(OS 1: 10000 a SP 77 SW, b SP 77 SE, c SP 76 NW,
d SP 76 NE)
The parish is roughly triangular and occupies some 1270
hectares between the S.W.-flowing Pitsford Brook and a
S.–flowing stream which meet in the S.W. corner of the
parish. The village of Brixworth stands at the highest point,
on a broad almost level plateau between 120 m. and 130 m.
above OD. Northampton Sand covers most of the centre of
the parish, but in the E. of the village it is overlaid by
Boulder Clay; on the lower slopes, down-cutting of the
main streams and their tributaries has exposed wide areas of
Upper Lias Clay. The parish is notable for the wealth of
sites and finds of all periods. Their discovery is due, at least
in part, to extensive ironstone-mining in the late 19th and
early 20th centuries, but even more to intensive modern
fieldwork and excavation carried out in an attempt to
understand the background of the unique Saxon church at
Brixworth. The history and architectural development of
the church is beyond the scope of this volume but the
discoveries described below help to provide a context (Fig.
31). There is evidence of extensive Roman settlement
(13–21) in the parish, probably on or near the hill on which
the church now stands, and this appears to have been
superseded by a rather dispersed pattern of early Saxon
occupation sites (24–32), with which two known
cemeteries (22, 23), and perhaps others, may have been
associated. Excavations in and around the churchyard (33,
34) suggest that a monastic establishment was in existence
by about 700 A.D. This supports the documentary
evidence which may imply that the original monastic
church was founded in 666–9 A.D. by St. Wilfred. The
same excavations also seems to show that in the late Saxon
period at least part of the monastic precinct was converted
to secular use.
Fig. 31 Brixworth (13–32) Roman and early Saxon settlements and burials
Prehistoric and Roman
In addition to the flint-working sites (1–11) listed below,
numerous flint tools have been discovered in the parish
including many arrowheads and a flint axe said to have
come from near Hill Farm (SP 747690). Small quantities of
flints have been noted at SP 738704, 743706 and 748685
(inf. D. N. Hall). At least four polished stone axes are
known to have come from the parish, two of Group VI,
one of Group XX and one of Greywacke (T. J. George,
Arch. Survey of Northants. (1904), 11; NM Records).
Prehistoric pottery from Brixworth includes three beakers,
all discovered before 1918, probably during ironstonemining. One is handled (D. L. Clarke, Beaker Pottery of
Great Britain and Ireland (1970), 490, SH3 (B); Northants. N.
and Q., 5 (1892), 80; OS Record Cards; NM), one is
biconical with an everted rim and three zones of horizontal
lines (Clarke, op. cit., W/MR; NM) and the third is a tall
beaker (Clarke, op. cit., S2 (E); NM). There are also three
or four Bronze Age urns from the parish, including two
Primary Series Collared Urns (PPS, 27 (1961), 296, Nos.
109 and 110; Abercromby, Bronze Age Pottery, II (1912),
Figs. 67 and 95; NM). A late Bronze Age leaf-shaped
sword is also known (VCH Northants., I (1902), 143; J.
Northants. Mus. and Art Gall., 6 (1969), 4; Beds. Arch. J., 10
(1975), 17; Arch. J., 125 (1968), 1–45; Burgess, Class IIc;
NM). An iron bar which had been described as an Iron Age
currency bar is now thought to be an agricultural
implement of unknown date (OS Record Cards; T. J.
George, Arch. Survey of Northants. (1904), 11; PPS, 33
A number of barrows or ring ditches have been recorded
at various times. On a map of Bannaventa and its environs
(Archaeologia, 35 (1853), 395, Pl. XVI) three 'tumuli' are
marked in Brixworth village (two at SP 748706, and the
other at SP 749712). The areas involved are now built over,
but the sites are unlikely to have been barrows. More
recently an air photograph (CUAP, ABD92) has revealed the
cropmarks of three joined ring ditches with others some
45 m. to the E. (SP 771706). These are known to be the
remains of a Second World War anti-aircraft battery (see
also Brockhall and Harlestone).
A hoard of about 30 Roman silver coins was found
somewhere in the parish in about 1885 (T. J. George, Arch.
Survey of Northants (1904), 11); other coins, of Pius,
Carausius and others, also found in the 19th century, may
have come from the site of the villa (16) (VCH Northants., I
(1902), 194). Another hoard, of 24 coins from Vespasian to
Crispina, was found in 1892 (Num. Chron., 5 (1945), 164).
Roman pottery is also said to have been found in the parish
around 1900, during ironstone-quarrying (T. J. George,
ibid.). A Roman well mentioned by T. J. George (ibid.)
cannot be located.
In Brixworth church there is a piece of decorated stone
cornice, probably 3rd-century in date and presumably
from a monumental structure. It was apparently found in
1958 during excavations in the church. Whether it was
originally part of a building on the site or was brought
from elsewhere is not known (Northants. Archaeol., 13
(1) Flint-working site (unlocated), said to be
somewhere E. of the main A508 road, S. of the village,
probably on Northampton Sand. A large number of flint
tools, waste flakes and cores is recorded (NM Records).
a(2) Flint-working site (SP 746719). Worked flints,
including leaf-shaped and barbed-and-tanged arrowheads,
scrapers and blades as well as cores, were found during
excavation on the Roman villa (16) (J. Northants. Mus. and
Art Gall., 8 (1970), 5). More flints have since been noted, in
the area to the N., extending E. to the Saxon site (22) (inf.
D. N. Hall).
a(3) Flint-working site (SP 742712), W. of the village
on Northampton Sand at 107 m. above OD. Worked flints
of Bronze Age type are recorded, including ten flint
arrowheads of various forms, 99 scrapers, 600 waste flakes
and nearly 60 cores (inf. D. N. Hall; for Saxon finds from
this area, see (25) below).
a(4) Prehistoric settlement (?) (SP 741708), W. of the
village, on Northampton Sand at 105 m. above OD.
Worked flints of Neolithic and Bronze Age type, late
Bronze Age pottery and part of a saddle quern have been
found. The flints included 5 arrowheads, 61 scrapers, 188
waste flakes and over 40 cores (inf. D. N. Hall; for Saxon
finds from this site, see (26) below).
a(5) Flint-working site (SP 738707), W. of the village,
on Upper Lias Clay at 90 m. above OD. Worked flints said
to be of Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age type have
been found. They included nearly 60 scrapers, 316 waste
flakes and 43 cores (inf. D. N. Hall; for Saxon finds from
this site, see (27) below).
ac(6) Flint-working site (SP 735701), in the W. of the
parish, on Northampton Sand at 91 m. above OD. A
quantity of worked flints, described as being of early
Neolithic type, have been found (inf. D. N. Hall; for
Saxon finds from this site, see (28) below).
c(7) Flint-working site (SP 741699), S.W. of the
village, on Northampton Sand at 120 m. above OD.
Worked flints, said to be of Neolithic type, have been
found. Bronze Age flints are recorded near by (SP 739698).
These two groups included over 50 arrowheads, over 1100
scrapers, over 7500 waste flakes and nearly 1400 cores.
Two saddle querns were also discovered (inf. D. N. Hall).
cd(8) Flint-working site (SP 750699), S. of the village,
on Northampton Sand at 125 m. above OD. Worked flints
described as being of Mesolithic and Bronze Age type have
been discovered. These included two arrowheads, 31
scrapers, nearly 100 waste flakes and 29 cores (inf. D. N.
Hall; for Saxon finds from this site, see (30) below).
c(9) Flint-working site (SP 748690), in the S.E. of the
parish, E. of Hill Farm, on Northampton Sand at 110 m.
above OD. A number of worked flints, apparently of late
Neolithic or early Bronze Age type, have been found here
in two places. Cropmarks of unspecified form are also
recorded. The flaked flint axe noted above may have come
from this site (inf. D. N. Hall).
c(10) Ring ditch and flint-working site (SP 736694),
in the W. of the parish, on Upper Lias Clay at 80 m. above
OD. Cropmarks of a ring ditch are said to have been seen,
and on the ground a number of worked flints, described as
of Bronze Age type, have been found. The flints included
66 scrapers, nearly 80 cores and over 300 waste flakes (inf.
D. N. Hall).
b(11) Prehistoric settlement (SP 778704), in the E. of
the parish, on Upper Lias Clay at 90 m. above OD.
Worked flints, described as Neolithic and Bronze Age in
type, and sherds of late Bronze Age pottery have been
found. The flints included 34 arrowheads of various forms,
over 250 scrapers, some 2000 waste flakes and 400 cores
(inf. D. N. Hall; for Saxon finds from the site, see (31)
b(12) Iron Age settlement (?) (SP 779702), in the
extreme E. of the parish, on Northampton Sand at 100 m.
above OD. Some badly abraded sherds, probably of early
Iron Age date, have been found (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 1).
a(13) Iron Age and Roman settlement (SP 743701; Fig.
31), immediately S.W. of the village, on Northampton
Sand at 125 m. above OD. A trial trench revealed sherds of
late Iron Age and Roman pottery, but the soil has been
restored after quarrying (Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973),
5–6). In addition large quantities of worked flints have been
noted in the surrounding area (inf. D. N. Hall; for Saxon
finds from the same site, see (32) below).
c(14) Iron Age and Roman settlement (?) (SP 743687;
Fig. 31), S.W. of Hill Farm, on Northampton Sand at
95 m. above OD. Iron Age and Roman sherds have been
found here and cropmarks are said to have been seen some
100 m. to the N. (inf. D. N. Hall).
c(15) Prehistoric and Roman settlement (SP 734682;
Fig. 31), in the extreme S.W. of the parish, on
Northampton Sand at 85 m. above OD. Worked flints of
Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age type have been
found, as well as Roman pottery. The flints include 100
scrapers, 3 fragments of flint axes, 219 cores and nearly
1000 waste flakes (inf. D. N. Hall; for Saxon finds from
this site, see (29) below).
a(16) Roman villa (SP 746719; Fig. 31), lies N.W. of
the church, on Northampton Sand at 120 m. above OD.
Excavations between 1965 and 1970 revealed the remains
of a large building of several periods but, although the
pottery from the site has been published in detail, only a
brief summary of the structure exists. Five periods of
occupation were recovered. The earliest is represented by
ditches and a circular hut some 6 m. in diam., all dating
from before 70 A.D., which was replaced by a small five-roomed rectangular masonry structure, orientated N.–S.
with a timber colonnade on the W. and some painted
walls. It was dated to between 70 A.D. and 100 A.D. In the
late 2nd or early 3rd century the N. end of the range was
reconstructed and a detached outbuilding was erected to the
S. The latter remained in use until the end of the 3rd
century and at one time was used for the manufacture of
bronze implements. In the late 3rd or early 4th century the
villa was doubled in size by the addition of another room to
the N., a corridor to the E. and a large bath suite to the S.
Two infant-burials were found below the floor of one of
the rooms in the bath suite. The later history of the site is
not clear, as a result of extensive robbing and deep
ploughing, but surface finds indicate occupation lasting
well into the 4th and perhaps into the 5th century. The
villa may have been partly occupied in the early Saxon
period (see (24) below; J. Northants. Mus. and Art Gall., 1
(1967), 5–27; 8 (1970), 3–97; JRS, 56 (1966), 207;
BNFAS, 2 (1967), 7–8; CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 2 (1972),
9; for prehistoric finds, see p. 27 and (2) above).
a(17) Roman settlement (?) (SP 74727122; Fig. 31),
perhaps under Brixworth church. In 1971 a small
excavation in the N.W. angle between the tower and the
nave led to the discovery of a few stratified Roman sherds,
a piece of roof tile and a pit or ditch which was also
probably Roman. Medieval pottery and coins were found
in the same area (inf. D. N. Hall; Med. Arch., 16 (1972),
158; BNFAS, 7 (1972), 39; Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973),
18; CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 3 (1973), 20).
a(18) Roman settlement (?) (SP 743703; Fig. 31), S.W.
of the village, on Northampton Sand at 125 m. above OD.
A quantity of Roman pottery and a single Saxon sherd
were found in soil dug from a trench in 1975 (Northants.
Archaeol., 11 (1976), 186).
d(19) Roman settlement (?)(SP 753693; Fig. 31), on the
edge of Pitsford Reservoir, in the E. of the parish, on
Northampton Sand at 92 m. above OD. Roman pottery
and a quern have been found (inf. D. N. Hall).
d(20) Roman settlement (?) (SP 767700; Fig. 31), S.W.
of Grange Farm on Upper Lias Clay at 90 m. above OD.
Roman pottery and worked flints have been found
(Northants. Archaeol., 9 (1974), 86).
d(21) Roman settlement (SP 774700; Fig. 31), in the E.
of the parish, immediately W. of the Lower Brixworth
Lodge, on Northampton Sand at 103 m. above OD.
Quantities of Roman pottery and a well were discovered
during ironstone-mining in 1960 (CBA Group 9,
Newsletter, 3 (1973), 32; inf. D. N. Hall).
Medieval and Later
Saxon finds, except for those from the cemeteries and
possible settlements listed below (24–32), include three
pennies of Edward the Elder and a penny of Aethelred, the
latter from the churchyard (T. J. George, Arch. Survey of
Northants. (1904), 11). A silver penny of Cuthred and a
silver-plated iron pin with an ornamental head once said to
have been found in the churchyard came in fact from
ironstone quarries in about 1887. A penny of Aethelward
and two bronze pins are also recorded from 'near
Brixworth' (The Antiquary, 30 (1894), 104; PSA, 29
(1916–17), 59–60). Two rotary querns, said to be Saxon or
medieval, are recorded from Silver Street (SP 750712), as
well as a 'deposit' of medieval pottery in Church Street (SP
747711), more medieval pottery immediately to the S. and
some 13th to 14th-century rubbish pits in Hall Park (SP
748710; local inf.).
(22, 23) Saxon cemeteries (Fig. 31). The sites of two
cemeteries, described below, are known with certainty and
were found during ironstone-mining before 1904. A third
has been given various suggested locations in the S.W. of
the parish. There is a large collection of Saxon objects in
NM which may be either from these cemeteries or from
other unlocated ones, all apparently discovered during
ironstone-quarrying in the late 19th or early 20th century.
They include parts of a large square-headed brooch, three
cruciform brooches, eight small-long brooches, three
necklaces of amber and glass, a buckle, a horse bit, knives
and 26 spearheads, as well as a rough hand-made pot and
other fragments of decorated pottery (Meaney, Gazetteer
(1964), 187–8; T. J. George, Arch. Survey of Northants.
(1904), 11; JBAA, 4 (1849), 142; J. N. L. Myres, Anglo-Saxon Pottery and the Settlement of England (1969), Fig. 25,
No. 789; BAR, 7 (1974), 38; Ant. J., 19 (1939), 325–6;
BNFAS, 7 (1972), 39; J. Northants. Mus. and Art Gall., 10
a(22) Saxon cemetery (SP 747720; Fig. 31), 800 m. N.
of the church, on Northampton Sand at 120 m. above OD.
Inhumation and cremation burials were discovered,
accompanied by urns, spearheads, shield bosses, knives etc.
Early Saxon pottery has subsequently been found in the
area to the S. (inf. D. N. Hall).
a(23) Saxon cemetery (SP 744715; Fig. 31), 400 m.
N.W. of the church in a situation similar to (22).
Inhumation and cremation burials are recorded, together
with urns, spearheads and knives.
a(24) Saxon building and burial (SP 746719; Fig. 31),
found during the excavation of the Roman villa (16)
between 1965 and 1970. Ten post-holes, arranged in two
parallel rows of five 1.2 m. apart across one of the rooms in
the villa, were dated to the early Saxon period and were
thought to be for a structure erected within the already
ruined villa. An inhumation burial, under a rough cairn
made from stone from the collapsed Roman building, was
also found. No grave goods were noted. Saxon pottery has
been discovered in the surrounding area (J. Northants. Mus.
and Art Gall., 8 (1970), 5; Med. Arch., 17 (1973), 147).
a(25) Saxon settlement (?) (SP 742712; Fig. 31), found
with a flint-working site (3). Early Saxon pottery has been
noted (inf. D. N. Hall).
a(26) Saxon settlement (?) (SP 741708; Fig. 31), found
with a prehistoric settlement (4). Early Saxon pottery has
been discovered (inf. D. N. Hall).
a(27) Saxon settlement (?) (SP 738707; Fig. 31), found
with a flint-working site (5). Early Saxon pottery has been
discovered (inf. D. N. Hall).
ac(28) Saxon settlement (?) (SP 735701; Fig. 31), found
with a flint-working site (6). Two separate areas of early
Saxon pottery have been found in this vicinity (inf. D. N.
c(29) Saxon settlement (?) (SP 734682; Fig. 31), found
with a prehistoric and Roman site (15) in the S.W. of the
parish. Early Saxon pottery has been discovered (inf. D. N.
cd(30) Saxon settlement(?) (SP 750699; Fig. 31), found
at a flint-working site (8). Early Saxon pottery is recorded
(inf. D. N. Hall).
b(31) Saxon settlement (?) (SP 778704; Fig. 31), found
with a prehistoric site (11). Early Saxon pottery is recorded
(inf. D. N. Hall).
a(32) Saxon settlement (?) (SP 743701; Fig. 31), found
with Iron Age and Roman material (13). Early Saxon
sherds have been noted (Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 5–6).
a(33) Monastic cemetery and medieval settlement (SP
74647121; Fig. 31), in the vicarage garden, immediately E.
of Brixworth church, on Northampton Sand at 120 m.
above OD. Various excavations in the area have revealed
burials. Two skeletons, described as lying in a crouched
position, were found in 1939, and in 1949 a small
excavation uncovered four or five skeletons in at least two
distinct layers. In 1972 further work was undertaken and
part of the monastic precinct of the Saxon church,
including a section of its boundary and part of the cemetery
within, was discovered. The precinct boundary was a large
ditch, running N.–S., V-shaped in section, 3.4 m. wide at
the top and 2 m. deep. A radiocarbon date of 710 ad ± 80
was obtained from the organic material in the primary silt.
The later fill of the ditch contained Saxo-Norman pottery
including Stamford and Northampton wares. Inside the
boundary 11 inhumations were excavated, all orientated
E.–W., with no evidence of coffins or grave goods. Radiocarbon dates 840 ad ± 70 and 780 ad ± 80 were obtained
from two of the burials and all must have been earlier than
12th-century features which had cut into them. The latter
indicated that in the post-Conquest period the area was in
secular use, and this continued until the 15th century when
the area was abandoned. The remains included evidence of
stone and timber buildings and walls, as well as rubbish pits
(Med. Arch., 17 (1973), 147; 19 (1975), 225; Northants.
Archaeol., 10 (1975), 164; JBAA, 130 (1977), 52–122).
a(34) Late Saxon burials and medieval building (SP
747712), immediately S. of the church, just beyond the
churchyard boundary. An excavation in 1972 revealed
three late Saxon burials, orientated E.–W., without grave
goods, and four possible contemporary pits containing
domestic refuse and sherds of St. Neots ware.
Subsequently, perhaps in the 11th or 12th century, a wall
was built across the site and this was replaced in the 13th
century by a large building 10 m. by 5 m., divided into
four rooms. Other buildings were added later; the whole
site was levelled in the early 18th century (Northants.
Archaeol., 8 (1973), 18).
a(35) Medieval building (SP 74657116), at the former
site of Fox's Farm, in Church Street, on Northampton
Sand at 120 m. above OD. Excavations in 1972 revealed
post-holes and beam-slots associated with fine shelly
pottery, probably of 12th to 13th-century date (Northants.
Archaeol., 8 (1973), 19–20).
a(36) Malt-drying kiln (SP 747711), found in the
churchyard during excavations before 1970. The kiln was
aligned N.–S. with the flue on the S. side, and was built
from sandstone blocks with a floor of limestone slabs,
discoloured by burning. Its date is not known but it may be
associated with the 13th-century building to the N. (34)
(Med. Arch., 14 (1970), 207).
a(37) Post-medieval farmhouse (SP 74657113),
immediately S. of (35), and also at the site of Fox's Farm.
The foundations of the 17th-century farmhouse and
outbuildings were recovered, and two wells. Much of the
excavated area had been quarried, apparently between the
14th and 17th centuries, and the fill contained pottery from
early Saxon times onwards (Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973),
a(38) Site of chantry chapel (?) (SP 74797115), in the
centre of the village, on Northampton San at 120 m. above
OD. Foundations, thought to be of a medieval chantry
chapel, are said to have been discovered here in 1945. The
site is under grass and no remains are visible (OS Record
a(39) Manor house site (SP 738705), lies S.W. of the
village, near the W. boundary of the parish and S. of the
Spratton road, on the side of a deep, narrow valley, on
Upper Lias Clay at 90 m. above OD. The earthworks are
the site of Wolfage Manor which, though not mentioned
by name until 1509, was probably the main manor of
Brixworth in the medieval period (VCH Northants., IV
(1937), 151–2). Nothing is known of the history of the site
until 1668, but a map of that date (NRO) shows a building
called Wolfage Manor, set in a large rectangular area called
a park. The remains include a number of well-marked
building platforms and embanked enclosures, set on a spur
projecting from the valley side. Below in the valley bottom
is a mutilated dam, possibly for a fishpond, as well as other
more indeterminate earthworks. The site was completely
abandoned by 1846 (NRO, Map of Brixworth).
a(40) Site of watermill (SP 746709), at the junction of
Church Street and Newland, on the W. side of the village,
in the valley of a small W.-flowing stream, on Upper Lias
Clay at 103 m. above OD. In 1970 two parallel walls,
apparently the wheel-pit of a watermill, were discovered
about 2.5 m. below the modern road surface and large
deposits of silt upstream, on the E. side of the road,
indicated a former mill pond (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 38). The
site of the pond is now built over. This mill and another
further downstream (41) may be those recorded under
Brixworth in Domesday Book as being held by the King
(VCH Northants., I (1902), 306). A watermill is listed as
being part of the manor in 1315, and there are other
records of a 'Kyngsmulne' and 'Kingsmilne' in the 13th
century and early 14th century (VCH Northants., IV
(1937), 152). Immediately E. of the site is a large pond,
bounded on the E. by a massive dam up to 4 m. high. This
is an ornamental feature connected with Brixworth Hall.
a(41) Site of watermill (SP 743709), lies W. of (40),
further downstream but in a similar position, at 92 m.
above OD. The remains consist of a small rectangular
embanked pond, set 2 m. above the stream and linked to it
by an approach leat from the W. It may be one of the mills
referred to in various medieval documents (see (40) above;
BNFAS, 5 (1971), 38).
(42) Cultivation remains. The common fields of the
parish were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1780. On
a map of 1688 (NRO) the names of these fields and the
individual furlongs are shown, though not the strips. At
that time there were three large fields, Shotnell Field N.
and N.E. of the village, Whaddon Field S.W. and W. of
the village, and Demwell Field S. and S.E. of the village.
There were some old enclosures in the extreme N.W. of
the parish. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields survives on
the ground or is visible on air photographs over much of
the parish though extensive ironstone-quarrying has
removed all trace over wide areas in the N. and to a lesser
extent elsewhere. The Pitsford Reservoir which now covers
a large part of the southern edge of the parish has drowned
much ridge-and-furrow though this can be seen on early
air photographs. Where it survives the ridge-and-furrow is
arranged in interlocked and end-on furlongs, some up to
300 m., a considerable length, arranged to ensure that,
where possible, the ridges run across the contours.
In several places (e.g. SP 770702) there are rectangular
areas 20 m. by 30 m. where the underlying ridges have
been almost obliterated. These have been identified as sites
of 'rick-places' marked on the 1688 map and are
presumably places where stacks were regularly built within
the open fields (CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 3 (1973), 32; RAF
VAP CPE/UK/1994, 1377–9, 2371–5, 4375–9).
a(43) Earthworks (about SP 747712 and 748712).
Bridges (Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 80), writing in about
1720, recorded that there were 'vestiges of old trenches' N.
of Brixworth church and, to the E. of it, some 'butts or
hillocks'. No trace of these now remains as the area has
been worked for ironstone.