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 64 SE, b SP 64 NE, c SP 64 SW)
The parish covers about 760 hectares and is of irregular shape, sloping gently N. from the higher ground on the S. boundary with Buckinghamshire, at 155 m. above OD, to a N.E.-flowing stream on the N.W. boundary at about 105 m. above OD. It is entirely covered by Boulder Clay except for some small patches of glacial sands and gravels, and bands of Oolite limestone along the valley sides in the N. The most important monuments are the medieval fishponds (2) which are well documented because of their royal association.
Prehistoric and Roman
Worked flints are said to have been found in the parish (OS Record Cards). The probable Bronze Age barrow said to be in Silverstone parish and which was excavated in 1940 actually lay just S. of the county boundary, in Buckinghamshire (Ant. J., 28 (1948), 27; W. F. Grimes, Excavations on Defence Sites, 1 (1960), 245–7).
b(1) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 677456), in the N. of the parish, on river gravels at 105 m. above OD. The neck and parts of the handles of a large Roman amphora were discovered in the bank of a small stream, together with ashes and animal bones (OS Record Cards).
Medieval and Later
The Benedictine Priory of Luffield lay partly in the extreme S. of the parish, and partly in Buckinghamshire. Nothing remains on the site, which is now occupied by Abbey Farm (SP 674421; VCH Northants., II (1906), 95–7).
The site of the well-documented royal hunting lodge at Silverstone has not been located. It is mentioned as early as 1121–30 and was rebuilt and altered several times before 1317 when it was abandoned (R. A. Brown, H. M. Colvin and A. J. Taylor. History of The King's Works. II (1963), 1002–3). It may have been located near the present parish church, close to the smaller of the two fishponds (2) (SP 668443), for the area was known as Hall Garth in 1600 (NRO, map of Whittlewood Forest).
There are records of a deer park in the parish in the 13th century but this also has not been located (Northants. P. and P., 5 (1975), 231).
a(2) Fishponds (SP 667446; Fig. 104), lie to the N.W. of the village, in the bottom of a broad open valley draining N.E. and in one of its tributary valleys, on alluvium be tween 105 m. and 112 m. above OD. The ponds are associated with a royal hunting lodge at Silverstone (see above) and are referred to in a number of 13th-century documents. For example in 1227 the sheriff of Northampton was ordered 'to cause the broken ponds of the Kings stews of Silverston ... and the bays of the same to be repaired' (Cal. Lib. 1, 23). In 1241 the bailiffs of Silverstone were asked to 'aid William the Kings fisherman, whom he is to send to fish in his stews at Silverston and to send the fish that he shall catch to the King without delay' (Cal. Lib. II, 31) and in 1244 the keepers of the 'stew of Silverstone' were told to 'aid Geoffrey Corburn and William the Kings fisherman, whom he is sending to fish there, to carry their fish to the King at Woodstock' (Cal. Lib. II, 217). Soon after, the King ordered that his servants were to 'search out nets in the town of Oxford with which William the Kings fisherman, whom he is sending to Silverstone, can fish in the Kings stews there and to carry them to Woodstock' (Cal. Lib. III, 83–3). In 1257 the King allocated the men of Silverstone '4 shillings spent in taking 20 pike in the Kings stews at Silverstone and in salting them and carrying them to London' (Cal. Lib. IV, 415). The later history of the ponds is unknown for royal interest in the hunting lodge ceased in the early 14th century. The ponds are not marked on a map of Whittlewood Forest of about 1600 (NRO).
At the S.E. end of the area ('a' on plan) are two small conjoined rectangular ponds cut back into the side of small steep-sided valley to a depth of 2.5 m. A large dam up to 3 m. high along the N.W. and N.E. sides has a later cut through it in the N. corner. The remains of a second dam 2 m. high, cut through in two places, form a division between the two ponds. These ponds were probably breeding tanks for the main pond which lies to the N. and N.W. The latter, when filled, was probably the largest artificial pond in the county in medieval times. The water was retained by a large dam spanning the open valley ('b' on plan). This is flat-topped and up to 3 m. high and has a later gap cut through the centre. At its E. end the dam turns N. and there is a large marshy depression along its E. side, perhaps where the surplus water from the pond was returned around the edge of the dam and into the stream. The depression received water from an artificial leat which ran above the former pond along its E. side ('c' on plan). However the depression is larger than it would need to be for these purposes and it may be another fishpond or a mill-pond. The area of the former pond is defined by a number of features. On the S.E. side it is marked by a high-level leat ('c' on plan) which once carried water from the tributary valley and from the small fishponds to the S.E. along the side of the pond and around the E. end of the dam. The S. side of the pond is marked by a low scarp or bank less than 0.25 m. high, now largely ploughed down or completely destroyed by the construction of a playing field at the extreme S.W. end but clearly visible on air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/ 1926, 3230–2). Most of the N.W. side of the pond is marked by another embanked leat which carries the water of the stream which occupied the valley bottom before the construction of the ponds. This leat returns the water into the valley bottom a little to the S.W. of the dam.
Another point of considerable interest is the fact that though the parish boundary between Silverstone and Abthorpe follows the stream in the valley for most of its length, in the vicinity of the pond it follows the N.W. edge of the pond as far as the dam and then returns to the original stream. This suggests that the parish boundary was moved in order to ensure that the whole pond lay in Silverstone parish. If this is so it was probably carried out by Royal Command in order to avoid the legal and administrative problems involved in having the pond in two parishes. (Northants. P. and P., 4 (1970), 308; CUAP, AWN68)
a(3) Settlement Remains (centred SP 662437), formerly part of Silverstone village, lie on the E. side of the road, in the S. part of West-End, on Boulder Clay at 128 m. above OD. The area is under cultivation and only a scatter of stone-rubble and pottery of 13th to 18th-century date is visible. This marks the sites of at least four houses which are shown here on the map of Whittlewood Forest of about 1600 (NRO) but which had gone by 1827 (NRO, Enclosure Map). These remains contribute to an understanding of the development of Silverstone village which, before 19th-century and later changes consisted of three distinct parts. To the E., around the church, lay a compact settlement at a cross-roads. To the W. was a single long street, now known as West End, and to the S. lay another street, known as Cattle End. No explanation for this unusual settlement pattern can be suggested, except that it might be the result of piecemeal forest-edge development. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3230–2, 5230–1)
(4) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1827 (NRO, Enclosure Map). At that time there were five open fields of very different sizes. Between the main part of the village and West End lay the small Backside Field, and to the E. lay the equally small Ridge Knoll Field. Hall Hills and Blackspit Fields were to the N.E. of the village, with Swinney Field beyond. Old enclosures surrounded the various parts of the village to the S., W. and E.
The S. part of the present parish was not in Silverstone parish in 1827 but in Whittlewood Forest and is not depicted on the Enclosure Map. An earlier map of Whittlewood Forest of about 1600 (NRO) shows a similar situation, though with some additional information. Backside Field was then known as Wood Crafts Field and all the others were grouped into two large areas known as Silson Field and Whittlebury Field. All the old enclosures S. and W. of the village are shown as on the later map but their names, for example Grindons Sart, Dancome Sart, Elms Sart and Fryers Assart, all indicate their origins as woodland clearances. These are probably some of the assarts mentioned as being in Silverstone in 1273 (Cal. IPM II, 49). The 1600 map also shows that all the S. part of the parish as far as the county boundary was then under woodland.
Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs in some parts of the parish. A few fragments can be seen in the former Backside or Wood Crafts Field and other small areas, now built over, are visible on air photographs in the former Ridge Knoll Field. To the N.W. of the village very little ridge-and-furrow is traceable in the area of the other three former open fields and the pattern is not recoverable anywhere.
Ridge-and-furrow occurs in the old enclosure W. of the village (SP 659440 and 663433), much of it in exceptionally narrow ridges only 4 m.-5 m. across. For the most part the furlongs lie within existing fields or are bounded by shallow ditches or slight banks indicating former hedges. Further S., both in the area of old enclosures S. of the village and within the former wooded areas, wide ridge-and-furrow, exactly straight and fitted within fields of regular shape, appears to be the result of late 19th-century ploughing (e.g. SP 661429 and 673433). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/ 1926, 1231–3, 2231–4, 3228–34, 5229–32)