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 65 NE, b SP 75 NW)
The roughly triangular parish covers some 400 hectares of undulating land sloping very generally N.E. and crossed by several small streams flowing N. and N.E. to join the R. Nene. The higher parts between 75 m. and 90 m. above OD are overlaid by Boulder Clay and other glacial deposits, but on the lower ground the underlying Marlstone Rock and Upper Lias Clay are exposed. The extreme N. of the parish, N.E. of the M1 motorway, is now incorporated within Northampton. The major monument in the parish is the unusual defensive earthwork known as The Berry (8). The settlement remains (5) are of interest as they show that the village has changed its form in recent years.
Prehistoric and Roman
A few Iron Age sherds have been noted to the S. of the village (SP 715564; Northants. Archaeol., 13 (1978), 180). A second 'brass' of Antoninus Pius was found somewhere in Rothersthorpe before 1952 (NM).
b(1) Enclosure (SP 723564), S.E. of the village, on sand and gravel at 88 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show a small D-shaped enclosure 80 m. by 30 m., orientated N.E.-S.W. Within it and in the surrounding area are numerous other cropmarks, but these appear to be mainly natural. The site is apparently that recorded on a number of occasions, each with an incorrect grid reference (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 40; 7 (1972), 57; Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 26; 12 (1977), 230). A single Iron Age sherd and some Roman pottery have been found on the site (Northants. SMR).
b(2) Enclosure and Ditches (SP 715564), S. of the village, on gravel at 79 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show, very indistinctly, the cropmarks of the N. part of a small rectangular enclosure with sharp corners. Immediately to the W. are two curving lengths of ditch associated with a very large pit. There are other cropmarks in the same area but these have no distinct pattern (Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977), 230). A small quantity of worked flints has been noted in the area (Northants. SMR).
b(3) Iron Age and Roman Settlement (SP 720560), S.E. of the village, on glacial sands at 84 m. above OD. A sand-quarry opened in 1973 has produced several worked flints, including two scrapers (SP 720561) and near by (at SP 721562) a fragment of a bar from a Roman pottery kiln has been found (Northants. Archaeol., 9 (1974), 85, 115). In 1974 a shallow ditch was exposed in the quarry face and was excavated. It appeared to be aligned E.S.E.-W.N.W. and its fill contained pottery dated to the late Iron Age and early Roman periods, as well as bone and iron slag (NM; Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975), 162).
b(4) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 713562), S.W. of the village, on a low gravel ridge at 90 m. above OD. A scatter of Roman pottery has been noted (Northants. Archaeol., 13 (1978), 182).
Medieval and Later
b(5) Settlement Remains (centred SP 715564; Figs. 100 and 101), formerly part of Rothersthorpe, lie on the S. side of the village, on either side of The Poplars, on gravel and clay between 75 m. and 84 m. above OD. Although the village has undergone considerable shrinkage or movement, most of this appears to have taken place in relatively recent times. Rothersthorpe is first mentioned in Domesday Book where it is listed as two manors with a total recorded population of 27 (VCH Northants., I (1902), 345, 347). In 1334 the vill paid 58s. 0¼d., tax (PRO, E179/ 155/3), a sum which suggests that it was much the same size as the villages in the surrounding area. There were at least 14 cottars on the main manor in 1359 when they paid rent for a common oven (VCH Northants., IV (1937), 286). In 1673 47 people paid the Hearth Tax (PRO, E179/254/ 14) and Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 385), writing in about 1720, said there were then 54 houses at Rothersthorpe. In the 19th century the population of the parish rose from 197 in 1801 to 293 in 1871, though it fell slightly later on. These figures, especially the 19th-century ones, suggest no decline in population, and thus the cartographic evidence and the surviving earthworks have to be interpreted as the result of movement rather than of decline.
The village now consists of two main streets N. of a small E.-flowing brook and separated by The Berry (8). Church Street, with the church. Manor Farm and The Manor, lies immediately N. of the brook. North Street to the N. curves S.E. to meet the E. end of Church Street. Two lengths of shallow ditch ('j' on plan) may be the remains of a street joining Church Street and North Street in the W. The earliest map of the village (Fig. 101; NRO, Enclosure Map, 1810) shows a more complex pattern. To the S. of the stream was another street, along which there were at least three farms and four cottages. A few years later (1st ed. 1 in. OS map, 1834) all but one of the cottages and all the farms except The Poplars had disappeared, and the street itself appears to have been abandoned. The last cottage was removed soon afterwards and by 1880 only The Poplars remained in the area.
The surviving earthworks add to the information from the maps for they show that at some time before 1810 there were other buildings along this street and that it had once been lined with houses and farms. Thus this part of the village seems to have contracted over a long period.
The main feature on the ground is the line of the original street ('a'-'b' on plan). To the W. of The Poplars it is still a well-marked hollow-way up to 1 m. deep, but at the W. end it fades out although the 1810 map shows that it continued. The drive on the N. side of The Poplars is on the line of the street and to the E. the latter is still traceable as a shallow hollow-way. Its E. end is now blocked, though it apparently once ran on to meet the present road.
The sites of all the buildings in existence in 1810 are still identifiable. The large farm-house and buildings at the E. end of the street are marked by a sunken area, much disturbed ('c' on plan). The other large farmstead immediately W. of The Poplars is also marked by an uneven area with scarps up to 1.75 m. high ('d' on plan). Further W. the sites of two of the three cottages are visible as raised platforms ('e' and 'f' on plan) though no real trace remains of the other cottages. In addition there are earthworks of the houses and closes which had already been abandoned by 1810. On the N. side of the hollow-way and S. of the church ('g' on plan) are the fragmentary remains of two closes with some building platforms at their S. ends, and other less well-preserved remains, also perhaps former house-sites, lie further E. and W. ('h' and 'i' on plan). (Air photographs in NMR; CUAP AZV71–2)
b(6) Tramway (SP 721558), in the S.E. corner of the parish, close to the Northampton branch of the Grand Union Canal, at 90 m. above OD. The remains, which have now been totally destroyed by quarrying, were the only surviving section of a tramway built in 1804–5 to link the Grand Junction Canal at Gayton with the R. Nene at Northampton. It was used until 1815 when it was replaced by the canal. The line of the canal followed that of the tramway except at this point (A. H. Faulkner, The Grand Junction Canal (1972), 81–8). Before destruction there was a low curving embankment some 10 m. across and already reduced by ploughing. Its course is partly shown by the 300 ft. contour on OS 1:10560 plan SP 75 NW (1968). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 5029–30)
(7) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1810 (NRO, Enclosure Map). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over large parts of the parish, arranged mainly in end-on or interlocked furlongs. It is still extremely well preserved in the W. of the parish (around SP 702563). To the S.S. W. of the village (at SP 712564) are two end-on, reversed-S furlongs which have later been ploughed together as one. This results in ridges 300 m. long, of double reversed-S form with a marked change of alignment in the centre as they ride over the original headlands. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/ 1926, 5029–34; 3G/TUD/UK/118, 6026–30, 6052–6; IF22 543/RAF/2409, 0140–3; FSL6565, 1796–8; FSL6603, 2383–5)
b(8) Enclosure (SP 715567; Figs. 100 and 102; Plate 4), known as The Berry, lies in the centre of the village between North Street and Church Street, on Boulder Clay sloping gently S. between 81 m. and 77 m. above OD. Nothing is known of its history and no date can be assigned to it. To judge from its position, its name and perhaps its form, it could be a medieval structure of defensive purpose and it has been so regarded by a number of authorities (OS Record Cards; VCH Northants., II (1906), 417). However, its unusual shape and the ample evidence of secondary use both for habitation and agricultural might indicate that it is perhaps pre-medieval in origin and was reused in the medieval period, perhaps as a manorial centre. The nearest parallel to it in form, if not in situation, is Burnt Walls, Daventry (RCHM Northants., III (1981), Daventry (35)).
The remains consist of a roughly triangular area, formerly bounded by a wide, deep ditch and an inner bank or rampart. The ditch is now preserved only on the W. and N. sides where it is up to 2.5 m. deep below the adjacent land and up to 4 m. deep below the inner bank. On the S. side no trace of the ditch now survives and its line has either been built over or incorporated within modern gardens. The bank or rampart also remains on the N. and E. side, but has been much altered. The only place where it is in its original form is near the E. corner where it is a narrow-topped bank up to 1.5 m. high above the interior. Along the rest of the N. side it has been pulled down, apparently by ploughing, so that it now has a wide summit and a much-degraded inner edge. Modern footpaths pass through two gaps in the centre of the N. side. In the N.W. corner and along the W. side, the bank has also been altered and in one place appears to have a short section of a later stone-rubble wall on it ('a' on plan). There are slight traces of a bank in the S.E. corner, but along most of the S. side this has been removed and only a degraded scarp marks its outer face. No certain original entrances into the enclosure are visible, though it has been suggested (OS Record Cards) that there may have been one at the extreme E. end. The interior has a number of features all of which appear to be later than the encircling bank and ditch. In the S.W. corner is a small circular mound 0.4 m. high with a hole in the centre. To the E. of this is a length of shallow ditch which, at its E. end, turns S. and becomes a scarp. Further E. again there is a short stretch of low bank only 0.2 m. high which also continues N. as a scarp. These features may be the sites of buildings. Part of the rest of the interior has slight traces of wide ridge-and-furrow on it. That this is later than the defences is clear from the fact that the rampart on the N. side has been pulled down as a result of its use as a headland. A low bank ('b' on plan) only 0.3 m. high crosses the interior. Its purpose is unknown, but it too seems to have been altered by later ploughing. (Air photographs in NMR; CUAP AZV71)