A late Anglo-Saxon or early medieval fortified manorial complex to the west of Wadenhoe village, including part of an associated deer park.


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
To the west of Church Street, Wadenhoe. NGRs:

West: TL0061583304

East: TL0104783351


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
To the west of Church Street, Wadenhoe. NGRs:

West: TL0061583304

East: TL0104783351
East Northamptonshire (District Authority)
East Northamptonshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


The site of a probable late Anglo-Saxon or early medieval fortified manorial complex, including part of an associated deer park, the south side of which contains cultivation strips, surviving as ridge and furrow, as well as possible pillow and mill mounds.

Reasons for Designation

The fortified manorial complex at Wadenoe is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: the earthworks of the enclosure boundary and internal structures are very evident, and geophysics has demonstrated the clear survival of buried building foundations that define the form and distribution of buildings across the top of the spur. The survival of features within the deer park related to agriculture, including ridge and furrow, a pillow mound and possible mill mound, and the observable stratigraphic relationships, is also significant; * Potential: stratified archaeological deposits will retain considerable potential to increase our understanding of the physical characteristics and nature of the buildings, the status of the site and its evolution. Buried artefacts will also have the potential to increase our knowledge and understanding of the social and economic functioning of the complex within the wider medieval landscape; * Rarity: the site appears to represent a rare example of a late Anglo-Saxon or early medieval fortified manorial complex or aristocratic residence; * Documentation: the site is well documented archaeologically by earthwork and geophysical survey, work supported by manorial records; * Group value: the fortified complex has strong group value with both designated and undesignated assets, including the deer park, the south half of which forms part of this scheduling. The historic landscape value of the medieval complex and church (listed at Grade II*, National Heritage List 1227141) with the surrounding deer park is high; * Diversity: the fortified complex appears to contain a range of stratified structures that might be found within comparable high status sites, which with other historically recorded structures and the features recorded within the deer park, illustrate the status of the site, the pursuits of its occupants, and the manorial domestic economy.


The village, comprising a small group of houses (tofts), gardens (crofts), yards, streets, paddocks, a manor and a church, sometimes a green, occupied by a community devoted primarily to agriculture, was a significant component of the rural landscape in much of lowland medieval England, much as it is today. The Introduction to Heritage Assets on Medieval Settlements (English Heritage, May 2011) explains that most villages were established in the C9 and C10. The Scheduling Selection Guide for Settlement Sites to 1500 (April 2013) adds that in some places villages of this date might include the thegn's hall and church, set beside each other at one end of the settlement, but adds that this arrangement is also found in distinctive post-conquest forms, where church and manor house occupy a separate compartment at one end of a planned village consisting of tofts and crofts running back from a main road, often linked with a back lane around the rear of the crofts. The Scheduling Selection Guide for pre-1500 Military sites also describes late Anglo-Saxon 'thegnly' or aristocratic manorial complexes.

Villages exhibit a variety of plan-forms, with highly irregular plans occupying the other end of the spectrum from the planned village, and in recognising the great regional diversity of medieval rural settlements in England, Roberts and Wrathmell (2003) divided the country into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements; these were further divided into sub-Provinces. The Northamptonshire settlements lie in the East Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province, an area characterised in the medieval period by large numbers of nucleated settlements. The southern part of the sub-Province has greater variety of settlement, with dispersed farmsteads and hamlets intermixed with the villages. Whilst some of the dispersed settlements are post-medieval, others may represent much older farming landscapes.

Although many villages and hamlets continue to be occupied to the present day, some 2,000 nationally were abandoned in the medieval and post-medieval periods and others have shrunken. In the second half of the C20, research focussed on when and why desertion and shrinkage occurred. Current orthodoxy sees settlements of all periods as fluid entities, being created and disappearing, expanding and contracting and sometimes shifting often over a long period of time. Abandonment may have occurred as early as the C11 or continued into the C20, although it seems to have peaked during the C14 and C15. In the East Midlands sub-Province, Roberts and Wrathmell identified that the sites of many settlements, most of which were first documented in Domesday Book of 1086, are still occupied by modern villages, but others have been partially or wholly deserted and are marked by earthwork remains. Research into Northamptonshire medieval villages highlights two prevalent causes of settlement change, namely the shift from arable farming to sheep pasture in the C15 and C16 (requiring larger tracts of land to be made available for grazing), and the enclosure of open fields from the late C16 through to the mid C19 for emparkment or agricultural improvement. Despite the commonly held view that plague caused the abandonment of many villages, the documentary evidence available confirms only one such case in Northamptonshire, the former settlement of Hale, in Apethorpe.

Recent attention on the evidence for medieval agricultural practices, typically found in the hinterland of the settlements, has highlighted the vulnerability of the earthwork remains of ‘ridge and furrow’. Aerial Photography is particularly useful in identifying its survival in the county and has contributed much to our understanding of the resource and the threats to it. Analysis of the attrition and survival of the Midlands’ open fields were published in ‘Turning the Plough’ by David Hall, currently being revised by English Heritage. The Introduction to Heritage Assets on Field Systems explains that the origins of ridge and furrow cultivation can be traced to the C10 or before. By the C13, the countryside had acquired a widespread corrugated appearance as settlement developed into a pattern of ‘townships’ (basic units of community life and farming activity). The cultivated ridges, individual strips known as ‘lands’, were incorporated into similarly aligned blocks known as ‘furlongs’, separated from each other by raised ridges known as ‘headlands’ which, in turn, were grouped into two, three or sometimes four large unenclosed ‘Great Fields’. These fields occupied much of the available land in each township but around the fringes lay areas of meadow, pasture (normally unploughable land on steep slopes or near water) and woodland. The characteristic pattern of ridge and furrow was created by ploughing clockwise and anti-clockwise to create lines of flanking furrows interspersed with ridges of ploughed soil. The action of the plough, pulled by oxen, takes the form of a reversed ‘S’-shape when seem in plan. The furrows enabled the land to drain and demarcated individual farmer’s plots of land within the Great Fields. The open-field system ensured that furlongs and strips were fairly distributed through different parts of the township and that one of the Great Fields was left fallow each year.

The village of Wadenhoe is at the south-east end of a long, rectangular parish that extends up the side of a valley, from the River Nene to the south-east across limestones and clays to woodland in the north-west. The village may have been founded between the C9 and C10 to the north-east of a limestone spur which contains a church and the earthwork remains of a possibly late Anglo-Saxon or early medieval fortified manorial complex, the main subject of this scheduling. The medieval common fields, enclosed in 1793, were to the north, west and east of the medieval village; to the north-east the pattern of furlongs (blocks of land ploughed into ridge and furrow following the same alignment) are preserved in the distinctively stepped parish boundary. Each villager entitled to hold land would have cultivated strips distributed throughout these furlongs, which were grouped together within three or perhaps four large open fields. The plan and extent of the village in 2013 is very similar to that shown on the enclosure award map of 1793. A dwelling shown at the south-west end of Church Street has been lost, and archaeological evidence for earlier occupation may survive along the path to the church, before it rises to skirt the south side of the limestone promontory on which the complex is sited.

This spur of limestone will have offered an attractively defensible position to early settlers and is a likely candidate for the origins of the name of the village, thought to derive from a combination of a geographical description, 'hoh' (a promontory), and the name of an early Anglo-Saxon leader, Wadda. The close proximity of an enclosed, apparently high status site to the church suggests that the church was built by the lord of the manor; and although its earliest surviving fabric dates to the C12, it seems probable that a church was established here before the Norman Conquest.

Athough at the time of Domesday three manors are recorded in Wadenhoe, it is argued (Tony Brown, in Duffey, 1988) that the only manor identifiable with Wadenhoe itself is that held by the king's thegn, Burgred, at the time of the Conquest; Burgred's extensive holdings across three counties were subsequently granted to the Bishop of Coutance. In the early C13 to the early C14 the manor of Wadenoe was held by the de Lacy family, Earls of Lincoln. For three generations the family apparently took a direct interest in the estate, and in 1298 Henry de Lacy was granted permission by Edward I to enclose 30 acres of land to create a deer park. This can be identified with the land contained by a boundary curving round the north and west of the manor and church, and by the River Nene to the south-east. A slight bank and ditch are visible for much of the length of the north boundary, which cuts through furlongs of ridge and furrow. After Henry's death in 1312 the manor passed from the de Lacy family through the second marriage of his widow in 1324. A survey of Wadenhoe undertaken in 1328 describes the manor house as consisting of a hall with two chambers, a chapel with two other chambers and a second house necessary for the visits of the lord. There was also a garden, as well as a dovehouse and fishpond related to the manor, the whole having a net value of thirteen shillings and fourpence.

A survey of 1542 indicates that by then the demesne land of the manor had been let to tenants, including Castle Yard Close. With no resident lord, the hall complex will have fallen into decline; Wadenhoe House, at the north-east end of the village, its probable replacement, has a datestone of 1657. The tenanted land also included a warren, 10 acres in Conygrie Close, the memory of which, at least, survives into the early C19, when a map of 1822 names three of the four fields in the subdivided park as Near, Middle and Far Warren; the fourth is Castle Close.

Although local tradition, perpetuated in the field name, considered the promontory to be the site of a castle, a Royal Commission of Historic Monuments (RCHME) survey report, published in 1975, states that C20 Ordnance Survey record cards identify the disturbed ground of the hill top as disused quarries. The RCHME undertook a full earthwork survey of the promontory, as well as a limited survey of earthworks to the west, within the south side of the deer park. Their report describes the site as a 'Fortified site and settlement remains', stating that although tradition in the form of the field name, Castle Close, records it as a castle, there is no mention of a medieval castle in the parish in either national or local records. The earthwork survey recorded surviving sections of rampart, possibly of pre-Conquest date, well marked building platforms and a triangular yard. A geophysical survey, undertaken in 1997, examined an area of poorly defined earthworks to the centre and west of the enclosed area, adding depth and definition to the Royal Commission survey, while aerial photographs provide a more comprehensive overview of the park landscape. Between 2009 and 2012 the Rockingham Forest Trust undertook a project to make available, both online and in published form, detailed mapping of the medieval and early modern landscape of Northamptonshire, and to carry out further research into local historic landscapes with selected communities.

The promontory at Wadenhoe was scheduled as a fortified medieval settlement in 1977.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The scheduled area includes the earthwork and buried archaeological remains of the fortified Anglo-Saxon or early medieval manorial complex sited on the limestone promontory to the north-east of Wadenhoe church, and also the earthworks and ridge and furrow contained within the south side of the deer park, to the south of the line of the old stream.

DESCRIPTION The fortified manorial complex occupies the top of a limestone promontory that rises directly from the River Nene to the south and is bounded on the north by the valley of a dry stream bed. The form of the promontory seems to have been enhanced and the slope steepened, while the top is surrounded by a low bank representing the remains of a limestone wall; the enclosed area measures approximately 100 metres from west to east, and at its widest point, about 55 metres from north to south. The boundary wall survives most prominently to the north-west, where the height of the wall is enhanced by a large depression immediately to the south, measuring about 23 x 30 metres. It also survives to the south-west and east, and as a low bank to the west. To the north-east are building platforms, apparently cutting into and butting against the wall. To the south-west of these the geophysical survey undertaken in 1997 identified a building, oriented west to east, interpreted as a hall built in two phases, the later phase with a span of 9.8 metres and with a small square structure attached to its east end, as well as other ancillary structures to the north. Further substantial walls were detected to the east of the hall, while walls found to the north-west, apparently of smaller structures, may belong to service buildings. To the east of these were found robbed walls nearly 2 metres thick forming a 9 metre square; this was interpreted as a tower, of similar dimensions to Longthorpe Tower, near Peterborough, and therefore presumed to perform a similar domestic function.

To the west and north-west the promontory is surrounded by the C13 deer park, part of the north side of which is included in the scheduled area. A path skirting the south side of the fortified enclosure appears to be the continuation of Church Street up to the churchyard, and also possibly to the entrance to the enclosed complex. To the west of the church is an area of ridge and furrow apparently partly enclosed by a low bank to the west and south. The north side of this enclosure seems to be formed by the serrated edge (possibly limestone quarrying) of the upper slope of the dry stream valley. The ridge and furrow runs from west to east, at right angles to the enclosure's west boundary bank; towards the centre is a more substantial baulk, just to the north of which, immediately east of and set against the west boundary bank, is a mound, interpreted as a mill mound. Although this overlies the ridge and furrow, it appears that ploughing continued right up to its base. To the north of this is a long mound, about 10 metres across. Although the RCHME survey plan describes this (and the boundary bank) as a headland, it is more generally interpreted as a pillow mound for the rearing of rabbits. The survey also indicates ridge and furrow to the west of the pillow mound running from north to south, suggesting a fragment of another furlong, but this is only faintly visible on the ground and on recent (2013) aerial photographs. To the south of the south boundary bank the ridge and furrow continues on the same alignment, but less pronounced. Two enclosure field boundaries cross the ridge and furrow and west bank from south-east to north-west, that to the north visible only as a slight bank.

To the north of the dry stream bed the gently sloping ground of the deer park contains very slight evidence of ridge and furrow, cut through at the north corner by quarry pits. This area does not form part of the scheduling.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The scheduled area is drawn to include that area of the promontory thought to contain significant archaeological remains, as well as that part of the associated deer park which contains furlongs of ridge and furrow associated with other earthworks. It takes in a triangle of land, with a bite taken out to the south where the boundary turns inwards to exclude the church and churchyard. To the west, the scheduling boundary is formed by the field boundary just to the east of the Aldwincle Road. From a field boundary to the south it travels north for a distance of about 308m, turning east at the point where it meets the bed of the old stream. From here it follows the stream bed in a straight line for about 418m, turning south where it meets the first village property boundary. It crosses the track where it leaves the village street, and turning west about 4m south of the track, following the curved contour of the south side of the promontory up to the churchyard wall, where it turns in to exclude the churchyard. From the south-west end of the churchyard it follows the contour just above the woodland south-west to meet the field boundary, where it turns west towards the Aldwincle Road boundary.

EXCLUSIONS All fence and gateposts, and also road and track surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
NN 180
Legacy System:


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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