Pages 88-91

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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In this section


(OS 1: 10000 a SP 55 NW, b SP 55 NE)

The parish, of some 750 hectares, lies across the upper reaches of three small E.-flowing streams which meet and continue E. to the R. Nene. The highest part is the N.W. where an outcrop of Northampton Sand rises to over 180 m. above OD. From there, apart from the isolated Temple Hill capped by glacial gravel, the land is clay-covered and slopes S. and S.W. to the central stream at 122 m. above OD, then rises again to a maximum of 182 m. in the S.W. Most of the parish is occupied by the great landscaped park of Fawsley Hall. The house and the isolated parish church stand on a narrow ridge between two of the streams, close to the mutilated remains of two separate medieval settlements (1), both apparently known as Fawsley and both totally deserted. In the park a number of earthworks have been preserved because of the absence of cultivation. These include pillow mounds (3, 4) and (6) and the undated enclosure on Temple Hill (9) as well as other banks, hollow-ways and ditches which have been recorded in detail elsewhere and are not listed below (Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977), 155–76).

Medieval and Later

b(1) Deserted villages of Fawsley (SP 561566 and 566567; Fig. 69), lie immediately S. and E. of Fawsley Hall on the sides of two steep-sided valleys, on clay at 135 m. above OD. Fawsley is first documented in 944 in a Saxon Charter (BCS 792), where its bounds are described. The village is listed in 1086 in Domesday Book, with a recorded population of 17 (VCH Northants., I (1902), 321). In 1301, the Lay Subsidy Returns give a total of 44 taxpayers for Fawsley (PRO, E179/155/31) and the place is mentioned in 1316 in the Nomina Villarum. Fifty-two people paid the Lay Subsidy of 1327 (M. W. Beresford, The Lost Villages of England (1954), 367) and the vill paid 56s. 8d. for the Lay Subsidy of 1334 (PRO, E179/155/3). When the Poll Tax was collected in 1377 Fawsley had 90 taxpayers over the age of 14 (PRO, E179/155/28), but it had only 66 in the much evaded tax of 1379 (M. W. Beresford, op. cit.). All these figures suggest that the village was small but flourishing over this period and that desertion took place at a later date.

In 1415 the Manor of Fawsley was bought by Richard Knightley and it remained in the hands of this family until the present century. An early 15th-century reference to protests from the demense tenants about the services being imposed upon them implies that Richard Knightley engaged in a deliberate policy of eviction, (PRO, c66/417m 18d), probably in order to turn the parish over to sheep-farming; by 1547, 2500 sheep were pastured there. Certainly by 1524 only seven people paid tax (PRO, E179/155/122) and two of these were members of the Knightley family who were paying large sums of money presumably derived from the profits of grazing. By 1674 only eight houses were assessed for the Hearth Tax (PRO, E179/254/14); at least four of these, including the hall, still stand in various places about the estate. In the early 18th century only six houses were recorded in the parish of which four were 'dispersed in the fields' (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 64). By 1741 (NRO, Map of Fawsley) the village had entirely disappeared and the whole area was emparked. In 1801 the total population of the parish was 29, most of whom lived at the hall, the vicarage or in estate cottages (K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 11, 39).

Fig. 69 Fawsley (1) Deserted villages

The remains of Fawsley are fragmentary and in poor condition. They suggest that there were two separate areas of settlement, one to the S. of the present hall and the other near the now isolated church, and this is of some interest as it indicates that Fawsley, like other settlements in the area, was perhaps a double village. Near the hall the surviving earthworks suggest that most of that part of the settlement lay under the present hall and its gardens and outbuildings; they consist of a small area of indeterminate low scarps and banks. However certain features are clear. At the E. end of the site a broad hollow-way ('a' on plan) appears from under the later gardens and swings S.W. down the hillside; it is truncated by a steep scarp falling to the lake. This hollow-way is up to 2 m. deep in the centre. Another trackway, now a terraced feature ('b' on plan), runs W. from the area of the later gardens, parallel to the contours. One section is broken by quarrying, but beyond this the track continues to an area of ridge-and-furrow. Between the two tracks is a system of low banks and scarps of generally rectangular form, including at least three well-marked building platforms. The area was known as Chain Piece in 1741 (Map in NRO).

The second area of settlement lies around the church at the end of a flat-topped E.-projecting spur. Traces of ridge-and-furrow separate these remains from the earthworks described above. To the E. of the church, on land sloping down to the large landscaped lake, is an area of some 1.5 hectares which, though devoid of any recognisable earthworks and under permanent pasture, has been disturbed by moles. This activity has revealed a broad zone of dark soil, quite unlike that in the surrounding area, associated with large quantities of pottery of the 12th to the 14th centuries. To the N. are fragmentary traces of two rectangular platforms cut into the hillside, and other low banks and scarps where small amounts of medieval pottery have been found lie around the church. The area was called The Lawn in 1741 (Map in NRO). From the S.E. corner of the church a shallow hollow-way ('c' on plan) is traceable for about 100 m. until it disappears into the lake. It probably continued across the valley for it reappears on the E. side of the lake, where it crosses the existing drive and forks, with one branch running N.E. and the other S.E. ('d' on plan). Two other hollow-ways approach the area from the N. and N.E. at the N. end of the lake. All this evidence indicates that there was once a large area of medieval occupation, much of which is now covered by the lake itself, around and to the E. of the church.

b(2) Enclosure (SP 568573; Fig. 70), on Temple Hill, on the summit of a broad, S.-projecting spur at 152 m. above OD. The spur is capped by a thick layer of glacial gravel, mainly flint, which has been extensively quarried so that the hill is covered by large pits. The enclosure partly overlies these and consists of a roughly rectangular area, bounded by a bank with traces of an outer ditch. Except for the S.E. corner where the bank remains 1.5 m. high the whole feature has been ploughed and is now reduced to a height of 0.5 m. The interior is uneven and much lower than the surrounding land, mainly because of the quarrying. Large quantities of post-medieval roofing tiles cover the interior. No precise date or purpose can be assigned to this enclosure, but it is probably of relatively recent date and may be connected with the landscaping of the park. On the Estate Map of Fawsley of 1741 (NRO) the name, Temple Hill, is given to the area, but no features are shown there.

Fig. 70 Fawsley (2) Enclosure

b(3) Garden remains and pillow mound (?) (SP 570578), around the Dower House, on the N.E. side of Fawsley Park in the bottom of a broad open valley, on Lias Clay at 150 m. above OD. The Dower House is a small brick hunting lodge which was built in the early 16th century and was extended soon afterwards to make a small house of H-plan. It is now in ruins. Around it are some very slight earthworks, not all of which are explicable. The most obvious feature is a broad flat-topped terrace only 0.25 m. high which extends S. from the S.W. corner of the house for some 30 m. To the E., fronting the house, are slighter banks and ditches. The whole group may be the remains of a small formal garden though this is not certain. To the N., at the back of the house, are other poorly defined earthworks including a rectangular flat-topped mound 7 m. by 4 m. overall, and less than 0.25 m. high orientated N.W.–S.E., of the type usually classified as pillow mounds. In 1741 (Map in NRO) the Dower House and another building to the N.W. of it, now demolished, are shown standing in a small rectangular enclosure, probably a garden.

b(4) Pillow mound (SP 563578), lies immediately S. of the Fawsley-Badby parish boundary, just S. of Badby Wood, on land sloping gently S. on clay at 152 m. above OD. It is a large rectangular flat-topped mound 27 m. long, 7 m.–8 m. wide and 1.5 m. high, and 3.5 m.–4 m. wide across the top. It is orientated E.–W. and has a later cut across it from N. to S. near its E. end. There is no trace of a ditch around the mound; a ditch on its N. side is related to an old trackway which passes between it and a bank to the N. This bank is the pale of the medieval deer park of Badby (Badby (6)). There is no trace of ridge-and-furrow in this part of the parish and this pillow mound and a smaller mound near the Dower House (3) may have been medieval rabbit warrens.

b(5) Windmill mound (SP 573558), in the S.E. of the parish at the E. end of a broad ridge, on Northampton Sand at 152 m. above OD. A low, ploughed mound some 12 m. across still survives on the ground; on air photographs (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 3152–3) a circular soil-mark is faintly visible. In 1741 (NRO, Estate Map) a post-mill is shown at this point but it had disappeared by the early 19th century (1st ed. OS 1 in. map, (1834)).

b(6) Pillow mound (SP 57005700; Fig. 71), lies on ground sloping gently S. on clay at 140 m. above OD. It consists of a flat-topped rectangular mound 18 m. long, 7 m. wide and just under 0.5 m. high, orientated N.-S. A shallow ditch 3 m. across runs along the E. and S. sides. The mound lies on top of ridge-and-furrow with which it is aligned, and immediately S. of a large bank which marks the edge of an old track.

b(7) Pond (SP 570564), lies immediately S. of the 18th-century lake known as Big Waters, at the junction of two valleys, at 122 m. above OD. The interior of a long rectangular pond, now totally overgrown, is occupied by narrow parallel banks over 0.25 m. high. The pond and its banks are shown on the Estate Map of 1741 (NRO). No purpose can be assigned to the site, except that it may have been used for breeding wildfowl (see Sectional Preface and Charwelton (5)).

(8) Cultivation remains. The date of enclosure of the common fields of Fawsley is unknown but the parish was enclosed by 1741 (Map in NRO) and had probably been so since the 15th or 16th century (see (1)). Most of the parish is covered with ridge-and-furrow which remains in very good condition over almost all of the permanent grassland of Fawsley Park. It is arranged mainly in interlocked furlongs, with ridges usually at right-angles to the contours. Over the very broken country in this area the result is a complex pattern of ridges radiating from the various spurs. In the N. of the parish, S. of Badby Wood, there is no ridge-and-furrow and this area may have been permanent waste or a medieval rabbit warren (3, 4).


b(9) Enclosure (SP 57215733), lies on the E. side of Temple Hill on clay at about 150 m. above OD. Air photographs (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 1162–3) show a small rectangular enclosure, covering just under 0.5 hectares, bounded by a continuous bank and apparently by both an outer and an inner ditch; no entrance is visible. It is orientated approximately N.–S. and the E. side is slightly bowed outwards. The enclosure has now been ploughed out and nothing remains on the ground, but it appears to have been constructed over pre-existing ridge-and-furrow and was probably relatively recent. On the 1741 Estate Map of Fawsley (NRO) the field in which the enclosure lies is called North Thorney Close. In the centre of this field a small rectangular copse is depicted, of roughly the same shape and size as the enclosure, but slightly to the N. of it. Allowing for some cartographic error, it is likely that the enclosure was in fact a bank around the wood.