Sectional Preface

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. All rights reserved.


, 'Sectional Preface', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 2, Archaeological Sites in Central Northamptonshire, (London, 1979) pp. xxix-lxv. British History Online [accessed 19 May 2024].

. "Sectional Preface", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 2, Archaeological Sites in Central Northamptonshire, (London, 1979) xxix-lxv. British History Online, accessed May 19, 2024,

. "Sectional Preface", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 2, Archaeological Sites in Central Northamptonshire, (London, 1979). xxix-lxv. British History Online. Web. 19 May 2024,

In this section



The part of Northamptonshire described in this volume covers an area of some 700 square kilometres, extending from the River Welland, which forms the boundary with Leicestershire in the N., across the county to the borders of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire in the S. Topographically the region comprises scarp and dip-slope features which have been cut into by a series of rivers draining to The Wash. The main direction of dip of the underlying Jurassic rock is to the S.E. but is so slight that in effect the area is a dissected plateau, with a maximum altitude of just over 150 m. above OD. The region is bounded on the N. by the broad valley of the River Welland. From there the land rises steeply across an irregular scarp face into which a number of small, N.-flowing streams have cut steep-sided valleys. Beyond, to the S., is a series of narrow N.E.—S.W. valleys, producing a rolling landscape. With the exception of the northernmost valley, in which the Harper's Brook flows E. to meet the River Nene at Thrapston, the streams all drain into the River Ise which flows southwards to join the Nene near Wellingborough. At this point the N.E.-flowing Nene is in a flat-bottomed valley some two kilometres across. The steep valley sides are cut by many small tributaries. To the S. again the land rises to a generally flat table-land, dissected by small streams, which extends as far as the county boundary.

Almost all the higher ground N. of the Nene is capped by glacial deposits, but the underlying Jurassic rocks are exposed along the valley sides. The plateau S. of the Nene is also largely covered with drift of glacial origin. Little solid geology is visible, but where rocks are exposed in the steepsided, narrow valleys they include the Lower Lias Clay, silts and clays of the Middle Lias, sands, limestones and clays of the Oolitic Series and the Oxford Clay of the Upper Jurassic. Along the Nene and Welland there are large expanses of gravels.

Much of the area is still well timbered, having numerous small woods and coppices on the heavier clays and on the glacial deposits. Tracts of woodland in the N.E. are survivals of the once extensive Rockingham Forest, and the great areas of wood in the S. are the remains of the former Salcey Forest. Everywhere rivers, streams and springs provide ample water supplies. Building-stone of good quality has been quarried from the various limestone strata, and ironstone from the Northampton Sand; sands and clays have been available for pottery manufacture.

Settlement is, for the most part, restricted to the margins of the main valleys of the Nene, Welland and Ise, where it is often on hill tops and spurs well above the flood-plains. For example the villages stretching in a line from Dingley to Gretton in the N. are all situated on high land, while on both sides of the Nene the villages tend to be perched on spurs as at Grendon, Cogenhoe, Wollaston, Earls Barton and Billing. To the W. of the River Ise the bottoms of the narrow valleys are largely devoid of settlement; the villages stand on the ridge-tops between valleys, as at Orton, Cransley and Old. To the S. of the Nene major settlement is mainly confined to the narrow valleys cut into the level plateau.

The principal urban areas are Wellingborough in the S. and Kettering and Corby in the N., though expansion from the mid 19th century onward has turned the former villages of Finedon (now part of Wellingborough), Burton Latimer, Desborough and Rothwell into small urban settlements. Recent expansion of Wellingborough has more than doubled its former area, and Corby has developed from a village to a major town within the last forty years as a result of the development of the steel industry. The ironstone-mining associated with the latter has been very destructive of both landscape and archaeological material for over a century and the future appears bleak in this respect. Large areas of land, not only around Corby but also further S., at Kettering and N. of Wellingborough, have been worked for ironstone. Gravel-working, an industry equally destructive of archaeological material, has also been carried out on an extensive scale in the area, although it is now mainly confined to the Nene Valley. Stone-quarrying, once so important, has now almost ceased.

Outside these urban and industrial areas most of the land is now arable, though there are still considerable tracts of permanent pasture, especially in the N. along the Welland Valley.


The area covered by this Inventory is rich in known remains of the prehistoric and Roman periods but relatively few standing monuments have survived. The sites listed have been discovered by chance, by systematic fieldwork and by aerial photography. Few of them were known before 1945 and most have come to light since 1960 as a result of the greater local interest in archaeology. Information regarding sites of the prehistoric and Roman periods has been gathered on an increasing scale in recent years and the basic problems involved in the interpretation of this material have been described elsewhere (RCHM Northants., I (1975), xxiii–xxiv; C.C. Taylor, 'Roman Settlements in the Nene Valley; The Impact of Recent Archaeology', in P.J. Fowler (ed.), Recent Work in Rural Archaeology, (1974)).

The most significant feature from the point of view of distribution is the marked contrast between the amount of material recorded from the southern part of the area under review, especially on either side of the River Nene, and the relative paucity of finds in the northern part of the county. The reason may be partly that in both prehistoric and Roman times there was an attraction to the lighter soils, particularly the sands and gravels; on the whole, the heavier clays deterred settlements. However, the present distribution maps (Figs. 1–10) may reflect the ability of archaeologists to recover the information rather than the real pattern of settlement. In the N. there has been a lack of co-ordinated and thorough fieldwork by local archaeological groups. Further S., detailed and long-term work along the Nene Valley, and on the drift-covered plateau to the S., has shown that early occupation was remarkably intensive. Furthermore the capacity of the lighter soils to produce cropmarks means that aerial photography has been far more rewarding in the southern part of the area than in the northern. These factors have lead to widespread discoveries in parishes such as Ecton (5–11), Mears Ashby (2–7) and Earls Barton (3–7) along the Nene, and at Brafield-on-the-Green (2–12) on the southern plateau. The discovery of sites also depends on the vegetation and land-use. In the N. the extensive areas of woodland, part of the former Rockingham Forest, together with a larger proportion of permanent pasture than elsewhere, affect our knowledge of the distribution of prehistoric and Roman occupation. The considerable blocks of woodland in the extreme S. have the same misleading effect.

Other factors which have influenced the recovery of information and its interpretation include modern industry and urban development. Important finds, especially of the Bronze Age, have been discovered during ironstone-mining in the Corby area (e.g. Corby (1) and Weldon (2)) and much Iron Age and Roman material has been coming to light in the ironstone quarries N. of Kettering for almost a century (Kettering (6) and Weekley (1) and (2)). The more recent expansion of the older urban areas such as Kettering and Wellingborough, as well as the development of Corby, has been closely observed by local archaeologists and has resulted in the discovery of widespread settlement (Wellingborough (12) and (13), Kettering (6), Corby (2–16)). The extent of these discoveries is impressive when it is realised that few of the sites were visible from the air or recoverable by fieldwalking. Only the circumstance of urban development, and the presence of archaeologists in the locality able to watch over every stage of the work has made these discoveries possible. As new information is made available the distribution maps will need revision, and conclusions regarding the social and economic background of the prehistoric and Roman periods will require amendment.

A notable feature of this area, compared with that covered by Northamptonshire I, is the larger number of excavations, carried out to high standards, in recent years. Some of these have been undertaken for the Department of the Environment, as at the Roman town of Irchester (7), and at the cropmarks in Grendon parish (3–6), but many other sites have been examined on a smaller scale by local archaeologists as at Bozeat (4) and Wellingborough (11–14).

Fig. 1 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds

Fig. 2 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds (for key see fig. 1)

Fig. 3 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds (for key see fig. 1)

Fig. 4 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds (for key see fig. 1)

Fig. 5 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds (for key see fig. 1)

Fig. 6 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds (for key see fig. 1)

Fig. 7 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds (for key see fig. 1)

Fig. 8 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds (for key see fig. 1)

Fig. 9 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds (for key see fig. 1)

Fig. 10 Prehistoric and Roman sites and finds (for key see fig. 1)


Few of the sites in the Inventory earlier than the Iron Age can be dated, with the exception of one Neolithic and Beaker occupation area (Ecton (1)) and a number of Bronze Age burials. Many Iron Age sites have recently been recognised during field-walking, but these form only a very small proportion of the many settlements that have been discovered by air photography and are at present of unknown date. Of the latter, those which have not produced Roman pottery are probably of prehistoric date, although this is by no means certain. Moreover, some groups of cropmarks are of considerable complexity (e.g. Ecton (5–12) and Earls Barton (7)), suggesting many forms of occupation over long periods of time.

Although the evidence from air photography is limited to lighter soils, stray finds from almost every part of the area under review suggest that human activity was widespread and that prehistoric peoples were not as limited by their environment as has been thought in the past. One example of this is the distribution of flint tools and waste flakes. Only the larger flint-working sites and finds of flint or stone implements which may relate to known sites have been listed in the Inventory, and these constitute only a small proportion of the total amount of this material. It would be impossible to list all the places where waste-flakes have been discovered, for almost every field, when ploughed, produces a small number. They are not necessarily all of prehistoric date, but most of them probably are, and this indicates an extensive utilization of land for a variety of purposes. Further work may lead to many more discoveries of prehistoric material which will alter the present distribution patterns (CBA Group 9, Newsletter, 5 (1975), 9–11).

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Periods

Palaeolithic tools have been discovered, many as chance finds during gravel-extraction. These include Acheulean axes from Ecton (p. 47), Little Houghton (p. 85), Billing (p. 2), Weekley (p. 152) and Earls Barton (1). A single Levallois flake is recorded from Geddington (p. 50) firmly located to an area of high land. An Upper Pleistocene site containing faunal remains of the period has been discovered at Little Houghton (1).

No Mesolithic site has been identified with certainty although flint implements, said to be of Mesolithic type, have been noted at Irchester (7). There are numerous microliths and waste flakes in Northampton Museum, as well as a number of cores, which are probably of the Mesolithic period but which have not yet been classified. Some come from the Brafield-on-the-Green, Cogenhoe and Little Houghton area, S. of the River Nene.

Neolithic Period

A large number of flint and stone tools including axes have been recorded, almost all of them chance finds. Their distribution is widespread, for they occur in the parishes along the River Nene where many prehistoric sites are known e.g. Brafield-on-the-Green (p. 5), Billing (p. 2) and Ecton (p. 47), and also in situations remote from any major concentrations of finds of any period, as at Thorpe Malsor (p. 145) and Holcot (p. 83). Some of the flint-working sites mentioned above may also belong to this period, but as yet their identification is of little value in terms of distributional analysis, for example the sites at Castle Ashby (1) and Great Doddington (p. 37). At the same time some flint-working sites appear, perhaps fortuitously, to coincide with other evidence obtained from air photographs. Thus the flints at Little Harrowden (5) are associated with the rectangular enclosure and those at Wellingborough (2) were found within an area where a number of ring ditches have been seen from the air. Only excavation, urgently needed on such sites, will identify settlements of this period. At present only one site of this nature has been excavated, at Ecton (1), and this was discovered only by a combination of fieldwork and gravel-extraction.

The Bronze Age

A few stray finds, including a bronze axe from Billing (p. 2), a rapier from Pytchley (p. 123; Plate 31) and spearheads from Ecton (p. 47) and Hackleton (p. 62; Plate 31), are listed in the Inventory. Apart from a possible settlement site at Kettering (2) and the late Neolithic and Beaker settlement at Ecton (1), no occupation site certainly of this period is known in the area; only burials have been recorded. However some of the flint-working sites discussed above may eventually be attributed to the Bronze Age. Few of the burials have been excavated and most of the material has been discovered during ironstone-mining in the N. and central part of the area. They include Beaker burials from Newton (1) and Loddington (1) (Plate 30) and cremation burials with Collared Urns from Kettering (2), Weldon (1) and (2), Rothwell (1), Cranford (3), Corby (1), Cransley (1), Desborough (1–3) and Loddington (2). A possible burial has also been recorded from Brafield-on-the-Green (10). Little modern excavation has been carried out except for the burials at Grendon (3) and the important Wessex-type barrow at Earls Barton (2). The latter remains a discovery unique in the area and the typology and associations of the finds are important when assessing the possible extent and nature of settlement here at this period.

A number of mounds still survive which may be round barrows. The mound at Mears Ashby (1) indeed appears to be a barrow, but the one at Brafield-on-the-Green (1) is more questionable. More significant are the large numbers of ring ditches recorded in the Inventory, almost all of which are visible only from the air. Some ditches of this category, when located within areas of settlement, may prove on excavation to be hut-sites (e.g. Earls Barton (7)), but others, as at Grendon (2) and (7) and Hannington (1), are almost certainly burial sites. Some ring ditches which can be identified as burials within later prehistoric or Roman settlements suggest occupation over a long period. No large barrow groups or cemeteries are known, although scattered groups are listed comprising up to eight or nine ring ditches (e.g. Ecton (5) and (8)). There are no indications of linear cemeteries. Unlike the eastern part of the county (RCHM Northants., I (1975), xxxiii) no evidence has emerged of barrows being used as 'markers' by succeeding peoples. Indeed the reverse has been proved at Grendon (3–6) where excavations have shown that the earlier barrows there were completely ignored by later prehistoric farmers who cut field ditches across them.

The Iron Age

A considerable amount of material recorded in the Inventory dates from the Iron Age and a number of important sites have been excavated to modern standards. However, evidence is still inadequate for an assessment of the distribution of Iron Age settlement and few satisfactory conclusions can be drawn. Chance finds, fieldwork and air photographs have revealed a number of sites on either side of the River Nene and especially to the S. Thus at Little Houghton (2–7), (9), (11), (13), (20) and (25) eleven Iron Age settlements are known and there are seven at Wollaston (8), (9), (17), (18), (20), (22) and (24) and eight at Wellingborough (10–17), and as many as fifteen at Brafield-on-theGreen (9) and (13–26). However, there is only one (Ashley (1)) in the whole of the north-western part of the area, and those at Corby (2–6) and Desborough (3) have all been discovered as a result of ironstone-mining or modern urban development. There certainly must be more Iron Age sites awaiting discovery, especially in the northern part of the area, as the coins from Dingley (p. 34) and Corby (p. 23) and a single pot from Cransley (p. 28) imply. Even so the evidence, inadequate as it is, shows massive late prehistoric occupation of parts of the area under review, with a density not hitherto appreciated.

Most of the recorded sites appear to date from the later part of the Iron Age, that is 2nd or 1st century B.C. This suggests that there was a rapid expansion of population at this time, particularly when the paucity of Bronze Age and earlier Iron Age settlements is taken into account. However it may be that earlier settlements do exist, but have not yet been identified. Many of the undated cropmark sites perhaps fall into this category.

Of the excavated Iron Age sites listed in the Inventory, most show that occupation was largely confined within ditched enclosures of various forms, ranging from circular to rectangular and including the D-shaped enclosures at Bozeat (4) and Weekley (2). Evidence of circular huts has been recovered from within some of these enclosures. Other huts have been noted at Ashley (1). Large areas of occupation have been discovered at Irchester (3), and at Wellingborough (12–14) in particular where numerous adjacent enclosures have been recognised, but it is impossible to say whether these are of the same date or whether they represent successive farmsteads. Among the more important Iron Age settlement sites is the one at Easton Maudit (2), where the upstanding earthworks of a small settlement existed intact until the 1950s. The now mutilated remains, together with the evidence from air photographs, show what appear to be the trackways associated with the complicated enclosure system. Many of the undated enclosures recorded in the Inventory which have yielded no evidence of Roman activity within them are also likely to belong to the Iron Age.

The Inventory lists over a hundred certain Iron Age occupation sites in addition to the undated enclosures noted above. However there is a lack of evidence for Iron Age or indeed earlier fields, which constitutes a major gap in our knowledge of the period. A few ditches of Iron Age date are known. Only at Grendon (3) however, where a large number of ditches of the late Iron Age or Roman period crossed the areas containing the excavated ring ditches, has any modern investigation taken place. Even here no coherent plan of fields has emerged and little can be deduced about their size or shape. Elsewhere the numerous large enclosures and linear ditches visible from the air, as well as being usually undated, offer too incomplete a picture for conclusions to be made as to their agricultural purpose.

A considerable number of pit alignments are listed in the Inventory and evidence that they are of immediate pre-Roman date continues to accumulate (RCHM Northants., I (1975), xxxiv). At Gretton (2) a hoard of currency bars was discovered in a position which showed them to be conttemporary with a pit alignment. The date attributed to the pit alignment by the excavator, between the 4th and 1st centuries B.C., appears acceptable. Most of the pit alignments have as usual been recovered by air photography of the lighter soils along the main river valleys (e.g. Earls Barton (5) and (6), Grendon (2) and (7) and Wollaston (3), (7) and (11)). However the one at Gretton, on a high limestone plateau and discovered only during ironstone-working, casts doubt on the validity of the present known distribution.


In comparison with the finds of earlier periods the amount of Roman material which has been discovered is large; well over 200 separate Roman sites are listed in the Inventory. This contrast is mainly due to the fact that Roman material survives better and is easier to recognise, and as a result it is difficult to draw any valid comparison between the density of late prehistoric and of Roman occupation. However fieldwork has revealed a high density of Iron Age occupation in some places, notably S. of the Nene in the parishes of Brafield-on-the-Green and Little Houghton. The remarkable number of Roman sites in these areas can be seen not as new occupation in Roman times but as a continuation and an intensification of settlement in a countryside already wellpopulated in the later Iron Age. Indeed many of the Roman sites listed have evidence of earlier occupation beneath them, suggesting continuity at least in the general area, and probably of the particular habitation. Even in those parts where Roman sites are few, the same continuity seems to exist (e.g. Ashley (1), Corby (2–14)).

The general distribution of known Roman sites may fail to reflect the true pattern of Roman settlement. The reasons for this have been stated in relation to earlier periods and again the lack of material from the N.W. part of the area under review is probably more apparent than real. However there can be little doubt that the heavier land in the N.W. was in fact less densely occupied than the lighter soils of the S., and it is significant that many of the sites in the N.W. are on small patches of sand and other easily worked terrain (e.g. Hannington (2)). One area which is surprisingly lacking in known Roman sites is the valley of the River Welland in the extreme N. where, apart from the villa at Ashley (1) and the occupation area at Cottingham (1), little is recorded. The fact that this area still contains large blocks of permanent pasture makes discovery of archaeological remains extremely difficult either on the ground or from the air, in spite of the presence of large expanses of gravel soils. Indeed the same lack of known sites of all periods also occurs N. of the river in Leicestershire, probably for the same reason.

Fig. 11 Roman towns and large settlements (S.E. Midlands)

Of particular interest are the numerous Roman settlements recorded in areas once assumed to be ancient woodland. For example, those at Gretton (3) and (6) are on land which was certainly covered with continuous forest from the late 16th century to the 19th century (maps in NRO) and which, by implication from the evidence of place-names, was woodland in the late 13th century (PN Northants., 167). Similarly the Roman settlements at Stanion (2–7) lie in the area of the former Geddington Chase and Woods, which was totally forested from at least the early 13th century until the 19th century when it was finally cleared. Other examples exist at Corby (2–7). It has often been suggested by both historians and ecologists that such woodland was 'natural' or 'primeval' forest yet the archaeological evidence here recorded suggests that such forest is in fact secondary woodland which developed after the 5th century A.D. Indeed ecologists have already concluded that much of Rockingham Forest actually came into being between the 5th and 11th centuries (J. Ecology. 64 (1976), 123–46).

Several important excavations have been carried out on Roman settlements but they are still too few to allow any conclusive statements concerning the status or even the form of the smaller sites. Many sites listed in the Inventory are known only from surface finds. Nevertheless certain features are worth noting. Most of these sites appear to be very small in area, covering less than one hectare, and producing only pottery or small finds. Excavation of others has produced evidence of either rectangular or circular stone buildings (Bozeat (6) and (10), Cottingham (1)); elsewhere scatters of stone rubble also suggest the existence of stone buildings (Brafield-on-theGreen (21), Wellingborough (21–24)). Excavations at other places have revealed only timber buildings (Grendon (9) and Corby (13)). All these appear to be no more than simple farmsteads although the existence of kilns at a number of them (Brafield-on-the-Green (21), Bozeat (10)) perhaps indicates a more complex economic organization, and the use of painted wall-plaster in a circular stone building at Bozeat (10) suggests some attempt at a sophisticated way of life. Other survivals of an agricultural economy are the corn-drying ovens at Cottingham (1) and Cogenhoe (5).

Air photographs make a greater contribution towards our understanding of these Roman farms. They show ditched enclosures of differing form and complexity associated with small areas of occupation. These enclosures may be interpreted as yards and paddocks belonging to the farmsteads (Wollaston (19)). Knowledge of field systems of Roman date, as of the Iron Age and earlier, in the area under review is almost non-existent. The widespread occurrence of ditches, often of considerable length and dated to the Roman period, is all that is recorded with the possible exception of some plots which lie on a steep hillside in Rockingham (14). These are completely undated, but appear to have been cut by medieval hollow-ways and perhaps by the out-works of Rockingham Castle. Although not by any means true 'Celtic' fields, they may represent some form of Roman or even prehistoric cultivation.

Villas are known to have existed at Great Doddington (5) and Wollaston (2) though neither of these has been excavated and the only record of their form is from air photography. The villa at Weldon (3) is better understood, as two excavations have been carried out on the site, but work on the undoubted villa at Ashley (1) has produced only slight evidence. The remains at Hackleton (11) are likely to be the site of a villa.

The area around the Roman town at Irchester (7) is notable for a complete lack of settlements, including villas. In spite of repeated air photography and fieldwork fewer sites are recorded there than in any of the adjacent parishes. Irchester is the only certain town in the Inventory and as such is perhaps the major Roman monument listed. Despite 19th-century excavation within the walled area and more recent work on the suburbs little is known of the site and most information comes from air photographs which indicate two important factors. First it is possible that the northern half of the town was based on an earlier fort which was later enlarged to the S. and walled for civilian use. Traces of what may be the ditch on the S. side of the fort are visible from the air, clearly overlaid by the later street system. The otherwise unexplained change of alignment in the centre of the E. and W. sides of the town then becomes understandable. Secondly air photographs show an unusual street plan within the walled area, which cannot at present be explained. Evidence of a large number of stone structures including a temple comes both from air photographs and from the early excavations within the town. Worked stone and statuary are also recorded. Perhaps the most interesting find is the inscribed stone which might be taken to imply that the town was the centre of a horse-breeding region. Fieldwork, chance finds and recent excavations have indicated that the town had an extensive extra-mural settlement around it which covered almost 50 hectares. It may have been even larger, but extensive ironstone-quarrying to the W. and S.W. has removed any evidence which might have existed.

Though Irchester was the only walled town in the area, the Inventory also records details of other areas which were apparently semi-urbanised or at least very densely occupied, Kettering (6), Geddington (4) and Weekley (1) and (2), Little Houghton (8–20) and possibly Corby (11). These, together with similar sites already recorded in the N.E. of the county (RCHM Northants., I (1975), Higham Ferrers (1–8), Ashton (2–4) and Titchmarsh (16–19) and (22)), indicate a pattern of very large Roman occupation sites in the E. half of the county (Fig. 12). This pattern can be extended further N.E. into Cambridgeshire to include the town of Durobrivae and its large extra-mural industrial area and the large Roman settlement at Peterborough (RCHM Peterborough New Town (1968), 3–4), and to the W., N.W. and S.W. with the walled towns of Towcester and Bannaventa (Norton) and the extensive site at Duston near Northampton (RCHM Northants., III and IV, forthcoming). To the N., the large settlement at Medbourne (Leicestershire) of which Ashley (1) may be part, is another example. All these, both towns and semi-urban sites, produce a pattern of almost regularly spaced areas of occupation and this may be of significance in understanding their function. Most are from 10–15 kilometres apart; only Higham Ferrers and Irchester are relatively close together (Fig. 11).

Fig. 12 Large Roman settlements; a comparison of their known extent

The exact significance of these sites remains unknown. They are so large that all the excavations carried out on them, however extensive, have given little information. Of those in the area under review, most is known about the one at Kettering and Weekley, but the material, recovered piecemeal during housing development and ironstone-mining, is still inadequate. It indicates that a substantial settlement existed, for buildings, wells, roads, burials and 'ovens' of various kinds were noted in the late 19th-century ironstone-mining, and recent work on a limited scale has produced evidence of more buildings, roads and possible kilns. The latest excavations at the similar site at Ashton in the N.E. of the county have produced clear indications of the same type of occupation, with a road junction, stone buildings and the remains of iron-working (Durobrivae, 3 (1975), 12–15). The occupation of these sites appears to cover most of the Roman period, with the exception of Little Houghton which is characterized by material mainly confined to the 1st and 2nd centuries. Perhaps an even more basic problem is that there is no real certainty of the extent of these sites. The existence of modern occupation, permanent grassland and ironstone-quarrying, all of which have either already destroyed the evidence, or totally conceal it, make it impossible to identify the limits of these areas.

Of the industrial sites recorded in the area, pottery kilns are by far the most common. The main concentration of these is on either side of the River Nene, in the parishes of Bozeat (10), Brafield-on-the-Green (20), (21) and (27–29), Ecton (5), Little Houghton (8), (10), (11), (14), (15), (18), (19) and (25), Great Houghton (5) and Mears Ashby (9). Only a few have been excavated and most have been identified from fieldwork. The majority appear to date from early in the Roman period (Britannia, 5 (1974), 162–81). Other kilns are known at Hackleton (9), Weekley (2), Geddington (2), Kettering (6) and (7) and Gretton (4). The early kilns discovered at Irchester (4), usually known as the Rushden Kilns, are notable for their exotic products. Iron-working sites have been noted at Brafield-on-the-Green (21), Kettering (8), Cottingham (1) and Rockingham (2), but a modern, detailed excavation on this type of site still remains to be carried out.


The Inventory lists, briefly, a number of large and important Saxon cemeteries as well as many other isolated burials and finds which are significant in terms of development of settlement. A detailed analysis of the finds from the Pagan Saxon burial sites of the area is long overdue, but it is not within the scope of the Commission's work. The only new insights have come from the work of J.N.L. Myres (Anglo-Saxon Pottery and the Settlement of England, (1969)). Myres has suggested that some of the urns from the large cemetery at Kettering (10), especially those with decoration which combines chevron lines and restrained finger-tipping, are typologically early, and states that similar examples elsewhere have usually been discovered in or near Roman towns. This fact has been interpreted as marking the phase of controlled Saxon settlement in late Roman times (Myres, op. cit., 8, 17). At Kettering the cemetery is not close to a Roman town, but it does lie immediately S. of the largest non-urban Roman settlement in the area and perhaps in the county. The other notable feature of the Kettering cemetery is that it is one of the few places where the work of individual potters can be identified, and links have been established not only with urns from the Northamptonshire cemeteries of Barton Seagrave (Kettering (12)), Newton (5) and Islip (RCHM Northants., I (1975), Islip (8)), but also with the single bowl from Weldon (p. 164) and the cemetery at Girton, Cambridgeshire (Myres, op. cit., 128).

Apart from this single example at Kettering there is no conclusive evidence that early Saxon burials or settlements were connected with the preceding late Roman settlement pattern. Certainly some Pagan Saxon burials have been discovered with Roman remains close by, but many were found during ironstone-mining and no accurate dating or context has been recorded (e.g. Desborough (3) and (8)). Even when material has been discovered more recently and under better conditions the evidence is still ambiguous. The Pagan Saxon pottery at Cogenhoe (7) may be associated with the later stages of occupation on the Roman site there, but it appears to be only fortuitous that the 6th-century burials at Bozeat (14) are on a Roman site, for the latter was abandoned in the 3rd century. On the other hand the very limited excavations at Bozeat may only confuse the picture. The distribution of Pagan Saxon sites apparently bears even less relationship to the pattern of medieval settlement than it does to the known Roman one. Of the twenty or so burials or ceme teries recorded, most of which appear to be of 5th or 6th-century date, only one, Thorpe Malsor (1), can be said from its location just outside the existing village to be related to a known medieval settlement. The rest, where their exact location is known, are all some distance from any later occupation site.

Fig. 13 Geddington and Newton Roman, Saxon and later medieval settlements

Until recently the location of settlements contemporary with these early Saxon burials was unknown. In the first volume of the Northamptonshire Inventory only two such sites were recorded (RCHM Northants., I (1975), Sudborough (3) and Aldwincle (18)). Over the last few years, however, new material of fundamental importance has come to light which begins to suggest that there was, in early Saxon times, a pattern of settlement very different from the later medieval one. This Inventory records a number of early Saxon settlements which appear to bear little or no relation to the medieval nucleated villages; these include the sites at Geddington (5), Newton (6), Stanion (9) and Wellingborough (26). At Geddington and Newton the evidence (Fig. 13) is difficult to interpret. The configuration of the parish boundaries, the place-name Newton for two of the villages, and the fact that the two medieval churches at Newton were chapelries dependent on Geddington, all suggest that Geddington was the 'primary' settlement of the area and the Newtons were later 'secondary' settlements from it. However, the early Saxon cemetery, Newton (5), as well as the two early Saxon settlement sites, Newton (6) and Geddington (5), appear to be unrelated to the medieval pattern; moreover there is no apparent correlation with the earlier Roman occupation of the area. The evidence from Great Doddington (p. 38 and (6–9)) and from the two sites in the adjacent parish of Wellingborough (27) and (28) (Fig. 14) is equally difficult to interpret. All the material has been discovered during very intensive fieldwork over the last few years; it includes seven probable or certain early Saxon settlements, two of which lie on earlier Roman ones, as well as other sherds of Saxon pottery from various locations. Both the Wellingborough sites extend across the parish boundary with Great Doddington. Since less than one third of the parish has been closely examined there are presumably many other sites as yet undiscovered.

Further study of the pottery from these sites is necessary before a definitive statement can be made, but it appears to be similar to that found in early Saxon contexts in North Buckinghamshire (Records of Bucks., 19 (1971), 24) and in the Peterborough area. In particular some of the pottery closely resembles the wares discovered at Maxey (Med. Arch., 8 (1964), 20–73).

This evidence for Saxon occupation, of whatever date, needs to be seen against a continuing failure to discover any material earlier than the 10th century in the later medieval settlement sites examined in the area. The origins of the pattern of medieval settlement are unknown, but the available evidence indicates the complexity of these origins. The only statement which can be made with reasonable certainty is that by the late 11th century the known medieval pattern of settlement was in existence, although it may not have been very old at that date.

Fig. 14 Great Doddington and Wellingborough Roman, Saxon and later medieval settlements


The Domesday Survey of 1086 seems to show a regular scatter of nucleated villages from 2 to 4 kilometres apart over the whole region. This includes the areas of Rockingham Forest in the N. and Salcey Forest in the S. which were wooded at this date. Usually each village lay within a unit of land which has survived to the present time as an ecclesiastical parish, but which must have originated as a unit of agriculture. It is common to find a modern parish which represents a single medieval village and its lands, but not all the parishes in the area under review are of this type. In some places a more complex pattern is visible. For example in a number of parishes there are other settlements of medieval date apart from the main village. These appear to have had their own land units always agriculturally and often tenurially separate from the lands of the main village. In the past such places have usually been regarded as secondary or 'daughter' settlements of the main or 'mother' village (e.g. Newton and Geddington, Fig. 13). The boundaries of these land units can sometimes be ascertained from Saxon and medieval charters or from later maps, as well as from the distribution of ridge-and-furrow. At Rushton, most of the parish consisted of the land of the twin villages of Rushton St. Peter and Rushton All Saints, yet in addition two other villages once existed there, Glendon and Barford (Rushton (9) and (10)), and the land unit of each is identifiable (Fig. 119). In this particular instance there is no evidence that either Glendon or Barford was a daughter settlement of the two Rushtons and all four might be interpreted as primary villages of the late Saxon reorganization of settlement in the area. Similarly at Wilbarston, to the N. of Rushton, the former village of Pipewell was cleared to make way for the Cistercian abbey (Wilbarston (8) and (9)), but its land is identifiable as a long narrow strip in the S. of Wilbarston parish. There is a later complication, for the Cistercian abbey acquired land to the S. in Rushton parish so that ultimately the lordship of Pipewell extended into that parish (Fig. 119). This accounts for the full name of the abbey, St. Mary de Divisis.

Elsewhere the evidence for multiple primary settlements which now lie within a single parish is more ambiguous. At Orlingbury (Fig. 110) the area of land which apparently belonged to the deserted village of Wythmail (Orlingbury (5)) appears to have been cut out of the original land of Orlingbury and thus Wythmail may be a secondary settlement. However the deserted hamlet of Badsaddle (Orlingbury (6)) at the western end of the parish could be interpreted as either a secondary or a primary settlement. At Loddington on the other hand the configuration of the lands which may be attributed both to the deserted village of Mawsley and to the medieval moated site, now deserted (Loddington (6) and (9)), suggests that both places are secondary to Loddington village (Fig. 98). The deserted farmstead of Cotton (Gretton (8)) and its associated land in the far corner of Gretton parish (Fig. 59) may be secondary to Gretton.

A situation more difficult to interpret occurs at Harrington. The northern projection of the parish, physically separated from the rest by a small stream, was certainly the land of the deserted village of Newbottle (Harrington (4)), and this might be said to be part of the primary pattern of settlement. However the name Newbottle, interpreted as the 'new building' (PN Northants., 114), suggests that it is a daughter or secondary village of Harrington. In the same parish there lies part of the land of the hamlet of Thorpe Underwood, although the hamlet itself and the rest of its land are in the adjacent parish of Rothwell (Fig. 73). Here, in spite of the apparently late Scandinavian name, the estate or land unit appears to pre-date the final establishment of the Harrington-Rothwell boundary and thus the hamlet may be considered to be an early one. The same applies to the deserted village of Knuston in Irchester (9) (Fig. 93). There seems to be clear evidence of secondary settlement at some of the small moated sites recorded in the Inventory. The moat at Beanfield Lawn (Corby (17)), and its associated area of land, is perhaps a late forest settlement, but its relationship to the village of Benefield 13 kilometres to the E. is not fully understood. The moat at Brampton Ash (5), however, is situated in the extreme S. of the parish with its assumed land largely separated from the common fields of Brampton by an arc of woodland (Fig. 21); this provides a more convincing example of secondary settlement.

Fig. 15 Castle Ashby, Cogenhoe, Great Doddington, Earls Barton, Ecton and Grendon Medieval settlements and estates

All these places appear to have had their own associated land whatever their date and status. However, there is another group of medieval settlements each of which has a more unusual relation ship with the main village of the parish in which it lies. All but two of them are now utterly deserted but all seem to have been integrated economically if not tenurially with the main village. As far as is ascertainable none of them ever had its own field system or defined land unit. Most are ill-recorded, but at least two are listed in Domesday Book, Thorpe in Earls Barton (16) and Chadstone in Castle Ashby (9). The others are Cotton in Grendon (15), Thorpe in Great Doddington (9), and Chester in Irchester (8) (Figs. 15 and 93). The last, immediately E. of the Roman town (7) and within its surburban area, may be an old-established settlement. Documentary sources suggest that another Thorpe existed in Wilby parish, but its location has not been discovered. Other possible sites are recorded in the Inventory at Moulton (8) and Pytchley (11). The two villages of Newton (7) and (9), one of which is now completely deserted, may be included among other possible secondary settlements. Both the name and the shape of Newton parish suggest that these villages were settled from Geddington (Fig. 13) although, as stated above, the archaeological evidence makes this doubtful.

Topographical studies of many of the existing villages add much information to the complex picture of the origins, status and chronology of medieval settlement. The existence of dual villages within one parish has been noted, for example Great and Little Weldon (J.M. Steane, The Northamptonshire Landscape (1974), 67) and Great and Little Cransley. There are also paired adjacent villages which have at some time been in separate parishes, for example the Cranfords. Evidence of polyfocal villages, which appear to have developed into their medieval form as a result of growth from two or more discrete centres, can be seen; Wollaston and Grendon are examples of this. All the material from field analysis, archaeological work and topographical examination indicates just how little the origins of the medieval village in this area are understood.

Villages, once established, were subject to many changes throughout the medieval period; some grew larger but others declined or were abandoned completely and many underwent changes of location. The Inventory describes a large number of monuments which have resulted from these processes. Continuous expansion or growth, by its nature, is not represented by earthwork remains and therefore is not dealt with in the Inventory, although detailed topographical analysis can indicate it in a number of places. An interesting example is Stoke Albany where the original village, set around its green and church in the valley bottom, appears to have had a new, planned addition made on the hillside above, consisting of a set of short parallel lanes.

Other developments have left visible archaeological features, usually in the form of earthworks. There are not only the settlements which are now almost completely deserted, but also the much greater number of existing villages which have undergone contraction or movement. The reason for the desertion, shrinkage or movement of the majority of villages in this area is often obscure, and the date of the decline unknown. It is probably due to the fact that decline, abandonment or changes in location took place over many centuries as the outcome of complex events, local and national, social and economic, and rarely as a sudden result of one specific cause. Two possible exceptions to this, at very different dates, are the settlement remains at Braybrooke (2), where part of the village appears to have been abandoned before the late 12th century when the extensive fishponds were constructed (C.C. Taylor, 'Settlement Mobility in Medieval and Later Times', in The Lowland Zone: The Impact of Man of the Landscape, CBA Research Report (forthcoming)), and at Easton Maudit (9) where, according to Bridges, there was depopulation in the parish following enclosure in the 17th century.

A major problem with almost all the settlement remains described in the Inventory is the lack of surviving documentation giving information as to the size or population of these places over any continuous length of time. As a result it is very difficult to isolate either general or specific conditions or events which caused changes in individual villages or in the overall pattern of settlement throughout the medieval and later periods. Certain features are clear. The villages which disappeared entirely, for whatever reason, were notably those which were always small and weak. These include villages in what might be termed primary or early situations such as Preston Deanery (Hackleton (17)), or Rushton St. Peter (Rushton (7)), or possibly secondary or later settlements, for example Badsaddle (Orlingbury (6)), Newbottle (Harrington (4)) or Little Newton (Newton (9)). It is characteristic of this group that Domesday Book records them, if at all, as being of relatively small size, and their populations always remained low. Thus the reasons for the final depopulation, even when known or guessed at, are of minor significance relative to the total history of these villages. The desertions, apparently resulting from early enclosure, probably for sheep, as at Rushton St. Peter, Newbottle and Boughton (Weekley (8)), are only a reflection of the ease with which landlords could change the land use in an area of relatively sparse population.

Even those villages which managed to survive into the post-medieval period but which were finally destroyed as a result of emparking, for example Chester, Knuston (Irchester (8) and (9)) and Horton (Hackleton (19)), were all small places throughout their recorded history. Overstone (6), though by no means a tiny village at the height of its medieval prosperity, was still among the least populous in its area and thus easily fell prey to an emparking landlord at a later date. Where there is clear evidence for post-medieval shrinkage of existing villages, as revealed by Estate, Enclosure or Tithe maps, as at Cransley (8), East Carlton (2), or Strixton (7), examination of the remains on the ground always shows that the settlement was already fairly small and in decline before its earliest cartographic depiction. At Cransley, the earthworks in one particular area are of great interest since they are overlaid by ridge-and-furrow, representing ploughing after the abandonment of this part of the village which had taken place some time before the 16th century.

Many villages contain, or are partly surrounded by, earthworks of former settlement but which do not seem to be the result of shrinkage. In these villages, as far as the inadequate documentary evidence goes, there appears to be no record of depopulation on a scale commensurate with the earthworks. Such remains probably represent movement of the village rather than decline. Thus at Cogenhoe (10) the extensive earthworks on the valley side N. of the village may represent an earlier centre, nearer the river, which was abandoned when the village moved southwards. As usual this postulated movement is undated but it had taken place by 1630. Likewise at Horton (Hackleton (19)), the extent of earthworks described in the Inventory is far too great for the area ever to have been fully occupied at any one period. Here again it has been suggested that the village moved northwards across a stream and took on a completely new form (C.C. Taylor, op. cit.). The same may apply to the remains at Hardwick (1).

Elsewhere the recorded earthworks may be the result of late medieval or more recent movement. Those at Broughton (3) may have been caused by the transfer of population away from the older village centre near the church to the main Northampton-Kettering Road. Similarly the remains at Brafield-on-the-Green (32), also near the church, may be explained as being the result of gradual movement of settlement towards the large open 'green' to the S., which now gives its name to the village but which is not recorded in documents until 1503 (PN Northants., 144). The great hollowway at Weekley (6) which extends from the N. of the village across Boughton Park and which has been variously described from the early 18th century onwards as part of a Roman camp or a Saxon ditch is in fact only the old main road out of Weekley which was closed off and replaced by the present Kettering—Stamford Road when the park was enlarged in the 17th century. Subsequently movement and expansion of the village has thus been forced to take place in a southward direction. The movement of a village need not necessarily be in one direction only. At Brampton Ash (4) the slight surviving remains, together with the existing houses, suggest a decline of the old village centre and its replacement by at least three separate groups of buildings elsewhere in the parish.

Other sites recorded in the Inventory seem to imply very rapid expansion and contraction within a relatively short time. At both Walgrave (7) and Pytchley (8), remains of house-sites, gardens and paddocks overlie earlier ridge-and-furrow, yet the very fact that this ridge-and-furrow can still be clearly recognised within the garden plots would suggest that the occupation here was short-lived and that the sites were soon abandoned. The recognition and recording of earthworks associated with existing villages, in conjunction with the surviving street patterns, are important for the light they throw on the earlier forms of some of these villages. The best example is at Isham (4) and (5), where the discovery of occupation areas and hollow-ways by both fieldwork and excavation confirms the deductions made from the present layout that at some time in its history the village had a rectangular grid pattern of streets. A broadly similar interpretation has been suggested at Little Houghton (31) and Piddington (Hackleton (23)). In the N. of the area, at Sutton Bassett (1), cartographic evidence, combined with examination by aerial photography and on the ground has led to the identification of a green of considerable size, with the houses arranged around two sides.

A number of village earthworks, although of considerable extent, defy interpretation and can only be said to reflect complexities of movement and shrinkage over many centuries. Those at Ashley (2), Bozeat (16), Denton (9) and Old (1) fall into this category. The last two have recently been completely destroyed and, apart from air photographs, no record of them now remains. The continuing destruction of such sites, as existing villages are enlarged or infilled by modern housing, is a serious problem, and their removal without record or excavation means that the history of these villages may soon be impossible to recover.


Settlement Remains

Sixteen deserted villages are recorded in the Inventory: Horton (Hackleton (19)), Mawsley (Loddington (6)), Little Newton (Newton (9)), Preston Deanery (Hackleton (17)), Wythmail, Badsaddle (Orlingbury (5) and (6)), Knuston, Chester-on-the-Water (Irchester (8) and (9)), Overstone (6), Newbottle (Harrington (4)), Ruston St. Peter, Glendon and Barford (Rushton (7), (9) and (10)), Pipewell (Wilbarston (8)), Boughton (Weekley (8)) and Kirby (Gretton (9)). All visible traces of some of these were removed many centuries ago. Pipewell was largely built over soon after its removal, by the Cistercian abbey in 1143. The site of Rushton St. Peter was almost completely obliterated by the great house of the Treshams, in the 16th century. At both Little Newton and Kirby 16th and 17th-century gardens were laid out across the area occupied by the former village, and at Glendon many of the village remains disappeared in the 18th and 19th centuries during garden extensions and emparking. The earthworks of the other deserted villages survived until the 20th century in a good state of preservation, but Barford, Wythmail, Badsaddle and Mawsley have all been totally destroyed in recent years by ploughing. Of the rest, Chester-on-the-Water has been damaged by an ironstone tramway and Knuston by road works and other activities. Only the remains at Horton, Preston Deanery, Boughton and Overstone are well preserved, in every case as a result of their being in parkland.

Despite the heavy rate of destruction there is sufficient evidence from existing earthworks, air photographs or early maps and plans for certain features to be identified. Most deserted villages in the area, at least in their final stages, lay either along important through-roads or around complicated street systems, all later reduced to hollow-ways. At Horton the part of the village which was abandoned at an early date consisted of a single main street lined with houses and yards in the traditional manner. The same feature is visible at Boughton, Preston Deanery, Glendon and Chester-on-the-Water, and also survived at Knuston until modern destruction. At Wythmail and Overstone more complex arrangements of streets and lanes are, or were, visible.

As a result of modern destruction well-preserved house-sites are now rare in the deserted villages described. One notable point is that where parts of villages were totally removed to make way for 18th-century emparking (e.g. Overstone, Knuston and Horton), the sites of the houses themselves hardly survive, but in these same villages, areas already abandoned at an earlier date still have clearly recognisable rectangular depressions or platforms. This feature appears to reflect the difference between gradual decay and deliberate clearance. Apart from these villages, only at Preston Deanery are good house-sites visible. The limited excavations after ploughing at Wythmail uncovered a succession of medieval buildings. All the deserted villages had embanked, ditched or scarped gardens, closes or paddocks around them, the exact function of which is not always clear. If these closes are included in the total area, many deserted villages are likely to seem larger than they really were because some closes may have been small fields without buildings, now reduced to earthworks because of changes in land-use rather than depopulation.

In this part of the county the remains of shrunken and moved villages are far more common than completely deserted settlements. Almost forty sites are recorded in the Inventory but these are only the ones of special interest. Every village in the area has at least two or three places where houses formerly stood, many of which may have been abandoned in relatively recent times. Most of the more important earthworks of this type are in a better state of preservation than those of totally deserted villages. Notable among them are the sites of Walgrave (7) and Pytchley (8) both of which have surviving streets and house-sites overlying earlier ridge-and-furrow. At Strixton (7) there is a particularly well-preserved group of earthworks, including many identifiable house-sites, mainly resulting from post-medieval shrinkage. Other good examples have been recorded at Cransley (8), Harrington (7), Isham (4) and (5) and Broughton (3).

Among other types of earthworks associated with existing villages are embanked closes lying behind buildings. These do not imply shrinkage, only a change in land-use or ownership whereby long gardens have been given up and incorporated into the adjacent fields. These have been noted at Little Harrowden (6), Hannington (4) and Great Doddington (6) as well as elsewhere. As with deserted villages there is clear evidence of very large embanked closes, now abandoned around existing villages. These are much too large to have been former gardens, and must have originated as paddocks for agricultural purposes. Many have no trace of ploughing within them and they may have been used for enclosing cattle. Certainly in many parishes in the area the distribution of ridge-and-furrow, as well as post-medieval cartographic evidence, suggests that under a common field economy grazing land was often limited and there was thus a need for large paddocks for pasture.

Major areas of earthworks such as those at Old (1) and Denton (9) have been totally destroyed and many others, as at Isham (4) and (5), have been severely damaged, although these sites had remained intact until recent times. Elsewhere individual house-sites have been built over, without any record of their archaeological content having been made (e.g. Sutton Bassett (1)). At Warkton (2), where modern development has been severely restricted as a result of special circumstances, the survival of the earthworks is specially notable. In many villages there are certain key areas which may or may not have earthwork remains in them and these need to be examined carefully before redevelopment. For example at Whiston (Cogenhoe (9)), it would be of considerable interest to know whether the church was always isolated, or if the village was once near it and has subsequently moved down the hill. At Little Houghton (31) the area W. of the church, between the Bedford Road and Meadow Lane, is another important area where it might be possible to establish that the village was deliberately laid out on a neat grid, as the existing street pattern suggests. At Isham (4) and (5) excavation before further expansion might establish the date at which the apparently planned village was formed, and at Sutton Bassett (1) the origins of the 'green' might be explained, and its significance within this secondary settlement of the mother village of Weston-by-Welland. Of lower status than the major villages are the small hamlets. Only one of those recorded in the Inventory, Thorpe in Earls Barton (Earls Barton (16)), now remains reasonably complete; the typical pattern of house-sites and closes lining a central lane survives. The hamlet of Cotton at Cogenhoe (14) has a later ironstone tramway through it, and the Thorpe in Great Doddington (9) and the Cotton in Grendon (15) have been entirely destroyed and are only known from chance finds and air photographic evidence. The sites of a few medieval farmsteads are also listed. Apart from those which were enclosed by moats (see below) they have all been largely destroyed. The farmstead of Cotton (Gretton (8)) has been ploughed for many years, although enough remained in 1974 for a plan to be made of the site. The one at Easton Maudit (10) was intact in 1947 but has now been reduced to cropmarks.

Moated Sites

Some sixteen earthworks which have at some time been described as moated sites are listed in the Inventory. Of these the one at Stoke Albany (2) is probably a feature associated with the fishpond in which it lies. Those at Braybrooke (1) and Barton Seagrave (Kettering (14)), although having characteristics of moated sites, are discussed below under Castles. The moats at Dingley (2) and Newton (9) have either been extensively altered in later times, or are not of medieval origin. The remainder are all typical medieval moated sites, characteristic of the Midlands and East Anglia, and little new information has been gained from their examination. All are comparatively small, and consist of a single moated enclosure, although at least two, Grendon (16) and Walgrave (6), still have or have had outer embanked enclosures attached to them. None of the surrounding moats are truly defensive, the ditches being neither wide nor deep. Several are dominated by adjacent rising ground as at Walgrave (6), Wythmail (Orlingbury (5)), Place House, Whiston (Cogenhoe (8)) and Chadstone (Castle Ashby (9)). Some are perched on hillsides or on high ground, relying on intermittent seepage or springs to provide water for the ditch (e.g. Orlingbury (6), Weekley (5) and Cottingham (2)). Elsewhere water was supplied by constructing the moat adjacent to or across an existing stream which was then dammed to fill the ditch (e.g. Orlingbury (5)). Alternatively the moat was dug close enough to an existing stream to allow water to enter it by way of an inlet channel (e.g. Place House, Whiston and Walgrave). Some of these moats were certainly constructed round manor houses as at Walgrave, Grendon (15), Place House, Whiston, Chadstone and Wythmail. The one at Cottingham (2) may have been built to enclose a lodge for the keeper of the surrounding deer park (Rockingham (12)), although it is more likely that it had an early origin as a moated woodland farmstead. Certainly the moats at Loddington (9) and Yardley Hastings (25), now destroyed, appear to have been constructed for this latter purpose. The moat at Beanfield Lawn (Corby (17)) seems to have been the home of the forest officer in charge of the extra-parochial 'lawn' or woodland deer-grazing area which surrounded the site.

Apart from the obvious protection that these moats provided for the inhabitants of the enclosed buildings, it has been suggested elsewhere that moats were a status symbol for local landlords. No real proof of this has been found in the area under review, except possibly at Grendon (16) where the moated site S. of the village appears to be that described in 1325 as a 'messuage with a ditch and a garden' which, with its associated demesne land and a mill, was termed a 'little manor'. It was then held by a member of the de Harrington family and shortly afterwards the then tenant, John de Harrington, was styled 'chivaler'. This might suggest that the Harringtons were a small family, attempting to improve their social position.

Manor House Sites

Apart from the moats noted above which were the sites of manor houses there are ten monuments listed in the Inventory which were unmoated manor houses. Some, such as those at Pytchley (9) and Walgrave (8), were not abandoned until the 19th century and have garden remains associated with them (see below). Others were probably deserted in the late medieval or early post-medieval period. Most are unimpressive earthworks, of little intelligible plan (e.g. Weston-by-Welland (1), Bozeat (15) and Weldon (6)), while others are merely the remains of former gardens and paddocks around an existing manor house (e.g. Yardley Hastings (24)). The most interesting are those at Gretton (7) and Little Houghton (30). At the former a complex of mounds, tracks and ponds is associated with the site of the former manor house. At Little Houghton there is an unusual earthwork consisting of a rectangular raised mound or platform, which has been described in the past as a motte, although it cannot be classified as such.


A number of sites are recorded which have been termed castles at various times. The best-known is that at Earls Barton (14) where the famous Saxon tower is associated with a mound, often referred to as a motte, with a massive ditch on its N. side. However the exact relationship of the earthworks to the standing structure is by no means clear, nor is the mound certainly a motte. The ditch and mound may be a much altered cross-dyke of prehistoric date adapted for defensive purposes during the Saxon period. The mound at Wollaston (32) is certainly a motte, presumably of the late 11th or 12th century, although excavations here indicated a later use. The line of a small bailey has also been recognised. By far the most important defensive structure in the area under review is the littleknown motte called Clifford Hill (Little Houghton (29)). This is one of the largest mottes in the country, apparently placed to control a river crossing of surprisingly little importance. It has no known documented history, and this, in addition to the fact that one side of it had already collapsed at an early date, suggests that its useful life was relatively short. The so-called castles at Braybrooke (1) and Barton Seagrave (Kettering (14)) now appear to be little more than normal moated sites, and their attribution as castles rests on the fact that both had licences to crenellate in the early 14th century. It is doubtful whether either can be considered as true castles. The mound at Cransley (7) has been described as a motte but it may be relatively recent.

Monastic Sites

Only two monastic sites are recorded in the Inventory. The one in Rothwell (10) is of little importance, but the other, Pipewell Abbey (Wilbarston (9)) is of more consequence. The establishment of the Cistercian abbey of Pipewell apparently led to the destruction of the earlier village of Pipewell and slight traces of this village have been tentatively identified (Wilbarston (8)) around the earth works of the abbey. The site of the abbey church and conventual buildings is in poor condition as a result of post-medieval stone-robbing and a badly executed excavation in the early 20th century. As a result little of value remains visible except for the fishponds, mill-pond and extensive stone quarries.

Deer Parks

As one would expect in an area of extensive medieval woodland, a number of medieval deer parks have been identified. Some others are documented but cannot be located definitely on the ground; they include former parks at Yardley Hastings, Geddington and Great Doddington (Northants. P. and P., 5 (1975), 211–34). Another well-documented park existed at Overstone, but although its location is known no boundaries survive. The same applies to the park at Preston Deanery (Hackleton (16)). Elsewhere physical boundaries in the form of low banks, with or without ditches, are recorded although, with the exception of parts of the boundary of Ashley Park (Ashley (3)), Horton Park (Hackleton (18)) and Weldon Park (Weldon (7)), none is impressive. Another rare survival, now unfortunately destroyed, was the boundary bank of the internal 'lawn' or deergrazing area of the park at Weldon. A notable feature in many parks is the existence of ridge-and-furrow, indicating ploughing either before their formation or after their disparking. Because the great majority of deer parks were, for obvious reasons, established in the remote parts of parishes beyond the limits of cultivation this ridge-and-furrow cannot be considered as part of the normal common field agriculture. However at Boughton (Weekley (9)) the late medieval deer park appears to have been established on the arable land of the deserted village of Boughton (8). The similar park at Rockingham (12) was also established on arable land. The post-medieval parks have not been described unless they are of particular interest.


The area under review contains a very large number of fishponds, dating mainly from the medieval period. Not all have been described in detail and several which have been radically altered in recent times have been omitted. Although many sites consist of a single pond, others comprise groups, and most are of relatively large size. The ponds which have been recorded can be assigned to seven main types, on the basis of their physical characteristics, which are in some cases controlled by the local topography (Fig. 16).

Type A. These ponds, often of considerable size, are formed simply by the construction of an earthen dam across a steep-sided narrow valley. The best example is at Yardley Hastings (23) which may have been used both as a fishpond and also as a mill-pond. The pond at Holcot (4) and the one at Brampton Ash (6) now destroyed, were almost certainly for fish.

Type B. Ponds in this category are formed by the construction of a dam as in Type A, and in similar situations, but in addition large quantities of spoil have been removed to make them deeper and flat-bottomed. They are characterised by steep artificial scarps along their sides where the valley slopes have been made steeper or cut away. This type is well seen at Harrington (6).

Type C. These are set on valley sides so that not only do the dams lie on one, or sometimes two, sides of the ponds, but the ponds themselves are formed by digging spoil out of the hillside. The spoil often provides material for the dams. This type was filled either by being placed on a spring line as at Gretton (7) or by an inlet channel constructed to carry water to the pond from higher up the valley (e.g. Place House, Whiston, Cogenhoe (8)).

Type D. These ponds are constructed on relatively level ground and entirely surrounded by banks created from spoil taken from the interior, as at Cogenhoe (12) where the ponds lie in the flat valley of the River Nene.

Type E. These are simple sunken rectangular ponds, usually of small size, with no indication of dams or embankments although inlet and outlet channels often survive. Among the best listed in the Inventory are those at Pipewell Abbey (Wilbarston (9)).

Fig. 16 Types of fishponds

Type F. These are small rectangular ponds, usually in groups of up to four in number. They were commonly called stews and were probably used for intensive fish-breeding. They can be either in valley bottoms, as at Chadstone (Castle Ashby (11)), or on hillsides as at Rothwell (7).

Type G. Ponds in this group are small depressions, usually associated with ponds of other types, which have been interpreted as fish-breeding tanks where small fish were kept until they were large enough to be transferred to the main pond. In the Inventory at least two examples are listed. Those at Barton Seagrave (Kettering (14)) consist of small rectangular depressions within the interior of a moated enclosure. Those at Braybrooke (1) are more complex, consisting of a line of raised moated mounds on the edge of the main fishpond, each with a small pond or depression in the summit. Another possible example of a fish-breeding tank is at Harrington (6) where a small rectangular pond is set within the dam of a larger fishpond.

Fishponds may be completely isolated from any other activities, as at Brampton Ash (6). More commonly they lie close to existing villages as at Rothwell (7) and Earls Barton (15). However they most frequently appear to be associated with manor houses, and must have formed only part of the intricate medieval manorial economy. Those at Braybrooke (1) are perhaps the most notable, but the ponds at Hardwick (2), Cogenhoe (8), Walgrave (8), Stoke Albany (2) and Kettering (14) are also of interest.

There are two recurring features among the many fishponds listed, which are worth discussion. One is the existence of islands in fishponds. These vary in size and shape, from the large rectangular one at Stoke Albany (2) which has been described as a moat to the small circular ones at Walgrave (8) and Harrington (6). These mounds have now been recognised elsewhere as a common feature in many fishponds but no explanation is readily forthcoming (see also Watermills below for other islands in ponds). Recent work in Worcestershire and Warwickshire has identified several, and some in the fishponds belonging to the Bishops of Worcester at Alvechurch are noted in a document of 1299 as 'pasture in the two islands in the same fishery ... valued yearly 2/–' (Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society, 3 (1970–2), 55–9). Nearer to Northamptonshire a similar island exists in a pond below the ramparts of Yielden Castle in North Bedfordshire. It has been suggested that such islands provided nesting places for water fowl or, if partly submerged as the Harrington one probably was, gave shallow water for growing rushes, again to protect water birds. Another possible explanation, at least for the smaller islands, is that they were used as pivots on which one end of a trawl net could be fixed. The net could then have been dragged around the pond from the edge.

The second interesting feature associated with fishponds which has been noted in the Inventory is the occurence of ridge-and-furrow within some of them. This is well illustrated at Braybrooke (1) where the entire area of the main pond is covered with narrow ridges which are totally confined within the surrounding bank. At Dingley (3) there is similar ridge-and-furrow within the fishpond, but in this case the ridges ride up over the scarped edge of the pond. Without documentary proof it might be suggested that such ridges represent the cultivation of the interior of these ponds when they had finally been abandoned. However in a number of post-medieval writings on fish-farming, which no doubt contain the accumulated knowledge of much earlier practices, it is specifically recommended that fishponds ought to be drained and ploughed on occasions. This, it is claimed, produces a very rich crop and also cleans the pond, as well as producing better fish when the pond is refilled and restocked (e.g. J. Taverner, Certaine Experiments Concerning Fish and Fruite (1600), 12–14; Lord North, A Discourse of Fish and Fishponds (1713), 42–3). If this is the purpose of ridge-and-furrow noted in the fishponds in the inventory then the sites such as those at Braybrooke and Dingley are good illustrations of an important but little-known type of medieval crop-rotation.


In central Northamptonshire, with its major rivers and innumerable fast-flowing streams, watermills have always been common, and well over a hundred are documented for the region. In the main Nene Valley watermills are known to have existed at about every kilometre and most of the small tributary streams have had at least two. Certainly most villages, with few exceptions, had a watermill. Many of these survive as standing structures and even where the building has now gone the earthwork remains of channels and ponds survive. In general the mill sites have been rebuilt and altered so often that the earthworks are rarely of great antiquity and therefore have not all been included in the Inventory. The student of watermills is directed to the various maps in the Northampton Record Office and to early editions of OS maps and plans for a full distribution. Only those watermills which appear to have been abandoned at an early date or where the earthworks are of exceptional interest have been described. These include the mill at Holcot (5) where the unusual dam of the mill-pond survives, that at Weekley (7) where there appears to have been a double mill and that at Rockingham (8) where a windmill (9) was added at a very late date. The site at Stoke Albany (1) where the large mill-pond is almost entirely occupied by a trapezoidal island is of interest. This perhaps performed the same function as those in fishponds discussed above.

Other watermill sites exhibit minor constructional details such as at Walgrave (10) where the actual mill and mill-pond are sited on the adjacent hillside, away from the stream that feeds them, presumably in order to increase the head of water in a generally flat valley. The watermill at East Carlton (3) has the same feature. Elsewhere the stream is merely turned into an approach leet and made to pass along the hillside above its original course to provide the head of water, as apparently happened at Dingley (3).


As with watermills the number of documented windmills in the area under review is considerable and many are still marked on 19th-century OS, Tithe and Enclosure Maps. Again the inclusion of the mounds, which often remain after the demolition of the windmills, has been selective. Only those which have been wrongly identified as barrows e.g. Wilbarston (11) or Sywell (9), or are exceptionally well preserved, as at Walgrave (9) and Rockingham (9), or are documented as being abandoned at an early date as at Strixton (9), are included. Little information has come to light from their examination and almost all are simple mounds, usually with surrounding ditches.


Ridge-and-furrow in Open Fields

In spite of modern ploughing large areas of ridge-and-furrow can still be traced within every parish, and in certain parishes, notably Walgrave and Old (Fig. 109), Ashley and Sutton Bassett, the immediate pre enclosure layout is almost completely recoverable. In the medieval period some form of cultivation seems to have existed in every economic land unit associated with a major settlement. Thus in the parish of Rushton each of the four major settlements, Rushton All Saints, Rushton St. Peter, Glendon and Barford, had its own field system.

In some parishes almost the entire area appears to have been cultivated in strips at some time except for small stretches of meadow along the streams (e.g. Sutton Bassett (2)), but there were large expanses in many parishes that were always waste or were cultivated by methods other than the traditional open field system. This is particularly true of parishes such as Corby, Weldon and Gretton in Rockingham Forest where much woodland remained until a late date or, when brought into cultivation during medieval and later times, was enclosed piecemeal as hedged fields.

Several dated maps exist which show the layout of the former common fields. These include the following parishes: Bozeat (1605), Broughton (1728), Cogenhoe (1630), Corby (1616), Cranford (1745), Cransley (1598), Ecton (1707), Geddington (1717), Grafton Underwood (1758), Gretton (1587), Hardwick (1587), Little Oakley (1727), Rockingham (1615), Stanion (1635), Strixton (1583), Weekley (1714), Wollaston (1774) and Yardley Hastings (1760). These maps confirm the accepted view that the ridges were 'lands' or 'selions', groups of which made up the individual strips. The strips themselves had no physical demarcations.

Examination of ridge-and-furrow on the ground or from air photographs shows that at various times cultivation was more widespread than the surviving maps indicate. Most of the medieval deer parks have ridge-and-furrow within their boundaries (e.g. Hackleton (18), and Stoke Albany (4)), but the date of its cultivation is unknown. Elsewhere there are extensive areas of ridge-and-furrow on land which, immediately prior to enclosure in the 18th or 19th century, was permanent pasture or waste at the limits of a number of parishes. Thus at Burton Latimer (11) the pasture land known as The Wolds in 1803 has ridge-and-furrow on it, and so does the large block of land in the S. of Gretton parish which lay outside the common fields as they existed as early as 1587 (Gretton (11)). Of even more significance is the occurrence of ridge-and-furrow in areas which were apparently wooded in the medieval period. For example at Cottingham (4), ridge-and-furrow is detectable in places which are shown as forested on a map of 1580 and which seem not to have been cleared until the 18th or 19th century. Similar examples are recorded at Brafield-on-the-Green (33) and Little Houghton (33).

Enclosure of the common fields was carried out over a long period of time. Some small-scale enclosure undoubtedly took place in the medieval period and certainly the common fields belonging to deserted villages such as Wythmail (Orlingbury (10)), Newbottle (Harrington (10)) and Mawsley (Loddington (12)), disappeared at an early date. There was apparently some large-scale enclosure in the 16th century, much of it for sheep, at small villages such as Rushton, Glendon and Barford (Rushton (13)), but elsewhere for unknown reasons (e.g. Sywell (10)). In the 17th century much more enclosure was carried out. Again this was usually in places where the population was already small and most of the land was in single ownership or at least in the hands of only a few major landlords as at Easton Maudit (16) around 1630, Pytchley (14) in 1607, Newton (12) in 1612, Strixton (10), Great Houghton (9), Hardwick (6) and Barton Seagrave (Kettering (17)) all in the early 17th century and Loddington (12) in the mid 17th century. Not all these early enclosures involve the whole common field system. Some were only concerned with relatively small areas as at Little Houghton (33) in 1618, Rockingham (13) in the early 17th century and Walgrave (12) later on in the same century.

The first Parliamentary Act for Enclosure within the area under review was at Overstone in 1727. The next parishes enclosed by formal Act were Ecton in 1759, Stoke Albany in 1764 and Old in 1767. Then from 1770 to 1782 eighteen Enclosure Acts were passed, covering parishes all over the area. After this the rate slowed down. Broughton was enclosed in 1786 and for the next eleven years up to 1798 only four parishes lost their common fields. The year 1801 saw the beginning of another flood of Enclosure Acts starting with Wilby, and between then and 1815 another fifteen parishes were enclosed. There followed a pause until 1825 and then, between that year and 1832, the last six parishes lost their common fields. During the period of Parliamentary Enclosure only one parish, Rockingham, was enclosed without a formal Act. This was carried out privately between 1806 and 1815.

Analysis of the ridge-and-furrow associated with these fields has not lead to any major new conclusions (RCHM Northants., I (1975), xlii–xliv; RCHM West Cambridgeshire, (1968), lxvi–lxix), but a number of points of minor interest have emerged. Ridge-and-furrow is usually arranged in roughly rectangular blocks, which can be equated with the furlongs of the common fields. This correlation is well known, but it is now clear that there are two distinct types of furlong, those arranged with the ridges end-on to the adjacent furlongs, and those set at angles to the ridges in the adjacent furlongs to produce an interlocked pattern. In any given parish both types occur, but in most one or the other predominates. In the parishes on the W. side of the area under review, such as Old, Walgrave, Harrington, Holcot etc., the end-on furlong arrangement is almost universal, producing a most striking pattern sweeping over a large area.

Attempts have been made to relate the patterns of furlongs to the way in which the original field systems were laid out. It has been suggested that the more rectangular end-on pattern represents the orderly clearance of the original waste, whereas the interlocked and the more irregular pattern is the result of later piecemeal encroachments (e.g. J.M. Steane, The Northamptonshire Landscape, (1974), 94). This may be true in some places, but there is clearly another factor at work, namely the natural topography on which these fields were laid out.

There seems to be a direct relationship between the natural configuration of the ground and the imposed arrangement of both the form of the furlongs and the direction of the ridges. On fairly flat ground the furlongs are generally rectangular, but the ridge direction within them may be haphazard. On steeply sloping ground the furlongs again are rectangular but the ridges usually run down the slope, across the contours. However, where the ground is broken into curving valley sides, sharp re-entrant valleys and small spurs or knolls, the furlongs can be of almost any shape so long as they enable the ridges within them to be aligned at least roughly across the contours. This is particularly clear in the N. part of the area, in the parishes of Ashley, Weston-by-Welland, Dingley and Sutton Bassett, where the well-marked spurs and rounded hills along the Jurassic escarpment are covered with ridge-and-furrow arranged in radiating patterns. It therefore seems likely that the direction of the ridges was determined by the need to ensure that where possible they ran across the contours, to facilitate either drainage or ploughing. This certainly would account for the regular pattern of end-on furlongs recorded in the W. of the region and described above. There the deeply cut, almost parallel streams draining S.W. and N.E. have produced a rolling landscape covered in ridge-and-furrow running N.W.—S.E.

The shape of the actual furlongs is less easily explained for the simple concept that it relates to the way in which the land was initially cleared is not necessarily the only possible interpretation. An alternative explanation is that the shape of the furlongs was, in part, controlled by features inherited from the land-use of an earlier period. This introduces the whole problem of the origin of medieval common fields, a subject beyond the scope of this work although certain features are worth noting. On the whole the great majority of the cropmarks of prehistoric and Roman settlements and of ring ditches, paddocks and linear features appear to bear little or no relationship to the later furlongs of the ridge-and-furrow. However, there are slight indications that certain cropmarks may relate both to early occupation and to furlongs. On many air photographs which show only the ploughed-down traces of ridge-and-furrow in modern arable a system of ditches is often also visible, completely or partly bounding the furlongs. Many of these can be interpreted as medieval drainage ditches around the furlongs, but while this may be so, it cannot be proved. On recent air photographs there are indications of ditches which were totally obscured by the accumulated medieval plough soil until they were revealed by modern cultivation. For example at Castle Ashby (1) there are two parallel ditches which now show as cropmarks in the arable, but on air photographs taken nearly 30 years ago, when the area was permanent pasture, these ditches were covered by two parallel headlands of the adjacent furlongs. A similar but more extensive example can be seen at Walgrave (12) (Fig. 133) where differential modern ploughing has revealed part of a ditch under a later headland separating two large blocks of end-on ridge-and-furrow. The purpose of such ditches, and the period to which they should be assigned, remain speculative. They may be medieval drains or they may be the marking ditches for the initial laying-out of the furlongs. On the other hand they may, possibly, be of Saxon or earlier date, part of a system older than the common fields, into which the furlongs were fitted and from which the layout of the common fields emerged.

Headlands between furlongs are common, especially in those places where end-on furlongs predominate. Where the ridge-and-furrow still survives they are recognisable as broad rounded ridges, wider and higher than the adjacent ridge-and-furrow which runs out onto them. In the areas where modern ploughing has destroyed almost all of the ridge-and-furrow these headlands often survive as features in the landscape. They appear as low ridges, straight or sinuous in plan and ranging in length between 50 m. and 800 m. In exceptional circumstances, where there are long runs of end-on furlongs, these headlands can be of extraordinary length. For example one at Little Harrowden (8) is 1500 m. in extent.

Baulks or raised divisions between strips in the common fields have not been found. Occasionally there appear to be later ditches in certain furrows, which may have marked the boundaries of individual strips at some time, but some of these at least, as at Strixton (10), appear to be the remains of 17th-century enclosure fields, later abandoned. Apart from this no physical division of any kind seems to have existed between strips except perhaps at Dingley (4) where narrow blocks of ridge-and-furrow are separated by low scarps. However in the absence of any map showing the common fields of the parish it is not known whether these scarps were part of the medieval arrangement, or whether they result from subsequent enclosures.

The main points of interest which have emerged from the study of ridge-and-furrow in the area are the indications of change in agricultural techniques or land-use. In many places (e.g. Pytchley (14) and Walgrave (12)) ridge-and-furrow on steep valley sides shows evidence of a contraction of arable land at some time. New headlands, in the form either of ridges or of terminal humps of earth, overlie the ridge-and-furrow which continues down-slope and ends on normal, older headlands. Much more common on the other hand is the over-ploughing of the headlands between end-on furlongs and the subsequent joining-up of adjacent ridges to form new, and much longer, furlongs. The result is that the ridges rise up over the older headland and often twist slightly out of alignment at this point. The best example of this is at Dingley (4) (Plate 28) where the over-ploughing has only been partly completed, so that the process of gradual destruction of the older headland can be seen clearly.

An interesting feature recorded in the Inventory is the over-ploughing of land-slips with ridgeand-furrow. The Jurassic Clay, Sands and Silts are notoriously unstable when wet, particularly on steep slopes. As a result land-slips and mud-slides have been a common occurence in the recent geological past (Geological Survey of Great Britain, Geology of the Country around Market Harborough (1968), 30–33). Such land-slips are a well-marked feature of the landscape of the main escarpment overlooking the Welland valley in the N., and in these areas many have been overploughed by ridge-and-furrow, presumably because of an acute shortage of arable land at some time. A fine example of this type of agricultural endeavour existed at Gretton (11), although modern cultivation has now destroyed the evidence, and another, even more remarkable, at Weston-by-Welland (2) (Plate 29) where the sides of a deep combe have been formed into massive, rounded terraces where parts of the hillside have slipped downwards. The surviving ridge-and-furrow shows that these terraces were used as headlands in some places, while in others the ridges ride over them. On the lower slopes of the same combe the surviving ridge-and-furrow has been displaced laterally by movement of the hillside since it was last ploughed. As a result the ridges are strangely distorted. Another, less spectacular example of ploughing over land-slips has been noted at Great Houghton (9).

Local changes of land-use in medieval and later times can also be detected where they reflect the expansion or abandonment of settlement. Thus at Cransley (8) ridge-and-furrow overlies abandoned house-sites and their closes, and on the other hand at Pytchley (8) and Walgrave (7) houses and gardens have been laid out on top of former ridge-and-furrow.

Ridge-and-Furrow in 'Old Enclosures'

Ridge-and-furrow occurs in many fields which are described on 19th-century or earlier maps as 'old enclosures', that is land which had been enclosed and made into hedged fields sometime previous to the date of the map. These fields can be divided into three types: those lying within existing or deserted villages and associated with remaining houses or abandoned house-sites; those situated around villages but formerly part of the common fields; those in isolated parts of the parish which may or may not have been occupied by common fields at any time.

The ridge-and-furrow within the first two types of field is characterised by well-marked headlands at either end within the existing field boundaries. Neither the date nor the purpose of this ridge-and-furrow is clear. Good examples survive at Pytchley (14) and Harrington (10). Ridge-and-furrow either within the abandoned closes of houses which have disappeared, or behind existing houses whose former large closes have been abandoned, has been noted especially around the village of Sutton Bassett (2), and at Braybrooke (2) in the deserted settlement. This may be the result of converting to arable use land which had been abandoned as gardens, but some of the ploughing may have taken place before this abandonment.

The ridge-and-furrow which occurs in old enclosures on the margins of the parish is often the result of the enclosure and ploughing of the wasteland. This form of cultivation again produces ridge-and-furrow which is confined within existing field boundaries, and with headlands at each end also inside the hedges. Much ridge-and-furrow however is traceable over wide areas, within blocks of land which seem to have been associated with small settlements or single farmsteads. This is true of land which probably belonged to the deserted farmstead of Cotton in Gretton parish (8) and (11), to the moated monastic grange in Brampton Ash (5) and (9), and to the moated farm known as Moat Lodge in Loddington (9) and (12). In these places the ridge-and-furrow does not respect existing field boundaries and is arranged in a form typical of the common field ridge-and-furrow. Exactly what this means in terms of the agricultural economy and tenure of these areas is unknown.

Ridge-and-furrow has also been recorded lying within or across medieval fishponds. This is probably due to a system of rotation, alternating the use of the ponds for fish and as arable land (see fishponds above, p. lix).

Pillow Mounds

Several rectangular, low, flat-topped, ditched mounds, broadly classifiable as Pillow Mounds, have been recorded (e.g. Hardwick (5), Easton Maudit (15), Rockingham (6) and Gretton (7)). Some of them, such as the one at Hardwick, lie remote from any settlement but others appear to be associated with medieval occupation as at Gretton and Easton Maudit. No certain date or function can be assigned to them, although at Rockingham they may be part of a rabbit warren dating from the early 17th century.


In the area under review quarries for stone of various kinds and for many different purposes are extremely common. Most are undated and undatable. Only those of known historical importance such as the great medieval quarries at Weldon (8) have been included in the Inventory.


A few abandoned roads or hollow-ways have been recorded. Most are of minor interest, except in the contribution which they make to the topographical history of an area. They preserve part of the medieval system of communications which has usually been supplanted. Thus the hollow-ways recorded at Orlingbury (8) and (9) add to the cartographic evidence for minor roads which once radiated from the village, while those at Little Houghton (33), when put together with the traceable ridge-and-furrow, enable a great part of the medieval landscape of the parish to be reconstructed. The hollow-way at Great Doddington (8) allows the same sort of reconstruction for a smaller area, and here, where the hollow-way and the surrounding area of ridge-and-furrow remain in permanent pasture, many minor aspects of medieval communications and farming can be examined in detail.


Garden Remains

The remains of several extensive and often elaborate post-medieval gardens associated with great houses continue to be recognised, as in the first volume (RCHM Northants., I (1975), xlv). The sites listed in the Inventory cover the range of English garden design, and date from the late 16th to the mid 18th centuries. The earliest example is associated with the manor house at Hardwick (4) and was probably constructed around 1567–8. The remains have been severely damaged and little survives except the boundary bank and ditch of a small enclosed knot garden. Gardens of a slightly later period are recorded at Newton (10) and Strixton (8). The former is also partly destroyed but the existence of a large-scale plan helps to explain the earthworks which are of an elaborate formal garden of the late 16th or early 17th century made up of various courts and terraces. The garden remains at Strixton are better preserved but less well understood in detail although the general outlines are clear.

A number of late 17th or early 18th-century gardens are described. Those at Walgrave (8), dating from 1671–4, are relatively simple, again in the old tradition of rectangular courts and formal ponds; at Easton Maudit (11) the gardens appear to have been of similar form. The fine gardens at Kirby Hall (Gretton (10)) were laid out in 1685 by Sir Christopher Hatton III. Parts of these have been reconstructed by the Department of the Environment and the general outlines of the destroyed part have also been recovered. The gardens at Harrington (5), which also date from the 17th century, are much better preserved. The terraces, ponds, flower beds and footpaths are almost completely intact and give a clear impression of the original design of the garden.

By far the finest garden remains in the area are those at Boughton (Weekley (11)). Detailed documentation survives, which enables the sequence of construction and alteration to be established, and the greater part of the terrace walks, ponds, flower beds, knots, etc., as well as the highly elaborate system of avenues, rides and plantations stretching for many kilometres into the surrounding countryside, all remain on the ground. The whole site is a valuable survival of what must have been by the early 18th century one of the finest gardens in England and is now a major monument of national importance.

The late 18th-century park at Horton (Hackleton (20)) contains a number of unusual landscaped features apparently of the earlier 18th century. Smaller, and less well-preserved remains, also probably of the 18th century, survive at Overstone (7), Pytchley (9) and Rothwell (7). The elaborate arrangement at Chadstone (Castle Ashby (11)), may be a post-medieval alteration of earlier ponds to form a water garden.


In addition to the numerous medieval fishponds recorded (see above) several minor ponds are listed in the Inventory. Only one group, confined to a parish in the extreme S. of the area (Yardley Hastings (26)) (Fig. 167), is worthy of special note. These ponds are characterised by their complex shapes, often with many arms, but no date or function can be assigned to them. They are only found on the Boulder Clay and mostly occur in woodland or in areas of former woodland. They appear to be fairly recent and there are no indications of spoil from them in the adjacent area. They may merely be flooded quarry-pits, or they may have provided water for animals. Similar but not identical ponds have been recognised in the Boulder Clay areas of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk (O. Rackham, Hayley Wood, (1975), 22–3).


Without excavation the purpose and date of a number of monuments in the Inventory must remain speculative. These include the mound at Burton Latimer (12), a formerly trapezoidal mound at Walgrave (5), tentatively interpreted either as a 17th-century gun battery or as a medieval gibbet mound, and the enclosures at Harrington (2) and (3) which appear to be of relatively recent date.


Two classes of earthworks, both very common in the area, have been omitted from the Inventory. All the earthworks resulting from woodland management of medieval and later times except for deer parks have been excluded chiefly because of the amount of detailed research needed to explain them. All the old woodlands in the area are bounded and crossed by innumerable banks and ditches, relating to the complex management of this type of land for coppicing, felling rotations, deer management and woodland clearance or assarting. These woodland earthworks may well provide valuable evidence for the study and understanding of the past use of land, and deserve further research.

The other group of earthworks omitted is the system of tramways associated with the 19th and 20th-century ironstone-mining. The vast majority of these belong to a period outside the Commission's terms of reference, but they, too, form an important part of the visual and historical development of the landscape of the county.