Old Stratford

Pages 108-110

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 4, Archaeological Sites in South-West Northamptonshire. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1982.

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(OS 1:10000 a SP 74 SE, b SP 73 NE)

The modern parish of Old Stratford is a recent creation. Until this century Old Stratford was a small hamlet beside Watling Street. The N.E. part lay in Cosgrove parish, the S.W. in Passenham and some houses in the parishes of Furtho and Potterspury. Following extensive modern development, however, a new parish was formed. This comprises all of the medieval parish of Passenham, apart from the lands of Deanshanger and Puxley which are now a separate parish, as well as part of the S.W. corner of Cosgrove parish and the S.W. end of the old parish of Furtho, a total area of some 420 hectares. The land slopes gently between 90 m. and 60 m. above OD towards the R. Great Ouse which forms its S.E. boundary. It is mainly on Boulder Clay and glacial sands and gravels, although along the river large expanses of gravel and alluvium predominate. Many of the monuments listed below, including the important Roman hoard (2), are described in O. F. Brown and G. H. Roberts, Passenham, the History of a Forest Village (1973).

Prehistoric and Roman

A group of circular cropmarks visible on air photographs (CUAP ZJ50–2) have been described as ring ditches, probably Bronze Age barrows (SP 779402). They are in fact the remains of a Second World War anti-aircraft battery, of a standard pattern noted elsewhere in the county (e.g. RCHM Northants., III (1981), 28, 32, 97). They are still visible as earthworks overlying ridge-and-furrow on air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/2097, 3185–6).

There are records of Roman coins found in the fields around Old Stratford; specifically, a 3rd-century antoninianus was found in 1976 (SP 781402; J. Morton, Nat. Hist. of Northants. (1712), 504; VCH Northants., I (1902), 220; Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977), 213). A single sherd of Roman pottery came from the Great Ouse (SP 783393; BNFAS, 1 (1966), 12).

a(1) Ditched Trackway (?) (SP 770417), N. of Shrobb Lodge Farm and immediately S.W. of Watling Street, on Boulder Clay at So m. above OD. Two parallel ditches 12 m. apart are visible on air photographs (NCAU) running N.E. towards Watling Street for almost 300 m.

a(2) Roman Hoard (SP 779403), usually known as the Stony Stratford hoard, but found S. of the village of Old Stratford and thus within the county of Northampton, on Boulder Clay at 70 m. above OD. The hoard was discovered in Windmill Field in 1789 and was contained in an urn. It is now in the British Museum and comprises between 50 and 60 fragments of silver and gilt bronze plaques. Six of these have figures of deities on them. Interpretations of these have varied but one is said to show Mars and Minerva, another Mars and Victory, a third Apollo and two others Mars alone. Three of the plaques are inscribed. One is dedicated to Jupiter and Vulcan by Vassinus; the others bear a dedicatory inscription to Mars, but in all three examples the inclusion of the word Deo suggests conflation with native deities. These plaques may be parts of ritual crowns but were more probably fixed in some way, not now obvious, to the walls of a shrine. In addition there are two objects sometimes described as ensigns or head-dresses. These are constructed of bronze plates, some dish-shaped and some triangular, joined by chains. There were also several bronze plates joined by links and hinges, a group of decorated bronze discs, some silver-plated, linked by chains, and various other bronze objects including fibulae and a face mask. It has been suggested that this is a votive hoard, perhaps associated with an undiscovered Roman temple, possibly the British equivalent of a favissa. (BM; D. Lysons, Reliquiae Britanniae Romanae, II (1817), Plates 34–8; Minutes of the Society of Antiquaries, 3rd June 1813, 306–11; Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, VII (1873), 81–2; Catalogue of Silver Plate in the BM (1921), 62–4; VCH Bucks., II (1908), 11–12; J. M. C. Toynbee, Art in Britain under the Romans (1964), 328–30; R. G. Collingwood and R. P. Wright, The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, I (1965), nos. 215–7)

Fig. 90 Old Stratford (6) Saxon cemetery, (7) Settlement remains at Passenham, (8) Moat

a(3) Roman Settlement (SP 779416), N. of Old Stratford, on gravel at 75 m. above OD. Large quantities of Roman pottery, including samian and Oxford wares, were found during gravel extraction in 1978. Ditches were also noted. (Northants. SMR)

b(4) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 783393), immediately S.E. of Passenham village, close to the R. Ouse on gravel at 65 m. above OD. Roman material has been recorded (Wolverton Arch. Soc. Newsletter, 10 (1966), 40).

a(5) Roman Settlement (SP 781412), at Firs Farm, in the E. of the village on Boulder Clay at 68 m. above OD. Roman pottery including samian, tile fragments and bone were discovered in a black layer of soil in a foundation pit (BNFAS, 1 (1966), 12).

For Roman Road 1e, Watling Street, see Appendix.

Medieval and Later

a(6) Saxon Cemetery (?) (SP 78033937; Fig. 90), beneath the present derelict rectory at Passenham, on river gravels, at 67 m. above OD. Seven skeletons were discovered during building work in 1873. It has also been recorded that 'human remains are everywhere to be met with just below the surface' in the field about 400 m. N. of the church, and that 50 skeletons were found when a vault was being prepared at the church itself. In 1965 more burials, associated with 5th-century pottery, were discovered beneath the rectory. (Whellan, Dir. (1874). 573; VCH Northants., I (1902), 236; BNFAS, 1 (1966), 15; Med. Arch., 10 (1966), 172; OS Record Cards)

a(7) Settlement Remains (SP 781393; Fig. 90), formerly part of the village of Passenham, lie on either side of the single street, immediately E. and S.E. of the church, on river gravel at 65 m. above OD. Passenham is first mentioned in c. 925 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. It is listed in Domesday Book as two separate manors with a total recorded population of 20 (VCH Northants., I (1902), 307, 321) but this figure certainly includes Deanshanger and Puxley. These settlements are listed together in all the medieval taxation returns and it is therefore not possible to ascertain the size of Passenham at any date except in 1523 when it is listed separately and ten people paid the Lay Subsidy (PRO, E179/155/140). By 1720 the village had six houses (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 305) and it remains much the same size today. A map of 1600 (NRO) shows buildings S.E. of the church on both sides of the road, as well as on the site still occupied by houses.

The remains of the houses shown on the 1600 map still survive in permanent pasture. On the N.E. side of the street are at least seven building platforms defined by low banks or scarps, together with traces of former closes, and separated from the adjacent ridge-and-furrow by a bank up to 0.5 m. high. At the S.E. end a hollow-way 15 m. wide runs N.E. towards Stony Stratford. On the S. side of the road between the Old Rectory and Mill Cottages are other more indeterminate earthworks. Very slight remains also lie along the road N. of the church and immediately E. of the manor house. These may be the sites of former buildings though none is shown on the map of 1600. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/2097, 3183–4; F21 58/RAF/5517, 0004)

a(8) Moat (SP 782393; Fig. 90), lies immediately N.E. of Mill Cottages and at the S.E. end of the settlement remains (7), on river gravel at 65 m. above OD. The moat is presumably the site of the medieval manor house of Passenham and is probably the place described as 'Scite of Manor' in a survey of 1591 (NRO). It had certainly been abandoned by the early 18th century when Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 305), described it as an 'almost square intrenchment'. The site consists of a roughly square area, 30 m. across and level with the adjacent ground, surrounded by a shallow ditch 7 m. wide. Excavation in 1967 revealed good-quality stone buildings said to date from the late 13th century (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 26; J. Wolverton Dist. Arch. Soc., 1 (1968), 13). (Air photographs in NMR)

a(9) Deserted Hamlet (SP 773422), lies in the N.E. of the parish, on Boulder Clay at 75 m. above OD. Until modern parish boundary revisions the site lay in Furtho parish. The history and indeed the name of this settlement is unknown though it is presumably listed in Domesday Book as one of the three small manors all called Furtho (VCH Northants., I (1902), 324–6, 374). Thereafter there is no record of its existence; it had certainly disappeared by 1835 (map in NRO). (See also Potterspury (9)).

The site has been ploughed and all that is recoverable is stone-rubble and pottery. The latter dates mainly from the 12th to 14th centuries and includes Potterspury wares. Air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4245–6) show that the area was already under cultivation then, but indicate clearly the form of the settlement. It then consisted of a broad hollow-way running N.W.-S.E. and visible for about 200 m. On the N.E. side ridge-and-furrow extended to the edge of the hollow-way, but on the S.W. there were at least four embanked and ditched closes 60 m. long and 20 m.–40 m. wide. Other deserted settlements which lay on only one side of their main streets have been recorded in the county (e.g. Braunston Cleves, RCHM Northants., III (1981), Braunston (3)).

a(10) Windmill Mound (SP 777398), lies N.W. of the village, on Boulder Clay at 71 m. above OD. A low mound 20 m. across and ploughed almost flat is the site of a post mill shown on a map of 1600 (NRO).

(11) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of Passenham are traditionally said to have been enclosed by Sir Robert Banastre between 1620 and 1649 (Northants. P. and P., 1 (1949), 28). On a map of 1600 (NRO) only two open fields are shown, both lying S.E. of the Buckingham road. The larger, covering the whole of the area between the village and Old Stratford, was called Little Stow Field, but Breach Field, to the N.W. of the village, was only some 12 hectares in extent.

Ridge-and-furrow of these fields survives on the ground or can be traced from air photographs, arranged in rectangular interlocked and end-on furlongs. In the former Breach Field it is almost complete. Within the latter there is a massive headland 30 m. wide and almost 2 m. high running S.W.-N.E. (SP 777397). Its size has probably been accentuated by the fact that is follows the edge of the river terrace, and has led to its identification as part of the defences of a camp constructed by Edward the Elder in 921 during his campaign against the Danes (Wolverton and Dist. Arch. Soc. Newsletter, 3 (1958), 23). Excavations in 1967, however, proved the earthwork to be part of the medieval field system (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 26; J. Wolverton Dist. Arch. Soc., I (1968), 13). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4244– 8; CPE/UK/1929, 3181–7; CPE/UK/2097, 3184–7; F21 58/RAF/ 5517, 0004, 0029–30; F22 58/RAF/5517, 0030–1)


a(12) Mound (SP 777393), lies immediately S. of Passenham, on the flood-plain of the Great Ouse, on alluvium at 66 m. above OD. The mound is circular, 3 m. in diam. and less than 1 m. high. No date or function can be assigned to it. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/2097, 3183–4)