Ashby St. Ledgers

Pages 5-7

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 SP 56 NE)

The parish lies W. of Watling Street (A5) which forms a short part of its E. boundary; it occupies some 854 hectares of land lying across the valleys of three small E.-flowing streams between 130 m. and 175 m. above OD. Almost the whole area is covered by glacial deposits, including much sand and gravel, and only in the N.E. corner is the underlying Jurassic Clay exposed. The village lies across the central stream. The settlement remains (2) which lie to the W. of the village are so extensive as to suggest that at least in later medieval times its location and shape were fundamentally different.

Prehistoric and Roman

A Roman silver coin of Faustina was found 'in Legers-Ashby Field' sometime before 1712 (J. Morton, Nat. Hist. of Northants. (1712), 532).

(1) Enclosure (SP 592681), in the E. of the parish, on glacial sands and gravels at 133 m. above OD. Air photographs (not seen by RCHM) are said to show a small enclosure and a 'field' (Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977), 228).

(2) Roman settlement (SP 570684; Fig. 17), on the N. side of the village above a small E.-flowing stream, on glacial gravel at 132 m. above OD. A quantity of pottery, mainly thin grey ware probably of 2nd or 3rd-century date but also including some earlier material and pieces of tile, has been found.

Medieval and Later

(3) Settlement remains (centred, SP 567683; Figs. 12 and 17), formerly part of Ashby St. Ledgers, lie on both sides of a small E.-flowing stream at the W. end of the village around Reynold's Farm, on glacial sands and clays between 132 m. and 145 m. above OD.

Ashby is first documented in Domesday Book with a recorded population of 24 (VCH Northants., I (1902), 330). In 1377, 81 people paid the Poll Tax (PRO, E179/155/28), in 1673, 52 people are listed in the Hearth Tax Returns (PRO, E179/254/14) and in the early 18th century Bridges (Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 14) said there were 50 houses in the village. By 1801 there were 232 inhabitants of the parish. These admittedly inadequate figures do not indicate any marked fall in the population of the village at any time and the remaining earthworks may thus be the result of movement rather than shrinkage. Evidently the village had in the past a layout very different from its present one, but the date at which the change took place is not known. By the 18th century it was already forgotten for Stukeley recorded that 'At Legers Ashby ... has been another old town, as they say, destroyed by the Danes; there are great ditches, causeways and marks of streets' (W. Stukeley, Itinerarium Curiosum, I (1776), 113). However part of the abandoned area was occupied or at least in use in the early 19th century (1st ed. OS 1 in. map (1834)). Some of the earthworks have been interpreted as the site of a manor house (Whellan, Dir., 381), but this is uncertain.

The main though not the most obvious feature of the site is an old street, now a hollow-way extending from the main Kilsby-Daventry road on the W. to the sharp bend in the Ashby-Crick road, N. of the church, on the E. ('a'–'b' on plan). It coincides with the existing stream and, apart from a short length on the S. side of Reynold's Farm which is still in use, is now nothing more than a steep-sided wide stream bed. In the early 19th century, however, it was still a through road (1st ed. OS 1 in. map (1834)). On either side of this hollow-way are other features connected with it. At the W. end, two roughly parallel hollow-ways extend N. from it then join and fork again. One runs N.W. and, after crossing the Kilsby-Daventry road, can be traced as a broad access-way through the adjacent ridge-and-furrow heading towards Barby. The other runs N. and meets the existing road to Kilsby. Between the two roads is a disturbed area of ground in which stands a low circular mound with a slight depression within it, perhaps the site of a dove-cot ('c' on plan).

To the E., between the E. hollow-way and Reynold's Farm, are at least three rectangular closes ('d' on plan), separated by low banks and ditches and bounded on the N. by a well-marked bank and outer ditch beyond which is ridge-and-furrow. The interior of these closes is much disturbed by later gravel pits, but traces of former buildings exist at their S. ends, and massive stone-rubble foundations are exposed in the side of the stream and hollow-way. In addition, pottery, mainly post-medieval but including some of the 14th and 15th centuries, has been found here. To the S. of the stream and S.W. of Reynold's Farm are other earthworks ('e' on plan); these are more indeterminate but enough remains to indicate that buildings also once stood here. Further E., immediately S. of the farm and E. of the present road to it, is another field containing earthworks of a series of closes with house-sites at their N. ends ('f' on plan). In the early 19th century there were still some buildings at the W. end of this field along the road to the farm (1st ed. OS 1 in. map (1834)). Immediately N.E. and E. of Reynold's Farm another hollow-way ('g' on plan) extends N. from the stream between ridge-and-furrow, and other ditches lie to the E. and W. of it.

Fig. 17 Ashby St. Ledgers (2) Roman settlement, (3) Medieval settlement remains, (7) Cultivation remains

These earthworks, together with the existing part of the village, suggest that, in the late medieval period at least, the village was Y-shaped in plan with a number of small roads extending from it in various directions (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 2352–4; RAF VAP 2F22 543/RAF/2337, 0381–2; CUAP, AGY 87).

Fig. 18 Ashby St. Ledgers (4) Fishponds

(4) Fishponds (SP 563691; Fig. 18), occupy the bottom of a small E.-draining valley cut into Boulder Clay, N.W. of the village, at about 145 m. above OD. They consist of two adjoining rectangular embanked ponds up to 2 m. deep and now dry but shown on the 1st ed. OS 1 in. map of 1834 as full of water. On the Tithe Map of 1850 (NRO) the easternmost pond is shown still full of water but as the map does not extend further W. the other pond is not marked.

(5) Site of medieval building (?) (SP 564671), on Bragborough Hill in the extreme S. of the parish on Marlstone at 167 m. above OD. Fourteenth-century pottery, both glazed and unglazed, and tile were found during ploughing in 1966 (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 1).

(6) Windmill mound (SP 57056701), on the S. boundary of the parish, immediately W. of the minor road out of the village. It lay on Marlstone Rock at 165 m. above OD. Although now totally destroyed by ploughing, in 1969 it still consisted of a low, circular, grass-covered mound 0.8 m. high and 15 m. in diam. There was no trace of an outer ditch (OS Record Cards). On the Tithe Map of 1850 (NRO) a windmill is depicted on the site (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 2352–3).

(7) Cultivation remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by Act of Parliament of 1764 (NRO, Enclosure Map). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields survives on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over almost all of the parish, arranged mainly in interlocked furlongs except along the valley sides where end-on furlongs at right-angles to the contours predominate. Exceptionally well-preserved blocks exist S. and W. of the village (at SP 573675 and 564608). In the latter area broad access-ways extending down the valley sides through the ridge-and-furrow and into the village still remain (see (2); Fig. 17; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 1479–82, 2349–54; 2F22 543/RAF/2337, 0378–84).