(OS 1:10000 a SP 78 SE, b SP 88 SW)
The old parish of Desborough lies immediately N. of the
R. Ise which forms its S. boundary. The higher land in
the N.W., between 107 m. and 145 m. above OD, is
covered by Boulder Clay. From this the land drops towards the S.E. across Northampton Sand and Upper Lias
Clay, to the R. Ise here flowing at some 90 m. above OD.
A number of finds are recorded, several during the 19th
century, and mainly from ironstone-workings. These
include Bronze Age burials (1–3), and also Anglo-Saxon
Prehistoric and Roman
An axe-hammer is said to have been found near Desborough (NM Records).
b(1) Bronze Age Burials (SP 80408318),
found in 1911 during demolition work in Paddock Lane
on the S. of the town, on sand at 122 m. above OD. Two
Collared Urns were discovered (in NM). One is of the
Primary Series (PPS, 27 (1961), 296, No. 117), the other
of the Secondary Series.
(2) Bronze Age Burials (unlocated). There are
records of a number of vessels, extant or lost, found at
various times in the area, but it is not clear where they
were discovered or exactly how many there originally
were. They include a small Collared Urn, one of the Primary Series, found in 1826 (J. Abercromby, Bronze
Age Pottery, II (1912), 116, Pl. 69, No. 93; PPS, 27
(1961), 296, No. 118; NM) and another 'large cinerary
urn' of which only one plain body sherd survives (NM).
In addition there are three other Collared Urns in NM,
two of which were found in 1908 from ironstone
quarries W. of the town (SP 7982; BNFAS, 7 (1972),
2–3; see also PSA, 22 (1909), 333–4; 27 (1915),
a(3) Bronze Age Burial, Iron Age and
Roman Settlement (SP 79898277), found during
ironstone-mining in 1906–8, on sand at 122 m. above
OD. The following objects were discovered: a small
Collared Urn, of the Primary Series, (Ashmolean
Museum; PPS, 27 (1961), 297, No. 129); several other
Bronze Age pots, possibly the three Collared Urns of (2);
a quantity of Iron Age and Roman pottery, querns and
loom weights. The most notable finds were a bronze
brooch with a bilateral spiral spring of La Tene III type
and the well-known 'Desborough' Iron Age bronze
mirror (Frontispiece; PSA, 22 (1908), 333–7;
27 (1915), 123–4; Ant. J., 4 (1924), 151–3; J. Northants. Natur. Hist. Soc. and FC, 13 (1906), 37–43; 16
(1912), 137–8; Archaeologia, 61 (1909), 239–46;
Antiquity, 34 (1960), 207–10; Ulster J. Arch., 17
For Saxon finds from the same site, see (8) below.
a(4) Roman Settlement (SP 79428259), immediately S.W. of (3), in a similar position and perhaps
part of the same site. Ironstone-mining in 1906–8 led to
the discovery of three 'early British' wells, 6 m. below
the existing land surface. Associated with them were
human bones, and Roman and Saxon pottery (see (8)
below; PSA, 22 (1908), 333; OS Record Cards).
b(5) Roman Burials and Settlement (?)
(SP 804836), found probably in the late 19th century
during ironstone-mining near Desborough station, on
former Boulder Clay at 128 m. above OD. Skeletons,
animal bones and Roman pottery are recorded (VCH
Northants., I (1902), 217). These finds, which also included an iron knife, may have come from a mound (NM
Medieval and Later
b(6) Anglo-Saxon Cemetery (SP 80508307),
N. of the town, on sand at 115 m. above OD. During
ironstone-mining in 1876 about sixty interments were
found within an 'old encampment' of which no trace
survives, though a plan of this earthwork exists in the
Dryden Collection (Central Library, Northampton). The
bodies were in rough graves, without coffins, their heads
to the W. Few of the graves contained grave goods, but
from two of them came a gold necklace with garnet-set
pendants, a Roman bronze pin, a bronze pan or skillet,
fragments of a bronze bowl, a pair of scales, a spoon and
two glass cups. Some of these may have been contained
in an iron-bound wooden box (BM; Meaney, Gazetteer,
188, Desborough (1); Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975),
165; CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 6 (1976), 20).
(7) Anglo-Saxon Cemetery (unlocated, but
presumably on the line of the modern A 6 road), N.W.
of the town, and found before 1757 in a gravel pit
opened for the benefit of the turnpike. Several skeletons
with amber and glass beads, an iron ring and several
bronze clasps were discovered as well as two urns filled
with bones and ashes (Meaney, Gazetteer, 188, Desborough (2)).
a(8) Anglo-Saxon Cemetery (SP 7989277),
discovered with finds from (3) in 1906–8. Two Saxon
pots of plain black ware are recorded and a silver necklace may have come from the same site or a little to the
S.W. (at SP 79428259) where other Saxon remains are
vaguely reported (Meaney, Gazetteer, 188, Desborough
(3); OS Record Cards).
Fig. 36 Desborough (11) Earthworks
(9) Anglo-Saxon Cemetery (?) (unlocated, in
the town), found in 1805 when, it is recorded, many
Anglo-Saxon interments were discovered, accompanied
by bronze articles (Archaeologia, 45 (1876), 471).
(10) Anglo-Saxon Burial (unlocated), perhaps from Rothwell, A small Saxon urn, now in Market
Harborough Museum, is said to have been found between
Desborough and Rothwell (Meaney, Gazetteer, 189).
b(11) Earthworks (SP 803829; Fig. 36) of unknown purpose, lie immediately S. of the church in, and
on the W. side of, a narrow valley, on clay at about
104 m. above OD. The valley is partly blocked by a
large earth bank, up to 2.5 m. high, which may be a
dam, and there are two much slighter banks about
0.25 m. high, across the valley upstream. Below the dam
is an area of later quarrying and a square platform with a
scarped lower edge. To the W., on the side and crest of
the valley, are two disconnected lengths of broad bank,
the upper with a ditch on the W. side. Further N., within
the present graveyard, are two parallel scarps (RAF VAP
(12) Cultivation Remains. The common fields
of the parish were enclosed by Act of Parliament of
1776. An undated map of the late 18th century (NRO)
shows the common fields still in existence. At that time
there were four fields, How, Garborough, Little and
Bestow Fields, all lying around the town, and a large
area of old enclosures in the N.E. of the parish (J.R.
Moore, History of Desborough (1910), 15–26).
Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground
or can be traced on air photographs over large areas of
the parish outside the extensive ironstone quarries. It is
arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs, some of
which are of strong reversed-S form (e.g. SP 786817
and 793835). It agrees exactly with the furlongs marked
on the late 18th-century map of the parish (RAF VAP
541/602, 4178–84; 541/612, 4024–8, 3024–8; F21
82/RAF/865, 0296–9, 0314–8).