Clay Coton

Pages 47-48

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 57 NE, b SP 67 NW)

The parish is one of the smallest in Northamptonshire, only a little over 400 hectares in area, and is almost rectangular. It occupies the E. part of valley of a W.-flowing tributary of the R. Avon so that the highest points are on the N., S. and E. boundaries of the parish where the land rises to 120 m. The wide, flat valley floor with its meandering stream is at about 100 m. above OD. In the N. an area of Lower Lias Clay is exposed but the greater part of the parish is covered by glacial deposits, particularly Boulder Clay, and by alluvium.

The village may be secondary to Lilbourne. This is suggested not only by the name Coton, but also by the shapes of the two parishes in relationship to each other (Fig. 42).

Fig. 42 Clay Coton and Lilbourne Medieval settlements and estates

Medieval and Later

(1) Medieval coin hoard (unlocated), found near the village several years before 1865. A hoard of 435 15th-century groats, mostly of Edward IV but some as early as Henry IV and some as late as Henry VII, was discovered in a small earthenware pot with an olive-green glaze (PSA, 3 (1865), 77; Num. Chron., New Series, 6 (1866), 136).

a (2) Settlement remains (SP 594770; Figs. 42 and 43), formerly part of Clay Coton, lie in and around the existing village on alluvium at 103 m. above OD. The village is not recorded by name until 1175 (PN Northants., 66) but it is almost certainly included silently in Domesday Book in the entry for the adjacent village of Lilbourne. Its name, its position on low-lying ground in the valley of the small W.-flowing brook, and the relationship of its parish boundary to that of Lilbourne (Fig. 42) all suggests that the settlement may have been a secondary or daughter hamlet of Lilbourne and may always have been very small. There is no record of its size until 1523 when the village was taxed at 22s. 6d. (PRO, E179/155/161), the smallest amount paid in this part of Northamptonshire except by settlements already deserted, but 34 people paid the Hearth Tax in 1673 (PRO, E179/254/14), an unusually high figure indicating that the village had increased in size. In the early 18th century Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 548) said that there were 25 houses in the village and in 1801, 116 people lived in the parish. On the Tithe Map of 1839 (NRO) some 15 buildings are marked, all possibly houses though some must have been sub-divided into separate tenements. Three of these houses have since been demolished.

The remains are very fragmentary, consisting of mutilated scarps, banks and ditches forming no coherent pattern but, though difficult to interpret, the earthworks and the limits of the surrounding ridge-and-furrow serve to indicate that there were once houses on both sides of the road leading N. from the church and possibly on the N. side of the road which formerly ran W. to Lilbourne. From the Tithe Map it appears that the village once had a large, roughly triangular green S. of the church and on both sides of the stream. This green had already been encroached upon by 1839 and is now almost destroyed (RAF VAP 106G/UK/636, 4164–66; air photographs in NMR).

(3) Cultivation remains. The common fields of Clay Coton were enclosed by agreement in 1663 (NRO, s (G) 79). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields can be traced on the ground or from air photographs over almost the entire parish with the exception of about 30 hectares in the S.E. The greater part of the ridge-and-furrow is arranged in end-on furlongs, orientated N.–S. down the main valley sides (RAF VAP 106G/UK/636, 4162, 4473–9).

Fig. 43 Clay Coton (2) Settlement remains