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 53 NE, b SP 53 SE, c SP 63 NW, d SP 63 SW)
The parish is of irregular shape and covers almost 1300 hectares including the land of the medieval village of Astwick (Fig. 52). Much of it is a plateau at about 135 m. above OD, with radiating streams, but in the N. the land slopes down to the Great Ouse and a tributary which forms the N.E. boundary. Most of the higher flatter ground is on Oolitic Limestone but sands and clays are exposed on the valley sides. Apart from some prehistoric finds the main monuments are a large Roman site (4) and the deserted village of Astwick (9). The latter is noteworthy in that its layout suggests that it has been replanned at some time before abandonment.
Prehistoric and Roman
Two leaf-shaped arrowheads have been found (SP 601357, 600357; BNFAS, 5 (1971), 3; Banbury Museum). Records of Roman coins in 'Astwick Field' in the 18th century cannot be verified (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 168; OS Record Cards). Roman pottery found 'at Evenley' before 1862 may have come from the sites described below (2, 3) (PSA, 2 (1862), 75).
a(1) Flint-Working Site (centred SP 590362), on both sides of the stream on the N. parish boundary, and partly in Brackley parish, at 107 m. above OD. Field-walking has led to the discovery of worked flints including flakes, blades and a core, as well as some possible Iron Age pottery (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 16–17). Mesolithic blades and microliths have been picked up further S.E. (SP 592359; Banbury Museum).
a(2) Enclosures and Linear Ditch (SP 568355), in the N.W. of the parish, on Great Oolite Limestone at 129 m. above OD. Air photographs (NCAU) show a small trapezoidal enclosure only 20 m. wide apparently lying within a larger enclosure of similar shape and about 0.5 hectare in extent. The larger enclosure is very indistinct. Both enclosures appear to be intersected by a linear ditch running E.-W. and traceable for almost 400 m.
b(3) Enclosures (SP 575338), lie S.W. of the village, W. of the A43, on limestone, at 132 m. above OD. Air photographs (CUAP, BBK74) show indistinct cropmarks of at least four small conjoined rectangular enclosures covering about 1 hectare.
a(4) Roman Settlement and Coin Hoards (centred SP 593359), lies N. and N.E. of Evenley Hall, between 105 m. and 120 m. above OD. Much Roman material has been found over a wide area and ranging in date from the 1st to the 4th century. It includes pottery, tiles, coins, building stone and a bronze pin. The finds extend from Fox Covert Wood as far as the stream to the N., in the same area as the worked flints and the possible Iron Age sherds described previously (1), and it appears that there was an important building in the area occupied at least throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries, though no foundations or exact site have yet been identified. In 1826, in the S. of the site, a large hoard was found consisting of several hundred coins of Nero, Domitian, Severus Alexander, Probus, Carausius, Constantine and others. A second hoard, said to comprise over 23,000 coins from the second half of the 3rd century contained in an 'earthenware vase', also came from Evenley before 1854. The exact find spot is unknown. (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 9; 5 (1971), 3, 16–17; G. Baker, Hist. of Northants., I (1822–30), 617; Num. Chron., 17 (1854), 38; Gent's Mag., 1 (1854), 55; Arch. J., 49 (1892), 224; VCH Northants., I (1902), 217; Oxoniensia, 36 (1971), 112; BAR, 40 (1977), 61; Banbury Museum; NM)
a(5) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 587351), lies immediately N. of the village, at 120 m. above OD. There are vague references to the discovery of Roman pottery in this area (OS Record Cards).
For possible Roman Road 56a, see Appendix.
Medieval and Later
ab(6) Settlement Remains (SP 586350; Fig. 15), formerly part of Evenley, lie along Church Lane in the N.W. part of the village, on limestone at 120 m. above OD. The village consists of two parts. In the N.W. is Church Lane, now a cul-de-sac; in the S.E. the rest of the village is arranged around a large rectangular green. Until recent development the parish church together with Road Farm stood in an isolated position at the N.W. end of Church Lane, but the archaeological evidence suggests that in the medieval period the lane was lined with buildings on both sides. The gardens of modern houses on the S. side of the lane have considerable quantities of 13th and 14th-century pottery in them, and on the N. side of the lane, in the only surviving piece of permanent grassland, are two rectangular platforms which probably mark the sites of former buildings. Immediately E. of the church, on the N. side of the lane, there was an L-shaped pond which has now been destroyed by modern houses. In 1780 (NRO, Enclosure Map) this pond was shown as the W. and S. sides of a small rectangular moat with no buildings within it. A long rectangular pond, which also survived until recent times, lay to the N.W. The moat was probably the site of a medieval manor house. The exact chronological relationship of the two parts of the village is not clear but it is possible that Church Lane is the older part and that the green was a later planned addition.
b(7) Fishponds (centred SP 589346; Fig. 15), lie immediately S.E. of Evenley village, in the valley of a small N.E.-flowing stream, on clay, at about 115 m. above OD. Three sub-rectangular ponds, each with a large dam up to 2 m. high, are arranged in a line along the valley bottom. The road to Evenley from Mixbury, Oxfordshire, crosses the dam of the southernmost pond and a farm track uses the dam of the middle pond. This pond has been damaged and much of its W. part has been filled in. The northernmost pond was known as New Pond in 1882 (map in NRO). Two other similar ponds lie N. of the village, within Evenley Park (SP 587352), and although these have been altered by later landscaping they, too, may have originated as medieval fishponds.
a(8) Windmill Mound (?) (SP 583357), lies on the W. side of Evenley Park, immediately W. of Park Lodge, beside the A43, on limestone at 128 m. above OD. A circular flat-topped mound 15 m. in diam. and 1 m. high and much altered by landscape gardening may be the site of a windmill. The area in which it lies was called Windmill Ground on the Enclosure Map of c. 1780 (NRO).
b(9) Deserted Village of Astwick (centred SP 570342; Figs. 52 and 53; Plate 1), lies in the W. of the parish, in the valley of a small S.W.-flowing stream, on limestone and clay at 122 m. above OD. The land associated with the village is now the W. part of Evenley parish.
Astwick is not mentioned by name until 1195 (PN Northants., 53) but it has been identified as the manor of one and three-fifths hides with a recorded population of nine, listed but not named in Domesday Book as pertaining to Evenley (VCH Northants., I (1902), 341). Thereafter no record of its population exists and in all the national taxation returns it is listed with Evenley. However Astwick is mentioned by name in the Nomina Villarum of 1316. In 1510 there were still at least 15 houses there (K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 35). Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 168), writing in about 1720, described it as a village of six houses but he was referring to farms scattered throughout the lands of the former village. He also said that Astwick 'appears to have been formerly a large town, as may be seen from the ruins which are called The Old Town'. By 1839 (NRO, Tithe Map) the whole site was abandoned and the W. part was known as Stoneheap Ground.
Although some modern destruction has occurred the greater part of the village survives as earthworks. These remains suggest that the village once had an L-shaped plan and was later altered; a hollow-way with associated medieval house-sites cuts obliquely across an earlier more regular arrangement of closes. The nearest parallel to this, in terms of both basic plan and later alterations, is Bardolfston in Dorset (RCHM, Dorset, III (1970), Puddletown (21).
The assumed earlier phase, of L-shaped plan, is well preserved on the E. side of the stream, but on the W. has been almost totally destroyed by modern ploughing. The surviving E. part, divided into numerous rectangular closes, is bounded on the E. by a modern hedge, on the N. and N.W. by the stream and on the W. by an almost continuous line of ditches and scarps. The S. boundary is not clear but the surviving ridge-and-furrow probably defines it. Several of the larger closes in the centre and S. have been overploughed by later ridge-and-furrow though it is not possible to ascertain at which stage in the village's development this took place. The damaged W. part of the earlier village also appears to have had a rectangular layout to judge from the few remaining scarps and banks now only a few centimetres high.
The later phase of the village consists of two hollowways. The main one enters the site in the S. and for the first 200 m. follows the general S.S.W.-N.N.E. alignment of the early plan. It then turns sharply N.W. obliquely through some of the older closes and swings W. across the stream. To the W. of the stream it still survives as a shallow depression climbing the valley side; it then turns N.W. and fades out. The second main hollow-way branches from the first at a point just E. of the stream and curves E. across the older closes. Beyond the hedge on the E. side the route can be traced as a large headland. A low scarp blocks the E.-W. hollow-way at its junction with the main one and this indicates that the latter remained in use after the other hollow-way had been abandoned. Many well-preserved house-sites survive, marked by limestone-rubble walls up to 1 m. high and several showing internal divisions into rooms. Among the most notable are those on the N. side of the E.-W. hollow-way ('a' on plan) where at least six buildings are arranged around a large courtyard. To the S. of the same hollow-way ('b' on plan) is another group of buildings lying on the N. side of and within a broad hollow. Elsewhere there are isolated house-sites beside the hollow-ways and situated in small closes (e.g. 'c' and 'd' on plan). In the damaged W. part at least two house-sites have avoided destruction. To the N. of the site, within the modern arable fields, air photographs show a system of cropmarks; some at least of these are modern drains though others are probably boundaries of former closes. It is unclear what relationship these have with the village. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1929, 3176–7; 106G/UK/1488, 4264–6; CUAP, AFH92–5, AGV39, BBK77–80)
b(10) Enclosure (SP 572343; Fig. 53), lies immediately N.E. of the deserted village of Astwick (9), in the bottom of a small valley, on clay at 124 m. above OD. It has been described on various OS maps as 'camp', 'moat' and 'fishpond' but, although it is certainly medieval or later and was perhaps associated with Astwick village, its function is unclear.
The site was first described by Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 168) as a 'moat full of water' and the field in which it lay was called Moat Close in 1839 (NRO, Tithe Map). The earthwork consists of a roughly trapezoidal depression in the valley bottom; the original course of the stream is still visible across it. This depression is surrounded by a large bank between 1.7 m. and 2.00 m. high, formerly continuous but with two modern breaks through it. Outside the bank there is an encircling ditch cut back 1.5 m. deep into the hillside on the S., E. and N. and with a low bank on the N.W. There is also an outer bank on the E. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1929, 3176–7; 106G/UK/1488, 4264– 6)
b(11) Enclosure (SP 577336), lies within a small copse known as The Grove, in the N.W. corner of the crossroads of the A43 and B4031, on clay at 125 m. above OD. A rectangular system of ditches, perhaps originally forming two conjoined enclosures 25 m. across, has been cut by the A43. No date or function can be assigned to the site but the name Le Grofehey is recorded as early as 1275 (PN Northants., 53).
(12) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of Evenley were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1779 (NRO, Enclosure Map). No details of the fields at that time are known except that the greater part of the area to the N. of the village, now Evenley Park, was already enclosed before that date, and that the southern part of the parish was an uncultivated area known as Bayards Green. Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 165), writing in about 1720, said that 'about one forth part of Evenle is enclosed' and this presumably refers to the area of the park. Very little ridge-and-furrow survives on the ground or can be traced on air photographs, most of it having been destroyed by modern cultivation of the light limestone soil. Some interlocked furlongs survive within the park.
The date of the enclosure of the common fields of Astwick is unknown, though part of the area had been enclosed before 1535 (K. J. Allison, et. al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 35). Certainly by 1720 (Bridges, op. cit.) all the land of Astwick was enclosed. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields can be traced only in a few places. Fragments are visible N., S. and W. of the site of Astwick village (9) (SP 572438, 561340 and 569340) though only as single furlongs. Ridge-and-furrow also survives in the closes around and within Astwick village. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4217–9; CPE/UK/1929, 1230–2, 2176–7, 3175–7; 106G/UK/1488, 3266–8, 4264–6)