(OS 1:10000 a SP 98 SE, b SP 97 NE)
The generally rectangular parish, covering only 560
hectares, lies immediately W. of Thrapston on the W.
side of the R. Nene between Cranford Brook on the S.
and Harper's Brook on the N. The parish thus occupies
an E.-W. ridge of land rising to 250 ft. above OD and
falling gently on all but the W. into the valleys of the
Nene and its tributaries. The crest of the ridge is covered
with Boulder Clay, while on the valley sides limestones,
sands and marls outcrop.
The parish contains an impressive group of prehistoric
and Roman sites (1–5), discovered by air photography.
Prehistoric and Roman
Fig. 70 Islip (1–15)
Harper's Brook Complex (9) Saxon Burial
b(1–5) Harper's Brook complex (Fig. 70), in the N.E. of
the parish, on a flat-topped sandy ridge between Harper's
Brook and the R. Nene, around 125 ft. above OD. It is a
direct continuation S. of the Henslow Meadow complex in
Aldwincle parish which lies N. of Harper's Brook (Aldwincle
(1–11)). The identifiable sites are listed below, but in addition,
two barrows quoted as being 'in Islip Meadow' in the middle
of the 18th century, and a 'Tumulus near Islip Mill', noted in
the early 20th century, may have lain in the same area (T. J.
George, Arch. Survey of Northants., (1904), 20; Surtees Soc. 80
(1887), 71–2). A 3rd-century coin found at Mill Farm, together
with other Roman coins now in Northampton Museum, and
a quartzite hammerhead, may have come from here. (BNFAS,
3 (1969), 14; OS Record Cards; J. Northants. Natur. Hist. Soc.,
XXXI (1946), 35)
b(1) Ring ditch (SP 98737980), diam. 18 m. (BNFAS, 6
b(2) Enclosure (SP 99347996) is of long narrow and
rectangular form, and apparently incomplete on its W. side.
The N. half has now been destroyed by gravel-working but
excavation of the surrounding ditch revealed it to be nearly
2 m. deep. One sherd of Iron Age pottery, with curvilinear
decoration of Hunsbury type, was found (CUAP, ZF4; BNFAS,
4 (1970), 41). Immediately to the S., air photographs show
another sub-rectangular enclosure and a length of curving
b(3) Enclosures (SP 99307990), S. of (2). They comprise
one small rectangular enclosure attached to a length of ditch
with traces of what may be another larger enclosure to the
N.E. Weathered Roman sherds and limestone rubble have
been found (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 41; CUAP, ZF4).
b(4) Trackway and Roman remains (SP 99308032–
99157978). The trackway is visible on air photographs as two
parallel ditches running N.-S., 10–16 m. apart, and widening
to form a funnel entrance at the S. end. It probably ran N.
across Harper's Brook to meet the Roman road crossing
Henslow Meadow in Aldwincle (Fig. 16). There is an area of
heavy stone slabs in and around the brook on the projected
line of the trackway at SP 99308040 (CUAP, ZF4).
b(5) Settlement (SP 987796) comprises a compact group of
enclosures and linear ditches of generally rectangular plan. A
circular feature on the N. side may be a hut circle. To the N.E.
is a short length of double ditch, possibly a trackway, and
further E. is another enclosure, very indistinctly shown on
available air photographs (in NMR).
b(6) Roman cemetery (?) (SP 98807848), on the side of the
Nene Valley on gravel and limestone at 120 ft. above OD. In
the mid 18th century, '3 or 4 collections of human bones
thrown into heaps without order', together with fragments of
Roman pottery, were found in a gravel pit on the S. side of
the Kettering Road (Gent's Mag., 27 (1757), 20).
b(7) Roman (?) iron-working site (SP 970782), on the N.
side of a deeply-cut valley on sand and clay at 150 ft. above
OD. In about 1882 an old smelting furnace, consisting of a
circular chamber with a lump of iron in the bottom, was
discovered during ironstone mining No dating evidence was
noted and the site may be either Roman or medieval (PSA,
IX (1882), 90–91; OS Record Cards). Possibly from the same
site a 'Roman Well ... lined with white tiles' (limestone
blocks?) was discovered during ironstone quarrying (Northampton Independent, 11 Dec. 1909, 28).
See also (8) for Roman pottery from a Saxon cemetery.
Medieval and Later
b(8) Saxon cemetery (SP 970785), on the N. side of a
deeply-cut valley on sand and limestone at 200 ft. above OD.
A 'Roman' skeleton with a 'helmet', presumably a shield boss,
was found hereabouts in the mid 18th century. In 1878 when
the area was being worked for ironstone, three or four burials
in graves, a shield boss, glass, beads and a large number of
bronze brooches, clasps and buckles were found (Gent's Mag.,
27 (1757), 20; PSA, IX (1882), 89–91). In 1917–18 further
graves were discovered associated with numerous beads,
buckles, brooches, shield bosses, spearheads, pottery and two
glass dishes. Two Roman 'cinerary urns' were also found and
it is possible that some of the graves were of Roman date (PSA,
IX (1882), 89; XXX (1918), 113–20; Ant. J., XXI (1941),
234–6). The location of the site is different from that given by
Meaney (Gazetteer, 190–1) and is based on OS map evidence
(OS Record Cards; see also J. Northants. Mus. and Art Gal., 6
b(9) Saxon burial (SP 986797), N. of the village, immediately W. of (5). An inhumation burial, with two cruciform
brooches, was discovered here during pipe-laying in 1965
(BNFAS, 3 (1969), 18).
(10) Cultivation remains. The common fields of the parish
were enclosed by Act of Parliament of 1800 (NRO, Enclosure
Map). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists, or can be traced
on air photographs, only in the S.W. half of the parish. In
this area are extensive remains of end-on and interlocked
furlongs, mainly of reversed-S type. (RAF VAP CPE/UK 1994,