Houghton, Great

Pages 295-299

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 5, Archaeology and Churches in Northampton. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1985.

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(OS 1:10000 aSP 75 NE, bSP 76 SE)

Before recent boundary changes, the parish of Great Houghton covered an area of 689 hectares but the eastern part of the parish has now been incorporated into Little Houghton parish. The former boundaries are, however, used in this inventory and thus some of the sites listed under Great Houghton are now in Little Houghton. The parish is bounded on the N. by Abington, on the W. by Hardingstone, on the S. by Hackleton and on the E. by Little Houghton. There was formerly a detached part of the parish (not included in the acreage above) on the edge of Salcey Forest (centred on SP 818521) which was transferred to Horton in 1884 (Hall 1979, 80). The parish runs from a maximum height of 111 m. above OD near its S.W. border down the Nene valley slope to a height of 53 m. above OD where it meets the R. Nene at its N.E. corner. The subsoil comprises Boulder Clay to the S., Great Oolite Limestone and Northampton Sands towards the centre and Upper Lias Clay, river gravel and alluvium successively down the valley sides. The village is situated towards the centre of the parish on Upper Oolite Limestone, Estuarine Series deposits and Northampton Sands, at 73 m. above OD. The parish contains no outstanding archaeological remains though the evidence of pleistocene remains in the Nene valley gravels and of Roman pottery kilns on the valley slopes adds to an already large body of evidence for both types of site in the surrounding area.

Prehistoric and Roman

A gold stater of Addedomaros is recorded as having been found in Great Houghton in 1866 (Evans 1890, 577; VCH Northamptonshire I, 154; NDC P93). Worked flints have been recorded from three locations (SP 79215944; two flint scrapers; BNFAS 2 (1967), 6; NDC P15. c. SP 793600; Northamptonshire Archaeol 13 (1978), 179; NDC P233. c. SP 790588; BNFAS 6 (1971), 12; NDC R13). Roman pottery is recorded from two locations (c. SP 790588; late Roman; BNFAS 6 (1971), 12; NDC R13. c. SP 795591; BNFAS 7 (1972), 20; NDC R137).

b(1) Pleistocene Remains (c. SP 790601), S. of the R. Nene. The well-preserved skull of a woolly rhinoceros and a large scapula were found during gravel extraction in 1977 (Northamptonshire Archaeol 13 (1978), 179; NDC P183).

a(2) Ring Ditch, Worked Flints and Iron Slag (SP 79035864), immediately W. of the village, on Great Oolite Limestone, at 84 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show a ring ditch 25 m. in diameter. Worked flints and iron slag have been found within it (BNFAS 6 (1971), 12; NDC A8, R14).

a(3) Settlement (?) (c. SP 783594), N.W. of the village, on river gravel, at 56 m. above OD. 'Ancient ditches' were sighted during road improvements but no dating evidence was recovered (BNFAS 3 (1969), 36; NDC P104). They were perhaps connected with the Roman features discovered approximately 25 m. to the S. (Hardingstone (5)).

a(4) Roman Pottery, Kiln Material (c. SP 793592), immediately N. of the village on Upper Lias Clay, at 67 m. above OD. Roman pottery, kiln debris and much limestone rubble have been discovered (Johnston 1969, 93; NDC R12).

a(5) Roman Settlement, Kiln Material (c. SP 795592), E. of the village, on Upper Lias Clay, at 68 m. above OD. Roman pottery, including Samian and Nene valley ware, and part of a fire bar were discovered at Broadacres Farm (NM; NDC R175).

a(6) Roman Settlement (?) (c. SP 784591), W. of the village, on Upper Lias Clay, at 58 m. above OD. Roman pottery was discovered in a pit/ditch during building development in 1980 (Northamptonshire Archaeol 16 (1981), 201; NDC R234).

a(7) Roman Settlement (?), Kiln Material (c. SP 787586), W. of the village, on Upper Lias Clay, at 56 m. above OD. Roman pottery, a kiln bar fragment and a possible kiln dome fragment were discovered in 1980 during building development (Northamptonshire Archaeol 16 (1981), 201; NDC R235).

a(8) Ditch (c. SP 796586), immediately S.E. of the village, on Great Oolite Limestone, at 57 m. above OD. A ditch, 2.13 m. wide and 0.92 m. deep, was seen in a builder's trench. No dating evidence was found (BNFAS 7 (1972), 60; NDC P133).

Medieval and Later

A Saxon bone needle, part of a bone comb and bronze tweezers were found at Houghton Road in 1925 (NM; NDC AS2). Medieval pottery has been recovered from three locations (c. SP 784604; NM; NDC M16. c. SP 795578; NDC M176. c. SP 792590; Kennett 1968, 8; NM; NDC M258).

a(9) Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin (SP 792590; Plate 29)

The present church was built in 1754–5. The medieval church which it replaced was recorded by Bridges (I 1791, 370). It consisted of a Chancel, Nave with North and South aisles and, less usual for the area, a central Tower. The N. aisle seems to have run the whole length of the church. To the S. of the tower was a transverse aisle or S. transept.

The 18th-century church was designed by William and David Hiorne (or Hiorns) with David probably being the brother responsible for the construction of the church (Colvin 1978, 421). It consists of a rectangular nave with shallow chancel and W. tower, surmounted by a colonnaded lantern and spire. The building was altered in 1875 (VCH Northamptonshire IV, 265–6) or 1878 (Pevsner and Cherry 1973, 235) by the younger Hakewill who added a S. porch, replaced the N. doorway by a window and altered all the existing windows except for the W. window in the tower, using a Romanesque style. In 1910/11 there were alterations at the E. end, the side lights of the Venetian E. window being blocked. The urns which formerly surrounded the base of the spire had been removed by c. 1920.

The N. and S. elevations of the nave are each of three bays with the centre bay advanced and crowned by a pediment. The windows were formerly plain and round-headed but in 1875/8 they were altered to have two lights divided by a shaft. The centre bay on the S. side formerly had a bracketed door-case and a thermal window above but these have been removed and the facade obscured by a tall, gabled porch. The chancel has a simple hipped roof and in the E. wall a Venetian window, the side lights of which were blocked in 1910/11. Internally the nave and chancel retain almost no original features except for the dentil cornice. Two late 18th-century tablets flank the chancel arch. The tower is of four stages. The lowest is plain, and the stage above is more elaborate with advanced central panels; this carries an octagonal lantern surrounded by a Doric colonnade and surmounted by an octagonal spire, linked with the lantern by volutes. The volutes were formerly crowned by urns. Inside the tower are timbers painted with rosettes, perhaps reused from the former church.

a(10) Settlement Remains (c. SP 792591), formerly part of Great Houghton village, lay at the N. end of the village on either side of High Street, on Northampton Sands/Upper Lias Clay, at 60 m. above OD. On the E. side of the street there were originally at least five embanked closes, separated from the adjacent ridge-and-furrow by a broad hollow-way, and containing traces of former buildings. Within one of these closes was a larger circular mound. These remains have been destroyed by modern playing fields. To the W. of High Street were other embanked closes, all with traces of former house sites at their E. ends. These too have now been destroyed and only a short length of ditch or hollow-way survives (CBA Group 9 Newsletter 3 (1973), 32). The area was already devoid of buildings before the mid 19th century (NRO, Tithe Map of Great Houghton, 1839; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4017–8; 1994, 1188–9; NDC M278).

a(11) Fishponds (c. SP 797589), E. of Great Houghton village, on Boulder Clay at 76 m. above OD. They consist of two roughly rectangular embanked ponds, 30 m.-40 m. long and 30 m. wide, with a smaller pond, 30 m. by 15 m., to the N. A broad hollow-way leading from the village through the adjacent ridge-and-furrow passes to the N. of them (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 4017–8; FSL 6565, 1852–4; NDC M279).

(12) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the parish were enclosed by agreement in 1612 and there were apparently some small-scale enclosures later, in 1618 (VCH Northamptonshire IV, 262). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced from air photographs over almost the entire parish. It is arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs, many of reversed-S form (Hall 1979). In the S. of the parish (at SP 791578), on a steep N.W.-facing slope, the underlying Estuarine Series of limestones have slipped down the hillside, producing a series of asymmetrical ridges. The later ridge-and-furrow rides over these, at right angles to them, giving an unusual effect. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 2014–21, 4015–20; CPE/UK/1994, 1186–91, 2183–5, 3176–9; F21 543/RAF/943, 0058–62; F22 543/RAF/943, 0058–62; F22 543/RAF/2409, 0149–53)