(OS 1:10000 a SP 96 NW, b SW 96 SW, c SP 86 NE)
The parish occupies some 116 hectares of land S.E. of
Wellingborough, and of the R. Nene which forms its
N.W. boundary. From a maximum height of 91 m. above
OD, on the S. edge of the parish, the land falls gently to
the river, here flowing at about 42 m. above OD. A N.flowing tributary of the R. Hene crosses the E. part
of the parish in a deep valley. The higher S. and E. areas
of Irchester are composed of Great Oolite Limestone,
covered in places by Boulder Clay, but the down-cutting
of the R. Nene and its tributaries has exposed rocks of
the Estuarine Series, Northampton Sand and Upper Lias
Clay. The most notable monument of the parish is the
Roman Town (7) with its associated extra-mural area.
There are, in addition, a number of other important
Roman sites. The parish also contains two deserted
medieval settlements, both of which were finally cleared
at a late date, (8) and (9).
Prehistoric and Roman
Three polished stone axes are said to have been found
near Irchester (Plate 31; NM). One is of Group I, another
is of Group VI, while the third is of Group XV (PPS, 28
(1962), 262, Nos. 987–9). Part of another axe, probably
of Group VI, was discovered in 1976 (SP 920668; private
collection). A late 4th-century gold Roman coin of
Eugenius was found in the village before 1904 (NM;
T.J. George, Arch. Survey of Northants., (1904), 16).
Fig. 85 Irchester (1) Cropmarks and
Wollaston (2) Roman villa and cropmarks
Fig. 86 Irchester (2) Cropmarks
a(1) Settlement (SP 903652; Fig. 85), in the S.W.
of the parish, on limestone at 50 m. above OD. Air
photographs (CUAP, ZE 71, ZJ 78–83) show parts of a
large rectangular enclosure, with an inner enclosure in
its N.W. corner and a further enclosure to the N. Part of
the interior of the main enclosure and the land to the S.
has been quarried away for ironstone. Vertical air photographs also show what appears to be a length of ditched
trackway to the S. (RAF VAP 541/611, 4037).
a(2) Ditches (SP 922651; Fig. 86), on limestone at
84 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR, and RAF
VAP 541/611, 4035–6; 540/RAF/1312, 0278–9) show
a number of indeterminate enclosures and linear features,
including a possible ring ditch and a trackway, over an
area of some 25 hectares.
a(3) Iron Age and Roman Settlement (SP
930653), on limestone at 83 m. above OD. A series of
ditches and pits containing Iron Age and Roman pottery
were cut by a pipeline trench in 1965 (OS Record Cards).
a(4) Iron Age and Roman Settlement and
Kilns (centred SP 943660), E. of Knuston Hall, on
Boulder Clay at 76 m. above OD. Excavations in 1971,
over an area of 5.7 hectares, revealed ditches, pits,
hearths and traces of huts connected with an Iron Age
and Roman industrial site. Hand-made and wheel-thrown
late Iron Age pottery was being made on the site up to
the beginning of the Roman period. This was followed
by a short period of intensive activity lasting until the
latter part of the 1st century. During this time large
quantities of pottery of exotic design were made and
fired, in above-ground kilns with movable firebars and
central pedestals (Beds. Arch. J., 7 (1972), 14, Knuston
(2); Current Arch., 31 (1972), 204–5; Britannia, 3
(1972), 326; 5 (1974), 262–81).
Fig. 87 Irchester (5) Roman settlement
a(5) Roman Settlement (SP 933651; Fig. 87),
immediately E. of Irchester Grange, on Boulder Clay at
76 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show a
length of ditched trackway, with a series of enclosures
at its N. end and a number of other enclosures and
linear features in the general area. Building-stone and
Roman pottery have been found on the site (OS Record
Cards; Beds. Arch. J., 3 (1966), 5).
a(6) Roman Settlement (SP 933664; Fig. 88),
500 m. N.W. of Knuston Hall, on sand at 49 m. above
OD. Air photographs (in NMR, and CUAP, AGE 8, 9,
ZD 96, 97, ZE 10) show an irregular enclosure with
complex internal features, a small adjacent enclosure,
and a large number of pits to the N.E. There are other
ditches in the area but these are not clear on the available
air photographs. Roman pottery and a fragment of roof
tile have been found on the site, and a number of Mesolithic flints are also recorded (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 14,
Irchester (1); Beds. Arch. J., 7 (1972), 14, Knuston (1);
OS Record Cards).
Fig. 88 Irchester (6) Roman settlement
a(7) Roman Town (SP 917667; Figs. 11, 89 and 91;
Plates 3, 4 and 32), in the N. of the parish, close to the
R. Nene, on sand and clay between 45 m. and 63 m.
above OD. The site consists of the remains of the walled
town and an extensive extra-mural settlement, lying at
the junction of two, or perhaps three, Roman roads.
The site has long been recognised as Roman. Camden
mentioned it, and Morton in the early 18th century described the walls as still standing (J. Morton, Nat. Hist. of
Northants., (1712), 517). Other important finds were
subsequently noted, and ironstone-mining in 1873–4 in
the extra-mural area E. of the town resulted in the discovery of a large cemetery. In 1878–9 excavations were
carried out in the interior of the town by Rev. R.S. Baker
(Arch. J., 36 (1879), 99–100; VCH Northants., I (1902),
178–84; Ass. Arch. Soc. Reps., 13 (1875), 88–118; 15
(1879), 49–59). Further excavations were carried out
on the ramparts by Dr. W.W. Robb in 1926 (JRS, 16
(1926), 223) and in the following year new ironstonemining produced more evidence from the extra-mural
area. Road works in 1962–3 on the S. side of the town
led to excavations by the Department of the Environment (Arch. J., 124 (1967), 65–99, 100–128). In
addition many finds have been made in the general area,
relating to both the town and its extra-mural settlement.
All this information, while of considerable value, is often
conflicting and no clear picture of the history of the
town has emerged.
Pits or depressions, containing flint arrowheads and
scrapers, were noted just to the E. of the town during
the 1879 excavations, and other pre-Roman occupation
of the site was discovered during the 1963 excavations
when an early Iron Age pit was noted immediately S. of
the town. Subsequently occupation in the Iron Age was
also noticed here. Iron Age coins have been recorded
from the area. There is evidence of a 1st-century native
settlement around the town, perhaps associated with the
establishment of a fort which may have occupied what
later became the N. half of the town. The argument that
there was a fort rests mainly on the alignment of the
remaining earthworks and of a possible ditch system
visible on air photographs. A broken pelta-shaped belt
buckle and some spearheads (in NM) are the only finds
which could have any military significance but this may
not necessarily be so. By the end of the 1st century
there seems to have been intensive occupation, with
some stone buildings, and between 150 and 200 A.D.
the existing ramparts around the town were constructed.
Much of the then occupied area was left outside the
defences. The ramparts were subsequently altered to
accommodate an external stone wall.
Over the next two centuries the town acquired an
array of stone buildings including a temple around the
somewhat abnormal street system; the latter may have
been laid out at an earlier date. It was clearly an important and prosperous town, and was, on the evidence
of the inscribed slab found in 1853, the centre of an
imperial region for horse-breeding. The defences were
remodelled in the 4th century, perhaps for artillery, and
at least one of the main gates, that on the W., was
apparently blocked at the same date. The town appears
to have been in decline at this time, and much of the
area outside the walls was abandoned.
The later history of the town is unclear. A 5th-century
timber building was excavated in 1963 but there is no
evidence for later occupation. The Anglo-Saxon material
recorded as being found at Irchester in the 19th century
is now known to have come from elsewhere (see p. 96).
By the 11th century the only settlement in the area was
the small hamlet of Chester-on-the-Water (8) which lay
to the E. of the town around the existing manor house.
This hamlet was entirely deserted by the 18th century
and now only the manor house and its farm remain.
The site of the town and its surrounding area were
extensively cultivated throughout the medieval period,
although the ramparts seem to have remained intact
until the 18th or 19th century. Certainly in 1756 (NRO,
Map of Chester-on-the-Water) all the ramparts are shown
complete and apparently undamaged, though now the
S. part of the W. side has been almost totally destroyed
by cultivation. The ironstone-mining of the 19th and
early 20th centuries has resulted in the destruction of
large parts of the assumed extra-mural area and in the
late 1920s a tramway for ironstone was cut across the
town from E. to W. In 1963 the realignment of the A 45
road led to the partial destruction of the S. side of the
town and the adjacent extra-mural area of occupation.
However, in spite of the destruction which has mostly
taken place during the last 100 years, the site of the
town itself remains largely intact and, together with its
surrounding area, constitutes a major monument of the
Roman period as yet little understood.
The town covers an area of just over 8 hectares and
was formerly completely surrounded by large earthen
ramparts. The N. side now remains as a massive scarp
6 m. high, falling directly to the edge of the flood plain
of the R. Nene. At its E. and W. ends it has been damaged
by later tracks. The E. side is bounded by a large scarp
3 m. high with, at its N. end and still preserved in pasture,
a shallow trench cut into its summit. Further S. there is
a series of shallow depressions, perhaps the result of
Near the centre of this side a narrow gap has been cut
through the rampart. This was made in the late 1920s to
take the ironstone tramway across the area and the low
embankment of the tramway approaches the gap from
the E. However on large-scale OS plans, made in the late
19th century before the tramway was built, another gap
is shown immediately to the S. This may have been an
original gate to the town, for one of the interior streets,
visible on air photographs, turns towards it. No trace of
the gate now exists, and it may have been blocked when
the tramway was built.
The S. side of the town has been cut into by the realignment of the modern road and a modern scarp now
marks its approximate edge. The S.W. corner has also
been removed, though older OS plans show the position
before destruction. On the W. side, the S. half of the
rampart has been largely destroyed by cultivation and
only remains as a much degraded rise 1 m. high. The N.
half still exists as a large bank 2.5 m. high with a flat top.
This length is broken through by a narrow cut made for
the ironstone tramway.
A close examination of the plan of the surviving
defences and of air photographs suggests that the ramparts may not all be of one period. The existing ramparts
do not form an exact rectangle for there is a change of
alignment of some 5°–8°, at the centre of both the E.
and W. sides indicating perhaps that the enclosed area
may be made up of two distinct parts. Air photographs
show traces of what may have been a large ditch running
E.—W. and joining the points where the alignments
change. This ditch is overlaid by the main axial street
of the town and partly by the southernmost of the
branch streets to the E. Thus this ditch may represent
the S. line of the defences of either an early smaller
town or, more likely, a four-hectare fort connected with
the initial advance of the Roman army into this area.
Early observations and later excavations add more
information concerning the actual structure of the main
rampart. Both the early 18th-century county historians
described the walls as they then existed (Morton, op.
cit; J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 181). The
town was then 'inclosed with a stone wall in some places
about 9 ft. thick, of which the out courses of the stone
[were] placed flat-ways, the inward ones end-ways'.
During the excavation of 1878–9 the remains of the
gates in the W. and S. sides were discovered and some
foundations 'not explored' were noted in the centre of
the E. side apparently near the assumed original entrance.
This latter may have been the E. gate to the town. However the gate discovered on the W. is less easily explained.
No road is known to approach the town from that side,
although one may be assumed to have done so, and none
of the three internal streets on that side of the town
meets the ramparts anywhere near the site excavated.
Yet the excavator found a massive stone gateway which
'had been dismantled and ruined at some period' and
blocked with the reused stone. It has been suggested that
this was a 4th-century modification though no dating
evidence was noted.
The 1926 excavations cut across both the E. and W.
ramparts on the line of the tramway. 'Well built stone
walls showing two periods of construction' were discovered. The excavations of 1962–3 on the S. side,
carried out by two separate investigators, were more
informative. A section was cut through the S. rampart
near the S.W. corner. The earliest feature was a small
ditch dated to before 68 A.D. which was sealed by a
subsequent occupation layer, apparently of late 1st to
early 2nd-century date. Above this the main earthen
rampart, some 12 m. wide with a stone core, was constructed, with a lightly metalled road at the rear. The
date of this rampart was probably between 150 and 200
A.D. At some later but unknown date, the front of the
rampart was cut away for the insertion of a limestone-rubble wall at least 2 m. wide fronted by a berm 5 m.
wide and a ditch 2 m. deep. A date in the 4th century
was put forward by the excavator for this work.
Fig. 89 Irchester (7) Roman town
The S.W. corner of the defences was also examined.
Before excavation it comprised a low mound made up of
a mass of stone rubble and soil 2 m. thick which contained Roman pottery and some 17th or 18th-century
sherds. The excavator interpreted this as a modern spoil
heap, but in fact it is more likely to be the site of a small
building shown on the 1756 map of the area (NRO) and
called a 'Temple'. It was probably associated with the
small park laid out around Chester House in the first half
of the 18th century. Below this mound a trapeze-shaped
limestone structure built into the rear of the town wall
was discovered. This was a late corner turret, presumably
for artillery and probably 4th-century in date.
Outside the S.W. corner, the other excavation, also in
1962–3, revealed a triple ditch system curving round the
town ramparts. The innermost of these ditches appears
to be the same as that recognised during the cutting of
the section through the town rampart. These triple
ditches contained material from the late Iron Age in the
primary silt and later Roman pottery in the upper filling.
The excavator could not date these ditches but suggested
that they were of late Iron Age date, because they were
set forward from the later town wall and, in addition,
were not parallel to the wall as it was shown on the
1878–9 excavator's plans. However as the wall itself is a
late alteration to the original earthen rampart, and the
1879 plan is by no means accurate, this argument does
not necessarily follow. More significant is the fact that
on air photographs two of these ditches can be traced
along the S. part of the W. side of the town parallel with
the rampart. They thus appear in plan to be an integral
part of the original town defences. However the early
date of the pottery in the primary silt makes this unlikely and these ditches may well belong to the military
phase of occupation.
Interior of the Town
The interior of the town has been under cultivation
for a long time and air photographs clearly indicate a
large amount of occupation in addition to that known
from the 1878–9 excavations, from chance finds and
from field-walking (JRS, 43 (1953), 92). The most
obvious feature on all air photographs is the very unusual
internal street pattern. The main N.—S. axial street is
straight, except at the S. end where it takes a more
sinuous course to the town's main gate. At the N. end it
bifurcates; one branch curves towards the N.E. and the
other towards the N.W. corner of the town. On the E. of
the main street a side road runs to the E. gate, again with
an unusually winding course. To the W. are three other
curving streets, two of which extend to the W. ramparts;
the central one, however, though aligned approximately
on the W. gate, cannot be traced to it. The main axial
road appears to overlie the broad rather indistinct ditch
which crosses the centre of the town from E. to W. and
which may be the S. side of the assumed early fort.
The air photographs also show a large number of
stone buildings and ditches in the interior. Some of the
buildings appear to be aligned along the streets, but
others do not seem to be related to them. Most of the
buildings are rectangular, and internal divisions can be
seen in some of them. In addition at least three circular
stone structures are visible. The most obvious and clearly
identifiable building on the air photographs is a small
rectangular temple which lies E. of the main street and
N. of the branch street to the E. gate. This temple was
partly excavated in the 'extensive turning over' of
1878–9, and part of the main structure was discovered,
as well as an outer yard to the S.E. of the temple itself,
with a gate into it on the S. side. In the N. corner of this
yard a carved capital and the torso of a limestone statue
of a nude male figure (Plate 32) were discovered (NM),
apparently incorporated in a wall overlying the boundary
of the temple yard. To the S. of the temple fragments of
at least two groups of buildings were discovered, and to
the W. of the latter a large area was also excavated, the
only part of the town completely investigated in 1879.
Two fragments of sculptured stone, said to be part of an
octagonal monument, were found, associated with a
To the W. of the temple and W. of the main street
another group of buildings was explored but the plans
are incomplete. Some painted wall-plaster was found.
Elsewhere in the interior various lengths of walling and
fragments of stone buildings were apparently uncovered,
but no details are known; only their outline is shown on
the excavator's plans.
Among the small finds discovered during these excavations (mostly in NM) were a clay head of a faun, and a
pipe-clay head of a Venus figure, as well as extensive
quantities of pottery, including samian and Nene Valley
wares, glass, brooches, fibulae, wall-plaster, lead weights,
spearheads, tiles, bricks, Collyweston slates and animal
bones. There were also many iron objects including
knives, drills, part of a sickle, a ladle, shears and the
outer casing of a door lock. Large numbers of coins are
recorded covering the whole of the period, but there are
relatively few of the 1st century.
In 1853 an inscribed slab (in BM; Plate 32) was discovered in the S.E. part of the town a little to the S. of
the E. gate. It was found face-down over a rough cist or
stone-lined grave which contained bones and broken
'urns'. The slab, which is broken, is from a monumental
tomb. It measures 110 cm. by 50 cm., and has a sunken
panel inscribed: D[IS] M [ANIBUS]/ANICIUS SATURNINUS/STRATOR CO[N]S[ULARIS]/ M[ONUMENTUM] S[IBI] F[ECIT], i.e. Sacred to the departed
spirits: Anicius Saturninus, strator to the governor, made
this monument to himself. A strator consularis was in
charge of the governor's horses, and could be sent to
try out new mounts. The death of this strator, perhaps
in office, has been taken to suggest the presence of studfarms in the region (R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright,
Roman Inscriptions of Britain, 1 (1965), 75–6).
Among other discoveries from the interior of the
town are those recorded by Bridges and Morton in the
early 18th century (Bridges, op. cit.; Morton, op. cit.).
There were 'two plain oblong quadrangular stone pillars
about 4 ft. long and almost 2 ft. in width', perhaps altars.
These were found on the S. side of the town. Fragments
of a tessellated pavement and brick 'have been ploughed
up' as well as many coins.
A number of Iron Age coins are also recorded as
'from Irchester' including two of Cunobelinus, apparently
from the interior of the town, found before 1898 (Brit.
Num. J., 9 (1927–8), 251; 21 (1931–3), 3; J. Evans,
Coins of the Ancient Britons, Supplement, (1890), 568;
S.S. Frere (ed.), Problems of the Iron Age in Southern
Britain, (1958), 223). Another, of Tasciovanus, said to
be from Irchester, probably came from Duston, W. of
Northampton (Frere, op. cit.).
In recent years large quantities of local pottery as
well as considerable amounts of stone rubble and tiles
have been found on the surface. The quality of these
finds suggests that there are many more stone buildings
which are not visible on air photographs. A number of
coins, mostly of 4th-century date, have also been found
(BNFAS, 5 (1971), 19).
Roman material from the extra-mural settlement of
Irchester has been noted over a wide area S. and E. of
the town (Fig. 12). Little has been found to the W.; the
large ironstone quarries to the S.W. may have destroyed
any occupation on that side. The principal discoveries
made in the extra-mural area are as follows:
Cemetery (SP 921671), found in 1873 during
ironstone-quarrying. Between 300 and 400 skeletons
were discovered, as well as three stone coffins and one of
lead. Many of the graves were lined and covered with
rough limestone slabs (Ass. Arch. Soc. Reps., 13 (1875),
Cemetery and Settlement (SP 921670), found during
ironstone-mining in 1927 and possibly a continuation of
the above. Finds included a Roman cemetery with some
burials in stone coffins, stone-lined wells, pottery and
unspecified ornaments (JRS, 17 (1927), 201).
Settlement (SP 920669), found during excavations by
Baker in 1878–9. Unspecified Roman finds, a drain, at
least two wells and stone foundations were discovered.
This area lies immediately E. of the remains of the
medieval settlement of Chester (8) and some of the finds
may be connected with the latter.
Burials and Settlement (around SP 915666 and
918666). 'Many skeletons and numerous small objects'
were noted during the 1926 excavations across the E.
and W. sides of the town. Some of this material probably
came from outside the ramparts (JRS, 16 (1926), 223).
Iron Age and Roman Settlement (SP 91656641 –
91876653), found in 1963 during excavations for a new
road alignment immediately S. of the town. Remains of
all periods from the early Iron Age to late Roman were
discovered. A single pit containing early Iron Age
pottery was found, together with a ditched enclosure
with an internal wall, dated to the Iron Age B period.
The enclosure had an entrance to the E. and its interior
was full of pits, some containing animal bones. The late
Iron Age was represented by pottery and animal bones
as well as by three inhumations. Roman finds included
four separate areas of stone buildings, all very fragmentary and ranging in date from the early 2nd to late 4th
century, various ditches and part of a kiln, perhaps of
2nd-century date. Other finds included animal bones,
brooches, coins, pins, bone tools, tiles and at least seven
burials dated to the 3rd century (Arch. J., 124 (1967),
65–128). Air photographs of the area, taken before the
road works started, show some of these features, as well
as at least three other enclosures and a number of
'Tumulus' (SP 921665), S.E. of the town on the side
of the A 45 road. It is said that there was once a mound
here, but no trace remains (OS Record Cards).
Hoard of Bronze Bowls (SP 921671), found in 1874
during ironstone-mining. The hoard consists of eight
bronze vessels found stacked inside an iron-bound
bronze tub. There are five bowls, one ladle and two
strainers. The whole group is dated to the late 4th
century (NM; J. Northants. Mus. and Art. Gall., 4
Coin Hoard (SP 91866694), found during road works
in 1963. A Roman pot contained approximately 42,000
silver-washed copper antoniniani of the mid to late 3rd
century (NM; Arch. J., op. cit., 92).
Coin Hoard (?) (SP 924669). Writing in about 1720
Bridges recorded that 'in an orchard of . . . [Chester]
House were lately found 45 brass coins in an urn with a
ring and chain hanging on it' (J. Bridges, Hist of Northants., II (1791), 181).
The town of Irchester was the meeting place of two
and perhaps three roads. The details of these are fully
described in the Appendix but information relating to
their form in the area of Irchester is summarised here.
Road 170, Dungee Corner to Irchester approached
the town from the S. and entered it through the S. gate
to join the axial street. No trace of its line is visible to
the N. of Irchester village; apart from a small area S. of
the Roman town the land has been quarried away by
ironstone-mining. However in the field N. of the iron-stone quarry and immediately S. of the town (SP
91756642), now occupied by the realigned A 45, air
photographs (CUAP, DA 14) show a soil mark extending
N.N.W. towards the S. gate. No trace of this was noted
during the excavations of 1962–3 (Arch. J., 124 (1967),
65–78) but as these took place after surface stripping
for the modern road-works the Roman road may already
have been destroyed.
Road 570, Durobrivae to Irchester (?) approached the
town from the E., and entered it through the E. gate.
Although no trace of it remains on the ground or is
visible on air photographs, the excavations of 1878–9
are said to have discovered a road of gravel and pebbles
laid on limestone, running E. from the E. gate and
apparently traced for a distance of some 300 m. (SP
91856680–91246694). However, according to the
excavator's plan, the three places where the road was
found are not in a straight line, so that either the original
road changed direction markedly, or the excavator was
mistaken in assuming that each piece was part of the
Road, Duston to Irchester probably approached the
town from the W. and entered it through the W. gate. No
trace of such a road is known anywhere between Welling
borough and Irchester although it is likely that one
Road, Kettering to Irchester probably ran N.N.W.
from the E. gate of the Roman town towards Kettering.
A large agger, 0.5 m. high and 10 m. wide, is traceable
crossing the floodplain of the R. Nene (SP 91686753–
(Additional Bibliography: Plans, Sections, Photographs, Drawings and Notes, Dryden Collection, Central
Library, Northampton; CUAP, AFX 3, BCJ 84–5, DA
9–14, YP 4–11, ZE 1–5; air photographs in NMR.)
Fig. 90 Irchester (8)
Settlement remains of Chester-on-the-Water
Medieval and Later
Two Anglo-Saxon saucer brooches, said to have been
found in Irchester (Archaeologia, 63 (1912), 200;
Meaney, Gazetteer, 190), in fact came from the large
cemetery at Marston St. Lawrence, in the S.W. of the
county (J. Northants. Mus. and Art Gall., 6 (1969), 49).
a(8) Settlement Remains (SP 920669; Figs.
90, 91 and 93; Plate 16), formerly part of the hamlet
of Chester-on-the-Water, lie immediately E. of Chester
House and 250 m. E. of the Roman Town (7), on sand
at 52 m. above OD. Although the existence of the hamlet in late medieval times is well documented, little is
known of its earlier history, and almost nothing of its
population. It is not mentioned in Domesday Book or in
medieval tax returns and the earliest reference to it is in
1236. In the Inquisitions Post Mortem of 1309 twenty-four villeins, tenants and cottars are recorded on the
manor but it is not certain that all these people lived at
Chester itself. In 1517 the Wolsey Commission reported
that William Coope, the then lord, had demolished six
messuages in 1498, thereby rendering 36 people idle.
However another document indicates that there were
still five messuages inhabited in the village at that time.
In the early 17th century six houses are recorded in
Chester and these still existed in the late 17th century.
They still remain but in a ruined state, having been
abandoned and incorporated into the farm before 1720
when Bridges described Chester as a 'manor with one
house . . . anciently an hamlet of four or five houses'. A
map of 1756 (NRO) shows that a small country estate
had been created by this time, with the present Chester
House and a formal garden approached by a wide drive,
and since that date there have been few alterations.
The surviving earthworks are slight and much mutilated by later farm buildings, recent rubbish dumps and
the abandoned cutting of an ironstone tramway. Two
roughly parallel scarps, running S.W.—N.E. may represent
former croft boundaries and the slight rectangular
depressions associated with them may be sites of buildings. The surviving buildings to the W., now part of the
farm, consist of a range of five ruined houses, all probably
17th-century; one carries a date stone of 1690.
a(9) Deserted Village of Knuston (SP
938662; Figs. 92 and 93; Plate 22), lies immediately N.
and N.W. of Knuston Hall, on limestone and clay at
60 m. above OD.
The village is first mentioned in Domesday Book with
a recorded population of 12. It is impossible to determine
the size of the village before the early 18th century,
because the village was a dependent chapelry of Irchester
and thus all national taxation records include both
places. Moreover as Knuston was divided into two
separate manors there are no total population statistics
in the manorial records. However 33 tenants are listed
under the larger manor just prior to 1345. There is some
evidence of enclosure and depopulation at Knuston in
the early 16th century, and by 1720 Bridges records
twenty families in the village. Inadequate as these figures
are they suggest a considerable decrease in population
in late medieval or early post-medieval times. A map of
Knuston, c. 1769 (NRO), probably made for purposes of
enclosure, shows five farms and about a dozen cottages
arranged around a group of lanes N. of the hall. By this
time the hall had acquired a small formal park around it.
In 1775 the Knuston estate was sold to Benjamin Kidney
who mortgaged it in 1780 and 1786 and then sold it in
1791 to Joseph Culstone. The documents which record
these transactions show clearly the final removal of the
hamlet of Knuston and its replacement by parkland. By
1786 at least two farms and four cottages had been
bought by the lord of the manor and were without
tenants, and at least one other farm was used only as a
barn and dove-house. By 1791 (map in NRO) all but one
of the buildings S. of the existing road had been demolished and the land emparked (Northants. P. and P., 5
Fig. 91 Irchester (8) Settlement remains of Chester-on-the-Water (drawing based on a plan of 1756)
The surviving earthworks are slight and have been
disturbed by a temporary hospital erected during the
Second World War, and by the straightening of the
Irchester-Rushden Road in 1967 which removed the
hollow-way shown as a through-road on the map of
1769. S. of the present road is a series of disturbed earthworks, most of which are the remains of houses and
gardens already abandoned before the 18th century.
Those in the area N.W. of the hall ('a' on Fig. 92) lie on
the site of buildings still standing in 1769. N.E. of
Middle Farm are further low earthworks, also abandoned
before the 18th century. Pottery discovered during the
road construction in 1967 included one Roman sherd,
one possible Saxon sherd, some 12th to 13th-century
St. Neots ware and various 13th to 14th-century wares
of Lyveden and Potterspury types. Considerable amounts
of post-medieval pottery were also noted.
Immediately S. of the hall is a low semi-circular bank,
only 15 cm. high. This marks the boundary of the
circular forecourt of the hall shown on the 18th-century
a(10) Settlement Remains (SP 925660), formerly part of Irchester village, near the church, on lime-stone at 70 m. above OD. Pipeline trenches in the area
have revealed medieval pottery, including St. Neots and
Lyveden wares, indicating former settlement (BNFAS,
7 (1972), 44).
Fig. 92 Irchester (9) Deserted village of Knuston
a(11) Site of Manor House (SP 928656),
immediately E. of High Street, Irchester, on limestone at
68 m. above OD. The area was once covered by low
earthworks which were completely destroyed by building
development in 1967 (CUAP, AKP–83; RAF VAP 541/
611, 4033–4). During the development excavations
took place and a large number of features and finds were
discovered. In addition to some Roman pottery these
included the walls of a number of buildings, cobbled
yards, pits, ditches and post-holes, Saxon and medieval
pottery of St. Neots, Stamford and Lyveden types, an
iron-working site, roof tiles, horse-shoes, iron arrowheads, a bone-handled knife and lead glazing-bars. A
silver penny of William, Count of Namur (1337–91), was
also discovered. Worked flints, including an arrowhead
were noted (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 25; 5 (1971), 30; OS
Record Cards; inf. P. Foster). Further to the N., beyond
Station Road (SP 928658), a number of closes, bounded
by low banks and much disturbed by later quarrying,
still survive on either side of a shallow valley. These may
be associated with the finds described above.
Fig. 93 Irchester
Medieval settlements and estates
(12) Cultivation Remains. The common fields
of the old parish of Irchester were enclosed in 1773.
Shortly before that date there were apparently three
fields known as Bridge, Middle Dale and Mill Bunch
Fields (Northampton Central Library, Irchester Cuttings).
The common fields of the township of Knuston were
enclosed in 1769 (VCH Northants., IV (1937), 5;
Northants. P. and P., 5 (1975), 191).
Very little of the ridge-and-furrow of these fields
remains on the ground or is traceable from air photographs. There are fragments N. and S. of the village of
Irchester and S. of Irchester Grange (SP 929649), and a
group of interlocked furlongs around Knuston Lodge
(SP 944657). Within the land of the old lordship of
Chester one block remains, E. of Chester House (SP
919669). Headlands survive S. of Irchester village,
running S. for 300 m. from SP 921653 and 922653, and
N. of Knuston Hall running N.W. from SP 937664 and
937668 (RAF VAP F22 543/RAF/943, 0101–8,
0031–9; F21 543/RAF/943, 0031–7; 540/474, 3042–
3; 541/611, 4041–3, 4033–7; CPE/UK/2546, 4195–6;
F21 540/RAF/1312, 0275–83; F22 540/RAF/1312,