An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 1, Archaeological Sites in North-East Northamptonshire. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1975.
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(OS 1:10000 a SP 99 NW, b SP 99 NE, c SK 90 SE)
The parish of some 750 hectares lies on the S. side of the Welland valley, between 120 ft. and 350 ft. above OD. Its higher S. quarter is on Boulder Clay, but the greater part is on Lincolnshire Limestone except near the river where Lias clays outcrop.
Extensive ironstone-quarrying has resulted in the discovery of a large Saxon cemetery (3) as well as settlements of the Iron Age and Roman periods (2) and of the Bronze Age (1). The remains of an early 17th-century house and gardens, perhaps built and laid out by a member of the Cecil family, are particularly well preserved.
a(1) Bronze Age settlement (?) (SP 939982) found in Saxon cemetery (3). A single post-hole, one pit containing sherds described as early Bronze Age, and similar weathered sherds in the sub-soil may be evidence of a settlement. (DOE, Archaeological Excavations 1970, (1971), 35)
a(2) Iron Age and Roman settlement (SP 940983), in the W. of the parish, on limestone at 280 ft. above OD. It was discovered during ironstone-quarrying and excavation has so far revealed a late Iron Age enclosure-system including paddocks, a 'stockade' and an interrupted ditch. Nine hut circles have also been found. Its occupation lasted into the Roman period. Outside this complex, Iron Age and Roman iron smelting furnaces have been excavated as well as Roman burials and corn-drying ovens. (BNFAS, 8 (1973), 5 and 17; DOE, Archaeological Excavations 1972, (1973), 36)
Medieval and Later
a(3) Saxon cemetery (SP 939982), near the W. boundary of the parish, on the upper slopes of the Welland valley on limestone at 280 ft. above OD. The site was discovered during quarrying for ironstone and excavations have proceeded over several years. By 1971 a total of 85 inhumation burials had been discovered in 72 separate graves. Eight graves contained two skeletons, and in another were three. Most graves were orientated E.-W. Some 400 associated grave-goods were found including spears, shield bosses, a bronze-bound bucket, beads, and pottery and 74 brooches mainly of 6th-century date. The excavation probably recovered a complete cemetery. (Med. Arch., XIII (1969), 236; XIV (1970), 162; XV (1971), 132; BNFAS, 4 (1970), 44–5; 5 (1971), 28–9; DOE, Archaeological Excavations 1970, (1971), 34–5)
b(4) Remains of house and gardens (SP 956995; Fig. 112; Plate 20), at the E. end of Wakerley village, 300 m. N. of the church, on land sloping N. to the R. Welland. The date of both house and gardens is unknown. The manor belonged to Sir Edward Griffin of Dingley in the early 17th century, and it is possible that a member of that family built the house and laid out the gardens. In 1615 Griffin leased the 'Messuage or farm in Wakerley called The Great Place or Farm Place' to Francis Bernewell, a yeoman of Wakerley (Ex. 29/30). In 1618 the manor was sold to Sir Richard Cecil of Collyweston, second son of the first Earl of Exeter, for £8500 (Ex. 28/37), and he immediately leased it to William Robinson of Pinchbeck (Ex. 201/55). Cecil may have later built a new house and garden on the site, but no record survives. In 1633 Cecil died and the manor passed to his son Edward. It was then leased to Sir Lewis Watson of Rockingham, although that part of the house 'on the north side of the Hall' remained for the use of Cecil's daughter Elizabeth (Ex. 64/23). The inventory of goods of Richard Cecil made on his death in 1633 includes a long description of the rooms of the house which totalled 30, as well as outbuildings. Amongst these are 'The hall, the great chamber, the lord's chamber, ... the wainscot chamber, the gallery and study, the yellow bedechamber, ... my lady's chamber, ... the parlour, ... the green bedechamber', etc. In the garden was 'one leaden cistern with spouts and other things' (Ex. 28/96).
The subsequent history is unknown, but Bridges, writing about 1720, noted that 'here was an ancient seat belonging to the family of Cecil ... abolished about 30 years ago' (Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 341). In 1715 the then Earl of Exeter leased to Robert Smith, yeoman of Wakerley, 'the barn called The Great Barn or hall barn and the close adjoining to the barn called the Hall Orchard'. The remains of a large rectangular building in the S.W. corner of the site may be this barn. By 1772 no standing building remained (NRO, map of Wakerley).
The site is remarkably well-preserved and the apparent remains of flower-beds are notable. Earthworks associated with the house itself lie near the W. edge of the site and cover a generally rectangular area; they are extremely uneven but survive up to 2 m. high. There are a number of sub-rectangular features, including robbed-out wall footings, but the arrangement of rooms is not clear. A large depression in the centre may be the remains of a cellar. The house seems to have been constructed of local limestone.
The main garden lay E. of the house and comprised a large rectangular flat area which was cut down into the natural hillside leaving massive scarps and terraces. On the S. side are two large terraces 2 m. high ('a' on Fig. 112); one is bounded on the S. by a scarp and bank with evidence of a former wall set in it but this is now robbed-out. On the E. side of this garden is a single terrace 2 m. high cut back into the hillside at the S. but becoming a raised bank at its N. end. On the N. side there is only a small very irregular scarp, 1.5 m. high. The interior has traces of the original arrangement of paths and flower-beds, although none is more than 20 cm. high. The garden is crossed by a pathway which, in the W. half, forms part of an elaborate raised circular bed bounded by an outer polygonal feature ('b' on Fig. 112); in the E. half the path separates two rectangular areas, one with four low parallel banks and the other apparently featureless ('c').
Between the house and the main garden is a long rectangular area, featureless except at the N. end where there is a series of low scarps of no coherent plan, and partly formed by dry limestone slabs. S. of the house are two other rectangular areas, bounded by robbed walls, ('d'), and traces of three others exist to the S.E. In the S.W. corner of the site are the well-marked remains of a building whose walls still stand up to 1 m. high with a rectangular yard to the E. ('e'). N. of this is another building or buildings set askew to the rest of the layout ('f'). N.W. of the house is a large projecting terrace. Traces of ridge-and-furrow exist S.E., E. and N. of the remains and are overlaid by them.
There is no indication of an original entrance to the site but the re-alignment of the modern road in the late 18th century probably destroyed it. (RAF VAP CPE/UK 1925, 2136)
(5) Cultivation remains. The enclosure of the common fields of the parish took place following an Act of Parliament of 1749 (NRO, see also map of parish, 1772). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields survives on the ground or can be traced on air photographs in a few places. In the N.W. of the parish along the R. Welland is a large area of reversed-S curved ridge-and-furrow orientated at right angles to the river (SP 935986– 945994). Other small areas of ridge-and-furrow can be seen N.E. of the village around the garden remains (4) and also in the E. of the parish (SP 970994). (RAF VAP CPE/UK 1925, 2132–40, 4127–30; 2109, 4018–21)
a(6) Iron-working site (SP 940980) was found during ironstone quarrying in the W. of the parish near the Saxon cemetery (3) and not far from a Roman settlement (Harringworth (4)) and an Iron Age and Roman settlement (2). A large quantity of iron slag was revealed in a quarry face and excavation led to the discovery of a clay-lined shaft-furnace which had been rebuilt at least three times. The only dating evidence was a few small sherds which may be either Saxon or Iron Age. (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 29; DOE, Archaeological Excavations 1970, (1971), 35; Med. Arch., XV (1971), 132)