Oxendon, Great

Pages 158-161

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.

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


In this section


(OS 1: 10000a SP 78 NW, b SP 78 SW)

The modern parish is roughly rectangular and covers about 700 hectares. It includes the site and the land of the former village of Little Oxendon (9) which up to the 19th century lay in Little Bowden, Leicestershire. The village of Great Oxendon, at a height of more than 150 m. above OD, is situated on the watershed between the R. Welland to the N. and the R. Ise to the S. and the land falls away steeply in both directions from the village. The lowest point, on the county boundary, is some 90 m. above OD. The higher parts of the parish are covered by Boulder Clay, which gives way to Lias clays as the land falls to the two rivers. The most important monument is the well-preserved site of the deserted village of Little Oxendon (9). Great Oxendon itself is of interest because the village lies some way to the S. of the isolated medieval church (see (6)).

Fig. 121 Oxendon, Great Medieval settlements and estates


A coin of Marcus Aurelius was found in the parish in 1719, to the N. of St. Helen's Church (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 56).

b(1) Roman settlement (?) (SP 724848), in the N.W. of the parish on clay at 130 m. above OD. Roman pottery has been found (Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975), 154).

b(2) Roman settlement (?) (SP 730844), lies immediately S. of the deserted village of Little Oxendon (9), on the steep W. side of the valley, on clay at 130 m. above OD. A large area of limestone, flint, ironstone and slag is spread over an area 50 m. across. Roman as well as medieval pottery has been found there.

b(3) Roman settlement (?) (SP 722830), S.W. of the village, on gravel at 130 m. above OD. A scatter of Roman pottery has been noted (Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977), 212; for Saxon pottery from this site, see (4)).

Medieval and Later

b(4) Saxon settlement (?) (SP 722830), on the same site as the Roman settlement (3) above. Small quantities of Saxon sherds have been noted (Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977), 212).

b(5) Saxon inhumation burial (SP 732834). A skeleton, spearhead, knife and scramasax are said to have been found in the parish (Meaney, Gazetteer, 194), but these may be the objects also recorded from Clipston (5) (J. Northants. Mus. and Art Gall., 6 (1969), 49).

b(6) Settlement remains (?) (SP 735839), probably lie around the isolated church of Great Oxendon, 600 m. N. of the present village, on Boulder Clay at 140 m. above OD. The church stands near the E. end of an E.-facing spur, with extensive views all round and it is possible that the original site of Great Oxendon was in this area though the evidence for this is limited. The whole of the surrounding area is permanent pasture and is covered with extensive ridge-and-furrow (10). Some irregular depressions immediately W. of the church are perhaps old quarries, but as the ridge-and-furrow runs over them they are clearly of considerable antiquity and may originally have been sites of houses. Medieval pottery of 12th to 15th-century date has been noted in the churchyard.

b(7) Settlement remains (centred SP 733833; Fig. 121), formerly part of the present village of Great Oxendon, lie within the village on Lias Clay and Boulder Clay between 135 m. and 150 m. above OD. Indeterminate earthworks, probably the sites of former buildings, exist on the S. side of the main street S. of the hall (SP 73488332) and immediately W. of Home Farm on the N. side of the street (SP 73208341). Further W. a hollow-way some 7 m. wide and 1.5 m. deep extends N. for some 150 m. from near the W. end of the main street, running roughly parallel to and 40 m. E. of the Farndon Road (SP 730835). This was probably an earlier road leading to either Little Oxendon (9) or East Farndon. Some of these earthworks must be those recorded by Bridges in the early 18th century (Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 8) as 'banks and hollows, like the vestiges of demolished buildings'.

b(8) Windmill mound (SP 73078397), lies on high land N. of the village of Great Oxendon on Boulder Clay at 135 m. above OD. The mound is large, 20 m. in diam. and 1.5 m. high, with a slight depression in the flat top and traces of a ditch 0.2 m. deep around it, except on the E. where the remains of a ramp leading on to the summit survive. The mound is respected by the adjacent ridge-and-furrow. Late medieval and 18th-century pottery together with a large number of iron nails has been found in a worn area on the E. side.

A water-filled pit to the E., probably the source of material for the mound, was largely filled in some years ago but slight traces of it remain. The local name for the site is Mill Moot (OS Record Cards; finds in NM).

b(9) Deserted village of Little Oxendon (SP 733845; Figs. 121 and 122), lies 1 km. N.W. of Great Oxendon, on the crest of a spur projecting N.E. below the main Lias escarpment, between 118 m. and 135 m. above OD. The underlying soil is based on Lias clays and silts, and on Boulder Clay to the S.W. The remains, preserved under permanent pasture, lie on gently sloping ground. On each side the land falls steeply into a narrow valley.

Little Oxendon was formerly in the parish of Little Bowden, itself now part of Market Harborough, Leicestershire. It was also a chapelry of Little Bowden. It is not mentioned specifically in Domesday Book but there are two entries under Oxendon, one of which is likely to be Little Oxendon. One of these entries is for a manor of one hide and one virgate held by the king as part of Rothwell; no population is recorded. The other, of one hide, was held by Ulf under the Countess Judith, and had a recorded population of 11 (VCH Northants., I (1902), 306, 352). In 1334 the village paid 32s. tax (PRO, E179/155/3) and in 1377, 50 people over the age of 14 paid the Poll Tax (PRO, E179/155/28). In 1405 there were still at least eight people there for these complained about the chapel which existed in the village at that time (J. E. Stocks, Parish Records of Market Harborough (1890), 125, 235). In 1515 the manor was bought by Andrew Palmer and when he died in 1525 there was apparently only one house and 300 acres of pasture there. In the early 18th century Bridges (Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 8–9) wrote that there were 'formerly several houses as appears from the many square building stones and burnt hearth-stones which have been dug up'. From these figures it appears that the village was deliberately cleared for sheep farming in the 14th century (K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 44). The village seems to have had a chapel, described as 'not yet consecrated' in 1398 and which was still standing in 1525 (J. E. Stocks, op. cit.; OS Record Cards).

The earthworks of the village consist of a main hollow-way running N.E.–S.W. along the spine of the spur, with the sites of former buildings set in rectangular closes on either side of it. At its N.E. end the hollow-way fades out and cannot be traced much beyond the village itself. At the S.W. end, however, the hollow-way continues as a broad, flat, open track between blocks of ridge-and-furrow and then, as it climbs steeply up the main escarpment, becomes deep and wide again and is cut into by many later clay-pits.

Within the village itself, the main hollow-way is between 1 m. and 2 m. deep. It is edged by a number of shallow depressions, none of them very deep, all presumably the sites of former buildings. These depressions are separated by low banks or scarps which extend down the hillsides and represent some of the original close boundaries. In two places, towards the S.E. end of the village, low scarps also mark the ends of these closes. The closes on the N.W. side have been overploughed by later ridge-and-furrow.

Fig. 122 Oxendon, Great (2) Roman settlement, (9) Deserted village of Little Oxendon

On the N. side of the main street ('a' on plan) is a large rectangular enclosure bounded by a shallow ditch up to 1 m. high with an internal bank on the W. and N.E. sides. In its interior are several shallow depressions and, in the E. corner, a large rectangular embanked feature, probably the remains of a stone building. This enclosure may be the site of the former manor house or chapel.

S.E. of the village, in the bottom of the valley ('b' on plan), are the mutilated remains of two small ponds cut into the valley sides; the original dams have been almost completely cut away though the ends of both survive. They may have been fishponds or millponds, or perhaps both. Above them on the steep hillside to the S.E. is a small terrace-way, of unknown purpose, with a large area of later quarrying beyond. Except to the S., the village is surrounded by well-preserved ridge-and-furrow.

Two 'excavations' have been carried out on the site. In 1863 a farmer digging for stone found 'roads covered with loose stones and also pavements consisting of stones placed close together edgeways'. He also discovered the foundations of many houses and the remains of a building of considerable size, thought to be a church or chapel. Charred wood, a stone-lined well, a spur and part of a bridle were discovered as well as a coin of Elizabeth I and another of William III (Trans. Leics. Arch. Soc., 2 (1870), 258–60). Archaeological work carried out between 1926 and 1932 revealed what appears to have been a pottery kiln as well as much iron slag and pottery, then thought to 'favour a pre-Roman rather than a Romano-British' date (J. Northants. Natur. Hist. Soc. and FC, 26 (1932), 173–4). In Market Harborough museum is a sherd of 13th-century pottery, a spatula and spindle whorl, said to be from the site.

(10) Cultivation remains. The common fields of Great Oxendon were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1767. The date of the enclosure of the common fields of Little Oxendon is unknown, but it had presumably taken place by the 16th century. The parish is notable for the survival of large areas of ridge-and-furrow, especially around the church and to the E. of the village and near the deserted village of Little Oxendon. It is arranged in interlocked furlongs, except along the steep valley sides where it all runs across the contours. E. of Great Oxendon, N. of the Braybrooke road (SP 740833), a small area of ridge-and-furrow arranged in two furlongs at right-angles to each other appears to be at least partly surrounded by an embanked and ditched feature. This was overploughed by the ridge-and-furrow at the E. and W. end and it may be an early enclosure incorporated into the medieval field system (RAF VAP 106G/UK/636, 4125–9, 3125–9; CPE/UK/2109, 3288–92).