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 TL 09 SW, b TL 08 NW, c TL 08 NE)
The parish, formerly a chapelry of Oundle, covers 610 hectares in a broad strip extending from the R. Nene at about 60 ft. above OD in the W. and rising to a generally flat plateau in the extreme E. at 225 ft. above OD. Most of the eastern two-thirds of the parish lies on Boulder Clay or Oxford Clay, but nearer the river there are outcrops of Oolitic limestones and clays.
The most important early site is a large Roman settlement (2–4) which lies near the river in the N.E. of the parish. In the medieval period the area of the present parish was divided between Ashton and the now deserted hamlet of Elmington (5) of which little survives although its history is well-recorded and the boundaries of its land are still recoverable (Fig. 10).
Prehistoric and Roman
b(1) Prehistoric settlement (TL 048890), close to the R. Nene on gravel at 60 ft. above OD. Worked flints, scrapers, and a barbed and tanged arrowhead have been found within and beyond the area covered by Roman settlement (4). (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 6; inf. J. A. Hadman)
bc(2–4) Roman settlements. Around and to the N. and E. of Oundle Station (TL 04648900) is a large and extensive Roman settlement covering at least 20 hectares. Many Roman coins from the 1st to 4th centuries were discovered when the station was built in 1844 (Murray's Handbook for Travellers in Northants. and Rutland (1876), 46). More recently other finds have been made indicating three separate areas of settlement.
b(2) Roman settlement (TL 046892; Fig. 23, Plate 2), immediately N. of Oundle Station on gravel at 60 ft. above OD close to the R. Nene. Air photographs reveal a highly complex pattern of overlapping enclosures, linear ditches, etc., of no coherent form. Sherds of samian and Nene Valley wares have been found (OS Record Cards) and fragments of Iron Age pottery have been discovered further to the N. (TL 047894). (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 17; CUAP, ZB15, AGA2)
b(3) Roman settlement (TL 048892; Fig. 23), immediately E. of (2) and in a similar position. Air photographs (in NMR) show a U-shaped ditched enclosure which probably extended across the modern road. Within it are a number of rectangular features associated with many pits. Other ditches and pits are visible in the surrounding area. Roman pottery, building material and a 3rd-century coin have been found. (BNFAS, 2 (1972), 17; CUAP, ZB15, AGA2)
b(4) Roman settlement (TL 048890), E. of Oundle Station on gravel and limestone at 65 ft. above OD. Finds made over a number of years indicate an intensive settlement covering some 5 hectares, and a magnetometer survey in 1971 produced many well-marked anomalies including a linear feature. Extensive scatters of Roman pottery including samian, roof tiles, limestone building material, bronze fragments and 40 coins of 2nd to 4th-century date have been found. Various bronze objects including a farrier's tool, an inkwell, part of a ceremonial head-dress, buckles, and a needle have also been found, as well as part of a rotary quern and a stone mortar. Excavations in 1971 led to the discovery of a large pit filled with rubbish which included bone, pottery, nails, glass and building materials, and a cobbled floor below which was evidence of iron-working. (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 17, 18 and 34; 3 (1969), 17; 4 (1970), 12; 5 (1971), 6; 7 (1972), 12; 8 (1973), 3 and 5; inf. J. A. Hadman)
For Roman Road 570, see p. 116.
c(5) Deserted village of Elmington (centred TL 053896; Fig. 10). There were formerly two apparently separate, but adjacent, settlements called Elmington, one in Tansor (7), and one in Ashton. They were listed in Domesday Book (VCH Northants., I (1902), 319) as two manors, one gelding for one hide and the other for two hides, and both were held by the Abbey of Crowland. The recorded population was then four and nine persons respectively. In 1189 one of the settlements had a chapel of ease (VCH Northants., II (1930), 99). In the 1301 Lay Subsidy Rolls (PRO, E179/155/31) ten and eleven taxpayers are listed. The 1377 Poll Tax Returns mention both settlements (PRO, E179/155/27–9). The Abbey enclosed and converted 20 acres to pasture in 1490 and a further 160 acres between 1494 and 1513, destroying six houses but leaving one house and three cottages (K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northamptonshire, (1966), 39). In the 1524 Lay Subsidy Rolls (PRO, E179/155/143) only two people, Thomas Clark and his servant, paid tax. Clark was then a tenant of the Abbey (VCH Northants., III (1930), 94). Only one person was taxed in 1664 (PRO, E179/254/13). In the early 18th century, foundations of houses were said to have been ploughed up around the present Elmington Lodge within the previous 30 years (J. Bridges, Hist. and Ants. of Northants., II (1791), 413–4).
No identifiable remains of the settlement in Ashton now exist, although it must have been centred on the present Elmington Lodge, part of which is of 16th-century date. A broad strip of land on either side of the present main road was devoid of ridge-and-furrow on air photographs taken in 1947 (CPE/UK 2109, 4408–9). Immediately N. of Elmington Lodge (TL 054897), within this strip of land, stone rubble has been ploughed up (OS Record Cards) and the ground is slightly uneven. A few sherds of medieval pottery, including some Lyveden ware, have been found. The boundaries of the land which belonged to the Elmington in Ashton are still visible today; they enclose a long narrow area extending from the R. Nene to Ashton Wolds (NRO, Tithe Map of Elmington, 1838; F. M. Page, The Estates of Crowland Abbey (1934) passim).
(6) Cultivation remains. The common fields of Ashton were enclosed in 1810 together with those of Oundle, following an Act of Parliament in 1807 (Map in NRO). Immediately before that date there were six open fields varying greatly in area. Ridge-and-furrow within four of these fields survives or can be traced on air photographs. There are no remains visible in the small Totwell and Mill Fields N.W. of the village, but to the N. and N.E. in the former Brook Field and Upper Field almost the whole pattern of interlocked furlongs is visible on air photographs. S. and S.E. of the village, in the former Polebrook Field, the pattern is less complete and consists of groups of end-on furlongs of markedly reversed-S form. The higher ground in the extreme E. of the parish was open pasture land, known as The Wolds prior to 1810, although there were three small isolated areas of old enclosures within it. In one of these, N.E. of the present Ashton Wold House (TL 084883), a block of slightly curved ridge-and-furrow 230 m. long is visible on air photographs. Other ridge-and-furrow within existing fields around the village also lay in old enclosures in 1810.
A long strip of land across the N. edge of the parish was formerly the land of the now-deserted village of Elmington where the common fields were presumably enclosed in the late medieval period. It is certain that 180 acres had been enclosed in the late 15th and 16th centuries (see (5) above and Fig. 10). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields can still be traced. It consists of groups of end-on and interlocked furlongs of C or reversed-S form, lying within the existing fields. (RAF VAP CPE/UK 2109, 3399–3409, 4377–81, 4402–10)