Medieval village of Faxton
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Location Description:
- Land surrounding the dwelling known as Ladyholme, Faxton, Nr Old, Northants, NN6 9RL.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Location Description:
- Land surrounding the dwelling known as Ladyholme, Faxton, Nr Old, Northants, NN6 9RL.
- West Northamptonshire (Unitary Authority)
- West Northamptonshire (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
Site of medieval settlement of Faxton, first documented in Domesday Book of 1086.
Reasons for Designation
The abandoned medieval village of Faxton, first documented in Domesday Book of 1086, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: for the well preserved earthworks, buried and standing structures depicting the form and plan of the settlement and its associated agricultural practices;
* Potential: for the stratified archaeological deposits which retain considerable potential to increase our understanding of the physical characteristics of the buildings and settlement. Buried artefacts will also have the potential to increase our knowledge and understanding of the social and economic functioning of the settlement within the wider medieval landscape;
* Documentation: for the particularly high level of historical and archaeological documentation pertaining to the settlement’s evolution;
* Diversity: for the range and complexity of features such as the moated manorial centre, church, Rectory Farm, Cliffdale Cottage, tofts, crofts, hollow ways, and ridge and furrow which will, taken as a whole, provide a clear plan of the settlement and retain significant stratified deposits which serve to provide details of the continuity and change in the evolution of the village.
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, and exhibit a variety of plan-forms, from the highly irregular at one extreme to planned villages with tofts and crofts running back from a main road, often linked with a back lane around the rear of the crofts, and typically having a church and manor house in larger compartments at the end of the village. 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 survival of the earthwork remains of ‘ridge and furrow’. 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 seen 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 settlement of Faxton was the centre of the former parish of Faxton but now lies within the parish of Lamport. The settlement is first documented in Domesday Book of 1086 but it may have Scandinavian origins. In 1086 the entry for Faxton, which may include the entry for the abandoned village of Mawsley, was listed as a two-hide manor belonging to the King with a recorded population of 21. Throughout the C14, Faxton continued to be documented in association with Mawsley and became a sizable community. In 1377 94 people over the age of 14 paid the Poll Tax; in 1674, 34 householders paid the Hearth Tax; and c.1720 Bridges (1971) noted that there were 32 houses, including the manor house. The Royal Commission survey identified 50 probable house sites (1981); excavation of some of the house platforms in the mid 1960s suggested at least some were abandoned around 1400.
The earliest map of Faxton of 1746 indicates some change since Bridges' account. The manor house had been demolished and the medieval church stood in relative isolation; only Rectory Farm, an early C17 building, stood in its vicinity, immediately to its east. Further north was a single row of four almshouses built in 1736. On the north side of the village were three farms and at least ten cottages which may have been subdivided into separate tenements and probably represents between 20 and 30 dwellings. In 1745 the open fields of the parish were enclosed. By 1801 the village shrunk further, with a total parish population of only 54 in 15 houses, including outlying farms. By 1831 the population had risen again, to 103. The tithe map of 1840 shows the church, Rectory Farm, the almshouses and three farms, but six cottages depicted in 1746 had disappeared and two new ones had been built on previously empty plots. Between 1841 and 1871 the population of the parish fell again, from 108 to 73. During the C19 various houses were removed or replaced and by 1901 only 11 houses were occupied. By 1921 just 37 people lived in the parish. Since that time all the houses have been abandoned and all but the late C19 cottages demolished. The church was pulled down in 1958 and by 1967 the village was entirely depopulated. The remaining cottages were re-occupied as a single dwelling in the c.1970's, now known as Ladyholme.
In 1966 a large part of the settlement, to the south-east of Ladyholme and south and east of the site of the church, was bulldozed and ploughed. Over the preceding three years, three seasons of archaeological excavation were carried out before and during the final destruction of much of the site. As a result detailed phasing of this part of the settlement has been established. As well as recording the phased changes to individual structures, the excavation also eluded to a social hierarchy within the settlement with wealthier individuals living around the central 'green' and poorer dwellings located in the north-west of the settlement, further away from the church and manor house.
The open fields of the parish of Faxton were enclosed by Act of Parliament of 1743. Before that date it is understood there were three open fields known as Nether, Upper and Middle fields. Remnants of these fields survive in the form of ridge and furrow particularly in the field to the north of Ladyholme.
The monument is located between two south flowing streams, on the slopes of a spur of land which lies between 138m and 114m above OD. The top of the spur is capped in Northampton Sand but at the northern end this is overlaid by Boulder Clay.
DESCRIPTION The village comprises a series of earthwork, buried and standing remains surrounding the property now known as Ladyholme. The maps of 1746 help to interpret the archaeological remains of the settlement by providing the spatial and landscape context of the evidence.
Immediately to the south, within an area of thinly planted conifers, are the well defined remains of an 'L'- shaped ditch up to 2.5m deep with both an internal and external bank up to 1m high and a causeway to the south. These are understood to represent the north-west half of a moat which probably surrounded the site of the manor house. The southern and eastern arms were visible when surveyed by the Royal Commission (RCHME 1981, p120) but this area has since been ploughed. Earthworks of the manor house were also recorded by the RCHME and although these have mainly been levelled by the plough a considerable amount of stone evident within the plough soil indicates the archaeological potential for the survival of some structural remains below. A low bank still marks the southern edge of the manor house site and although degraded and rather diminished since the RCHME survey the bank still links the southern edge of the moat and the site of the church enclosure further to the east.
The site of the church is defined by a low wall which stands up to three courses high and is visible on all four sides of the enclosure. Within the enclosure a sundial and pedestal has been placed on a stone plinth to mark the position of the former altar. The sundial and pedestal are relatively recent additions but the plinth appears to be part of a medieval font or cross base. The ground level within the church enclosure is up to c.75m higher than the surrounding fields and indicates a high level of potential for the survival of further buried structural remains. East of the church is a dense conifer plantation, access here is difficult but it is clear that the ground level within the plantation is up to c.1.2m higher than the surrounding field. This is the site of the former Rectory Farm, an early C17 building, and another building both of which are shown on the map of 1746.
Ladyholme is a late C19 dwelling rebuilt from earlier estate cottages and situated within the croft of an earlier building present on the map of 1746 and remained there until just after 1874. To the east are a series of well defined earthworks standing up to 0.4m high depicting a row of four small closes or crofts which run at right angles to the current farm track. Three of these closes had buildings standing in them in 1746, one of which survived until the late C19, but the other two had been demolished by 1840. Despite some small scale quarrying in this field evidence of building platforms still survives on the southern edge. East of the closes is a footpath which represents the main medieval road running north-east out of the village. At the northern end of this, before the footpath turns to the west, are the standing remains of a brick-built cottage, known as Cliffdale Cottage, which was occupied until the 1930's. Although the above ground remains suggest a C19 structure it stands on the site of earlier buildings shown on all maps from 1746 onwards. Approximately 360m north of Cliffdale Cottage the lane opens out into a broad hollow way running to the north-east, this is marked on the 1746 map as the 'Road to Mawsley Wood'. The hollow way survives to a depth of c.1.25m with well defined ridge and furrow (the remains of medieval ploughing), representing several furlongs (fields) lying on either side with ridges up to 0.5m in height.
The track leading to Ladyholme lies on the line of a earlier road which was shown on the 1746 map as the 'road to Lamport'. On the north side of the track and west of Ladyholme a small field was the site of at least four closes or crofts extending north from the track, with four more to the north of them (RCHME, p120 fig. 93). Earthworks are still visible but difficult to distinguish due to the height of the vegetation at the time of the visit. A converted barn to the west of this field is all that remains of a farm shown on all the maps since 1746. West of the barn the track forks, one branch continues west as the 'road to Lamport' whilst the other turns north as a grassed track which is marked on the 1746 map as the 'road to Orton'. On the eastern side of the track, lying between it and the ridge and furrow, are a series of rectangular crofts which, from aerial photographic evidence (English Heritage, 2013), suggest at least some contain building platforms. The earthworks here survive up to c.0.5m.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The scheduled area aims to protect the remaining earthworks, buried deposits and standing structures relating to the medieval settlement and its associated field system at Faxton. The southern edge of the area of protection begins in the south-east corner at the tip of a small plantation. The line follows the southern boundary of the plantation to the west to include the site of Rectory Farm and the church. At the western end of the plantation the line cuts across the open field following a newly planted hedge line to meet with the southern edge of another plantation. Here the line follows the western side of the plantation but includes a 5m boundary beyond the edge of the moat earthworks which is considered necessary for the support and preservation of the monument. The scheduling boundary then continues north, crossing the track and skirting around the converted barn and its associated yard. The area of protection then encompasses the whole of the field immediately north of Ladyholme, following the existing boundaries on all sides although on the southern edge of this field the line turns south 3m east of the sunken track to ensure the standing remains of Cliffdale Cottage are incorporated into the scheduled area. The line continues south, over the track, until it meets the northern boundary of the plantation. The scheduling boundary then follows the edge of the plantation to the east. Ladyholme and its associated structures are outside the area of protection.
EXCLUSIONS A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these include all fences, modern paths and road surfaces, although the ground beneath all these features is included.
There is potential for undesignated heritage assets to survive outside the scheduled area but these are considered to be most appropriately managed through the National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) and are not therefore included in the scheduling.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- NN 109
- Legacy System:
- RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Allison, K J, Beresford, M W, Hurst, J G, The Deserted Villages of Northamptonshire, (1966)
Astill, G, Grant, A, The Countryside of Medieval England, (1988)
Aston, M, Austin, D, Dyer, C(eds), The Rural Settlements of Medieval England: Studies dedicated to Maurice Beresford and John Hurst, (1989)
Bridges, J, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, (1791)
Christie, N, Stamper, P (eds), Medieval Rural Settlement: Britain and Ireland AD 800-1600, (2012)
Dyer, C, Jones, R, Deserted Villages Revisited, (2010)
Hall, D, Turning the Plough. Midland Open Fields;landscape character and proposals for management, (2001)
Hall, D, The Open Fields of Northamptonshire, (1995)
Lewis, C, Mitchell-Fox, P, Dyer, C , Village, Hamlet and Field: Changing Medieval Settlements in Central England, (1997)
Partida, T, Hall, D, Foard, G, An Atlas of Northamptonshire The Medieval and Early-Modern Landscape, (2013)
Roberts, , Wrathmell, , An Atlas of Rural Settlement in England, (2000)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Northamptonshire III, (1981)
Williamson, T., Partida, T, Champion. The Making and Unmaking of the English Midland Landscape, (2013)
Northamptonshire Historic Environment Record (HER),
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