Upton medieval village and C17 garden earthworks


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
Lies approximately 180m south of Upton Hall, south and south-west of Park House and north and north-west of Upton Hall farm.


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

Location Description:
Lies approximately 180m south of Upton Hall, south and south-west of Park House and north and north-west of Upton Hall farm.
West Northamptonshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Abandoned areas of the medieval settlement of Upton, first documented in Domesday of 1086.

Reasons for Designation

The medieval village site at Upton, first documented in Domesday of 1086, is scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Survival: for the well defined and particularly complete record of an abandoned medieval settlement and the remains of associated ridge and furrow 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. The fishponds provide the necessary conditions for preservation of historic environmental data and organic artefacts such as wood and leather; * Documentation: for the high level of historical and archaeological documentation pertaining to the settlement’s evolution; * Group value: for its close proximity to other related, contemporary, designated monuments such as the Church of St Michael (Grade I) and scheduled medieval cross base; * Diversity: for the range and complexity of features such as building platforms, crofts, trackways, ridge and furrow, fishponds, C17 garden remains and the estate wall which, 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 settlement.


The village, comprising a small group of houses (known as tofts which may include house platforms surviving as earthworks), gardens (crofts or closes which are typically defined by banks and ditches), yards, streets, paddocks, often with a green, a manor and a church, and with a community devoted primarily to agriculture, was a significant component of the rural landscape in most areas of 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, but modified following the Norman invasion to have planned layouts comprising 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 continue to be occupied to the present day, some 2000 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 this 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 Survey of Northamptonshire by the Royal Commission of the Historic Monuments of England (RCHME,1982) and the Northamptonshire Historic Environment Record (HER) summarise the history of the former village of Upton and documents the archaeological evidence for its interpretation and survival. The interpretation of aerial photographs as part of the National Mapping Project (NMP) and recent aerial photographs taken by English Heritage (October 2013) further enhance our understanding of the site and its extent.

A settlement at Upton was first documented at Domesday of 1086, when it was held for the Crown with a population of 20. The medieval manor of Upton passed from The Crown to the Chaunceux family of Northampton in the late C12th and remained in their hands until 1348. In 1420 it was purchased by Richard Knightley and sold to Sir Thomas Samwell in 1600 who greatly improved the mansion house and its contiguous grounds. Deer were kept until the mid 1750s.

It is understood the medieval manor lay on the site of the present Upton Hall (Quinton House School in 2014) but the earliest surviving fabric there is believed to be C15 to C16. In 1301 it is recorded that 49 people paid the Lay Subsidy (a form of land taxation) and nine people paid the 1532 Lay Subsidy. Various documents, although not providing a continuous record do indicate fluctuations in the size of the settlement over time; 24 houses were recorded in 1477 and 26 tenements were noted c1500. A total of 11 houses were recorded in the parish in 1720 but only 4 by 1800. The village was abandoned after circa 1700, although a drop in population pre-1524, possibly due to the acquisition of the manor in 1420 by Richard Knightley, is documented. Establishment of the post-medieval landscape park of Upton Hall by Sir Thomas Samwell, probably in the late C17th-early C18th, involved further depopulation of the village with the process of emparking leading to the degradation of the visible evidence. Now the C12 Church of St Michael and the scheduled medieval cross base in the churchyard are the only standing remains relating to the medieval settlement. The visible earthworks, particularly in the area of the currently scheduled monument; immediately north of Upton Hall Farm and south of Park House, remain the last visible vestiges of the settlement. Here rows of crofts and tofts, aligned either side of a sunken track, imply a linear planned development of C12 origin, adding strength to the suggestion that the settlement was originally either polyfocal or re-located from an earlier settlement closer to the church.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The scheduling includes the earthwork and buried archaeological remains of the abandoned medieval settlement of Upton, its associated fish ponds, ridge and furrow and terraces of a former garden possibly relating to the C17 Park House.

DESCRIPTION The earthwork and buried archaeological remains of the abandoned medieval village of Upton lie on a river gravel terrace just north of the River Nene flood plain, on the east side of Northampton, recently linked by a large suburban housing development known as Upton New Town.

The earthworks of the deserted medieval village are aligned to a central north-south running hollow way c.1m deep forming the main street of the village. Closes or crofts are aligned on either side of the street, bounded by low scarps, with most containing traces of buildings (tofts), defined by low sub-rectangular terraces. The west side of the crofts and tofts is bounded by a scarp 0.25m high. The east side has a hollow way or ditch 0.5m deep which may once have served as a back lane. At the north end the settlement remains are overlain by the earthwork remains of a former garden. The garden remains comprise a series of low terraces 0.5m high which lie across the north end of the village earthworks. To the north-east of the garden remains is a large rectangular area bounded by low banks c.0.4m high. Whilst banks at the west end form a broad terrace or raised path. These are understood to define a formal terrace garden dating from the late C16 or early C17, laid out possibly by the Knightley family or more probably by the Samwell family. The RCHME suggests that the gardens may have been associated with a detached garden house (now Park House) as they are some distance from Upton Hall.

Beyond the western boundary of the tofts and crofts, and immediately to the west of the currently scheduled area, are a series of earthworks depicting several furlongs of ridge and furrow. In one particular area ridge and furrow appears to overlie earlier headlands, providing evidence of at least two phases of ploughing patterns. Running east to west along the southern edge of this central field is a wide hollow way defined along its northern edge by a very clear headland feature, it links the tofts and crofts at the eastern end with a water-filled pond. The pond forms part of a series of five fish ponds running north to south through the parkland, following the current line of a small stream. The northernmost pond is very circular in plan and continues to retain water. This is evident on the 1st edition OS map of 1886 and appears to relate to the designed landscape associated with Upton Hall. Three further ponds to the south survive as clearly defined earthworks, rectangular in plan and up to 1.5m deep with dams evident at the southern end of at least two of the compartments. Although there is evidence of seasonal waterlogging the ponds are now dry, all but the stream which follows the line of the ponds. A fifth pond lies at the southern end of the chain of ponds; this large irregular pond, is water-filled and has been damaged by later alterations and dumping. It is cut across its west end by the C18th/19th estate wall. A rectangular basin in the north-east corner was recorded in the RCHME survey and interpreted as a possible breeding tank. This was not evident during the site visit possibly due to the height of vegetation, particularly reeds. There are further mounds and scarps to the east and north-east.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The area of protection is defined on the east, south and west sides by a ruinous stone estate wall, although parts of the wall on the southern boundary have recently undergone restoration. The northern edge of the scheduled area is defined by a field boundary fence which separates the pasture from the grounds of Quinton House School. The remains of the estate wall is included in the scheduling as is a 1m buffer zone around the wall which is considered necessary for the support and preservation of the monument. The scheduled area is used as permanent pasture for sheep and horses, with a number of small paddocks defined by electric fencing. All modern fences and posts 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 165
Legacy System:


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)
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)
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, , An Inventory of Archaeological sites in central Northamptonshire, (1979)


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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