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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'Harpole', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 4, Archaeological Sites in South-West Northamptonshire, (London, 1982) pp. 73-74. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/northants/vol4/pp73-74 [accessed 29 February 2024]

In this section


(OS 1:10000 a SP 65 NE, b SP 66 SE, c SP 75 NW, d SP 76 SW)

The parish covers about 760 hectares and lies on the N. side of the R. Nene which forms its S. boundary. From the river, here flowing E. at about 60 m. above OD, the land rises gently on Middle Lias Clay and Marlstone Rock and then, beyond the village, more steeply on Upper Lias Clay to an almost level plateau of Boulder Clay at between 107 m. and 122 m. above OD. Apart from the Roman villa (6) little of significance is recorded in the parish.

Prehistoric and Roman

A stone, boat-shaped battle-axe (Roe's Group 1A; PPS, 32 (1966), 236, No. 144) was found somewhere in the parish in 1937 (NM; J. Northants. Mus. and Art Gall., 6 (1969), 36). The stone adze recorded from 'near Harpole' (NM Records) is an ethnographic item. A bronze socketed axe has also come from the parish (NM; BAR, 31 (ii) (1976), No. 1087).

Fig. 67 Harpole (1) Enclosures

d(1) Enclosures (SP 705625; Fig. 67), lie in the extreme N.E. of the parish, E.N.E. of Heath Farm, on Northampton Sand at 100 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show cropmarks of a group of ditched enclosures arranged in a rough line N.W.-S.E. No entrances are visible and only one of the enclosures has interior features.

a(2) Bronze Age and Iron Age Settlement (?) (SP 683598), lies on the crest of a hill immediately S. of the Roman villa (6), on Marlstone Rock at 80 m. above OD, and was found in 1966 during excavations in advance of road-works. A circular ditch 54 m. in diam. and 2 m. wide was noted but the details are unsatisfactory. The ditch silt contained a single sherd, said to be of Bronze Age date, pieces of slag and some fragments of a crucible. In the upper silting of the ditch were sherds of late Iron Age date and 'small domestic hearths' overlay the whole area (MOPBW, Arch. Excavations 1966 (1967), 6).

b(3) Roman Settlement (SP 690620), lies in the N.W. of the parish, on Boulder Clay at 120 m. above OD. Roman pottery, tiles and tesserae were found here in 1967 (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 11). This may be the site of an alleged villa N. of the village (Whellan, Dir. 318; VCH Northants., I (1902), 197). Otherwise the latter is a mislocation of (6).

b(4) Roman Settlement (SP 688610), lies immediately N.W. of the village on Upper Lias Clay at 93 m. above OD. Pottery of the 2nd and 3rd century, including one sherd of samian, tiles and oyster shell were found on this site in 1971 (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 1).

d(5) Roman Settlement (SP 702612), lies in the E. of the parish on Upper Lias Clay at 99 m. above OD. A few sherds of Roman pottery were found here in 1968 (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 10). Subsequently more pottery mainly of 2nd to 3rd-century date and of Nene Valley type has been noted (local inf.).

a(6) Roman Villa (SP 684599), lies S.W. of the village close to the A45 road, on Marlstone Rock at 80 m. above OD. The site was first discovered in 1846, and in 1849 a mosaic pavement was uncovered. The latter was probably 4 m. by 6 m. and had a central octagon enclosing a medallion with a maltese cross. The rest of the site was not explored but tesserae of other pavements, tiles, bricks and pottery were noted (JBAA, 2 (1847), 364; 5 (1850), 375; 6 (1851), 126; VCH Northants., I (1902), 197; A. Rainey, Mosaics in Roman Britain (1973), 92–3; P. Corder (ed.), The Roman Town and Villa at Great Casterton, second interim report (1954), 35–9). In 1899 the mosaic was uncovered again and some of it was removed (Annual Report of the Northants. Excavation Society (1900), 5).

An excavation to the S.E. of the assumed location of this mosaic, prior to road-works in 1966, revealed a stone cistern, 4 m. by 6 m., and a 4th-century 'structure' overlying robbed-out 2nd-century walls (JRS, 57 (1967), 186). A large quantity of pottery, mainly 4th-century in date, as well as tiles, tesserae and stone rubble have been found on the site.

For Roman Road 17, see Appendix.

Medieval and Later

A groat of Elizabeth I (1560–1) and sherds of medieval pottery were found in 1969 in the village (SP 693606; BNFAS, 5 (1971), 45). Medieval pottery of Lyveden type was found nearby in 1973 (SP 69246057; Northants. Archaeol., 9 (1974), 106).

b(7) Moat (?) (SP 688608), lay immediately S. of the rectory, at the W. side of the village, on Upper Lias Clay at 95 m. above OD. The site has been completely destroyed by modern housing and is now occupied by a road called The Motts. On air photographs taken before destruction (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 1259–61; 3G TUD/UK/118, Pt. II, 6114–5) an elongated polygonal enclosure, 60 m. by 30 m., orientated N.-S. and bounded by a dry ditch at least 10 m. wide, is visible. The N.E. part of the ditch had already been partly filled in by 1946. No interior features can be recognised. Baker (Hist. of Northants., I (1822–30), 178) said that this was the site of the house of the Vaux manor which had been long since destroyed.

(8) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1778. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over almost the entire parish with the exception of the land in the S. liable to flood along the R. Nene and in the extreme N. of the parish where it may never have existed. On the lower, gently sloping ground in the S. half of the parish it is arranged in markedly rectangular furlongs end-on or at right angles to each other. On the higher, more broken land to the N. the ridge-and-furrow is arranged to run across the contours in a pattern of radiating and interlocking furlongs. Almost everywhere the ridges have marked reversed-S curves. Among the features of interest are well-marked hollowed access-ways running between end-on furlongs (e.g. SP 696610 and 681608–685607). A more unusual feature not noted elsewhere is visible in the S. of the parish close to the R. None (SP 683594 and 687595). Two normal rectangular furlongs with ridges running down the slope towards the river each have three curved ridges at their S. end lying parallel to the river. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4032–6; CPE/UK/1994, 1258–62; F21 543/RAF/2409, 0138–41; F22 543/RAF/2409, 0110–4; 3G TUD/ UK/118, Pt. II, 6112–7, 6131–3)


d(9) Cropmarks (SP 705621), lie in the N.E. of the parish on Lower Estuarine silts and clays at 104 m. above OD. Air photographs (NMR) show a group of at least ten rectangular dark patches, all orientated N.E.-S.W. and varying in size from 5 m. by 2 m. to 20 m. by 10 m., all within an area about 60 m. wide. Some of the patches are surrounded by lighter marks suggesting former banks. They are cut by the cropmarks of an old hedge-line and by a modern farm track. The date and purpose of the site is unknown but it may be relatively recent.