Pages 21-25

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

The parish is roughly lozenge-shaped and occupies 1260 hectares of land immediately N.W. of Daventry and adjoining Warwickshire. The highest part is along the N.E. edge where a broad band of Marlstone Rock outcrops at between 150 m. and 165 m. above OD. To the S.W. the land falls steeply across a scarp of Middle Lias clays and silts to an almost level area of Lower Lias Clay at around 120 m. above OD cut into by two E.-flowing streams. This clayland slopes down to a wide area of gravel which edges the R. Leam, the W. boundary of the parish. The village of Braunston is of linear form, running along the gravel-capped top of the clay ridge between the two streams. Below it, on the river gravel, is the deserted village of Braunstonbury (1). Its history is largely unknown but the close proximity of the site to Braunston is unusual and the earthworks suggest that it may have originated as a deliberately planned settlement. The interest of the site is further enhanced by the existence of the adjacent deserted village of Wolfhampcote to the W., in Warwickshire. In the N. of the parish, in a small valley in the Middle Lias scarp, is another deserted village known as Braunston Cleves or Fawcliff (3). The history of this settlement is also unknown.

Medieval and Later

a(1) Deserted village of Braunstonbury (SP 533656; Figs. 27 and 28; Plate 8), lies immediately S.W. of Braunston village on almost level gravels at about 90 m. above OD. To the W., across the county boundary with Warwickshire here formed by the R. Leam, is the deserted village of Wolfhampcote.

Fig. 27 Braunston Medieval settlements and estates

The history of the site is almost unknown, probably because it was regarded as part of Braunston village and was thus never listed separately in the national taxation records. The existence of two other settlements, Little Braunston, now part of the existing village, and the now deserted Braunston Cleves (3), further complicates the picture. Braunstonbury is thus presumably included within one of the two entries for Braunston in Domesday Book and is perhaps part of the three and a half hide manor of Walter de Aincurt with a recorded population of 17 (VCH Northants., I (1902), 308, 340). Soon after the conquest this manor appears to have passed to William Trusbott and was then divided between his three surviving daughters. One daughter, Hilary de Bulliers, gave her part to the Abbey of Lilleshall in Shropshire and this appears to have included at least part of Braunstonbury (Whellan, Dir., 386; J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 26). The manor held by Lilleshall Abbey was still tenanted in 1421 when the demesne was leased. At the Dissolution this land was sold to the Earl of Rutland who appears to have had other property there already. Other land in the village or in its fields was held by the Priory of Newstead, Stamford (LPFD 15, no. 612, f 15). By the early 18th century Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 26) wrote that 'in Bery-field ... is a place moated around with appearance of a ruined building. The foundations of walls have frequently been discovered and near it is a field, bearing the name of the Chapel field ...'. An Estate Map of 1785 (NRO) shows the area devoid of buildings and called Church Field, though on the Tithe Map of 1842 (NRO) it is described as Chapel Field. The 1785 map also shows the undoubted medieval boundaries of the land of Braunstonbury (Fig. 27; M. W. Beresford and J. K. S. St Joseph, Medieval England: an Aerial Survey (1958), 19–20; K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 36).

The remains lie within an almost square area bounded on the N. by a shallow valley occupied by the manorial fishpond (2), on the W. by a bank 1 m.–2 m. high, on the S. by a low bank and scarp and on the E. by the remains of a bank, partly over-ploughed by the adjacent ridge-and-furrow. In the N.W. corner a hollow-way which presumably once led from Braunston village (see (4) below) enters the site and widens to form a roughly triangular 'green' ('a' on plan). From the S. end of this green the hollow-way continues along the E. edge of the site and, though partly blocked by a later bank, widens again to form another 'green' ('b' on plan). It then continues to the S.E. corner of the site where it has been destroyed by a railway embankment. Beyond the railway to the S. its continuation is visible as a broad space between the adjacent furlongs of ridge-and-furrow.

The N.W. corner of the site is occupied by a small homestead Moat ('c' on plan) consisting of a ditch up to 2.5 m. deep surrounding a sub-rectangular island; it is probably the site of a medieval manor house. The rest of the village survives as extensive earthworks. Some cannot be explained but certain features are clear. There are at least five small house-sites, some with traces of stone walls, set within or at the ends of embanked or scarped closes ('d'–'h' on plan). Near the centre of the site ('i' on plan) is the outline of a two-roomed building set on the W. side of a close with another very large structure on the S. side and this may be a courtyard farm. A large depression to the S. ('j' on plan) may be a crew-yard where cattle were penned. Apart from the hollow-way on the E. there is no clear evidence for a street system, nor any indication of how the village was linked to Wolfhampcote to the W. It is just possible to detect at least two almost continuous banks or scarps crossing the site from E. to W., almost parallel with the N. and S. edges of this village.

Fig. 28 Braunston (1) Deserted village of Braunstonbury, (2) Fishpond

This roughly rectangular plan, though it has clearly been distorted by later activity, and the neat placing of 'greens' on the E. side and of the manor house in the N.W. corner, suggest that the whole village may have been deliberately laid out. The name too, with the use of the word burh apparently in its manorial sense (PN Northants., 15), may indicate a planned manorial settlement rather than an organically evolved village. A large quantity of medieval pottery, all of the 13th and 14th centuries, has been found along the edge of the stream on the N. side of the area.

Wolfhampcote to the W. consists of a main E.–W. hollow-way, now blocked at its W. end by the present Wolfhampcote Hall. On either side of the hollow-way lie embanked or scarped closes, some containing possible house-sites and some with side lanes, now narrow hollow-ways, between them. In the S.E. corner is a large circular moat, presumably the manor house site, with the now isolated church beyond. A large depression to the E. of the manor is perhaps the manorial crew-yard, and E. again two parallel banks which must once have enclosed water may have been part of a mill. There is no trace of any extension of the main through hollow-way across the river to Braunstonbury. The final desertion of Wolfhampcote seems to have occurred in the early 16th century. In 1501 the common fields were enclosed and in 1517 the village was described as ruined (Trans. Birmingham Archaeol. Soc., 66 (1945–6), 98–9). Limited excavation in 1955 revealed occupation from the 12th to the 15th centuries (DMVRG, 3rd Annual Rep., (1955), 12–13; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 4352–3; CUAP, AGV 20, AHG 29, LTI9–20, XT 50–3).

a(2) Fishpond (SP 532657; Fig. 28; Plate 8), lies immediately N. of the deserted village of Braunstonbury (1) and occupies the broad flat-bottomed valley of a small tributary stream of the R. Leam.

The remains consist of a flat rectangular area bounded by a scarp only 0.25 m.–0.5 m. high with two very low dams, again under 0.5 m. high, at the W. end. Unless there has been considerable levelling or silting in the post-medieval period the original pond could not have been more than 0.25 m. deep. Along the N. side of the pond, just below a steep natural scarp, is a shallow channel which presumably carried surplus water round the outside of the pond; its E. end has been destroyed by the modern sewage works and it is not clear how the leat ended. On both the 1785 Estate Map and the 1842 Tithe Map (NRO) the area is called Fish Wier. It is almost certainly the place described as 'a meadow called Fiswere' at Braunstonbury in 1305 (Cal. IPM IV, no. 298; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 4352–3; CUAP, AGV 20, AHG 29).

a(3) Deserted village of Braunston Cleves or Fawcliff(SP 544682; Figs. 27 and 29), lies in the N. of the parish on the steep S.W. side of Cleve Hill, on Jurassic Clay between 125 m. and 150 m. above OD. Its history is largely unknown (see (1) above) but it can perhaps be identified as the part of the 11th-century manor of Braunston belonging to William Trusbott which was divided between his three daughters. One third passed to Agatha Meinfelin who, dying without issue, bequeathed her possessions to Delapré Abbey in Northampton and to the Priory of Newstead near Stamford. A charter of Edward III confirming the possessions of Delapré Abbey mentions a place called Fawcliff in Braunston and this seems to have been the original name of the village (PN Northants., 15). Nothing is known of the date of its desertion and certainly by the early 18th century Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 26) could say that it had been 'destroyed some ages since'. Sometime before 1828, drainage work on the site resulted in the discovery of 'extensive foundations' (T. Deacon, Hist. of Willoughby (1828), 9).

The remains of the village lie around the head of a small valley just below a spring, and are confined solely to the W. side of a broad hollow-way which bifurcates at its N. end (cf., the deserted village of Mallows Cotton, RCHM Northants., I (1975), Raunds (19)). A series of slight depressions or platforms close to the hollow-way may be house-sites and there are fragments of closes bounded by low scarps and banks, extending W., two of which end on the edge of a stream. Below the stream and at the S. end of the site are other ditched enclosures and ditches along some of which the diverted stream flows. Several of these appear to be relatively modern and indeed had hedges beside them until recent years. They may be connected with the drainage work recorded in 1828 (M. W. Beresford, The Lost Villages of England (1954), 367; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 2349–50).

a(4) Hollow-way (SP 536660), immediately S.W. of the manor house, at the W. end of Braunston village, on a very steeply sloping hillside of clay between 100 m. and 115 m. above OD. It is slightly curved and up to 2 m. deep and appears to be an earlier line of the main street leading from the village to Braunstonbury (1) before the existing L-shaped road to the N. was laid out. The latter had been constructed before 1785 (Map in NRO); at that date the area containing the hollow-way was called Home Close and was part of the grounds of the manor house (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 4352–3).

a(5) Windmill mound (SP 54116527), S. of Braunston village on the S. side of the old Daventry Road on the summit of a N.W.-facing spur at 135 m. above OD. The low mound, which is 15 m. in diam., 0.5 m. high and surrounded by a ditch 0.25 m. deep, is almost certainly the site of a former windmill for in 1785 (Map in NRO) the small field in which it lay was known as Windmill Close though no windmill existed there at that time. It is probably the site of the manorial mill of the deserted village of Braunstonbury (1) in whose land it lies (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 4276–7).

Fig. 29 Braunston (3) Deserted village of Braunston Cleves

b(6) Windmill mound (SP 552659), on the summit of a rounded hill, on Boulder Clay at 134 m. above OD. On a map of 1830 (NRO, Braunston Charity Lands) a smock-mill is depicted on this site and a mill is also shown on the 1st ed. OS 1 in. map of 1834. On the ground only a very low ploughed-out mound some 10 m. across is visible and on air photographs (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 4355–6) a slight circular soil mark can be seen.

(7) Cultivation remains. The common fields of the villages of Braunston and Little Braunston were enclosed by Act of Parliament in 1776, but in the absence of an Enclosure Map no details of their layout are known. As the land attributable to the now deserted village of Braunston Cleves (3) is unknown it is not possible to say whether the latter ever had separate common fields. Ridge-and-furrow exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over almost all of the areas of the parish cultivated by the inhabitants of Braunston, Little Braunston and Braunston Cleves. It consists of end-on or interlocked furlongs, many of reversed-S form, and over the small rounded hills and spurs as well as on the steep-sided valleys much of it runs directly down the slopes or radiates outwards from the higher ground. It is exceptionally well preserved in many places, for example W. of the village (SP 530663) where it consists of rounded ridges with subsidiary low ridges between them occupying the usual position of the furrows (see Sectional Preface and Kilsby (5)).

The date of enclosure of the common fields of the common fields of the deserted village of Braunstonbury (1) is not known, but the process presumably took place when the village was finally abandoned. Ridge-and-furrow of this village exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over almost the entire area of land attributable to Braunstonbury (Fig. 27). It is mainly arranged in large interlocked curving furlongs and is particularly well preserved in the extensive pasture around the site of the village (Fig. 28; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 2273–4, 2349–53, 4275–80, 4352–7).