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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69 YARDLEY GOBION
(OS 1:10000 a SP 74 NW, b SP 74 NE, c SP 74 SW, d SP 74 SE)
The long, narrow parish, once part of Potterspury, stretches from the R. Tove on the E. boundary to a little beyond Watling Street (A5) which forms most of the W. boundary. An E.-flowing stream flows along most of the N. side. The lower ground close to the R. Tove, below 76 m. above OD, is on Upper Lias Clay and riverine deposits. Bands of limestones are exposed on the steep slopes N.E. of the main village, and in the valley of the stream where the medieval settlement of Moor End (3) and (4) is situated. The higher ground between 95 m. and 108 m. above OD is covered by Boulder Clay.
Prehistoric and Roman
A stone tool of unknown form is said to have been found at SP 73884435 (NM Records). A coin of Gratian and a base silver antoninianus of Valerian I have recently been recorded, the former in the village (SP 76424485) and the latter in the W. of the parish (SP 74464482; Northants. Archaeol., 10 (1975), 164; 12 (1977), 222).
For Roman Road 1e, Watling Street, see Appendix.
Medieval and Later
The leg of a medieval grey ware vessel was found in the W. of the village in 1972 (SP 76004493; Northants. Archaeol., 8 (1973), 23; NM).
d(1) Settlement Remains (SP 766448), formerly part of Yardley Gobion. lie behind the existing houses on the N. side of High Street, on limestone at 90 m. above OD. A group of indeterminate earthworks, some of which have now been destroyed, and a rectangular ditched enclosure probably represent abandoned buildings and closes. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 5244–5; air photographs in NMR)
d(2) Moat (?) (SP 761448), lay immediately S. of Moor End Road, on Boulder Clay at 102 m. above OD. The site has been entirely destroyed by modern housing, but air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 5244) show that it was still in existence at that time. It consisted of a rectangular area 60 m. by 40 m., orientated N.E.S.W. and bounded on the N.W., S.W. and part of the N.E. and S.E. sides by a broad ditch which was at least 10 m. wide. The E. corner had already been obliterated. The moat was completely surrounded by ridge-and-fur-row. It is said to have been the site of the manor house of Yardley Gobion (G. Baker, Hist. of Northants., II (1836– 41), 227).
d(3) Moat (SP 754446; Fig. 128), usually known as Moor End Castle, lies W. of Yardley village, within the hamlet of Moor End, in the bottom of a valley draining S., on clay at 92 m. above OD. The origins of the site are obscure but in 1327 Thomas de Ferrers was granted a licence to crenellate his dwelling place of Le Morende. In 1363 the manor passed to the Crown and between then and 1369 much building work is recorded. Among the structures mentioned are a royal chamber, a chapel, towers, an old chamber and inner and outer gates. It remained in royal hands during the 15th century but its subsequent history is uncertain (H. M. Colvin, The History of the King's Works, II (1963), 743). In the early 19th century, stone-robbing revealed foundations of a rectangular building with towers at each corner. Tiles described as 'Roman' were also uncovered (G. Baker, Hist. of Northants., II (1836–41), 229; JBAA, 7 (1852), 111).
The site has been much altered, particularly in recent years, and now consists of a sub-rectangular island, completely overgrown, with no visible surface features. The island is surrounded by a water-filled ditch between 17 m. and 25 m. wide on the S.W., N.W. and N.E. and by a large pond 50 m. by 90 m. on the S.E. The latter may be a relatively recent widening of the ditch on this side. A small rectangular pond 40 m. by 25 m., much altered in recent times, lies to the N.W. of the site, and on air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 5243–4) two other smaller rectangular ponds are shown between it and the moat. These have now been destroyed.
A dry ditch 8 m. wide and up to 1 m. deep to the N.E. of the moat appears to be a former leat which carried water round the site, possibly to a mill at its S.E. end. The field on the S.W. side of the moat, in which stands the present Castle Barn, was known as Castle Yard in 1728 (map in NRO). In its S.E. corner are at least two building plat-forms lying at the S. ends of two rectangular closes ('a' on plan). It is not certain whether these are part of the castle or of the settlement remains (4).
d(4) Settlement Remains (SP 762448; Fig. 128), formerly part of Moor End, lie between the existing houses of the hamlet, on Boulder Clay between 90 m. and 98 m. above OD. Nothing is known of the history and size of Moor End except its manorial descent and the fact that it first occurs in documents in 1168 (PN Northants., 108).
The hamlet seems always to have consisted of houses arranged along a single N.E.-S.W., street with the moated site (3) on the N.W. side. The remains of former settlement exist in four places. Immediately S.E. of Castle Barn are two building platforms at the S. ends of two fragmentary closes ('a' on plan). These lie in the area known as Castle Yard in 1728 (map in NRO) and may be associated with the moat. To the S.W., on the opposite side of the road, is a strip of disturbed ground which may possibly be the site of other buildings ('b' on plan). Further N.E. and E. of the moat is a group of rectangular platforms, cut into the hillside, probably the sites of at least five houses and gardens ('c' on plan). In 1728 there were still two buildings standing here but they had disappeared by 1776 (maps in NRO). The main interest of the remains is that they appear to overlie ridge-and-furrow, fragments of which still survive on the N.W. The adjacent furlong of ridge-and-fur-row ends on a well-marked headland, but at least five ridges can be traced continuing into the settlement remains. To the S. is a single raised platform, also possibly a house-site ('d' on plan). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 5243–4)
d(5) Medieval Pottery Kilns (SP 76254492), found in the Moor End Road during building in 1978. Two kilns and a large quantity of late 14th or early 15th-century roof tiles were noted (Northants. Archaeol., 14 (1979) 111).
d(6) Medieval Pottery Kilns (SP 76504489), on the N. side of the village. Excavation in 1973 revealed two kilns, both of updraught type, oval in shape and constructed of limestone, with 14th-century wares of Potterspury type (Northants. Archaeol., 9 (1974), 112).
d(7) Post-Medieval Pottery Kilns (?) (SP 766446), found a little to the S.W. of the village, during housing development in 1968. Layers of wasters of 18th-century date were discovered (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 30).
c(8) Deer Park (centred SP 745445; Fig. 60), occupies the W. part of the parish between Moor End and Watling Street, mainly on Boulder Clay between 95 m. and 110 m. above OD. The park is first mentioned in 1230 when William de Ferrers was granted a deer leap in his park of Perry and it occurs frequently in medieval documents after that. In 1537 the park was enlarged by 154 acres (64 hectares) and it appears to have gone out of use in the 17th century (Northants. P. and P., 5 (1975), 230). The final boundaries of the park are depicted on maps of 1720, 1728 and 1776 (NRO) as contiguous with Plum Park (Paulerspury (21)) and Grafton Park (Grafton Regis (8)) to the N. The exact position of the earlier medieval park is not known with certainty though it is possible that it occupied the S. part of the larger park, to the S. of an E.-flowing stream.
The S.W. boundary of the later park was Watling Street (SP 735450–748438), but only a normal hedge-bank is visible today. The boundary then turned N.E. and ran along the N.W. side of the road to Yardley Gobion village, following its sharp bends to a point just S.W. of Moor End (SP 753444). Along this section there are traces of a large bank 1 m.–1.5 m. high and 5 m.–6 m. wide. The boundary then ran N.W. as far as a small E.-flowing stream (SP 748452) and the hedge is here in places on a bank again up to 1.5 m. high and 6 m. wide. The N. edge of the medieval park may have turned W. here and followed the stream as far as Watling Street but the boundary of the later park certainly crossed the stream and ran on N.W. until it met the S. side of Grafton Park (at SP 746454) which it followed W. to Watling Street. This assumed N. extension to the park is very close in area to the 154 acres added to the original park in the 16th century.
The interior of the park is covered with ridge-and-fur-row, arranged in interlocked and end-on furlongs of reversed-S form, with well-marked headlands and at least two trackways or hollow-ways up to 12 m. wide and 1 m. deep crossing it. One of these runs from Moor End to Watling Street (SP 753444–745442) and the other from one of the bends on the Yardley Gobion road to Watling Street (SP 750440–747440). No date can be assigned either to the ridge-and-furrow or to these tracks, though they appear to pre-date the park. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 5242–3)
(9) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish, together with those of Potterspury, were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1775 (NRO, Enclosure Map, 1776). Very little ridge-and-furrow of these fields is visible on the ground or on air photographs except on the land N.E. of the village, sloping down to the R. Tove, where the pattern of end-on and interlocked furlongs is almost complete. In this area former end-on furlongs have later been ploughed as one, with a resulting double reversed-S curve to the ridges (e.g. at SP 767451). Broad access-ways and unploughed 'greens' are also visible (e.g. SP 766452– 771450 and 771453); 'greens' are depicted but the strips appear to be shown schematically on a map of 1728 (NRO).
Ridge-and-furrow of the open fields also survives N. and N.E. of Moor End (Fig. 128), running down the sides of a small valley. The furlongs on the W. side of the valley are in an area already enclosed before 1728. Within the deer park there are expanses of ridge-and-furrow of common-field type which appear to be earlier than the park (see (8) above).
There is also a little ridge-and-furrow on both sides of a stream in the far W. of the parish, to the W. of Watling Street (SP 738445). By 1720 this area was already divided into hedged fields known as Yardley Assart Grounds (map in NRO). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 5242–7)
(10) Mounds (SP 751446), W. of Moor End, on limestone at 95 m. above OD. Three 'tumuli' are described in 19th-century records, one oblong and two circular (JBAA, 7 (1843), 111; OS Record Cards). No trace of these exists.