Newnham

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 3, Archaeological Sites in North-West Northamptonshire. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1981.

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'Newnham', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 3, Archaeological Sites in North-West Northamptonshire, (London, 1981) pp. 147-149. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/northants/vol3/pp147-149 [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section

48 NEWNHAM

(OS 1: 10000 a SP 56 SE, b SP 66 SW, c SP 55 NE, d SP 65 NW)

The parish, of some 780 hectares, lies N.E. of Badby of which it was once a parochial chapelry and also perhaps, to judge from its name, a secondary settlement. Apart from a small projection in the S.W. corner the whole parish lies on the N. side of the R. Nene into which flow several streams. These have cut steep-sided, narrow valleys into the underlying Jurassic Clay, which covers most of the parish except towards the N. where the land rises to a N.W.-S.E. ridge of Northampton Sand about 200 m. above OD. The village has a complex plan which is complemented and extended by the surviving earthworks (3). Until recent boundary divisions parts of the parish were common to both Newnham and Badby. A number of minor earthworks on the periphery of the parish have been recorded in detail elsewhere and are not listed below (Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977), 155–76).

Roman

c(1) Roman settlement (SP 569599), in the W. of the parish, on the crest of a ridge of Middle Lias Clay at 135 m. above OD. Roman pottery, mainly grey ware but including some samian, has been found over an area of 2 hectares (Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977), 213).

Medieval and Later

c(2) Saxon Cemetery (perhaps SP 57235870; Frontispiece), in the W. of the parish, close to the Badby boundary, on Marlstone Rock at 137 m. above OD. The cemetery was first discovered before 1834 when a stone-pit was dug in East Highway Ground. Several skeletons, orientated N.-S., were found over a number of years and these were accompanied by spears, swords, shield bosses, knives, beads and other articles. Many other finds, including more bones and whole skeletons, were made in about 1834 and 1836; none of these can now be traced except for numerous brooches (frontispiece), including large square-headed, disc, saucer, penannular, small-long, florid cruciform and swastika types, as well as wrist clasps, pins, rings and beads (NM). This site is almost certainly the correct location for the cemetery said to have been found at Badby (OS Record Cards; VCH Northants., I (1902), 233; Archaeologia, 48 (1885), 336; JBAA, 1 (1845), 60; Meaney, Gazetteer, 186, 193).

c(3) Settlement remains (centred SP 581596; Figs. 11 and 113), formerly part of Newnham village, lie in and around the existing buildings. They help to explain the present village plan and give some support to the hypothesis of a complex sequence of development.

The village of Newnham is first mentioned in a Saxon Charter of 1021–3 (KCD 736) which includes a description of the bounds of the parish (PN Northants., 26). Its name and the facts that it was a chapelry of Badby and that until recent boundary changes there were blocks of land common to the two parishes all suggest that it was a secondary settlement of Badby.

Newnham is not mentioned in Domesday Book but it has been suggested that the otherwise lost Chelverdescote which is recorded there was Newnham by another name (C. Hart, The Hidation of Northants. (1970), 35–7). If this is so, then the recorded population of Newnham in 1086 was 13 (VCH Northants., 1 (1902), 322). In 1377, 52 people over the age of 14 paid the Poll Tax (PRO, E179/155/28), and in 1674, 82 householders contributed to the Hearth Tax (PRO, E179/254/14). By 1801, 302 people lived in the parish.

The village lies across three roughly parallel streams flowing S. in steep-sided valleys to meet the R. Nene, mainly on Middle Lias Clay between 105 m. and 152 m. above OD. The main street lies N.–S. along the spine of one of the ridges between the streams, with the church, dedicated to St. Michael and All Angels, on the E. side. At the lower S. end of the street is a small triangular green from the S.E. corner of which a lane runs down into the valley bottom to the E. and returns N. along the adjacent ridge. It crosses the valley again, joining the N. end of the main street to form an irregular loop. To the S.W. of the green another road curves S.W. into the valley on the W. and this opens out into another large rectangular green.

To the N.E. of the village, in the area of the present Newnham Hall there was until the early 19th century another large green with houses along its N. and W. sides (NRO, Draft Enclosure Map of Newnham, 1765). This green was enclosed and some of the houses demolished when the present Newnham Hall was built.

It is possible to interpret this plan in a number of ways. The village may have originated as a single main street near the church and have expanded subsequently along the other N.–S. street to the E. and to the greens to the W. and N.E. Alternatively the early village may have occupied the E. loop; such loops are a feature common in western Northamptonshire villages and have been interpreted as the result of woodland clearances at an early stage (M. W. Beresford and J. K. S. St Joseph, Medieval England: An Aerial Survey (1958), 129). However it is equally possible that the village is a polyfocal settlement developed from four separate nuclei which later grew together. On the other hand the neat rectangular form of the large western green may mean that it was a deliberately planned addition to the W. of the original village. Finally yet another hypothesis is possible. As a result of Hart's identification of Chelverdescote with Newnham, P. N. Skelton ('The Chronicles of Newnham', c. 1972, typescript in NRO) suggested that the large western green might be the site of the original Chelverdescote from which the rest of the village developed. One reason for this suggestion is that the part of Newnham S. of the green which projects S. of the R. Nene is shown on the draft Enclosure Map and the Enclosure Map of 1765 as an area of old enclosure quite distinct from the common fields of the rest of the parish. These enclosures were then called Cott Lands. Skelton put forward the theory that the name perhaps reflects a connection with Chelverdescote which could therefore have lain somewhere close by.

Fig. 113 Newnham (3) Settlement remains

The remaining earthworks are mainly concentrated in four places. To the S. of Newnham House ('a' on plan) is a disturbed area of ground which includes at least three roughly rectangular closes, bounded by banks and scarps, one of which has a house-site at its W. end. To the W., in the valley of the central stream, are other indeterminate earthworks ('b' on plan), including possible traces of embanked closes as well as two parallel terraces on the hillside S.E. of the church, separated by scarps or risers 1 m. high. Further N. on the sides of the same valley ('c' on plan) are traces of abandoned closes extending down to the stream. A hollow-way ('d' on plan), E. of the houses, seems to indicate that there was yet another loop-road, though there is no evidence of occupation along it. The latter, part of which was still in use in 1765, extends N. across the existing road and enters the area occupied by the northern green up to 1765. To the E. of Newnham Hall is a series of rather faint earthworks ('e' on plan), including at least two hollow-ways. These appear to be part of the E. edge of the former green (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 1273–4).

a(4) Dam (SP 587612), in the extreme N. of the parish, in the valley of the main E.-flowing brook, immediately E. of Burnt Walls (Daventry (35)), on clay at 135 m. above OD. The remains, now ploughed down and almost obliterated, consist of a low bank nowhere much above 1 m. high lying across the stream which flows through it in a later cut. It presumably once held back the water of a small pond. It is not shown on the Enclosure Map of Newnham (NRO, 1765) when the area was called Burnt Walls Common (Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 26).

(5) Cultivation remains. The common fields of Newnham were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1764 (NRO, Enclosure Map and Draft Enclosure Map, 1765). Before that date there were four open fields, West, Middle, North and Meadow, formerly East, Fields. There were extensive areas of old enclosures along the R. Nene, S.E. of the village, and in the N. of the parish, N.E. of Newnham Hall. All that part of the parish S. of the Nene was also enclosed by 1765 and known as the Cott Lands.

Ridge-and-furrow of the open fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over much of their area and can be exactly equated with the furlongs shown on the Draft Enclosure Map. On the lower, flatter ground close to the R. Nene and E. of the village in the former East or Meadow Field the ridge-and-furrow is arranged in interlocked furlongs. To the N., on the more broken ground in the former North, Middle and West Fields, the pattern is more complex and is adapted to the topography; the ridges radiate outwards from the rounded hills and spurs. In some places old trackways or lanes between furlongs are visible on air photographs, though none survives on the ground. One, S.E. of the village (SP 588593), leads into a spring-head. Along the existing road E. from the village the ridges terminate well short of the present hedges because, before the Enclosure, the line of the modern road was taken by a lane at least three times the width of the present one. Ridge-and-furrow also survives in the area of old enclosures arranged in a way that suggests that some of the latter were once part of the common fields. Immediately S.E. of the village (SP 588593), in what was meadowland in 1765, traces of ridges are visible. Likewise in the N.E. of the parish, which in 1765 was Langhill Common (SP 590605) and Burnt Walls Common (SP 587612), there are extensive areas of ridge-and-furrow, running across the contours. However in the Cott Lands, S. of the village, only one field has ridge-and-furrow on it (SP 571586; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994 1162–7, 1270–5).