Kelmarsh medieval settlement


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017188

Date first listed: 13-May-1974

Date of most recent amendment: 14-Dec-1999


Ordnance survey map of Kelmarsh medieval settlement
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This copy shows the entry on 09-Dec-2018 at 22:00:26.


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

County: Northamptonshire

District: Daventry (District Authority)

Parish: Kelmarsh

National Grid Reference: SP 73050 79262, SP 73135 79540, SP 73382 79225, SP 73436 79409, SP 73985 79467


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the East Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province, an area characterised in the Middle Ages by large numbers of nucleated settlements. The sites of many of these settlements are now occupied by modern villages, but others have been partially or wholly deserted and are marked by earthwork remains. Most of these settlements were first documented in the 11th century, in Domesday Book. 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. The Soar Valley and Nene Plateau local region comprises the low hill country of the Soar Valley and, to the south east, a low plateau dissected by the tributaries of the Nene and Welland. Nucleated villages and hamlets dominate the region, but gaps are found within the pattern in Rockingham Forest, in Rutland and in High Leicestershire where they are linked to the location of woodland in and before the 11th century.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow an woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but when they survive as earthworks their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. They frequently included the parish church within their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages included one or more manorial centres which may survive also as visible remains as well as below ground deposits. In the central province of England, villages were the most distinctive aspect of rural life, and their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest. Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into strips (known as landes) which were allocated to individual tenants. The cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs pulled by oxen-teams produced long, wide ridges, and the resultant ridge and furrow where it survives is the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. Individual strips or landes were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal headlands at the plough turning-points and lateral grass balks. Furlongs were in turn grouped into large open fields. Well-preserved ridge and furrow, especially in its original context adjacent to village earthworks, is both an important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive contribution to the character of the historic landscape. It is usually now covered by the hedges or walls of subsequent field enclosure. Kelmarsh medieval settlement survives as several areas of well defined earthworks and associated buried deposits in which evidence for the nature of the settlement will be preserved. Surviving documentary evidence suggests that the earthworks represent several phases of abandonment or replanning and relocation, and provide evidence of settlement development over a considerable length of time. The crofts and building platforms will contain buried evidence for houses, barns and other structures, accompanied by a range of boundaries, refuse pits, wells and drainage channels, all related to the development of the settlement. Buried artifacts, in association with the buildings will provide further insights into the lifestyle of the inhabitants and assist in dating the development of the settlement over time. Environmental evidence may also be preserved, particularly in the waterlogged areas of the settlement and millpond around the River Ise, illustrating the economy of the hamlet and providing further information about its agricultural regime.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval settlement at Kelmarsh, which are within five areas of protection. The remains are located to the north and north west of the present estate village and within and around the park of Kelmarsh Hall. Kelmarsh is first mentioned in the Domesday Book, although no recorded population is given. At the time, the settlement was divided between two manors, the Royal manor of Rothwell and a manor held by William Pevrel. By 1377 at least 84 people paid poll tax, and in 1674 26 households paid hearth tax, suggesting a sizeable community which had not altered much over 300 years. Around 1728 there were still 23 families living in the village, and there is no clear indication of depopulation at Kelmarsh at any period. Rather it seems that the settlement was relocated and its inhabitants rehoused over time, the most recent evidence of this being seen in the present estate village which dates from the 19th century. Some clearance may have occurred around 1727-1732 when the present hall replaced an earlier manor house, and indeed earlier remodelling of the settlement may have occurred around 1600 when the earlier manor house was rebuilt. The first area of protection includes the remains of house platforms (or tofts) and gardens or allotment areas (crofts) located in the fields lying to the east of Harborough Road. The most prominent feature is a hollow way orientated north to south and lying parallel to Harborough Road at a distance of approximately 120m. This hollow way measures up to 1m deep and 4m wide, and is believed to represent a boundary or back lane lying behind the tofts and crofts. To the east of the back lane, is an area of enclosures or stock paddocks, defined by banks and ditches measuring up to 1m deep and 3m wide and including the remains of at least one pond. The whole area of tofts and crofts and the adjacent enclosures or paddocks, is defined and bounded by a further hollow way measuring up to 1.5m deep and 3m wide orientated north to south and running parallel to Harborough Road and the back lane. To the rear of the settlement site, east of the enclosures and running upslope to the crest of the hill, is an area of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains, orientated east to west. The hill slope also includes a number of hollow ways or ditches orientated east to west and running through the medieval field system towards the settlement. Also included are the remains of a number of ridges or lynchets orientated north to south running across the slope, which may be the remains of quarrying. On the crest of the hill, adjacent to the lane are the remains of a quarry associated with a number of hollow ways, which is believed to represent the site of clay digging for the production of local bricks used in and around the estate buildings during the 18th and 19th century. In the north eastern angle adjacent to Harborough Road are the truncated remains of a large triangular fishpond, now dry, defined by banks measuring up to 2.5m high and 6m wide and including a series of small islands, believed to have been used to encourage wild fowl nesting. The second area of protection includes the remains of at least a dozen tofts and crofts, represented largely by sub-rectangular platforms defined by banks and ditches located to the south west of Kelmarsh Hall. The earthwork remains survive up to 1m in height. A broad hollow way, or narrow green, measuring up to 12m wide and 1m deep, orientated east to west, and lying parallel to Clipston Road, forms the focus of the house sites. These are arranged in an irregular grid system on either side of the hollow way and alongside Clipston Road. A second narrow hollow way, measuring up to 1.5m deep and 3m wide and orientated north to south, parallel with Harborough Road intersects the first hollow way at right angles, forming a crossroads. This second hollow way is believed to be a footpath leading towards the church and may be a later feature. To the west of this hollow way the settlement earthworks are well defined. Those remains to the east of it are less obvious and appear to have been depopulated at an earlier date and incorporated into parkland. A small excavation carried out in 1961 on one of the house platforms in this area produced pottery from the 11th century and also from the 13th to 14th centuries. Two occupation layers included a post-built timber structure underlying a much later shed which was in use between the 16th and 18th centuries. The third area of protection is located to the south of Clipston Road, west of St Dionysius's Church, and includes the earthwork remains of at least two enclosures and several building platforms which are believed to represent the remains of further tofts and crofts arranged along the road. The site of the buildings is bounded on the south and west sides by medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains. The location of these buildings, set aside from the main settlement and lying adjacent to the church may suggest the site of a glebe farm or rectory. The medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains to the west of the building platforms are included in the scheduling. The church, which is a Grade II Listed Building, is not included in the scheduling. The fourth area of protection lies to the west of the River Ise and to the north of Clipston Road. It includes the earthwork remains of at least two building complexes, defined by raised platforms and shallow ditches. The earthworks measure less than 1m high. Further remains believed to have included at least three more tofts and crofts formerly existed to the north; these have since been destroyed by agricultural activity and are not included in the scheduling. The location of this small group of settlement remains, lying to the west of the river, may suggest separate ownership, or an earlier phase of the settlement, and is believed to relate to the small manorial holding, recorded in the Domesday survey, belonging to William Pevrel which amounted to nine households. The low lying and waterlogged nature of this site, which lies adjacent to the river, may account for its early abandonment, and resulted in the use of drainage ditches around each of the building platforms. Midway across the fourth area of protection is a ditched and banked hollow way orientated east to west. This is believed to be a thoroughfare, leading from the settlement in the east towards the western part of the medieval field system. The fifth area of protection lies to the south of Clipston Road and on either side of the River Ise. It includes the remains of the earthen bank which formed a retaining dam across the river, creating a large shallow pond to the south of the dam. Although waterlogged, this area no longer retains a pond, and only a 10m sample of the pond bay and the earthen dam is included in the scheduling. All modern post and wire fences, and all modern surfaces 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: 30074

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
RCHME, , 'County of Northamptonshire' in Kelmarsh medieval settlement remains, , Vol. iii, (1981), 109-112

End of official listing