Polebrook is a parish of 1090 hectares, the village
standing on a small outcrop of limestone in an area
mainly covered by Oxford Clay, Boulder Clay and
river gravels. The parish includes the former
medieval settlements of Kingsthorpe and Armston
(RCHM, Northants. I, Polebrook (4, 5)), both of
which are on the claylands. Although Armston has
been occupied continuously, no early houses
remain. Both hamlets were acquired by the
Montagus in the 16th century; Kingsthorpe was
depopulated in the 17th century, and Armston was
enclosed in 1683 after which the population
declined rapidly. Polebrook itself was enclosed in
Polebrook village stands to the N. of a stream.
The road that crosses the stream from the S.
formerly broadened out before meeting an E.-W.
street. The church stands in what must be an
encroachment into this wide area; it is a large
building of high quality and dates from the late
12th and early 13th centuries. There were several
manors in the Middle Ages, at least one of which
was held by the Duchy of Lancaster in the 17th
century, but apparently none had residents of
status. The present Manor House (29) is a small
building associated with the Duchy manor.
Polebrook Hall (27) is larger but its associations are
The population of Polebrook in 1673 was 40
families, increasing to 60 in 1801. The Hearth Tax
of 1673 suggests that Polebrook resembled the
neighbouring clayland villages in having relatively
few single-hearth houses.
Fig. 170 Polebrook Village Map
(1) The Parish Church of All Saints (Figs. 171, 172;
Plate 16) stands in the N. half of a churchyard and close
to its E. boundary. It consists of a Chancel, Nave, North
and South Aisles, North and South Transepts, North and
South Porches, South West Tower with spire and a Vestry.
The walls are of coursed rubble with dressings and
parapets of freestone; the spire is of finely-jointed
masonry. The main roofs are stone-slated. The greater
part of the church dates from the late 12th and early 13th
centuries but the position of the N. and S. doors may
indicate a shorter nave of the earlier 12th century. The
chancel arch, the N. arcade of the nave and the N. aisle
can be dated to around 1180–90 on the evidence of the
carving of the capitals. The church at this time had a N.
transept as demonstrated by the long pier between the
first and second arches. This long pier does not indicate a
central tower as the walling is of insufficient width for
such a structure (pace VCH, Northants. II, 106; Pevsner,
377). Except for this late 12th-century work, the church
was entirely rebuilt in the first half of the 13th century.
The architecture of the new building was of a high
standard, particularly in respect of the rebuilt N. transept
which is not only elaborate internally but is almost as
large as the nave. In addition, the two round-headed
arches of the S. arcade are of exceptional height. In the
14th century a transeptal chapel was built against the S.
aisle which was also heightened. At the same time
diagonal buttresses were added to the tower and the S.
porch rebuilt. Walls were raised in the later Middle Ages
and the parapets are post-medieval.
Fig. 171 Polebrook Church
The plan form suggests that a church, earlier than any
surviving structure, stood on the site. It may be
conjectured that an earlier nave, shorter than the present
one was lengthened westward in 1180–90, and that the S.
wall of this older nave remained standing until replaced
by the present early 13th-century arcade. Evidence for a
similar development can be clearly seen at Duddington.
Such a sequence would explain the position of the tower
for which there was no space available between the W.
wall of the extended nave and the boundary of the
curtilage; also the ground falls steeply away on this side.
The church is remarkable for the extent and quality of
its 12th and 13th-century architecture which has survived
with scarcely any subsequent alteration. The continued
use of round-headed arches well into the 13th century is
Architectural Description – The Chancel, of 1220–40 is
without buttresses. At sill-level are external and internal
roll-moulded strings. The low parapet, of post-medieval
date, rests on a slightly-projecting corbel-table enriched
with small carved heads; it is of the 13th century but
probably reset when the wall was heightened in the 15th
century. Two gargoyles on the S. are perhaps 13th-century but the corner pinnacles appear to be 17th-century. In the E. wall are three graduated lancets (Plate
37), discrete externally but united internally by moulded
rear-arches and hood-moulds springing from shafts with
roll-and-hollow moulded caps and annular rings. The E.
wall with its lancets is, in this area, a rare survival of the
13th century; only the pitch of the gable has been
modified by the raising of the side walls. The N. wall
has a doorway which led to a former vestry, presumably
of the 13th century; the pointed head is cut from one
stone and the moulded label has floral stops. The two
windows on the N. are lancets, the second being a low-side window, rebated below the transom for an external
shutter. In the S. wall the sills of the first two lancets
have been lowered, so cutting the string. The priest's
door has a round head but is probably also early 13th-century (Plate 14); the rear-arch is formed of a flat slab,
apparently an original feature. The last window is a low-side window matching that opposite. The chancel arch,
of 1180–90, has two chamfered orders, half-round
responds, capitals with re-entrant angles and flat-leaf
decoration and bases with angle-spurs.
The Nave has a N. arcade of three round-headed arches
of 1180–90 (Plates 17, 28). The first two are separated by
a long pier, and each arch has two chamfered orders with
roll-moulded stops and the capitals have re-entrant
angles. The semicircular responds of the first arch have
roll-moulded bases and capitals with flat-leaf decoration.
The responds on the E. and W. of the long pier have
continuous abaci. Capitals in the second bay are carved
with tightly scrolled leaves on thin stems and the pier
base has angle-spurs. The W. respond has a capital with
flat-leaf decoration. The S. arcade of 1220–40 comprises
two excoptionally tall arches with round, double-chamfered, heads (Plates 17, 28). The round columns
have water-holding bases and the capitals have stiff-leaf
decoration. In the W. wall of the nave the window has
trefoil-headed lights and trefoils and roundels in the
tracery; although much renewed it has a 14th-century
origin. Against the W. wall, in line with the N. arcade,
is a massive two-stage buttress, added in the 14th
Fig. 172 Polebrook Church
Reconstruction of a section through the nave in the 13th century
The North Aisle has a thick N. wall of 1180–90
heightened in the 14th century when a small diagonal
N.W. buttress and W. window with trefoiled lights were
added. The N. transept occupies the E. part of the aisle
and its W. wall is carried on a chamfered arch over the
aisle; the arch springs from an elaborate shafted corbel
with a grotesque head on the N. and dies into the wall
on the S. Above the arch on the W. is a steeply-sloping
weathering belonging to the earlier aisle roof.
The North Transept (Plate 16) of 1220–40, is without
buttresses. Below the windows is a roll-and-fillet
moulded string. In the E. wall are two 14th-century
windows with flowing tracery, probably replacing earlier
windows; an internal string steps up to the sill of the
northern window presumably indicating the position of
an altar. The 15th-century window in the N. wall has a
cusped roundel in the head; the rear-arch is pointed and
survives from an earlier window perhaps of the 13th
century. In the W. wall is a single large lancet with a
label and head stops. Against the N. and W. walls is
blind arcading of three and six arches respectively. At the
E. end of the N. wall is a locker. The arcading stands on
a sill-seat and consists of multi-moulded, linked arches
with continuous labels on detached shafts with moulded
capitals and water-holding bases.
The South Aisle is shortened by the S. W. tower and its
S. wall further curtailed by the later S. chapel. This wall
is probably early 13th-century, as indicated by the
steeply-sloping weather course against the E. face of the
tower, but was heightened in the 14th century when the
S. chapel was added, and again when the walls of the
chapel were raised to accommodate a low-pitched roof.
In the E. wall is a lancet window with an internal roll-moulded string which continues into the S. chapel. The
S. doorway has a round head, roll-and-hollow moulded
impost and a label with mask stops; it is probably early
13th-century. The South Transept is without buttresses; it
butts against the S. aisle with a sill-height string course
stopping against the earlier walling. The 14th-century E.
window has a square head and trefoil-headed lights, and
the S. window has modern tracery in a medieval
opening. The roof is low-pitched and the original roof
line of about 50° is preserved in the S. wall.
The South West Tower of the early 13th century has
two external stages, the lower having diagonal three-stage buttresses, inserted at the corners in the 14th
century. Much-restored lancets on the S. and W. have
round heads and dog-tooth decoration on the labels;
another on the E. is at a higher level and plainer. The
transomed belfry windows, set in recessed areas of
walling below moulded corbel courses with mask-stops,
have central round shafts and double half-round responds
with moulded capitals and bases. The octagonal spire has
broaches, and three tiers of gabled lucarnes, the lower
two having two lights. The corners of the tower are
spanned by semicircular squinch arches and there are two
tiers of plain corbels in the lower stages of the spire
which were presumably used during construction.
Internally there are tower arches on the E. and N., both
with round heads of three chamfered orders, half-round
responds, moulded bell-shaped capitals and water-holding bases.
The North Porch, of 1220–40, has side parapets with
nail-head decoration on string-courses (Plate 25). The
gable has been lowered and wide kneelers have been
introduced, possibly in the 17th century. The arch has a
round head of three roll-and-hollow moulded orders and
a label with dog-tooth enrichment and carved stops, one
a head, the other floral; the jambs have double nook-shafts separated by dog-tooth decoration, and the capitals
carved with stiff-leaf and a beast. The central voussoirs
of the inner orders have been clumsily reset to form a
pointed arch. In the W. wall is a square-headed window
of medieval date, and against the side walls are stone
The South Porch appears to have been rebuilt in the
14th century. It has a gabled parapet, later finial and
plain eaves. At the corners are diagonal buttresses. The
arch has a head of two plain chamfered orders, resting on
an impost with slight floral decoration; this part is
probably 13th-century, reset, but the multi roll-moulded
jambs may be 14th-century. Inside, are stone benches.
The Vestry is probably 18th-century and in the position
of an earlier one.
Roofs. The 15th-century, three-bay, chancel roof
comprises moulded tie beams braced to wall posts, king
posts braced to the ridge, shaped principal rafters, purlins
and moulded cornices; bosses on the tie beams are carved
with crowned and mitred heads, and floral decoration
(Plate 58). The nave roof, of five bays, is a replacement
of 1634 but has been largely reconstructed (Plate 59). It
has moulded tie beams, wall posts, queen posts braced to
collars and moulded cornices. On the tie beams bosses
are carved with crossed keys for Peterborough and a
Catherine Wheel (?); the purlins are decorated with
rectangles and that on the N. bears the date '1636'. The
other roofs are probably 19th-century.
Fittings – Bells: five; 1st, given by William Tawyer,
1717; 2nd, 16th-century, by Thomas Newcombe of
Leicester inscribed 'Andrea'; 3rd, inscribed 'S. Maria'; 4th
and 5th, inscribed with churchwardens' names, by Joseph
Eayre of St. Neots, 1771 and 1765 respectively (North).
Clock: with wooden frame of two compartments with an
original verge and crown wheel escapement, probably
17th-century but adapted for a pendulum and restored in
modern times. Doors: in N. and S. aisles, plank doors,
probably 18th-century. Font: 13th-century octagonal
bowl with cusped trefoils in square frames on each face;
modern shafted base, medieval circular plinth with
footpace (Plate 39). Hatchment: with arms of Ferguson
impaling another, 19th-century. Hour-glass and stand
(Plate 68): fixed to N.E. respond of nave, iron stand, the
holder with scroll-ended bars carried on a twisted iron
arm, 17th-century; hour-glass of uncertain age. Locker: in
N. transept, rectangular, rebated, 13th-century.
Monuments: in chancel – (1), of Captain John Orme,
1768, and wife, Catherine, daughter of the Earl of
Sandwich, 1761, wall tablet of coloured marbles in the
style of Bingham of Peterborough, panel with pilasters,
pediment with shields of arms of Orme impaling
Montagu and Monthermer quarterly, apron carved with
symbols of war (Plate 70); (2), of Captain Septimus
Orme, 1842; (3), of Diana Isham, 1844, signed 'Stephens
Barnwick'; (4), of Joseph Johnson, 1719, and wife Maria,
tablet with arms of Johnson impaling another. In S.
chapel – (5), of John Webster, 1824, and wife Laetitia,
1834, and others, signed 'Coles Thrapston'.
Painting: in N. transept, W. wall; on backs of third and
fourth bays of blind arcading, nimbed figures, probably
13th-century; on soffit of first bay and on capital, traces
of painting. Piscinae: (1), in chancel, sill with double
sinkings, twin arches with central shaft, moulded heads,
capitals and bases, united within a single blind arch and
secondary arches, all decorated with dog-tooth; in the
tympanum is a roundel containing a quatrefoil in low
relief, early 13th-century (Plate 41); (2), in S. chapel, sill
with double sinkings, central shaft with moulded capital
and base, plain chamfered arches; 13th-century and
presumably reset from the former S. aisle. Pulpit: oak,
panelled sides decorated with gadrooning, 17th-century;
modern base. Screen: oak, in five bays the centre being
wider, window forms with cusped ogee heads and
vertical tracery, dado painted with floral decoration, loft
missing, 15th-century. Seating: in S. chapel, four pews of
17th-century construction incorporating 15 bench ends
with concave and scroll tops of the late 13th or 14th
century (Fig. 173); one pew is carved 'IB 1663'. A desk
front with 17th-century shaped finials has panelling
pierced with two window-form grilles, possibly from a
Fig. 173 Polebrook Church. Bench end,
late 13th or 14th-century. a. Outer face;
b. inner face with reconstruction of seat and back.
(2) King's Arms Inn, two storeys, thatched roof,
parapeted gables with moulded kneelers, class 4a with
rear wing, late 17th-century, extended to form a T-plan
in 1821. The original house has stop-chamfered axial
beams and a wide fireplace. A lozenge-shaped panel in
the S. gable is inscribed 'T.T.' and a panel on the
extension 'Rice Slatcher 1821'.
(3) Keeper's Cottage, two storeys, Welsh slate roof,
formerly a lower building, heightened in mid 19th
century to form a pair of class 4c dwellings, now united.
(4) Greystones and Wayside, one storey and attics,
formerly thatched, originally a late 18th-century house
with class 4a plan, now two dwellings.
(5) One storey and attics, thatched roof, class 4a, early
19th-century. (Not entered)
(6) Old Dukes Head Cottage (Plate 95), one storey and
attics, thatched, class 1a. It was apparently built in 1595,
the date on a mantel beam. Inside, the axial beam in the
central room has elaborate ogee-and-bar stops with a
fleur-de-lis and incised circles on the chamfer. A
cambered mantel beam in the same room is enriched
with circle and running vine decoration, and above the
W. jamb is the date '1595' and initials 'IS'. The central
and S. rooms are separated by a timber-framed partition
with evidence of an original doorway near the present
one; the partition continues into the roof space. The N.
room has a wide fireplace with a cambered mantel beam.
The roof has clasped purlins.
(7) Two storeys, Welsh slates, class 6b with entrance
on the garden side, perhaps c. 1840.
(8) Two storeys, thatched, perhaps class 4a, late 18th-century. The street front is without first-floor windows.
(9) Two storeys, thatched, parapeted gable on the E.,
formerly with three-light chamfered mullioned windows
of which one remains, probably class 4a, 17th-century.
To E. a one-room house, mid 19th-century. (Not
(10) Hazeldene, two storeys, probably two class 4c
dwellings now united, early 19th-century. Reset in gable,
panel with inscription and date '1698', found in garden of
Greyston House (15). (Not entered)
(11) Two storeys, parapeted gables, brick stacks,
timber lintels, class 4a, early 19th-century.
(12) Stonelea, two storeys, class 6b, lozenge-shaped
date-panel over door, inscribed 'WH EH 1828'. A
slightly lower wing at right angles was built soon after
the main house.
(13) Sage Green, two storeys, thatched, parapeted
gable, class 4a, circular panel inscribed 'TS' surrounded
by building-date '1832'.
(14) The Cottage, two storeys, Welsh slates, sash
windows, freestone dressings, class 8, early 19th-century.
At the rear is a substantial coach house and stable.
(15) Greyston House (Fig. 174), two storeys and attics,
pantiled roof, parapeted gables with shaped kneelers,
three-cell plan, 17th-century. One window, formerly
with mullions, survives on the W., but the rest are
modern. Inside, the S. room on each floor has a stone
fireplace with a four-centred head in a square frame.
Two axial beams are ovolo-moulded with shaped stops
and a third rests on a fluted bracket. N. fireplace rebuilt.
Fig. 174 Polebrook (15)
(16) Stone Cottage, two storeys, formerly a pair of
class 4a dwellings, early 19th-century.
(17) A pair, one of class 4a, the other of class 4c; single
storey and attics, modern tiled roof, early 19th-century.
(18) Brooklands, one storey and attics, class 4a,
parapeted gables, modern tiles, perhaps 17th-century.
(19) One storey and attics, thatched, L-shaped plan,
probably early 19th-century. (Not entered)
(20) Bower Cottage, two-storeys, formerly thatched,
parapeted gables finished in brick, early 19th-century.
Three-room plan with internal stack.
(21) Farmyard with former house, thatched roof,
probably class 2a and 17th-century. Thatched 19th-century barn to N. (Not entered)
(22) Barn, parapeted gables with moulded kneelers,
opposed doors, early 18th-century. The date 1747 is
scratched on a quoin. The roof of five bays has staggered
butt-purlins, collars, ridge-collars and ridge-piece.
(23) Two storeys, formerly thatched, now with Welsh
slates, class 5 plan but rebuilt internally, 18th-century
(24) Hartford Cottage, one storey and attics, Welsh
slates probably replacing thatch, parapeted gables with
moulded kneelers, perhaps 17th-century. Class 3a with
large originally unheated room behind the single-flue
stack. Stairs rise against the back of the stack. Cambered
(25) The Gables (Fig. 175; Plate 97), two storeys,
banded masonry, parapeted gables, ashlar stacks. It was
built in 1698, incorporating an earlier structure as a rear
wing. The main front formerly had four narrow
windows on each floor and a wider one at the E. end;
two ground-floor windows have been blocked and
replaced by a wider one. The windows, a particular
feature of the front, have original wooden lintels, frames,
mullions and transoms and leaded lights. The central
doorway has a four-centred head in a moulded square
surround. Above is a lozenge-shaped panel inscribed
'R C M 1698'. In the W. gable is a window with an
ovolo-moulded surround, lighting a corner-stair which
reached the attic.
Fig. 175 Polebrook (25)
Inside, between the kitchen on the W. and the central
hall is a narrow space traceable on both floors, which
probably contained the original stair. The stair from the
kitchen gave access to the room above and to the attic,
which is a single room with plaster floor. The main roof
is original and has two tiers of purlins, the lower being
square-set and butted, the upper either clasped or butted.
The rear wing, of one storey and attics, has a Welsh-slated roof and is possibly early 17th-century. Cross
beams are stop-chamfered.
(26) Garden Cottage and Barn Cottage, two storeys,
formerly five class 4c dwellings, three in front range and
two in rear wing, forming one corner of stable yard of
Polebrook Hall (27); early 19th-century. Wooden lintels,
leaded lights and fanlights with marginal panes.
(27) Polebrook Hall (Fig. 176; Plate 98), was built in
the 17th century to an H-shaped plan. The S. room of
the E. cross wing was probably added later in the
century and was remodelled in 1719 (date-stone). During
the late 19th century many alterations and additions were
made to the house and panelling and other fittings
imported, perhaps by Samuel Deacon, an auctioneer.
Additions included a range on the W. and a top-lit hall
with a hammer-beam roof on the S.; a range to the
N. W. has a rainwater head dated 1881. In recent years
most of the 19th-century additions have been removed
and the majority of fittings, whether original or
imported, have been dispersed.
The house, of two storeys, has parapeted gables with
finials. The two gables on the main front were cased in
the 19th century, but in the central section two first-floor
mullioned windows are original. The modern porch
bears the arms of J.F. Ferguson who bought the house in
1893. A two-storcy gabled bay window, in the centre of
the E. elevation, is original. The S. section of the wing
has a higher roof and dates from the 17th century and
was remodelled in 1719 when the projecting quoins were
inserted. The S. end of the wing has a first-floor
platband and sash windows with plain architraves and
keystones; in the gable is a shaped panel inscribed with
the date 1719 and some illegible initials. The finials are
modern. Elsewhere are various mullioned windows some
of which are not original. Set in the gable of the W.
cross wing is a sundial.
Inside, the central hall has a 17th-century moulded and
cambered mantel beam. The house contains 17th-century
panelling and woodwork, mostly imported, and 19th-century work in imitation. The N.E. room is lined with
17th-century panelling and a chip-carved panel applied to
the door is dated 1624. The reset 18th-century stair in the
E. wing has turned and fluted balusters and carved tread-brackets. The ceiling of the stair hall is 17th-century and
coved, but is overlain with 19th-century egg and dart
decoration. The S. room in the E. wing has a 17th-century fireplace with a four-centred head in a
rectangular frame. The room above has bolection
moulded panelling, presumably of 1719. In the W. wing
an overmantel with decorative panels of small turned
balusters is dated 1842.
(28) Two storeys, originally lower and of class 1b,
perhaps the schoolmaster's house and a school built
shortly after 1720 when the brothers Tanyer left money
for this purpose (National Society for Religious
Education). It was later sub-divided to provide
poorhouses. In c. 1836 it reverted to a single house (class
6a) for the schoolmaster; the internal stack was removed
and a staircase put in its place.
Fig. 176 Polebrook (27) Polebrook Hall
Fig. 177 Polebrook (29) The Manor House
(29) The Manor House (Fig. 177), is a two-storey
structure built in two stages in the 17th century and was
occupied by tenants of the Duchy of Lancaster who
farmed the associated 103 acres (42.9 hectares) (NRO,
XYZ 1093, WH 358). The N. part was built in the early
17th century as a class 1a house, and later in the century
the parlour at the S. end was rebuilt on a large scale. The
S. room was converted into a summer house for
Polebrook Hall c. 1915. The house has parapeted gables,
the S. gable having a medieval headless quadruped finial
reused from a roof of steeper pitch. The S. section has a
large stack on the W., and an area of ashlar infill on the
E. probably marks the position of an original wide two-storey bay window in the blocking of which on each
floor are four-light ovolo-moulded mullioned windows
with king mullions. There is a similar window at first
floor on the S. Inside, there are no indications of any
original partition. The first-floor N. fireplace has a
moulded stone shelf and a deep cupboard at the side with
a triangular head and stout door with iron furniture. The
roof of the S. section has collars and two tiers of butt-purlins, the upper with wind-braces.
(30) Pole Cottage, one storey and attics, thatched roof,
class 2, but also with lobby entrance at rear of house,