Pages 173-175

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 NW, b SP 65 SW)

The modern parish, formerly part of Blakesley, contains the site and lands of the deserted village of Kirby (1) as well as the existing settlements of Woodend and Woodend Green, and covers some 700 hectares (Fig. 28). It is bounded on both the N. and S. by E.-flowing tributaries of the R. Tove at about 115 m. above OD. From these valleys the land rises across outcrops of Upper Lias Clay, Northampton Sand and Oolite Limestone to a central ridge capped by Boulder Clay, with a maximum height of 155 m. above OD.

No prehistoric or Roman remains have been found in the parish and the main monument is the deserted village of Kirby (1).

Medieval and Later

a(1) Deserted Village of Kirby (SP 636495; Figs. 28 and 127), lies in the E. part of the parish, on limestone and clay between 107 m. and 122 m. above OD. The boundaries of the land associated with the village can be conjectured (Fig. 28). Kirby is not mentioned by name in Domesday Book but it has been suggested that it is the small manor listed under Blakesley with a recorded population of only two (VCH Northants., I (1902), 332). This manor was granted in about 1194 to the Knights Hospitallers. The village is mentioned in the Nomina Villarum of 1316 and in 1361 the Hospitallers' manor was described as '1 messuage and 1 carucate in Kirby'. In 1487 the Hospitallers' tenant destroyed five houses and enclosed and converted 300 acres of land to pasture, though this may not have all been at Kirby. In 1547 a thousand sheep were being grazed on the land (K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 41). Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 236) recorded only one house at Kirby in the early 18th century. Its successor, Hootens Farm, is the only house in the area today.

The earthworks of the village are in good condition, though most of the site has been ploughed in ridge-and-furrow after abandonment. The remains of this ploughing, in two main blocks, are very slight and cannot represent more than one or two years cultivation.

The main feature of the site is a broad hollow-way, presumably once the main street, which crosses the area from S.W. to N.E. ('a'-'b' on plan). It is visible S. of the modern farm buildings as an uneven hollow-way ('a') with a massive scarp up to 2.5 m. high on its E. side. The next part of it has been destroyed by the farm buildings but it reappears to the N., in poor condition, in the garden of Hootens Farm. Beyond the farm the hollow-way runs down the hillside and here it is 1 m.–1.5 m. deep. At its N.E. end it divides. One branch continues N. towards the meadowland, and the other branch, now partly blocked, ran N.E. to the stream. A second hollow-way probably ran along the S. side of the site ('c' on plan) separating the village from the adjacent ridge-and-furrow, but its junction with the main one is obscured by the farm buildings. The main hollow-way is lined on both sides by subrectangular closes bounded by low scarps, though the later ploughing seems to have destroyed parts of these. House-sites are visible within some of the closes. Immediately E. of the farm there is a long rectangular feature, bounded by low stone-rubble walls ('d' on plan) and a similar house-site lies further N. ('e' on plan). A smaller structure can be identified just W. of the point where the main hollow-way divides ('b' on plan). Shallow depressions or raised plat-forms elsewhere may be the sites of other buildings. A triangular depression in the N.W. of the site ('f'), with a broad ditch leading into its S.W. corner, is a fishpond. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1045–7; CUAP, XT40–1; air photographs in NMR)

a(2) Settlement Remains (SP 616493), formerly part of Woodend, lie in and around the existing village, on limestone and Northampton Sand between 137 m. and 145 m. above OD. The settlement was once known as Little, Blakesley, Blakesley Parva or Wood Blakesley. The modern village consists of a single curved street running N.-S. with houses on both sides. Until recently there was a large gap on the E. side where houses had once stood. Part of this area has now been built over and no earthworks remain but the site may nevertheless be of archaeological significance. Beyond the existing gardens in the N.W. of the village at least one rectangular enclosure survives, bounded by low banks and shallow ditches. It has shallow quarrypits within it. Other banks and ditches, perhaps indicating former buildings, lie at the N. end of the village street. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 2086–7; F21 58/RAF/2316, 0069–70; air photographs in NMR)

a(3) Moat (?) (SP 620498), lies S. of the site of Blakesley Hall, just within Woodend parish, in the bottom of a valley draining E., on Jurassic Clay at 114 m. above OD. The Hall, demolished in 1957–8, was traditionally said to be on the site of the manor house of the Knights Hospitallers, who acquired land in Blakesley in about 1194. The feature called a 'moat' on OS plans is now a watercourse of Ushaped plan some 10 m. wide with garden features such as bridges, waterfalls and stone revetment. It is unlikely that it was ever a medieval moat; the remains are largely the result of 18th or 19th-century landscaping. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 2086–7; air photographs in NMR)

(4) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of Woodend were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1788. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over much of that part of the parish attributable to Woodend village. Although the settlement was on the edge of woodland there is every indication that the whole area has been under cultivation at some time and the pattern of ridge-and-furrow is virtually complete. It is arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs carefully adapted to the broken terrain so that in most cases the ridges run across the contours. Ridge-and-furrow extends to within a few yards of the stream on the S. boundary of the parish, and only in the N., S. of Blakesley Hall (SP 619498), are there are any large areas of meadowland without ridge-and-furrow.

Fig. 127 Woodend (1) Deserted village of Kirby

The date of enclosure of the common fields of the deserted village of Kirby (1) is unknown, except that there are records of 300 acres of land, some of which lay in Kirby, being converted to pasture in 1487, (K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 41). Ridge-and-furrow exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over much of the land of Kirby, arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs. It is particularly well preserved S. of the site of the village (SP 635492) where within a single field several interesting features are preserved in pasture. These include the overploughing of a former headland between two end-on furlongs to produce a larger furlong, the ploughing of part of a low rounded knoll which appears to be a landslip, the overploughing of part of an older N.-S. furlong by one running E.-W., and the extension of a furlong over its original headland. In addition there is evidence of temporary ploughing over the site of the deserted village itself, though the date of this is not known. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1044– 5; CPE/UK/1994, 2084–8, 3089–92, F21, 58/RAF/2316, 0069– 70; air photographs in NMR)