Great house and gardens at Hanging Houghton


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Daventry (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 75067 73732

Reasons for Designation

Medieval great houses were the residences of high-status non-Royal households. They had domestic rather than military functions and show little or no sign of fortification, even of a purely cosmetic nature. Great houses share several of the characteristics of royal palaces, and in particular shared similar characteristics of size, sophistication, and decoration of the architecture. Great houses usually consist of a group of buildings, including a great hall, service rooms, one or more kitchens, several suites of chambers for the owners, the household and its guests, and a gatehouse. Other ancillary buildings are known to have been present but very rarely survive. Earlier examples typically comprised a collection of separate buildings, but through the 14th and 15th century there was increasing integration of the buildings into a few larger buildings. By the later medieval period, such complexes were commonly laid out around one or more formal courtyards; in the 16th century this would occasionally be contrived so that the elevations were symmetrical. Many great houses are still notable for the high quality of their architecture and for the opulence of their furnishings. Several examples contain substantially intact buildings, others consist of ruins or complexes of earthworks. Great houses are found throughout England, although there is a concentration in the south and Midlands. Further north, great houses were more heavily fortified, reflecting more unsettled political and social conditions, but their domestic purpose and status were still predominant. Fewer than 250 examples of great houses have been identified. As a rare monument class which provide an important insight into the lives of medieval aristocratic or gentry households, all examples will be nationally important.

Gardens have a long history in England. The earliest recognised examples are associated with Roman villas, while during the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods, herb gardens were planted, particularly in monasteries, for medicinal purposes. The major development in gardening took place in the late medieval and early post-medieval periods when the idea of the garden as a `pleasure ground' developed.

Gardens of medieval and early post-medieval date take a variety of forms. Some involved significant water-management works to create elaborate water gardens which could include a series of ponds and even ornamental canal systems. At other sites, flower gardens were favoured, with planting in elaborately shaped and often geometrically laid out beds. Planting arrangements were often complemented by urns, statues and other garden furniture. Such sites were often provided with raised walkways or prospect mounds which provided vantage points from which the garden design and layout could be seen and fully appreciated. Whilst gardens were probably a common accompaniment to high-status houses of the 16th century and later date, continued occupation of houses and related use and re-modelling of gardens in response to changing fashions means that early remains rarely survive undisturbed.

Gardens provide a valuable insight into contemporary aesthetics and views about how the landscape could be modified to enhance the surroundings of a house and symbolise the social hierarchy. Their design often mirrors elements of the design of the associated house, particularly following the symmetry of the buildings. Gardens were probably not uncommon in the medieval and post- medieval period, but the exact original number is unknown. Fewer than 500 surviving examples of all types have now been identified. In view of the rarity of surviving examples, great variety of form, and importance for understanding high-status houses and their occupants, all examples of early date retaining well-preserved earthworks or significant buried remains will be identified to be nationally important; those not in use will be considered for scheduling.

The great house and gardens at Hanging Houghton are represented by an area of well defined earthworks in which evidence for the nature of the 15th to 17th century house will be preserved. The later stages of occupation at Hanging Houghton are well documented and include records of the period of abandonment. The building platforms will contain buried evidence for the great house, barns and other outbuildings, accompanied by a range of boundaries, refuse pits, wells and drainage channels, all related to the development of the estate.

Buried artefacts, in association with the buildings, will provide further insights into the lifestyle of the inhabitants and assist in dating the development of the monument through time. Environmental evidence may also be preserved, providing further information about the agricultural regime of the estate and its economy. In addition, the remains of a formal garden survive and are well documented, and this will allow consideration of changing landscape fashions and aspirations among the landed gentry until the late 17th century.


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a great house and gardens at Hanging Houghton, located on the crest and slopes of a south westerly projection of high ground at the western end of the hamlet.

The house was owned by the Montague family from 1471 until it was abandoned in 1665, following the demise of the entire family during the plague. The house is depicted on a map of 1655, located in the north east corner of an elaborate formal garden including knot gardens and terraced walks. It survived as ruins as late as the 18th century.

The remains of the house and gardens are represented by a series of rectangular areas defined by low earthworks and banks, measuring up to 0.75m high. The remains of the house are visible as a low rectangular building platform measuring approximately 40m by 30m in the north eastern angle of the garden. Illustrations from the 17th century suggest that the house was built with three bays and that its south elevation was symmetrical with a central porch, typical of a late 16th or early 17th century date rebuilding.

Immediately to the west of the house there are earthwork enclosures marked by low boundary banks which indicate the location of formal knot gardens. To the west of the knot gardens are the remains of a large rectangular raised area, which is shown on the 1655 map as an area of garden planted with trees and surrounded by a system of formal paths. The boundary of the gardens is defined by a continuous curving bank, measuring up to 4m high and 2m wide, enclosing the site on the west and south sides.

All modern post and wire fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


survey map and text, RCHME, Manor House Site and Garden Remains at Hanging Houghton, Northamptonshire,
Various SMR Officers, Various unpublished notes in SMR, Notes in SMR 4398


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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