(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
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
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
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
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
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.
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,