35 HOUGHTON, LITTLE
(OS 1:10000 a SP 76 SE, b SP 86 SW, c SP 75 NE,
d SP 85 NW)
The parish is roughly rectangular and covers some 910
hectares, immediately S.E. of Northampton and S. of
the R. Nene which forms its N. boundary. As a result of
modern boundary changes it now includes much land
formerly in Great Houghton. The S. two-thirds of the
parish is entirely on Boulder Clay, between 91 m. and
107 m. above OD. In the N. the land falls steeply into
the valley of the R. Nene, along whose sides narrow
bands of limestones, silts and clays are exposed. Close to
the river, at about 52 m. above OD, there are large areas
of gravel. The parish contains a notable number of Iron
Age and Roman settlements (2–27), including some
Roman pottery kilns. The most important medieval site
is the motte known as Clifford Hill (28), which is among
the largest of its kind in the British Isles. Unfortunately
nothing is known of its history.
Prehistoric and Roman
Five Acheulean hand-axes were found in a gravel pit
(SP 796604) in 1974 (NM Northants. Archaeol., 10
(1975), 151). A small fragment of a polished stone axe
of Group VI, Great Langdale type (PPS, 28 (1962), 263,
No. 1074) was discovered in the parish between 1956–8,
and another large flint axe in 1970 (at SP 79736011;
NM). A polished flint axe was found in the N. of the
parish during gravel-working in the 19th century
(BNFAS, 5 (1971), 3), and another, in 1872, in a
railway-cutting (perhaps SP 890581; Birmingham Geol.
Mus.). An Iron Age coin of Cunobelinus is recorded
from Little Houghton (lost; OS Record Cards), and a
Roman coin of Severus Alexander was found at SP
813593 (NM Records). Iron Age and Roman pottery,
in small quantities, has been found widely over the
parish outside the areas of the monuments listed below
(e.g. BNFAS, 2 (1967), 10; 6 (1971), 12, Great
b(1) Palaeolithic Site (around SP 803603), in a
gravel pit in the N. of the parish. Several bones of horse,
elephant, musk ox, woolly rhinoceros, bison and reindeer,
all said to have been of Upper Pleistocene date, have
been discovered (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 3).
d(2) Bronze Age or Iron Age Site (SP
806573), in the S. of the parish, on Boulder Clay at
95 m. above OD. In 1962 fragments of Bronze Age or
Iron Age pottery were found in the area of a ploughedout pit. Worked flints have been discovered in the same
area (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 15, Little Houghton (15)).
b(3) Iron Age Settlement (?) (SP 810607),
close to the R. Nene, in the N. of the parish, on Boulder
Clay at 52 m. above OD. A ditch and pits, associated
with probable Iron Age pottery, were noted here after
deep ploughing in 1964 (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 14, Little
b(4) Iron Age Settlement (SP 803604), S.W.
of Clifford Hill, on gravel at 52 m. above OD. Excavations during gravel-working in 1972 revealed a rectangular
enclosure, 60 m. by 54 m. and several intersecting
ditches, forming subsidiary enclosures, were found within it. The pottery indicated a late Iron Age occupation
(Northants, Archaeol., (1973), 4).
Fig. 80 Little Houghton (8–14)
East Houghton Complex
d(5) Iron Age and Roman Settlement
(SP 803564), in the extreme S. of the parish, on Boulder
Clay at 95 m. above OD. Large quantities of Iron Age
and Roman pottery have been found, as well as roof tiles,
part of a rotary quern, a bronze brooch and bracelet,
Roman coins and a barbed-and-tanged arrowhead. Firebars, perhaps indicating the site of a kiln, are also
recorded (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 10; 6 (1971), 12, Great
Houghton (9); OS Record Cards; NM Records).
d(6) Iron Age and Roman Settlement
(SP 812582), E. of Little Houghton Lodge, on Boulder
Clay at 110 m. above OD. Numerous finds from this
site include Iron Age and Roman pottery, tesserae, roof
tiles, a spindle whorl, two 3rd-century coins, a bronze
brooch, bronze rings, pieces of lead and an iron chisel.
Worked flints, a leaf-shaped arrowhead and scrapers are
also recorded. Air photographs (in NMR) show a cropmark of a single linear ditch, orientated N.–S., and
visible for a distance of some 70 m. to the S. of the site
(at SP 811580). This has been described elsewhere as a
ditched trackway (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 14; 3 (1969), 5; 6
(1971), 15, Little Houghton (13); OS Record Cards;
b(7) Roman Settlement and (?) Kiln (SP
804603), S.W. of Clifford Hill, on gravel at 52 m. above
OD. Ditches containing Roman pottery were revealed by
gravel-working. Pieces of baked clay and a stone structure
possibly a kiln, were reported (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 14,
Little Houghton (2)).
(8–14) East Houghton Complex (centred SP
812600; Fig. 80), covers some 90 hectares in the N. of
the parish, between Coney Gree Plantation and Billing
Road, on sand and limestone, between 66 m. and 91 m.
above OD. Roman pottery occurs over the whole of this
area but the following specific discoveries have been
b(8) Iron Age and Roman Settlement (?)
(SP 812604). Roman pottery, including samian, Iron
Age pottery and worked flints have been found (BNFAS,
6 (1971), 14, Little Houghton (3)).
b(9) Roman Buildings and Kilns (SP 813602).
Surface finds from this field include late Iron Age and
Roman pottery, over thirty coins, firebars, kiln waste,
roof tiles, glass, nails, iron slag, oyster shells, many quern
stones, an iron gouge and a bronze thimble. Worked
flints have also been recorded. Two pits containing kiln
debris and one quarry pit for sand grit have been excavated (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 14, Little Houghton (5);
Ant. J., 49 (1969), 94). One small piece of glass (NM) is
decorated in relief with a wheel motif. It has been
suggested that it is part of a cult vessel used in the worship of Jupiter (J. Northants. Mus. and Art Gall., 10
(1974), 2–5; BAR, 24 (1976), 180).
b(10) Iron Age and Roman Settlement
And Kilns (centred SP 815604). Surface finds include
Iron Age and Roman pottery, worked flints and scatters
of stone, as well as firebars, a Roman bronze brooch and
one coin. Air photographs (CUAP, ZE 31–40, ZJ 61–5
and in NMR) show a complex group of rectangular
enclosures and associated ditches (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 14,
Little Houghton (4); Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 6).
b(11) Enclosures and Pit Alignment
(centred SP 810600). Air photographs (CUAP, AVD 33–
7 and in NMR) show a pit alignment orientated N.E.—
S.W. and traceable for 500 m. Near its S.W. end it passes
through a group of small enclosures which have a ditched
trackway and another pit alignment running N. from
them. At its N.E. end the first pit alignment has a small
double enclosure attached to it (BNFAS, 6 (1971),
14–15, Little Houghton (6); Northants. Archaeol., 9
d(12) Iron Age Settlement (SP 813599). Air
photographs (CUAP, BJC 61–3 and in NMR) show a
complex series of enclosures and ditches. Surface finds
from the area include Iron Age pottery, some of Hunsbury type, associated with numerous pits (BNFAS, 6
(1971), 15, Little Houghton (7)).
d(13) Roman Settlement and Kilns (SP
811598). A large quantity of Roman pottery, firebars,
and baked clay material from the domes and lining of
kilns has been found in the area, as well as numerous
Roman coins and worked flints. Air photographs (not
seen by RCHM) are said to show some indeterminate
ditches in the area (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 14; 3 (1969), 15;
4 (1970), 10; 6 (1971), 15, Little Houghton (8);
Ant. J., 49 (1969), 93). A Roman gold coin of Augustus,
found in 1717, is now thought to have come from this
site (Northants. Archaeol., 9 (1974), 91).
d(14) Roman Settlement and Kilns (SP
812596). Surface finds include Roman pottery and coins,
roof tiles, wall plaster, bronze brooches, bracelets and
pins, pieces of lead, spindle whorls, scatters of stone and
worked flints. Four pits or gullies, with kiln bars, kiln
lining and 1st-century Roman pottery, have been excavated (BNFAS., 6 (1971), 15, Little Houghton (8);
7 (1972), 22; Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 6; 9
(1974), 9; 10 (1975), 155; Ant. J., 49 (1969), 92–3).
Roman coins have also been found further to the N.E.
(at SP 814597; BNFAS, 4 (1970), 10).
(15–20) South Houghton Complex (centred
SP 802593), covers some 15 hectares immediately S. of
the village on sand, limestone and Boulder Clay, at 76 m.
above OD. Roman pottery occurs over the whole of
the area, but the following specific discoveries have
d(15) Roman Settlement (SP 804596). Roman
pottery and coins, bronze rings and worked flints,
including scrapers and barbed-and-tanged arrowheads,
were found here in 1963. A medieval arrowhead, a coin
of Henry I, a spindle whorl and a pilgrim's badge have
also been found (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 26; 6 (1971), 15,
Little Houghton (10); 7 (1972), 2).
d(16) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 805593). Two
Roman coins, a fragment of tile and a leaf-shaped arrow
head were found in 1966 (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 15, Little
Houghton (11)). Roman pottery has subsequently been
d(17) Roman Kiln (?) (SP 801594). Roman pottery
and kiln bars were found in 1957 (Ant. J., 49 (1969),
93; NM Records).
d(18) Roman Kilns (SP 802594). Roman pottery
and firebars were found in 1967 (Ant. J., 49 (1969), 93;
BNFAS, 6 (1971), 12, Great Houghton (1)).
d(19) Iron Age Settlement (?) (SP 802592).
Pottery, probably of Iron Age date, and worked flints
are recorded (NM Records).
d(20) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 805595).
Roman coins, tesserae and pottery are said to have
been found in this area (NM Records).
d(21) Roman Settlement (SP 809595), immediately W. of Coney Gree Plantation and within
Houghton Park, on limestone at 84 m. above OD. Air
photographs (not seen by RCHM) are said to show at
least one double ditch. Roman pottery and coins, as well
as worked flints, including cores and scrapers, are
recorded (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 15, Little Houghton (9);
OS Record Cards).
Fig. 81 Little Houghton (23)
d(22) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 812590), on
Boulder Clay at 104 m. above OD. A small quantity
of Roman pottery has been found (BNFAS, 6 (1971),
15, Little Houghton (12)).
d(23) Roman Settlement (SP 811587; Fig. 81),
on Boulder Clay at 100 m. above OD. Air photographs
(in NMR) show a group of conjoined rectangular enclosures, associated with other features which are not
clearly visible. A small quantity of Roman pottery has
been found a short distance to the E. (BNFAS, 6 (1971),
15, Little Houghton (12)).
d(24) Iron Age and Roman Settlement
And Kilns (SP 801586), on Boulder Clay at 91 m.
above OD. Iron Age and Roman pottery and kiln bars
were found here in 1960 (Ant. J., 49 (1969), 93;
BNFAS, 6 (1971), 12, Great Houghton (5)). There are
also records of Roman pottery and kiln debris near by
(at SP 802585; OS Record Cards).
d(25) Roman Settlement (SP 815574), on
Boulder Clay at 107 m. above OD. Dark patches of soil,
indicating pits, burnt limestone, Roman pottery and
worked flints are recorded (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 15, Little
Houghton (14); NM Records).
d(26) Roman Settlement (SP 819564), on
Boulder Clay at 112 m. above OD. Large patches of
stone, Roman pottery and coins, roof tiles, iron slag and
worked flints are recorded (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 15; 6
(1971), 15, Little Houghton (16); NM Records).
c(27) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 795567), E. of
Preston Lodge Cottages, on clay at 91 m. above OD.
Roman pottery and burnt stones were found here in
1962 (BNFAS, 9 (1971), 12, Great Houghton (7)).
Medieval and Later
A small Anglo-Saxon disc brooch was found in 1957,
within the East Houghton Complex (at SP 812599;
Ant. J., 42 (1962), 53). For other medieval finds, see
b(28) Motte (SP 80606063; Fig. 82; Plate 5), known
as Clifford Hill, lies N. of the village, on the edge of the
R. Nene, on Boulder Clay and Lias Clay at 54 m. above
OD. The motte is of exceptional size, standing some
14 m. high above the surrounding land. Though once
circular in plan and regular in form, it is now considerably
altered and damaged on its S. side, where the steep side
has been reduced to a series of rounded and ill-defined
terraces and mounds, as a result of landslips. The
summit of the motte is flat and featureless, but its former
circular shape has been changed, following the collapse
of the S. side. The mound is surrounded by a large ditch
up to 5 m. deep, but again on the S. side there are
indications that this ditch has been recut, following the
slipping of the side of the motte above it, which perhaps
partly filled it. On the N. there is a steep drop, which
forms a narrow rampart-like feature, 4 m. high above the
R. Nene. On the S. is a wide and much spread outer
bank which has been interpreted as additional defences.
This may have originated as the spoil removed from the
blocked S. ditch after the landslip, though its present
form is the result of subsequent ploughing. A low bank,
formed partly by the old river cliff, extends W. from the
motte ditch and is truncated by the later mill pond.
This may be part of a bailey but the evidence is inadequate. Part of the site was dug into in 1900 'but nothing
was found that is worth recording' (Ann. Rep. Northants.
Exploration Soc., (1900), 7; copy in Northampton
The motte, presumably of 11th or 12th-century date,
was clearly built to control a ford across the R. Nene,
leading from Little Houghton to Little Billing. However
nothing is known of its early history beyond the fact
that it bore its present name in the 13th century. The
name has no significance except as a description of the
motte's situation on the cliff near a ford (PN Northants.,
149). The lack of any documented history concerning
one of the largest mottes in England may be due to its
early collapse. It is constructed from Lias Clay which is
notoriously unstable when wet and the landslips on its
S. side, as well as the attempted restoration of the ditch,
may have taken place soon after it was built. The present
flat summit is apparently due to the construction of a
bowling green there in the 17th century. Before this the
motte was alleged to have been higher (VCH Northants.,
I (1902), 218; IV (1937), 266–7; J. Bridges, Hist. of
Northants., I (1971), 373).
Fig. 82 Little Houghton (28) Clifford Hill motte
b(29) Site Of Manor House (SP 80265961;
Fig. 83; Plate 5), immediately W. of the church, on sand
at 84 m. above OD. The site consists of a rectangular
raised platform with a level top, so that it is almost 3 m.
high on the N.W. and only 1 m. high on the S. The S.E.
part has been destroyed by the churchyard and the N.W.
corner has been damaged. There are slight traces of
former buildings on the platform, but these may be
modern. Nothing remains of a surrounding ditch on the
surface but a trench cut across the N. edge in 1957 revealed a ditch which contained 13th-century pottery
The site has been described as a motte, but it is more
probably the site of a medieval manor house. The area
in which it lies was known as South Hall Piece in 1835
(NRO, Estate Map; CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 4 (1974),
d(30) Settlement Remains (SP 801597 and
802595), formerly part of Little Houghton, lie on the E.
side of the village, S. of Meadow Lane, and N. of the
Bedford Road. Both areas have a series of rectangular
closes, bounded by low scarps up to 1.5 m. high, indicating possible former occupation. Of more significance are
the slight traces of a possible hollow-way which, though
much damaged, suggest that Meadow Lane once ran on
S.W. from the present right-angle bend (at SP 80185975)
as far as the parish boundary with Great Houghton. If
this was the case then the village at some time had a
neat rectangular form bounded by Church Street on the
E., Bedford Road on the S., Meadow Lane on the N. and
the parish boundary on the W., with the church and
manor house (29) in the S.E. corner. Both areas were
devoid of building in 1835 (NRO, Estate Map; RAF
VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4015–6).
b(31) Fishpond (SP 90686010; Fig. 84; Plate 8),
lies N.E. of the village in a narrow valley draining N., on
clay at 60 m. above OD. It consists of a small pond
bounded by well-marked banks up to 1.5 m. high. There
are two modern breaks in the bank, near the N.E. corner.
The present stream flows immediately to the W. but a
dry channel on the E. may be its original course. It is
probably a medieval fishpond (CBA Group 9, Newsletter,
4 (1974), 27; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4106–7;/1994,
(32) Cultivation Remains. The common fields
of the parish were enclosed by Act of Parliament of
1827 (NRO, Enclosure Map, 1829) together with those
of Brafield-on-the-Green. In the early 18th century
Bridges recorded that the common fields of the two
parishes were intermixed (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants.,
I (1791), 341). In 1618 Daniel Ward received licence to
enclose 132 acres in this parish and in Great Houghton,
but it is not known in which area this land lay (VCH
Northants., IV (1937), 267).
Fig. 83 Little Houghton (29)
Manor house site
Ridge-and-furrow of these fields remains on the
ground, or can be traced from air photographs, over almost the entire parish. It is arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs with a marked tendency for the ridges to
be orientated across the contours on steep slopes. A
number of former headlands can still be seen as low
ridges up to 300 m. long (e.g. at SP 809569, 810573 and
815577). Both these and the ridge-and-furrow agree with
the layout of furlongs shown on the Enclosure Map. A
number of old lanes or access-ways through the fields are
still traceable, the most notable being a former axial
road running N.—S. across the parish (SP 80765890–
81405730). This still survives in parts as a footpath
edged by embanked hedgerows. Two other minor accessways are visible in the S.E. of the parish (at SP 811571).
In the extreme S. of the parish ridge-and-furrow also
covers most of the area known as The Furze in 1829,
when it was pasture.
The modern parish now contains land which was
formerly in Great Houghton. The cultivation remains
there are described under the latter parish (RAF VAP
CPE/UK/1926, 2014–8, 4013–8; CPE/UK/1994,
1188–91, 2184–6, 3179–81; CPE/UK/2546, 3120–4;
F21 543/RAF/943, 0055–60; F22 543/RAF/943,
0055–60; F21 543/RAF/2049, 0152–4; F22 543/RAF/
Fig. 84 Little Houghton (31) Fishponds