Pages 31-33

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 66 SW, b SP 66 NW)

The parish occupies only 300 hectares and lies on the E. side of Watling Street which forms the whole of the W. boundary; the S. boundary is determined by the Whilton Brook. Another Roman Road, 17, crosses the parish, running E.–W., but does not ever seem to have formed part of its boundary. The parish is roughly rectangular except for an oval projection from the N.E. corner, an area known as Roughmoor. The latter is contiguous with Whilton, with the former land of Muscott (Norton (11)) and with Brington; its name, shape and position suggest that it was once an area of common waste (see (2)).

The E.-sloping land in the W. of the parish, between 120 m. and 90 m. above OD, is covered by glacial sands and gravels, and E. of this a wide band of alluvium occupies the valley floor. From there the land rises again to the E., across Lias clays and Marlstone. The higher ground, over 125 m. above OD, is overlaid by Boulder Clay; glacial deposits also cover most of the area of Roughmoor. The settlement remains of Brockhall village (1) constitute the main monument in the parish.

Prehistoric and Roman

A polished axe of mottled green stone, found in 1959, is in Daventry School. A Mesolithic core is recorded from the parish (NM Records). Roman coins have also been found, perhaps near Watling Street, for in the 19th century Baker said that 'Roman coins are still occasionally found at Brockhole' (Hist. of Northants., I (1822–30), 119).

On air photographs (CUAP, AW048, 50, and in NMR) a circular feature 15 m. in diam. with an entrance on the W. is visible with, to the W., a group of three more circles arranged in a clover-leaf pattern. These have been described as ring ditches but are more likely to be the remains of a Second World War anti-aircraft battery (SP 628614; see also Brixworth and Harlestone).

For Roman Roads 1f, Watling Street, and 17, see Appendix.

Medieval and Later

a(1) Settlement remains (SP 634625 and 632629; Fig. 32), formerly part of Brockhall, lie at each end of the existing hamlet on Marlstone Rock at about 110 m. above OD. The village has been included in the county list of deserted villages (K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 36) but in fact it appears to be much the same size today as it always has been and the remains indicate little more than minor shrinkage.

Brockhall is first mentioned in Domesday Book, and is described with Muscott (Norton (11)) which lies only 1 km. to the N.W., the two having a recorded population of six (VCH Northants., I (1902), 325). In the 1301 Lay Subsidy it is again listed with Muscott, with a total of 48 tax-payers (PRO, E179/155/31), but this figure probably refers mainly to Muscott, for there is no evidence that Brockhall was ever large whereas earthworks at Muscott suggest that this was once a substantial village. Brockhall is separately mentioned in the Nomina Villarum of 1316, and in 1334 it paid 53s. 6½d. for the Lay Subsidy (PRO, E179/155/3). By 1377 only five people over the age of 14 paid the Poll Tax in Brockhall and Muscott (PRO, E179/155/27) but most if not all of these must have lived in Brockhall as Muscott had probably been abandoned by then. In 1524 when the two places were again combined for the Taxation of the Laity only nine people were recorded (PRO, E179/155/134) most of whom presumably lived at Brockhall. The Hearth Tax Returns of 1674 list 17 houses for Brockhall and Muscott (PRO, E179/254/14) but as, by 1720, Bridges noted that there were 12 houses at Brockhall and three at Muscott the 1674 figure must again refer mainly to Brockhall (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 483). The earliest map of the parish to show any part of the village is dated 1787 (NRO) but this only covers the area N.W. of the main N.–S. road. It shows that the road did not make a marked bend at the S. end of the park as it does today, but ran on a little further to meet another road climbing the hillside from Dodford. It then swung N.E. onto the line of the existing road immediately W. of Brockhall Manor. The old road is still visible in the shrubbery near the park entrance as a fragmentary hollow-way 1.5 m. deep ('a' on plan) and the road to the S.W. survives as a massive ditch some 2 m. deep running down the hillside ('b' on plan).

Fig. 32 Brockhall (1) Settlement remains

The existing Brockhall Hall was built soon after 1625 when the Thornton family acquired the manor. The 1787 map shows the hall much as it is today but with two ranges of buildings extending S.W. from it to form an enclosed courtyard. These buildings are traditionally said to have been part of the village, but the plan shows clearly that they were outbuildings of the hall and this is confirmed by an engraving of the house of c. 1800 (BM). The same map shows that the area N.E. of the church and N. of the through-road was then called Brockhall Green.

A slightly later map, of 1793 (NRO), depicts only a small part of the village E. of the church. It shows that Dairy Cottage did not exist at that time, but that the cottages E. of the church were there. It also shows that three embanked closes further N.E. along the road ('c' on plan) were already devoid of buildings though they are obviously the sites of at least three former houses and gardens. Two other maps, an Estate Plan of 1821 and the Tithe Map of 1839 (both in NRO), show the village as it is today with the buildings around the courtyard of the hall demolished and the present road system in being.

The written sources and the map evidence thus suggest that Brockhall was always a small village laid out along a single street, but had perhaps suffered some shrinkage at its N. end by the late 18th century. The building of the hall in the early 17th century may have led to the removal of earlier buildings S.E. of the church but there is no direct evidence for this; the alterations to the park between 1787 and 1821 led to the abandonment and alteration of the roads at the S.E. end of the village.

(2) Cultivation remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by private agreement in 1619–20. The earliest map of the parish, dated 1614 (NRO), only covers the land immediately E. of Watling Street but shows that this area was already partly in old enclosures at that date. This suggests that some enclosure had taken place before 1620. Ridge-and-furrow can be traced on the ground or on air photographs throughout the greater part of the parish; in the centre and E. the pattern is virtually complete. It is laid out in end-on and interlocking furlongs carefully adapted to the direction of the often rather steep slopes. It is noteworthy that ridge-and-furrow exists in the part of the parish projecting to the N. and known as Roughmoor or sometimes as Ringmere, which was probably an area of common waste. There are extremely well-preserved areas of ridge-and-furrow S.E. of the village (SP 365623) and to the N. on either side of a broad valley (SP 633630; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 3254–6, 2260–3, 4264–6, 4363–5).