Pages 123-126

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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by English Heritage. All rights reserved.


In this section


(OS 1:10000 a SP 87 SW, b SP 87 NW, c SP 87 SE, d SP 87 NE)

The parish, which covers some 1160 hectares, lies S. of Kettering and W. of the R. Ise here flowing at 60 m. above OD, which forms its short E. boundary. It occupies a spur of land projecting E. between the two streams which define its N. and S. boundaries. The higher land in the W., between about 114 m. and 137 m. above OD, is covered by Boulder Clay. On the upper slopes of the valleys to the N., S. and E. Great Oolite Limestone and clays and silts are exposed. The valley bottoms, and a larger area in the E. of the parish, are on Northampton Sand and Lias Clay.

Prehistoric and Roman

Part of a Bronze Age rapier (Plate 31), classified as a Group III Lisburn Class, was found before 1893. possibly beneath the church (see (5)) (VCH Northants., I (1902), 143; Arch. J., 110 (1953), 178; PPS, 28 (1962), 98, No. 217; NM). Numerous Roman coins are said to have been found in the parish (Arch. J., 3 (1846), 113). One group is specifically located at SP 855743 (NM Records). There is also a record of 'Roman barrows' having been discovered together with 'several Roman coins, pieces of British and Roman pottery, Druidical beads, fragments of a silver necklace and ancient curiosities' (Whellan, Dir., 817). This may refer to (3), (5) or (6) below.

a(1) Enclosures (SP 87007538), N.E. of the village on the N. side of New Road, on sand at 85 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show the W. part of a rectangular enclosure, with a fragment of a similar enclosure within it. At least three ditches approach the site from the W. and join or intersect the enclosures.

d(2) Ring Ditch (SP 87567560), in the E. of the parish, on sand at 79 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show cropmarks of a ring ditch 30 m. in diam. (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 16).

d(3) Barrow (?) (SP 86017510), N. of the village, on limestone at 97 m. above OD. An 'ancient cemetery near a barrow' is recorded (Arch. J., 3 (1846), 105). No trace now remains (OS Record Cards).

c(4) Roman Settlement (centred SP 865748), E. of the village, on clay at 91 m. above OD. There is a local tradition of Roman coins having been found in this area. Recent field-walking has led to the discovery of several patches of stone associated with sandstone roofing tiles and Roman pottery. A flint scraper is also recorded (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 5, 12).

c(5) Roman Burials (?) (SP 86017478), under the present church and churchyard. During repair work in the 19th century some 20 inhumations in stone cists, associated with some late Roman coins and fragments of Roman pottery, were discovered, underlying a series of burials said to be of Saxon date (Arch. J., 3 (1846), 105–115).

(6) Roman Burials (?) (unlocated and perhaps from (4) or (5)). There is a record of five Roman glass beads, and some bones, found somewhere in the parish (NM Records).

c(7) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 857738), 800 m. S. of the village, on sand at 91 m. above OD. Cropmarks are said to have been noted here, but these are not visible on air photographs held by OS or RCHM. A thin scatter of early Roman pottery and several sherds possibly of late Iron Age type have been found over a wide area (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 18).

For Roman pottery at SP 850738, see (11).

Medieval and Later

Small quantities of medieval pottery and tiles are recorded from the parish (e.g. SP 843748 and SP 857738; BNFAS, 2 (1967), 28; 3 (1969), 27; Northants. Archaeol., 9 (1974), 109).

For possible Anglo-Saxon burials, see (5).

c(8) Settlement Remains (SP 862745; Fig. 112), formerly part of Pytchley village, lie S. of The Elms, on limestone and clay at 82 m. above OD.

The main part of the site is at the point where four hollow-ways meet to form a staggered cross-roads. These hollow-ways are between 1 m. and 1.5 m. deep except at the junction where they are up to 2.5 m. deep. The hollow-way to the W. extends towards the village and passes the manor house site or settlement remains (10), as well as crossing another manor house site (9). S.W. of the cross-roads there is a series of indeterminate earthworks, much damaged by later tracks, which may be former house-sites. To the E., in the angle between the hollow-ways running E. and N.E., is a block of slightly curved ridge-and-furrow which, at its S.E. end, has a series of rectangular scarped and embanked enclosures, lying on top of the ridges. These appear to be the sites of former buildings, perhaps houses, with associated garden plots. The sides of the plots appear to have been laid out along the pre-existing ridges which have been heightened to form low banks. Within the largest plot a much degraded ridge is visible. The survival of these ridges suggests that the occupation of the site may have been relatively short, and the whole complex probably represents a temporary expansion of Pytchley village, at some point in the medieval period.

Fig. 112 Pytchley (8) Settlement remains, (9, 10) Sites of manor houses

Elsewhere in and around the village there are other traces of former occupation surviving as earthworks. Around Bottom End and N.W. of it was a series of rectangular closes bounded by low scarps, now largely destroyed by modern housing development which is not shown on Fig. 112. N. of the church are further earthworks, part of which appears to be a hollow-way running N.E., perhaps the predecessor of the present road to Kettering.

On the summit of a low spur on the W. side of the village, S. of Pytchley House, is a rectangular enclosure bounded by a scarp 1 m. high and embanked on the S., with an entrance on the N. side. All these remains had already been abandoned by 1842 (NRO, Tithe Map; RAF/VAP CPE/UK/1925, 3235–7).

c(9) Site of Manor House (SP 860747; Fig. 112), immediately S. of the church, in Pytchley village, on limestone at 91 m. above OD. The existing remains are those of Pytchley Hall, built on an older manor house site by Sir Euseby Isham in about 1580–90. It was demolished in 1829 (VCH Northants., IV (1937), 208; N. Pevsner, Northamptonshire, (1961), 381).

The earthworks lie on either side of a footpath which leads S. from the church. On the S.W. side of the footpath is a broad hollow-way, running S.E. past the possible site of another manor house (10) and towards the settlement remains (8). This hollow-way cuts the remains of the manor house into two and this may be the road described in the late 19th century as passing over the site (Northants. N. and Q., (1886–7), 9). However since the hollow-way is undoubtedly medieval in origin the road referred to may be the existing street which has clearly been straightened at some time.

All the existing earthworks are in poor condition and difficult to interpret. S.W. of the hollow-way, and partly destroyed by the modern churchyard extension, is a series of low scarps forming no coherent pattern. To the S. is a rectangular area bounded by scarps up to 1 m. high which may be part of a courtyard or garden. N.E. of the hollow-way are further scarps, of markedly rectangular form, nowhere more than 0.5 m. high and damaged on the S. by a tennis court. In the extreme N.W. of the site is a long rectangular pond, with revetted sides of limestone blocks. Recent building work further N.W. has indicated that this pond was formerly twice its present length, for what appeared to be its original N.W. end was noted in the digging of house foundations. This was perhaps a canal or long pond laid axially along the original 16th-century garden of the Hall. On the Tithe Map of Pytchley of 1842 (NRO) the area was known as Hall Court Garden and Dovehouse Close.

c(10) Manor House Site or Settlement Remains (SP 86167460; Fig. 112), lies immediately S. of (9) in a similar position, on the S.W. side of a broad hollow-way which is up to 1.5 m. deep. The existing earthworks are in a very fragmentary state and only one clear rectangular depression, possibly the site of a building, is recognisable. They may be merely abandoned house-sites which were formerly part of Pytchley village, but Bridges, writing about 1720, mentions that an old manor house, apparently that of the Engaynes, had stood 'in the Cow-pasture south of the Church' where wells, ponds etc. marked its position. The earthworks may possibly be the site of this manor house (J. Bridges, Hist of Northants, II (1791), 121).

ac(11) Medieval Settlement or Enclosure (SP 850738), 1200 m. S.W. of the village, on limestone at 107 m. above OD on the edge of a narrow valley. On air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/ 1925, 3233–4) there appears to be a sub-rectangular enclosure just over one hectare in area and bounded by a low scarp or bank. Though not clearly visible on the air photographs this enclosure appears to have ridge-and-furrow over it. The area is now permanent arable but field-walking in 1966 produced a wide selection of medieval sherds, including some of Lyveden type, as well as some Roman pottery (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 28).

c(12) Ponds (SP 867747), in Pond Coppice on the N. side of a broad valley, on clay at 76 m. above OD. Two rectangular ponds 22 m. by 10 m. and 1 m. deep, lie end-on to each other, fed by a small stream. Their date and purpose is unknown.

c(13) Site of Watermill (SP 871746), 1 km. E. of the village, on the N. side of a broad valley, on clay at 66 m. above OD. The greater part of the site has been totally destroyed by modern agriculture and though it is partly recorded on older OS plans (OS 25 in. Northants. XXXII, 6) and on air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CEP/UK/1925, 1236–7) it is difficult to explain the features shown. In 1947 these apparently consisted of the following: two narrow, irregular ponds lying at right-angles to the existing stream between Elbow Spinney and Mill Beds Copse and fed by water from a spring in the spinney; at the E. end of Mill Beds Copse and near the lower of the two ponds, a deep ditch or narrow pond extending E. for a distance of 450 m., with a massive retaining bank on its S. side. In addition within Mill Beds Copse there still remain two parallel depressions, 7 m. wide and 4 m.–8 m. apart and up to 0.75 m. deep, extending the length of the copse. The present name, Mill Beds Copse, indicates that the earthworks are the remains of a watermill; also the Tithe Map of 1842 (NRO) records the fields to the E. as Upper and Nether Mill Close.

(14) Cultivation Remains. The date of the enclosure of the common fields was before 1662 (NRO, map of north part of Pytchley, 1662). Certainly sometime between 1580 and 1626 Sir Euseby Isham enclosed 140 acres of land in the parish (VCH Northants., IV (1937), 211) and this probably occurred in 1607 when there were riots here against enclosure (Trans. Royal Hist. Soc., 18 (1904), 215 ff.). Ridge-and-furrow of there fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photo graphs over most of the W. half of the parish, and along the valley sides of the N., S. and E. boundaries in the E. It is arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs, many of reversed-S shape, except along the steep valley sides where it is entirely in end-on furlongs running at rightangles to the streams. In some places (e.g. at SP 852742) the ridges in these furlongs not only end in well-marked humps but show evidence of having once extended further down the slopes. Long sinuous ridges, formerly headlands, are still visible on the ground in many places (e.g. SP 835733, 866749, 871751 and 870760). Three surviving blocks of ridge-and-furrow in the N. of the parish (at SP 863759 and 865758) lay in enclosed fields called Carr Meadow and New Meadow in 1662. The former field is then depicted as marshy or waterlogged (RAF/VAP CPE/UK/1925, 1231–40, 2230–6, 2355– 63, 3229–39, 4350–61; F21 540/RAF/1312, 0162–8; F22 540/RAF/1312, 0209–15, 0160–8).