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An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 2, Archaeological Sites in Central Northamptonshire. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1979.

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(OS 1:10000 a SP 79 SE, b SP 78 NE, c SP 89 SW, d SP 88 NW)

The parish covers a roughly triangular area of 490 hectares on the S. side of the R. Welland, on land falling steeply to the river, between 130 m. and 60 m. above OD. Apart from the area close to the river the parish is entirely on Lias Clay, though in the higher parts this is overlain by Boulder Clay. The village lies in the narrow valley of a tributary stream draining N.E. to the R. Welland, and there is a striking contrast between its location and that of the large Iron Age and Roman site (1) which is situated near the river, on gravel and which may be the S. extension of a large Roman occupation area N. of the R. Welland around Medbourne in Leicestershire (centred SP 797936; OS Record Cards for all refs.).

Prehistoric and Roman

a(1) Iron Age Settlement and Roman Villa (centred SP 788917), lies in the N. of the parish close to the R. Welland, on gravel at 66 m. above OD. Bricks and 'ancient foundations' were ploughed up in this area in the 18th century (J. Nichols, Hist. and Ants. of Leics., I, pt. l (1795), 154). When the RugbyStamford Railway was constructed in the 19th century 'several fragments of Roman pavement, urns, coins etc.' were discovered (Whellan, Dir., 781) in a field called Alderstone which can be located at SP 794916 (NRO, Field Name Map, 1932). From this field a Roman coin and pieces of mortarium have been found (OS Record Cards). Another Roman coin, probably from the same area, was recorded earlier (Trans. Leics. Arch. Soc., 6 (1882–7), 42; VCH Northants., 1 (1902), 134). In 1966 excavations to the W. (at SP 787916) revealed an Iron Age occupation area, including a succession of circular huts bounded by a large ditch. In the 2nd century two Roman timber buildings were erected on the site which were, in turn, replaced by another building. These were abandoned in the late 3rd century though occupation apparently continued elsewhere on the site. A late 3rd-century coin hoard was discovered. (JRS, 58 (1968), 191–2; BNFAS, 1 (1966), 6–7; 4 (1970), 57; CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 1 (1971), 8).

In 1970 further excavation took place (at SP 790916) when more Iron Age occupation material, ditches and gullies were found, overlain by part of a large stone building of the 3rd or 4th century. This had a tessellated floor. Part of a limestone column was taken as evidence of a portico or colonnade (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 5–6; Britannia, 2 (1971), 266).

Medieval and Later

a(2) Settlement Remains (SP 797908; Fig. 17), formerly part of Ashley, lie in the S.E. part of the village between Green Lane and a small stream which flows along the N. side. The area is called Town Close (local information). The earthworks are, in the main, very slight, being nowhere more than 0.5 m. high. The most prominent feature is a large embanked enclosure in the N.E. corner of the field, but this appears to be more recent than the other remains. The latter consist of low scarps and banks, forming no coherent pattern, but which may be the remains of closes formerly extending down the valley side to the stream. The rectangular feature near the W. end of the site ('a' on Fig. 17) is bounded by grassed-over limestone rubble walling.

Fig. 17 Ashley (2) Settlement remains

a(3) Deer Park (centred SP 786902), occupies a roughly rectangular area of some 16 hectares S.W. of the village and against the parish boundary with Weston-byWelland. It lies on clay, on both sides of a small combe, between 110 m. and 130 m. above OD. The park was made in the late 13th century when Walter de Langton, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, had licence 'to enclose and impark his wood of Asshele and 12 acres of land adjoining thereto within the metes of the forest' (Cal. Pat. 1281–92, 388).

Bridges states that the park was enlarged two years later by the addition of a further two acres of wood purchased from Guy de Waterville (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 272; Northants. P. and P., 5 (1975), 219).

The bounds of the original park, and perhaps of the additional two acres, can be traced on the ground in banks and in some botanically rich, and therefore ancient, hedges which define the area. The greater part, some 14 hectares known today and in 1807 as Wood Close (NRO, Enclosure Map), is surrounded on all sides by a low bank, much mutilated in places but generally about 4 m. wide and 1.5 m. high. Because of the slope of the land this bank often appears to be very substantial on the down-slope side but is barely visible on the upslope side and in places becomes a scarp rather than a bank, for example at the E. end of the S. boundary (at SP 79609007), where it is 7 m. wide and 1 m. high. The hedges of the N., W. and S. sides are outside the banks and mostly thorn with some elder and blackthorn, but the hedge on the E. side is botanically much richer. The number of species present here indicates that it could be old enough to be the original 13th-century hedge. To the E. of Wood Close is a narrow enclosure (centred SP 78759012), known as Tanners Close on the map of 1807. This close, of a little over 1 hectare, also has a bank along its S. side, continuous with the S. boundary of Wood Close. Along its E. side a small stream has been canalised and embanked and here too is an ancient hedge, rich in species. It is possible that Tanners Close represents the '2 acres' added to the original park in the 13th century. There is no ridge-and-furrow in either Wood Close or Tanners Close, but it is traceable up to the boundary in the surrounding fields to the W., S. and E. and along most of the N. side.

(4) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by Act of Parliament (NRO, Enclosure Map of Ashley, 1807). Immediately prior to that date there were three large open fields in the parish called Wood, Bridge and Tedding Fields. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced from air photographs over most of the parish with the notable exception of the Deer Park (3) and along the edge of the Welland in the N.E. of the parish where there was meadowland in 1807. Most of the ridge-and-furrow is arranged in end-on furlongs radiating outwards across the contours from the various steep-sided spurs and knolls in the parish (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1925, 1182–3; /2109, 4136–40).