Marston St. Lawrence

Pages 98-101

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 54 SW, b SP 54 SE)

Fig. 84 Maidford (1) Settlement remains, (2) Fishponds

The parish occupies about 660 hectares of land sloping generally S. and drained by several small streams including a S.W.-flowing brook which defines the S. edge of the parish and is a tributary of the R. Cherwell. Most of the area is covered by Upper Lias Clay between 115 m. and 150 m. above OD, but on the higher ground on the N. and E., with a maximum height of 175 m. above OD, outcrops of Northampton Sand and Oolite Limestone are capped by Boulder Clay. The parish is notable for the large number of prehistoric and Roman finds, mainly discovered by intensive fieldwork carried out by a local archae ologist over many years. The hamlet of Westhorp, now in Greatworth parish (8), lay in Marston St. Lawrence until the late 19th century.

Fig. 85 Marston St. Lawrence and Thenford Prehistoric and Roman sites

Prehistoric and Roman (Fig. 85)

The parish of Marston St. Lawrence has been intensively examined during the last 20 years by D. J. Barrett, who has kept detailed records of his field-walking. Almost all the sites and finds listed below, as well as some of those in the adjacent parishes of Thenford and Greatworth, have been found by him and most of the material is still in his possession. The implications of the results of this work, compared with the lack of knowledge elsewhere in the area covered by this Inventory, are discussed in the Sectional Preface (p. xxiii). The placing of this wealth of material into numbered monuments is to a great extent arbitrary. Almost every field not under permanent pasture has produced finds, notably worked flints. These unassociated finds are here listed under categories:

(a) A Palaeolithic hand-axe (SP 532418).

(b) Flint arrowheads of various types including tranchet, leaf-shaped and barbed-and-tanged (SP 53414419, 54354379, 52954360, 53614374, 52994310, 53574353, 54364340, 53074205, 54154222).

(c) Fragments of a stone axe (SP 53474413).

(d) Small scatters of worked flints of Neolithic and Bronze Age type (SP 539446, 546441, 543440, 534438, 533433, 538437, 540436, 544434, 538426, 539425, 539424, 540421, 544427, 547426, 546421, 537416, 543418).

(e) Roman tile scatters, apparently not associated with pottery (SP 530421, 534430).

a(1) Prehistoric Settlement (centred SP 532429), covers some 7 hectares N.W. of the village, on Upper Lias Clay between 130 m. and 137 m. above OD. Finds from the area made over many years include some flakes, apparently of Mesolithic type, very large quantities of worked and waste flints of late Neolithic or Bronze Age type, and a small quantity of pottery described as Peterborough ware. Ten flint arrowheads of various types are also recorded. (For Roman material from the same area, see (13))

a(2) Prehistoric Settlement (centred SP 533413), S.W. of the village, on Upper Lias Clay between 107 m. and 125 m. above OD. The material is spread over about 30 hectares extending about 1 km. along the N.W. side of a small S.W.-flowing stream (SP 528409–536416). The land on the opposite side of the stream, in Farthinghoe parish, is permanent grassland and thus no finds have been recorded there. The finds include a few microliths and very large quantities of late Neolithic or Bronze Age worked and waste flints. Specific objects discovered include a number of scrapers, 27 flint arrowheads of various types, fragments of three polished flint axes, and three stone axes, one of group VI, one of group XX and one of.tuff. (For Iron Age and Roman material at the extreme N.E. end of this area, see (3) and for Saxon pottery, see below).

a(3) Iron Age and Roman Settlement (SP 534414), S. of the village, at the N.E. end of the prehistoric settlement (2) on Upper Lias Clay at 122 m. above OD. Roman tiles and pottery, mainly of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, have been found over some 4 hectares, and two Roman coins have also come from the area. In addition, five 2nd or 3rd-century urns, one containing bones, were found during pipe-laying in 1964. A small quantity of pottery tentatively described as of Iron Age type has also been found.

a(4) Roman Settlement (SP 532438), in the N.W. of the parish, on Northampton Sand at 170 m. above OD. Roman pottery has been found over an area of about 2 hectares. A smaller quantity of pottery has been recorded further N. (SP 532440).

a(5) Roman Settlement (SP 544433), N.E. of the village, on Northampton Sand and limestone, at 160 m. above OD. Roman pottery is scattered over about 3 hectares.

a(6) Roman Settlement (SP 548427), about 600 m. S.E. of (5), on Northampton Sand and limestone between 152 m. and 165 m. above OD. Roman pottery and tile extends over about 2.5 hectares.

a(7) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 544427), 300 m. W. of (6), on Upper Lias Clay at 130 m. above OD. A small scatter of Roman sherds, as well as a few worked flints, have been found.

a(8) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 541429), 400 m. N.W. of (7), on Upper Lias Clay at 137 m. above OD. A few sherds of Roman pottery are recorded.

a(9) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 537434), on Marston Hill, on Northampton Sand at 160 m. above OD. A small scatter of Roman sherds has been noted.

a(10) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 540424). immediately E. of the village, on Upper Lias Clay at 122 m. above OD. Two small areas of Roman pottery have been found.

a(11) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 548422), in the E. of the parish, immediately S. of Westhorp, on Upper Lias Clay at 145 m. above OD. A small quantity of Roman pottery and tiles has been noted.

a(12) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 530418), S.W. of the village, close to the Thenford parish boundary, on Upper Lias Clay at 125 m. above OD. A small scatter of Roman pottery and tile has been found. Three flint arrowheads and part of a flaked stone axe have come from the same area.

a(13) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 532429), on the same site as the prehistoric settlement (1). Small quantities of Roman sherds have been discovered.

Medieval and Later

Pottery, said to be of middle Saxon type, has been found to the S. of the village on the site of the Roman settlement (3) (SP 535415).

a(14) Saxon Cemetery (SP 542439), lay on a limestone ridge in the N. of the parish, at 170 m. above OD. After the discovery of a single skeleton in 1842, an excavation was carried out in 1843. This revealed 32 inhumations, all with their heads to the S.W. and all but three with grave goods, including two pairs of saucer brooches, four pairs of small-long brooches, a large square-headed brooch and a bronze clasp. There were also four urns, three of which definitely contained cremations. The skeleton of a horse was also discovered. The cemetery has been tentatively dated to the late 6th century. (Archaeologia, 33 (1849), 326– 34; Meaney, Gazetteer, (1964), 192; J. N. L. Myres, A Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Pottery of the Pagan Period (1977), Nos. 800, 3126, 3127; NM)

a(15) Settlement Remains (SP 537425; Fig. 14), formerly part of Marston St. Lawrence village, lay in and around the village on both sides of a small S.E.-flowing stream, on Upper Lias Clay and Marlstone Rock at 122 m. above OD. Marston St. Lawrence consists of three distinct parts. To the S. of the stream is a single street with a church, a vicarage and a few cottages. A pasture field to the S. of the church has disturbed ground which may be the site of former buildings, but nothing is shown there on the Enclosure Map of 1760 (NRO). To the N. of the stream the main street turns W. and then N. and, together with a small lane to the N. called Field View, forms a neat rectangular block with houses scattered along the main street. To the E. of the street, behind the existing buildings, are the remains of about six abandoned closes bounded by shallow ditches and low banks. At least three of these are shown as hedged on the 1760 map. At their E. ends the closes meet a continuous N.-S. scarp 1 m. high which is the W. side of a former hollow-way. The E. side of this hollow-way has been destroyed by ploughing, but it is shown as a back lane on the 1760 map. This lane, parallel to the main street, emphasizes the rectangular layout. The 1760 map suggests that at least three other lanes, already largely abandoned by the 18th century, ran E.-W. across this part of the village. On the W. side of the main street a rather narrow lane with a series of abandoned closes along it runs S.W. to the stream.

The plan of the village, with its three constituent parts, may represent a sequence of development. It is possible that the early village lay around the church and that the rectangular block to the N. is a planned extension with subsequent growth to the S.W. Medieval pottery of 11th to 14th-century date has been found at four places in the village during building work and pipe-laying (SP 53484219, 53474230, 53564231 and 53804222; inf. D.J. Barratt). (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3212–4)

a(16) Ponds (SP 536421–536415; partly on Fig. 14), lie S. of the village, along the valley of a stream, on Middle Lias Clay between 115 m. and 122 m. above OD. There is one large curving pond with, below it, five small rectangular ones, all with massive dams up to 2 m. high. Each of the two lowest has a long rectangular island within it. All the ponds have 19th-century sluices in their dams and appear to be the result of landscaping for Marston House which overlooks the N. pond and which was rebuilt in the first part of the 18th century. The ponds existed in their present form in 1760 (Enclosure Map, NRO), but they may have originated as medieval fishponds. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3212–4)

(17) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of Marston St. Lawrence were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1760. However, all the S. part of the parish and a small part in the N. was already enclosed by that date and had been since at least the early 18th century (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 181). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs around and N. of the village, but very little can be seen in the areas of Northampton Sand in the N., presumably because modern cultivation has removed the slight remains there. Where it does survive it corresponds exactly with the furlongs depicted on the Enclosure Map (NRO). It is arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs many with reversed-S curves and is carefully arranged at right angles to the contours of any major slopes. To the N.W. of the village there are some massive headlands with the ridges ending against them in high rounded mounds (SP 532428 and 534429). Most of the S. of the parish which was already enclosed by the early 18th century also has similar ridge-and-furrow over it, showing clearly that it was once part of the common fields. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1214–5, 3212–5; CPE/UK/.1994, 1025–8)