (1892), 63–4;
VCH Northants., I (1902), 217; Procs. Som. A.S., LII (1906), 69;
LVI (1910), 94–5; LVIII (1912), 109)
c (16–20) Walcot Lodge complex (Fig. 51) comprises four
ring ditches and a small undated enclosure. It lies in the N.W.
of the parish on gravel edging the Willow Brook at about
75 ft. above OD. (CUAP, AFO16, UD46; air photographs in NMR).
Fig. 50 Fotheringhay (1–15) and Nassington (1–15) Fotheringhay Lodge Complex
Fig. 51 Fotheringhay (16–20)
Walcot Lodge Complex
c(16) Ring ditch (TL 05229380), diam. 28 m.
c(17) Ring ditch (TL 05289390), diam. 15 m.
c(18) Ring ditch (TL 05449384), diam. 12 m.
c(19) Ring ditch (TL 05499372), diam. 15 m.
c(20) Settlement (TL 05529400) consists of a sub-rectangular
ditched enclosure with a smaller enclosure inside. The latter has
two other rectangular features within and intersecting it.
b(21–25) Stone Pit Lodge complex (Fig. 53) consists of a
large area of crop and soil-marks partly in the S.W. corner of
the parish, but extending into Southwick and Woodnewton
parishes (see Southwick (1–9)): only those monuments wholly
or partly in Fotheringhay are here described. They lie mainly
on limestone at 65 ft. above OD on the N. side of a small
brook. (CUAP, ABV73, AOK69, WO3, ZF26; air photographs in
b(21) Ring ditch (TL 04609288), 400 m. N. of Perio Mill.
Diam. 10 m.
b(22) Ring ditch (TL 04479279), 150 m. S.W. of (21). Diam.
b(23) Settlement (TL 047928), immediately E. of (21). It
consists of a large sub-rectangular enclosure with a number of
ditches and other features attached to or intersecting it. These
include at least six circular ditches some of which may be
barrows, but two at least are probably hut circles. Modern
drainage ditches have confirmed the crop-marks, and one sherd
of black calcite-gritted pottery as well as a large block of limestone with 'cup-marks' on one face (Plate 24) have been found
(BNFAS, 6 (1971), 11; 8 (1973), 4). A scatter of 3rd and 4th
century pottery was also found (BNFAS, 8 (1973), 6).
b(24) Enclosure (?) (TL 04489319), 250 m. N.W. of (23).
Indeterminate ditches, visible on air photographs, suggest one
or more enclosures.
b(25) Ditched trackway (?) (TL 04009323–04609276) runs
along the N. side of a small brook in Fotheringhay and Woodnewton parishes; it is traceable for 800 m. as two parallel
ditches 15 m. apart and is intersected by linear ditches which
may be part of the settlement (23). Near its centre, in Woodnewton parish, a small sub-rectangular enclosure lies immediately N. of it. If it is a trackway it may have once been
connected with the large settlement area to the S.W. (Southwick
(6)), S. of Stone Pit Lodge. Evidence for a bridge across the R.
Nene, beyond its S.E. end (Southwick (7)), may indicate its
further extension in this direction (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 11, pl.
b(26–28) Willow Brook complex (Fig. 52) consists of a
group of features, visible only on air photographs, on the N.
of the Willow Brook, on gravel at 75 ft. above OD in the
N.W. of the parish (CUAP, ABV76, AFO10).
b(26) Ring ditch (TL 04919422), diam. 20 m.
b(27) Ring ditch (TL 04829418), diam. 20 m., intersected by
a short length of ditch.
b(28) Enclosures and linear ditch (TL 047942) consist of
at least two conjoined rectangular enclosures associated with
pits and ditches, which are crossed by a long linear ditch running E.-W. traceable for some 520 m. (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 11,
pl. 10 (2))
b(29) Ring ditch (TL 04869345), on gravel, at 100 ft. above
OD. Diam. 20 m., with a well-marked central pit or grave (air
photographs in NMR).
Fig. 52 Fotheringhay (26–28)
Willow Brook Complex
Fig. 53 Fotheringhay (21–25) Southwick (1–9) Stone Pit Lodge Complex
c(30) Bronze Age burial (unlocated but perhaps from gravel
pit at TL 07089381). Found in the late 19th century. A very
small pot with herringbone decoration was discovered and is
probably that illustrated by Abercromby and now in Northampton Museum (Plate 22). A paleolithic implement was found
in the underlying gravel. (VCH Northants., I (1902), 136, 143;
J. Abercromby, Bronze Age Pottery II (1912), No. 275, pl.
LXXXI; see also Arch. J., CX (1953), 176).
c(31) Ditched trackway (TL 07389252–07339226), in the
S.E. of the parish, close to the R. Nene on gravel at 15ft.
above OD. It consists of two parallel ditches 20 m. apart
running in a N.N.E.-S.S.W. direction and traceable for nearly
300 m. It may be connected with the trackway in the Roman
settlement (13) 1½ km. to the N. and perhaps passed through
the Roman settlement (33). (Air photographs in NMR)
c(32) Enclosure (?) (TL 066931; Fig. 13) lies 400 m. N.E.
of the castle on a small patch of gravel within an area of alluvium, at 40 ft. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show a
three-sided ditched enclosure, with a length of ditch and a small
rectangular feature attached to its N.W. side.
(33) Roman settlement (?) (TL 073930) lies on the edge of
the R. Nene flood-plain on gravel at 50 ft. above OD. A scatter
of late 3rd and early 4th-century pottery has been found
(BNFAS, 5 (1971), 17), as well as tiles and limestone rubble.
Medieval and Later
Fig. 54 Fotheringhay (34) Castle
c(34) Fotheringhay Castle (TL 062929; Figs. 49, 54 and 55;
Plate 5) lies at the S.E. end of the village, adjacent to the R.
Nene, on gravel at 50 ft. above OD. It was probably built by
Simon de St. Liz, Earl of Huntingdon and Northampton, who
married the daughter of Judith, Countess of Huntingdon and
niece of the Conqueror. The present motte and inner bailey or
court are probably his work. It does not appear to have been
important as a military stronghold, and from the late 13th
century it took on the dual role of royal palace and State
prison. It was apparently considerably rebuilt and enlarged in
the late 14th century by Edmund Langley, son of Edward III,
and the outer bailey or court may date from this period, as
perhaps does the infilling of the motte ditch on the E. side.
Other alterations and additions were made in the 15th century
but these do not now survive. The castle was abandoned in the
17th century and a gradual process of demolition of all its walls
and buildings was largely completed by the early 18th century.
The few remaining building fragments still standing by the
late 19th century were incorporated into the barns of the present
Castle Farm by Lord Overstone who also filled in the former
moat on the W. side of the site. There are a number of descriptions of the castle at various dates. The most complete is that
of 1341 before it was enlarged, and this seems to indicate that
only the motte, then with a stone tower, and the present inner
bailey existed. Within the bailey were two chapels, a great hall,
chambers and the kitchen, together with a gatehouse over a
drawbridge. However there is mention of another group of
buildings outside the castle, then called The Manor. These
probably lay N.W. of the motte on the site of Castle Farm.
A later account, dating from just before Mary Queen of Scots
was sent to Fotheringhay in 1586, notes the existence of the
outer moat and two separate gates. The last detailed description
was made in 1625 just before demolition started, and is clear
enough to enable a conjectural reconstruction to be made of
the castle's lay-out at that time (Fig. 55). The castle was then
said to be
Fig. 55 Fotheringhay (34) Castle in 1625, conjectural reconstruction
'. . . . very strong, built of stone, and moated about with a double
moat. The R. Nen on the S. side serves for the outer moat, and
the Mill-brook on the E. side between the little park and the
Castle-yard, called the old orchard or garden, serves for the outer
moat on that side; between which mill-brook and the Castle
there has been a great pond, landed up, on the E. side of the
Castle. The gate and forepart of the house fronts the N., and as
soon as you are passed the drawbridge, at the gate there is a pair
of stairs, leading up to some fair lodgings and up higher to the
wardrobe, and so on to the fetterlock on top of the mound on
the N.W. corner of the castle, which is built round of 8 or 16
square with chambers lower and upper ones roundabout, but
somewhat decayed and so are the leads on the top; in the very
midst of the round yard in the same there has been a well, now
landed up. When you come down again and go towards the
hall, which is wonderful spacious, there is a goodly and fair
court, within the midst of the castle. Of the left-hand is the
chapel, goodly lodgings, the great dining-room, and a large
room at this present well garnished with pictures. Near the hall
is the buttery and kitchen; and at the other end of the kitchen a
yard, convenient for wood and such purposes, with large brewhouses and bake-houses and houses convenient for offices. From
the gate going out of that yard, there is another yard half-encompassing the castle, going roundabout to the first gate and a great
barn in the W. side of the said yard. A gate-house and another
ruinous house in the E. corner of the same.' (H. K. Bonney,
Fotheringhay, (1821), 29–30)
The remains of the original motte and bailey are now in
good condition but the moated outer court or bailey has been
greatly mutilated. The motte is now a steep-sided mound, 7 m.
high and up to 70 m. in diam., rising to a flat top, 30 m. across.
The summit is very irregular, probably due to a combination
of stone robbings and later excavations. The motte is bounded
on two sides by a wide ditch, up to 4 m. deep, now partly
filled in on the W. It probably once encircled the motte. The
ditch now runs S.E. from the motte, and is partly filled in to
make a modern entrance which is probably the site of the
original one; it continues S.E. and then swings S.W. to meet
the R. Nene and so encloses the inner bailey or court. Here it
is up to 2 m. deep, with traces of an inner rampart. The junction
of the ditch with the river is now blocked by a low bank but,
in times of flood, water from the Nene still partly fills the
ditch. Parallel to the river on the S. side of the bailey is a well-marked scarp 1 m.-3 m. high. Below it, close to the river, is a
large block of limestone rubble, with a small area of squared
ashlar on the S. side. This is said to have come from the summit
of the motte and was set up here in 1913.
The inner motte and bailey were originally surrounded by
an outer moat on three sides. To the S.E. this survives as a
deeply-cut ditch up to 2.5 m. deep, through which a stream
still runs. At its N. end the modern track crosses the stream on
a bridge, the limestone ashlar abutments of which retain the
slots for a sluice. This sluice probably held the water in the
'great pond' described in the 1625 survey, and is also the site
of the eastern gatehouse. N.W. of the sluice the outer bailey
ditch is traceable as a broad shallow depression as far as the N.
side of Castle Farm. It originally appears to have continued N.
as far as the present farm entrance and then turned S.W. in
front of the farm to reach the river. No trace remains there
now except for part of a shallow depression close to the river.
(VCH Northants., II (1906), 570–4; H. K. Bonney, Fotheringhay,
(1821), 18–33; P. M. G. Dickinson, Historic Fotheringhay (1956))
Fig. 56 Fotheringhay (35) Site of college
c(35) Fotheringhay College (TL 05919311; Fig. 56) lies
immediately S. of the church on a series of partly natural and
partly artificial terraces above the R. Nene. The college was
founded in 1411 by Edward of York, carrying out the wishes
of his father Edmund Langley, Duke of York, who had already
built a chancel, now demolished, onto the end of the existing
medieval church. Work on rebuilding this church and erecting
the conventual buildings began in 1415, but was cut short by
Edward's death in the same year. Work was restarted in 1432,
by which time the conventual buildings seemed to have existed.
The contract for the church was made in 1434, but buildings
were still incomplete in 1460 when Edward IV granted a new
charter and refounded the college.
The college consisted of a master, 12 chaplains or fellows,
8 clerks and 13 choristers. It was dissolved in 1539, and later
the buildings were granted to Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. He pulled down the chancel of the church, leaving the
nave as the parish church, and removed the roofs of the college
buildings (VCH Northants., II (1906), 170–7). A detailed description of the college buildings as they were in 1550 survives
(BM Harl. MS. 608, f. 61v, 62–62v). Among the places mentioned are 'the cloister', with at least nine chambers around it,
'a house called The Vestry', with a chamber over, a library, a
hall, kitchens, lodgings, wood-yard, courts, brew-house,
stables, barns, etc. Shortly afterwards all these buildings were
pulled down (Arch. J., LXI (1904), 241–75).
The remains of the college buildings are in poor condition
and provide little indication of the original plan. Immediately
S. of the church is a large sub-rectangular platform, some 2.5 m.
above the river terrace to the S., which is likely to be the site
of the cloisters, and traces of wall footings of a long range of
buildings exist on the W. side. The rest of the platform is
uneven and much disturbed. To the W. are some small platforms and scarps, but these form no coherent pattern. Excavations on the site in 1926 by Oundle School are alleged to have
discovered wall foundations, stained glass, glazed tiles and other
material, but no report was written.
ac(36) Deer park (centred TL 062944; Figs. 49 and 57) occupied much of the N.E. part of the parish and covered about 120
hectares on limestone and clay. It was probably constructed in
1230 when John, Earl of Huntingdon, was given permission to
make deer leaps in the parish; twice in the following years he
was granted deer from Rockingham Forest with which to stock
his park. It was probably disparked in the 17th century. (VCH
Northants., II (1906), 570 and 572; PN Northants., 202)
The W. and N. boundaries of the park are still traceable
within the narrow strip of woodland known as Park Spinney
(TL 05509422–06869499). Here a large bank, some 5 m. wide
and up to 1.5 m. high, is almost continuous; in places smaller,
and presumably later, copse banks run parallel to it. The remains on the E. side are less complete. Only a degraded bank,
1 m. high, exists on the W. side of the Nassington Road, S.E.
of Park Lodge, for a distance of some 580 m. (TL 06489380–
06769430). However, this shortage of remains is the result of
realignment of Nassington Road in two places, probably in the
18th or 19th centuries. A map of c. 1716 (NRO) shows the road
in its earlier position and this must indicate the original park
boundary. Either the old road or the park pale shows as a cropmark on air photographs (held by Monk's Wood Research
Station, Huntingdon). There is no trace of a S.W. boundary to
the park along the two modern stream courses, but the park
was doubtless bounded by one of them. The 1716 map also
gives a number of significant field names within the area of the
park. The fields S. of Park Lodge have extensive remains of
ridge-and-furrow (see (40)) the date of which is not known.
Fig. 57 Fotheringhay (36) Deer park
c(37) Deer park (centred TL 065926; Fig. 49), immediately
S.E. of the castle, on land around a small limestone hill. The
earliest known document is of the 16th century when it was
called the Little Park, but it may be of late medieval date (VCH
Northants., II (1906), 572). Its area is unknown, but the long
narrow field, called The Park on a map of c. 1716 (NRO), only
covers some 12 hectares and the original park was probably
not much larger. The only surviving boundary is a length of
low bank, 0.5 m. high and 1.5 m. wide, with a slight external
ditch running N.W.-S.E. along the crest of the hill above the
R. Nene (TL 06359265).
c(38) Settlement remains (TL 058933), formerly part of
Fotheringhay village, lie N. of the main street and N.W. of
the church, and although now largely destroyed, consist of a
broad hollow-way running parallel to the village street for a
distance of 300 m. At its E. end it forms a T-junction with
another hollow-way running N.N.E. from the village street
to the edge of a brook, 300 m. away. Low banks and scarps
to the N. of the former hollow-way, and various indeterminate
earthworks elsewhere, perhaps indicate former house sites. The
hollow-ways were apparently still in use in the early 18th century (NRO, map of about 1716) but no buildings then existed.
c(39) Pillow mound (TL 05529318; Fig. 58; Plate 19), immediately W. of the village just below the crest of a low
rounded hill overlooking the R. Nene, on limestone, at 75 ft.
above OD. The long rectangular, flat-topped mound lies
within an area of ridge-and-furrow with which it is probably
contemporary. At the S. end the ploughing of the adjacent
ridge has broken down the outer lip of the surrounding ditch.
(BNFAS, 8 (1973), 27)
Fig. 58 Fotheringhay (39) Pillow mound
(40) Cultivation remains. The common fields of the parish
were enclosed in 1635 (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., II (1791),
456). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields remains on the ground,
or can be traced on air photographs, in a number of places,
particularly along the edge of the flood-plain of the R. Nene
in the E. of the parish and also W. of the village. It is also
traceable along the banks of the Willow Brook, N.W. of the
village. In these areas it is lying almost at right angles to the
main watercourses. In a few other places are small areas of
ridge-and-furrow arranged in interlocked furlongs, e.g. N.E.
of Garden Farm (TL 072938) and E. of the castle (TL 066928).
S. and S.E. of Park Lodge (TL 063941), within the medieval
deer park (36), is a further area of ridge-and-furrow arranged
in interlocked furlongs. (RAF VAP CPE/UK 1891, 2206–13; 1925,
1107–18; 2109, 3085–94, 4084–94, 4224–34)