Pages 112-116

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 88 NE, b SP 88 SE, c SP 98 NW)

The modern parish of Newton covers more than 1000 hectares, and lies immediately S. of Corby. Its present boundaries are the result of recent revision and it now includes not only the old parish of Newton but also a large part of the old parish of Oakley, containing the village of Little Oakley. The main part of the parish is largely on Boulder Clay between 100 m. and 114 m. above OD, but the down-cutting of the Harper's Brook in the N. of the parish and the R. Ise which forms the S. boundary has exposed extensive areas of limestones, clays, sands and silts along the broad, open valley sides. Immediately to the N.E. of the main part of the parish there is a small detached area of Newton, once part of Oakley parish. This lies across the valley of the Harper's Brook, mainly on Boulder Clay between 98 m. and 122 m. above OD.

Prehistoric and Roman

Roman pottery was discovered in 1972 during the excavation of the site of St. Leonard's church (8) (SP 879835; Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 8).

b(1) Beaker Burial (perhaps SP 873835; Plate 30), found N.W. of the village around 1904–5 during ironstone-working. A Handled Beaker was discovered (Ant. J., 5 (1915), 430; BM).

b(2) Ring Ditch (?) (SP 87578460), in the N.W. of the parish, on Boulder Clay at 100 m. above OD. A ring ditch 15 m. in diam. is faintly visible on air photographs (RAF VAP CPE/UK/2109, 3441–2).

b(3) Roman Iron-Smelting Site (?) (SP 869835; Fig. 13), now quarried away, W.N.W. of the village on limestone at 91 m. above OD. Iron slag and pottery of the 2nd century, as well as other unrecorded features, were found (OS Record Cards).

b(4) Roman and Medieval Settlement (?) (SP 875842; Fig. 13), 1 km. N.W. of the village, on Boulder Clay at 103 m. above OD. An area covered with both Roman and medieval pottery is recorded (NM; Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 8; 9 (1974), 107).

Medieval and Later

b(5) Anglo-Saxon Burials (perhaps SP 873835; Fig. 13), found N.W. of the village during ironstoneworking in the 1920s. Seven urns (KM; NM) and a pair of girdle hangers (BM) were discovered (Meaney, Gazetteer, (1964), 193; OS Record Cards; J.N.L. Myres, Anglo-Saxon Pottery and the Settlement of England, (1969), Fig. 3, No. 740; Fig. 8, No. 738; Fig. 24, No. 744; Fig. 44, No. 742; Plates 3 and 6).

b(6) Anglo-Saxon Settlement (SP 868845; Fig. 13), lies N.W. of the village of Newton, on lime-stone at 99 m. above OD. During field-walking in 1972 an area of some 2 hectares of dark soil covered with iron slag and crude, hand-made, early to mid Saxon pottery was recorded (BNFAS, 8 (1973), 18).

b(7) Settlement Remains (SP 876835), formerly part of Newton village, were discovered in 1970–3 during excavation of the church (8). A number of late Saxon pits and post-holes and a sleeper beam trench were found as well as occupation debris of the 14th century (BNFAS, 5(1971), 30; 7 (1972), 44).

b(8) Site of St. Leonards Church (SP (879835), lies on the W. side of Newton village, on the edge of a steep-sided valley which drains S. to the R. Ise. The church of Great Newton stood here until 1449 when it was abandoned in favour of the one belonging to the almost deserted village of Little Newton, which still stands (9) (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 322). The original church was allowed to fall into ruin and the site was later built over.

Fig. 106 Newton (9) Deserted village of Little Newton, (10) Site of house and gardens

During excavations in 1970 a late Saxon occupation site was discovered (7), over which the church had been erected. The remains of the S. wall and S.W. corner of the church were found. These were dated to the 12th century and had evidence of a clasping corner buttress, added in the 14th century. No traces of the other external walls were noted. A large number of burials, one of which was that of a priest, accompanied by a token chalice and paten, were discovered, as well as part of the churchyard wall (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 30; 7 (1972), 44; 8 (1973), 21).

b(9) Deserted Village of Little Newton (perhaps SP 887833; Figs. 13 and 106; Plate 17), lies midway between Newton and Geddington villages, on the N. side of the R. Ise, on Northampton Sand between 76 m. and 91 m. above OD, probably E. and S.E. of the existing isolated church.

The two villages of Little and Great Newton may have originated as secondary settlements of Great Oakley to the N. The shape of the two former parishes and the irregular boundary between them suggests that they were once one unit of land. In 1086 Domesday Book lists three separate manors of Newton with recorded populations of eight, eight and twelve. One of these is likely to be Little Newton (VCH Northants., I (1902), 347, 352, 353).

Little Newton is mentioned in the Nomina Villarum of 1316, and to judge from the 1377 Poll Tax Returns there were at least 18 taxpayers there at that time (PRO, El79/155/28). By 1449 only four families lived in the village and in the same period the village church was taken over as the parish church of Great Newton. In the late 16th or early 17th century a new mansion was built. The gardens (10) were laid out around the house and probably over part of the already abandoned village. Certainly by the early 18th century the village had disappeared, leaving only the isolated church, though foundations of former houses were said to be visible (K.J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northamptonshire, (1966), 43; J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 322–4).

The actual site of the former village is now not known with certainty. The obvious place for it would have been around the church but such evidence as exists makes this doubtful. The land immediately N. of the church has been ploughed in recent times and no trace of occupation material has been found there. Furthermore, no finds were made nor indications of occupation noted when a sewerage trench was cut across the field S. of the church in 1975, and to the S. of the church there are slight traces of ridge-and-furrow still extant. The only remains which perhaps relate to the village lie well to the S.E. of the church, close to the flood plain of the Ise, where there is a ploughed-over sub-rectangular enclosure bounded by a bank and external ditch ('a' on Fig. 106). At its W. end it is raised to form two separate platforms and at this point it still stands up to 1.5 m. in height. Elsewhere ploughing has reduced it to less than 0.5 m., with the ditch hardly visible. The S.E. corner of the enclosure has been cut by the existing mill leet to Geddington Mill, which is now abandoned.

Immediately E. of this enclosure there is an elongated rectangular area, bounded by a water-filled ditch up to 1 m. deep, which is connected to the mill leet. This is possibly a medieval moated site and perhaps indicates the position of the manor house; if so it has been much altered in later times. Otherwise it must be taken as a relatively recent feature.

Apart from these earthworks, which may both be manorial in function, the most probable site for the village is that now covered by the 16th-century garden remains (10), N.E. of the church. Much of the land there is characterised by dark soil, though this may be the result of gardening activities. In addition a few sherds of medieval pottery, including some Lyveden ware, as well as pieces of medieval glass have been found in the area. The ironstone quarry in the N. of the area may also have destroyed part of the village. It is clear from a comparison between the surviving earthworks and the 18th-century plan of the garden that some of them lie outside the area of the latter. These include the W. fragments of two large rectangular closes, bounded by scarps up to 1.5 m. high ('b' on Fig. 106), and a series of terraces and platforms to the N.E. These may be part of the deserted village although their general form which follows that of the gardens to the N. leaves an element of doubt in this interpretation.

b(10) Site of House and Gardens (SP 885833; Figs. 106 and 107; Plate 17), lies 150 m. N.E. of St. Faith's church, on sand at 84 m. above OD.

Fig. 107 Newton (10) House and garden remains (drawing based on a plan of c. 1715)

The manor of Little Newton was already in the hands of the Tresham family by 1539. In the late 16th or early 17th century the Treshams built a manor house, probably on part of the site of the abandoned village of Little Newton (9), and a small garden was laid out around it. In about 1660 the estate passed to Sir John Langham who enlarged the house. Some years later it was sold to Sir Caesar Child and in 1713 it was bought by Benjamin Bathurst who sold it in 1715 to the Montagus. It appears to have been still standing in about 1720 for Bridges recorded it as being built of brick and stone (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 322–3). The house was demolished soon afterwards and the garden abandoned. By 1740 a terrier of Newton (NRO) states that the 'Hall Gardens' were being leased to one William Wheelwright, apparently a farmer living at Great Newton. In the late 19th century it was said that flowers from the garden could still be found in the surrounding fields (Northants. N. and Q., 2 (1886), No. 216).

A plan of the gardens as they were in the early 18th century (Fig. 107; NRO, Plan of Newton Mansion, c. 1715) goes some way to explain the surviving earthworks. Another plan, of the whole parish, made in 1717 (NRO) depicts the gardens set inside a large enclosure with an approach drive from the N. The remains of the house and garden are in a very poor and fragmentary condition, largely because they have been partly bulldozed and ploughed in recent years. Although the N.W. part of the site has been quarried for ironstone some parts of the original layout still exist. In the N.W. corner stands the only surviving building, a dovecot. This is a long rectangular stone building decorated with trefoil emblems on the eaves and divided into two compartments, each of which contains at least a thousand nesting-boxes. It is on a high platform which though much damaged on its S. side, still stands 3 m. high above the ground to the S. The part of this platform N. of the dovecot must be the S. part of the kitchen garden shown on the 18th-century plan. The flat area to the S. of the dovecot is presumably the Dovecot Walk, but the original Gravel Walk, stableyard and outbuildings cannot be traced. The elaborate knot gardens E. of the dovecot have also been destroyed, but the site of the house can be located ('c' on Fig. 106) as a series of low scarps less than 0.25 m. high. N.E. of the site of the house the S. part at least of the Dwarf Orchard exists, again bounded by low scarps, though the N. end has been altered.

To the E. of the house-site the N. and E. sides of the Old Court are traceable, though the site has been much damaged, as has that of the Ninepin Alley to the E. To the S. the general outlines of another Kitchen Garden can be seen, and the fishpond still remains as a pond 2 m. deep. Across this kitchen garden, some 0.25 m. below the present ground surface, is a small stone-lined culvert with a barrel roof, traceable for some 30 m., which was discovered during ploughing. Two openings into it exist on the ground. Since it runs S.E. from the site of the house it is probably a contemporary drain. The other earthworks to the S. and W. of the kitchen garden may be part of the earlier abandoned village (9) ('b' on Fig. 106).

Fig. 108 Newton (11) Dam

On the N. side of the ironstone quarry there were, before modern destruction, two trackways approaching the site. The one from the W. was slightly hollowed, the other, from the N., was scarped on the E. and embanked on the W. These may be connected with the house and certainly the one from the N. is marked on the 1717 map. However the main approach road to the house would seem to have been from the W., immediately N. of the church, leading past the stableyard. A track existed here as late as the early 19th century (1st ed. 1 in. OS map (1834), sheet 44; CUAP, AEV 46; RAF VAP F21 82/RAF/865, 0283–5).

a(11) Dam (SP 857857; Fig. 108), lies across the valley of a small E.-flowing stream, on alluvium and Boulder Clay at 95 m. above OD. It consists of a large bank, 190 m. long and 25 m. wide and up to 2.5 m. high. The present stream flows through a modern gap in the centre (RAF VAP F21 82/RAF/865, 0237–8).

(12) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish of Newton were enclosed by agreement in 1612. The new hedges of that date were usually fitted around the existing furlongs. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over the whole parish, except along the edge of the R. Ise, which was meadow, and in the extensive areas recently worked for ironstone. Most of the ridge-and-furrow is arranged in end-on furlongs, running N.-S. (CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 4 (1974), 28–9, esp. Fig. 7).

The common fields of Little Oakley, most of which lie within the modern parish of Newton, were enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1808 (NRO, Enclosure Map). Two earlier maps of 1727 and 1733 (NRO) show the common fields as they then existed, all confined to the S. part of the parish, S. of Harper's Brook, and divided into Upper, Middle and Nether Fields. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over most of the area, arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs. The ridge-and-furrow agrees exactly with the strips shown on the 18th-century maps, and the furlongs can be identified and named. The part of the parish N. of Harper's Brook, a small section of which is now in Corby, was wholly enclosed by the early 18th century, but into large fields which have since been sub-divided. Ridge-and-furrow can be traced over much of this area, arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs, but whether this once formed part of the common fields is not known. In the extreme N. of the old parish (now in Corby at SP 885872) ridge-and-furrow is visible in a field known as North Benty Cops in 1727 and 1733. This suggests that the area had been woodland at some time prior to the 18th century.

The detached part of the parish, in the N.W., was formerly in Great Oakley parish. For cultivation remains see Corby (20) (RAF VAP 541/611, 3047–9, 4047–9; 541/612, 3040–5, 4040–9).


a(13) Oven or Kiln (SP 89208558). During the digging of a pipe-trench, immediately S. of Little Oakley Church, some years before 1966 a structure 'which appeared to be an oven' was discovered. It was built up of 'large stones and particles of soot were still evident' (OS Record Cards).