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'Pilton', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 1: Archaeological sites in North-East Northamptonshire (1975), pp. 72-74. URL: http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=126259 Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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(OS 1:10000 a SP 98 NE, b TL 08 NW, c TL 08 SW)

The long narrow parish of 560 hectares lies on ground rising gently from the R. Nene which forms its S.E. boundary at 70 ft. above OD to a maximum of 260 ft. in the N.W. In the extreme N. it extends across the Lyveden valley. Except for that part which is close to the river, where limestone, silts and marls outcrop, most of the parish is on Oxford Clay, overlain by Boulder Clay.

The small part within the Lyveden valley is of some importance for not only does it contain the now deserted village of Lyveden, where excavations have revealed a large-scale medieval pottery industry (6), but there are also two other deserted medieval settlements of some size (7) and (8); all three sites formed part of the intensive medieval occupation of the valley (Fig. 12).

Prehistoric and Roman

c(1) Enclosure (TL 029849; Fig. 96), in the extreme E. of the parish, close to the R. Nene, on limestone at 100 ft. above OD. The site, visible only on air photographs, consists of a roughly oval enclosure with a small outer enclosure attached to its E. side. (Air photographs in NMR; CUAP, ZF15–16)

c(2) Roman settlement (?) (TL 028846), 370 m. S.W. of (1) in a similar position, in the bottom of a small tributary stream. Much Roman pottery is said to have been found in and around an old pond and along the adjacent stream. (OS Record Cards)

a(3) Roman settlement (SP 99758637), in the N.W. of the parish on the S. side of the Lyveden valley on Boulder Clay at 250 ft. above OD. Pottery of the 3rd and 4th century and a scatter of large stones have been found (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 41). A group of small conjoined rectangular enclosures, arranged in a line orientated N.E.-S.W. is indistinctly visible on air photographs (RAF VAP CPE/UK 2109, 3419–20).

a(4) Roman settlement (?) (SP 99858602), 360 m. S.S.E. of (3) and in a similar position at 250 ft. above OD. Roman pottery and a 'ditch circle' were found here in 1964 (OS Record Cards).

Fig. 82 Pilton (6) Deserted village of Lyveden (from air photographs taken before destruction)

Medieval and Later

a(5) Later Saxon occupation sites (?) (SP 99088584 and 99998596), on the S.W. and E. sides of Bearshank Wood on Boulder Clay at 250 ft. above OD. Late Saxon pottery and a scatter of stone have been noted at both places (OS Record Cards).

a(6) Deserted medieval village of Lyveden (SP 984860; Fig. 82), in the bottom of the Lyveden valley, immediately E. of Lyveden Old Bield, on limestone and clay at 200 ft. above OD. The remains have been entirely destroyed by ploughing, but extensive and continuing excavation has been carried out. A major pottery industry, products of which were widely distributed in the E. Midlands, is an important feature.

The setting and history of Lyveden are both unusual and difficult to explain. Firstly, the village lay at the junction of three medieval parishes, Pilton, Benefield and Aldwincle, and the remains are still partly in Pilton and Benefield. Secondly, a confused picture emerges from both documentary and archaeological sources. Documents point to the existence of Great or Upper Lyveden, Little or Lower Lyveden, Potters Lyveden and Lyveden Doundelign; physical evidence survives of a major deserted site to the N.W. (8), as well as of the deserted village of Churchfield further eastwards (Benefield (5)) and of many minor medieval sites (7 and 11), Benefield (7–11) and Aldwincle (19 and 20). The only detailed record of population of Lyveden is given in a subsidy list, dated 1296–1334, in which 27 names are listed; whether these people lived on this site is not certain (PRO, E179/155/31). The date of desertion is not known but it probably took place in the 15th century, with perhaps a final clearance in the mid 16th century when the Treshams emparked land surrounding their manor house. The village appears from the documentary record to have been a pottery-making centre in the late 13th century. Ten tenants, some described as potters, are mentioned in a court roll of 1406 which is the last proof of the village's existence.

Fig. 83 Pilton (8) Medieval settlement moat and fishponds

The overall plan of the village is now only recoverable in outline form from air photographs taken before destruction (Fig. 82). These indicate that it consisted of a deeply-hollowed main street, in or very near the bed of Lyveden Brook with house-sites arranged along it. Medieval pottery has been found to the W. of Lyveden Old Bield, and suggests that the village extended in this direction.

The excavation of the village began in 1965 and has continued since. This has revealed house-sites, workshops, kilns and other features dated between 1200 and 1250. The well-known Lyveden Ware pottery was produced here as well as roof and floor tiles. (J. Northampton Mus. and Art Gal., 2 (1967), 3–37; 5 (1969), 3–50; 9 (1971), 3–94; Med. Arch. XI (1967), 308; XII (1968), 203; XIV (1970), 203; XVI (1973), 206–7; BNFAS, 1 (1966), 16–17; 2 (1967), 26–7; 3 (1969), 24–6; 4 (1970), 17–9; 7 (1972), 46; 8 (1973), 21–3; Northants. Past and Present, IV (1969), 240–50; DOE, Archaeological Excavations 1968, (1969), 26; 1969 (1970), 31; 1972 (1973), 98–9; Northants. N. and Q., n.s. III (1910–11), no. 131; CBA Group 9, Newsletter no. 1 (1971), 18–19)

a(7) Deserted medieval settlement (SP 99158630), E. of (6) immediately N. of Bearshanks Wood on both sides of Lyveden Brook, on limestone at 200 ft. above OD. At least 10 patches of limestone rubble, perhaps former house sites, containing burnt stone and medieval pottery, have been noted. It is certainly the site of another deserted settlement, and perhaps one of the Lyvedens (J. Northampton Mus. and Art Gal., 5 (1969), 50).

a(8) Medieval settlement, moat and fishponds (centred SP 990869; Fig. 83), on the N. side of the Lyveden valley on Boulder Clay at 250 ft. above OD. The site extends well into Benefield parish and is perhaps another of the medieval Lyveden settlements (see (6 and 7)).

The Moat (SP 99028692) is perched on the higher slopes of the valley and its ditches are filled by seepage of water from the hillside above. The site consists of a near-square island, 25 m. across, completely surrounded by a deep ditch up to 20 m. wide. On the S.E. side, the water is held in the ditch by a massive retaining bank or dam 2.5 m. high. Medieval pottery, including St. Neots Ware, has been found around it. Immediately to the S.W. (SP 98958684) are the now much mutilated remains of a set of Fishponds and between these and the moat a large quantity of stone and of medieval pottery has been ploughed up. Surrounding these earthworks, and in the arable land, are other finds and features indicating a substantial medieval Settlement and pottery industry. The most important of these are: (a) N.W. of the moat (SP 98798698), considerable quantities of 15th-century floor-tile wasters, and burnt limestone indicating, perhaps, one or more kilns; there is also the ploughed-out remains of a small building; (b) further S. (at SP 98828692), limestone rubble and medieval pottery; (c) N. of (a) (at SP 98848702), extensive areas of medieval pottery overlain by ridge-and-furrow; (d) N. of moat (at SP 99078718), medieval pottery, including St. Neots Ware; (e) immediately N. and N.W. of the Fishponds, very indeterminate soil and crop-marks, including pits and ditches, seen on air photographs, probably the remains of buildings. There are more banks, visible as crop-marks, further N.W. (VCH Northants., II (1906), 412; BNFAS, 3 (1969), 20; 4 (1970), 16, 41–2; J. Northampton Mus. and Art Gal., 5 (1969), 49; RAF VAP CPE/UK 2109, 3420–1)

c(9) Fishponds and associated earthworks (TL 02508437), in an area of pasture E. of the village and 150 m. S. of the isolated church and manor house at 100 ft. above OD. The site consists of three rectangular ponds in a line, orientated N.W.-S.E. and linked together by shallow channels but separated by low banks. The ponds are cut back into the hillside, and each has a large external bank on the S.W., downhill side, to retain the water. Some sherds of medieval pottery were found in one of them. (Northants. Past and Present, IV, no. 5 (1970), 307–8).

The area round the ponds is covered with low banks, mounds and scarps, forming no coherent pattern, which may represent an earlier site of the village of Pilton. The field is named as Hall Close in 1838 (NRO, Tithe Map), but the ponds themselves are depicted as 'Poor Land'.

c(10) Moat (?) (TL 02038449), in a corner of a field 150 m. E. of Pilton Grange, near the village, on clay at 140 ft. above OD. The site is marked on the Tithe Map of Pilton (1838, NRO) on which the field is called Moat Orchard. This map lso shows a road running southward from the existing road towards the moat and then turning E. to Pilton Grange.

The earthworks consist of a small square island only 10 m. across, surrounded by the remains of a ditch, where best preserved, 10 m. wide and 1 m. deep. Whether the site is in fact a medieval moat or a relatively late pond, is unknown (cf. Barnwell (8)).

a(11) Medieval and later settlement (SP 99458675), in the N. of the parish alongside the Lyveden Brook and against the parish boundaries with Oundle and Stoke Doyle. Building materials, probably of a small house, pottery of medieval and 16th and 17th-century date, iron objects and glass have been found (BNFAS, 3 (1969), 29; 4 (1970), 24; 5 (1971), 35–6).

(12) Cultivation remains. The date of the enclosure of the common fields is not known, but it had certainly taken place before the mid 18th century (NRO, maps of 1769 and 1794). Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground, or can be traced on air photographs, over much of the S.E. half of the parish, arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs. Further ridge-and-furrow can be traced on air photographs in the extreme N.W., N.E. of Bearshank Wood (SP 992863 and 989866) and N. of Lyveden New Bield (SP 984855): this is probably to be associated with the deserted village of Lyveden (6) and the other medieval settlements in the area (7), (8) and (11). (RAF VAP CPE/UK 2109, 3417–23; 541/143, 3182–3; 541/602, 4051–60)