(OS 1:10000 a TL 09 NW, b TL 09 SW)
The parish covers nearly 730 hectares of land, between
100 ft. and 230 ft. above OD on both sides of Willow
Brook, here draining S.E. to the R. Nene in a broad
open valley. The stream has cut deeply into the surrounding Jurassic deposits, and although the higher parts
are still covered with Boulder Clay and Oxford Clay,
the soils over most of the parish are derived from limestones. These light soils have enabled the ring ditch (1)
and a trackway (2) to be discovered by air photography
and were, perhaps, the reason for the siting of the large
Roman villa (3) found in the 19th century.
The parish was formerly a chapelry of Yarwell and
the village may have originated as its daughter-settlement. The deserted village of Hale (4), previously unlocated, has now been discovered in the S. of the parish
(Fig. 20). This village is one of the few known from
documents to have been deserted as a result of the Black
Death in 1349, but unfortunately the remains have been
Prehistoric and Roman
a (1) Ring ditch (TL 02209640), on N. side of Willow Brook,
on limestone at 120 ft. above OD. Diam. 30 m., ploughed out.
(BNFAS, 4 (1970), 31; 6 (1971), 3, Apethorpe (1); air photographs in NMR)
a (2) Trackway (TL 03889670–04019647), on N. side of a
small valley, on limestone at 200 ft. above OD. It consists of
two parallel ditches, 15 m. apart, orientated N.W.-S.E., visible
on air photographs for a distance of 230 m. It extends into the
adjacent parish of Nassington. (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 31; 6 (1971),
3, Apethorpe (2); air photographs in NMR)
Fig. 20 Apethorpe
Medieval settlements and estates
Fig. 21 Apethorpe (3) Roman villa (from an original plan held by RCHM)
b (3) Roman villa (TL 02639493; Fig. 21), S. of Apethorpe
Hall on the W. side of the Willow Brook on limestone at 100
ft. above OD. It was discovered and partly excavated in 1859
and consisted of a group of buildings arranged round a central
courtyard. The site measured approximately 80 m. by 80 m.
with the main block lying on the N. side of the courtyard.
Only five rooms and part of a corridor were discovered although much else must still survive. One room had a hypocaust, two others mosaic pavements, one of unusual design,
and another a plaster floor painted with a linear pattern. On
the W. side of the courtyard a large rectangular building, sub-divided into a number of small rooms, was revealed, while on
the E., parts of a bath block and some indeterminate walling
were found. Finds included part of a stone column, Collyweston roof slates, flue tiles, samian and Nene Valley wares,
glass, a lead weight and animal bones. Two small altars were
also discovered. Most of the coins were 4th-century. (Ass. Arch.
Soc. Rep., 5 (1859), 97–107; VCH Northants., 1 (1902), 191–2,
Figs. 19 and 20)
Fig. 22 Apethorpe (4) Deserted village of Hale (from air photographs taken before destruction)
Medieval and Later
b (4) Deserted village of Hale (centred TL 015943; Figs. 20
and 22) at Cheeseman's Farm, on a high spur of limestone and
clay, between 220 ft. and 180 ft. above OD. The earthworks
which still existed in 1947 have now been destroyed. The reasons
for the final desertion of this village are exceptionally welldocumented.
The settlement perhaps originated as a daughter-hamlet of
Apethorpe, but it was always very small. In 1086 only three
people are recorded at Hale on a manor gelding for one and a
half virgates (VCH Northants., 1 (1902), 318). In about 1272, ten
individuals, including the Prior of Fineshade and three named
de Hale are listed as holding land (Cal. Inq. Misc. 1 (1219–1307),
157, no. 474). Only three tenants are listed in 1304 (Cal. IPM,
II, 226, no. 332) but Hale was mentioned by name in the Nomina
Villarum of 1316. Rents continued to be collected from unrecorded tenants as late as 1344 (Cal. IPM, VII, 354, no. 491).
However by 1356 the village had been abandoned, for in that
year it is recorded that 'the premises are worth nothing now
because no one dwells or has dwelt in Hale since the Pestilence'
(Cal. IPM, X, 246, no. 284). The village was not resettled, for
in 1381 it was still worth nothing 'because the messuages are
wasted' (Cal. IPM, XV, 150, no. 366). As early as 1720 J.
Bridges noted that the ruins of houses and traces of 'three long
streets' were visible (Hist. of Northants. II (1791), 288; see also
Lambeth Palace Archives, Fineshade Cartulary, f. 12). On the
Enclosure Map of Apethorpe of 1778 (NRO) the existing farm
is shown, and fields to the W. and N. are called 'Old Walls';
the names 'Long Walls' and 'Grass Walls' are also recorded
(NRO, Field Name Survey 1932).
The village church or chapel which was first mentioned in
1250 was dedicated to St. Nicholas and the last-recorded institution was in 1448 (VCH Northants., II (1906), 543 and 547;
K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants., (1966), 41).
Until recent destruction, a number of earthworks of the
village remained (Fig. 22, based on air photographs RAF VAP
CPE/UK 1925, 1122–3). The most prominent feature was a
deeply cut hollow-way running roughly W. from the existing
farm and widening to form a funnel-shaped entrance S.E. of
Tomlin Wood. Near its E. end another, smaller, hollow-way
ran parallel to and S. of it, and a number of slight platforms lay
between them. Further N. was a low bank and at least one
other platform with traces of a further hollow-way existing E.
of the farm. All these remains have been destroyed, but large
quantities of medieval pottery can be found to the W. and
N.W. of the farm in modern arable, all of the 12th to early 14th
centuries, including much Lyveden ware and some Stamford
a(5) Settlement remains (TL 02609585) formerly part of
Apethorpe village, are traceable within the Park and N.E. of
the church. These consist of a few indeterminate banks and
scarps now largely overgrown. The remains are the sites of
houses lining a street; the houses still existed in 1778 (Enclosure
Map in NRO) and were removed in the 19th century when the
Park was enlarged.
(6) Cultivation remains. Only a relatively small area of
the medieval common fields N. of the village was enclosed by
Act of Parliament of 1777 (NRO, Enclosure Map, 1778), and
judging from early 18th-century maps of individual groups of
fields, the major part of the parish had been enclosed before
1725. The ridge-and-furrow of the common fields of Apethorpe
survives on the ground around the village or can be traced
elsewhere on air photographs. It is arranged in long curving
furlongs but much has no relation either to the modern or to
the early 18th-century field pattern.
In the S. of the parish similar blocks of ridge-and-furrow
can be traced around Cheeseman's Farm (TL 016942) and Halefield Lodge (TL 028933) and are presumably the remains of the
common fields of the deserted village of Hale (4). (RAF VAP
CPE/UK 1891, 1043–8, 2214–8; 1929, 1119–23; 2109, 4094–4100,