King's Cliffe

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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'King's Cliffe', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 1, Archaeological Sites in North-East Northamptonshire, (London, 1975) pp. 59-60. British History Online [accessed 25 April 2024]


(OS 1:10000 a TF 00 SW, b TL 09 NW, c SP 99 NE)

The large parish, covering some 1510 hectares, lies across the valley of the Willow Brook, between 110 ft. and 310 ft. above OD. The higher part to the N.W. and N.E. of the village is largely on Boulder Clay, but elsewhere, along the valley sides, broad bands of limestones and marls outcrop.

There seems to have been some Roman occupation of the area (1–3) but this is not well documented. The medieval sites, although better recorded, are of little visual interest in spite of their undoubted historical importance. Nothing remains above ground of the Royal Hunting Lodge (4) and little exists of the great medieval deer park associated with it (6).


bc(1) Roman settlements and iron-workings (TL 00709705? and SP 99729675). Coins and 'other unmistakable Roman relics' have been found in the parish, in the churchyard, at 'Lordley Well' and at 'Redford'. The whereabouts of Lordley Well are unknown, but the other places can be identified. Nothing can be seen in the churchyard and although foundations of buildings have been discovered there, these are likely to be the remains of the medieval hunting lodge (4). At Redford a large area, some 30 m. across, is covered with iron slag and limestone. No datable finds have been made recently. (Ass. Arch. Soc. Rep., V (1859), 99; BNFAS, 4 (1970), 61 for other refs.; OS Record Cards)

b(2) Roman settlement (TL 02319696; Fig. 71), on the crest of the valley of Willow Brook, on limestone, at 200 ft. above OD. An area approximately 50 sq. m., is covered with Roman pottery, mainly of Nene Valley types. Fragments of Collyweston roofing slates and floor tiles have also been found.

b(3) Roman settlement (?) (around TL 023982; Fig. 71), on level ground, on Boulder Clay at 260 ft. above OD. A quantity of Roman pottery of 3rd to 4th-century date and an object said to be a statuette, now lost, have been found in this area. Subsequent field examination has produced a general scatter of Roman pottery (BNFAS, 8 (1973), 6).

For Roman Road 571, see p. 117.

Medieval and Later

b(4) Royal hunting lodge (TL 00709705), close to the church, and near the field called Hall Yard (TL 008970). Known as The King's House it existed probably in the 11th century and certainly by the mid 12th century. It was enlarged and a chapel built in the 14th century. By 1450 the buildings were described as 'waste' and they may have been finally destroyed in 1462 during a fire which consumed much of the village. Numerous stone foundations and considerable quantities of ash have been discovered in the churchyard and adjacent areas. They are probably parts of the Lodge. (R. A. Brown and H. M. Colvin, The King's Works, 2 (1963), 969–70; VCH Northants., II (1906), 579; MS. History of King's Cliffe, in possession of the Rector)

b(5) Fishpond (TL 00339707), S.W. of the village in the bottom of Willow Brook valley, and 370 m. W. of (4). It was part of the establishment of the Royal Hunting Lodge at King's Cliffe and payments for its repair and upkeep are recorded during the 12th and 13th centuries. The long rectangular pond covered just over 3 hectares immediately N. of the present stream. On the Enclosure Map of King's Cliffe, 1813 (in NRO), it is shown still filled with water. The retaining dam at the E. end is a large earthen bank 90 m. long, 15 m. wide and up to 4 m. high in the centre. There are the remains of limestone revetting on the upstream side. (Northants. Past and Present, IV, No. 5 (1970), 307)

b(6) Deer park (centred TL 025980; Fig. 71) occupied the greater part of the E. third of the parish. It is first recorded in the early 13th century and was the Royal Park attached to the Hunting Lodge (4). Deer from it were frequently granted to owners of other parks. It was not disparked when the Lodge was abandoned and Leland described it as 'partly waullid with stone and partly palid'. The date of its final disparking is not known (VCH Northants., II (1906), 581–2).

The park covered some 360 hectares of generally flat land, mainly on Boulder Clay lying E. of the village, between 200 ft. and 250 ft. above OD. Its boundaries are shown on a map of the park of about 1600 (in NRO) but these are not now clearly defined along much of the perimeter. No trace of a bank exists along the W. side but as the edge of the park follows the course of a small stream, it is possible that no other physical boundary was constructed along this section. On the N.E. there are also no signs of a boundary but the airfield built during the Second World War may have destroyed part of it. On the S. the boundary can be traced in a few places and seems to confirm Leland's description. For example, S. of the nowabandoned railway (TL 01999689–02109694) are the remains of a stone wall, now mostly ploughed away, running along the crest of the plateau, while further N.E. (TL 02209700–02649700) the park pale, although much damaged, appears to have consisted of a low bank with an internal ditch. In 1600 there were three Lodges in the park; Huskisson's Lodge (TL 01359780) still exists, but nothing remains of the others.

Fig. 71 King's Cliffe (6) Deer park

(7) Cultivation remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by Act of Parliament of 1809 (NRO, Enclosure Map, 1813). Immediately before that date there were five common fields around the village. Only very small areas of ridge-and-furrow of these remain on the ground, or can be traced on air photographs, and no overall pattern is recoverable. Ridge-and-furrow exists in the S.E. of the parish (TL 012963) in the former Mill Field, and also N. of the village (TL 005974 and 007977) in the former West Hay and Park Fields. It is also traceable E. of the village (at TL 015975 and 021975) within the deer park (6). It lies, or lay, within fields which were already in existence by the early 17th century (NRO, map of King's Cliffe, about 1600). Further ridge-and-furrow exists around West Hay Lodge in the N. of the parish (TL 003992). This area, known as West Hay Walk, was also a medieval deer enclosure. The date of cultivation here is unknown. (P.A. J. Pettit, The Royal Forests of Northants. (1968), 10–11; RAF VAP CPE/UK 1891, 1043–51, 2217–22; 1925, 4116–25)