(OS 1: 10000 a SP 78 SW, b SP 78 SE, c SP 77 NW,
d SP 77 NE)
The L-shaped parish covers about 1145 hectares and lies
across the upper reaches of the R. Ise; an E.-flowing
tributary stream forms the N. boundary. The higher
ground in the S. and W. and on the spur between the two
streams is covered by Boulder Clay rising to a maximum
height of 180 m. above OD. Upper Lias Clay is revealed
along the lower slopes, and the valley bottoms at about
115 m. above OD are floored by wide areas of river gravel
and alluvium. The main monument is the deserted village
of Kelmarsh (14), but little is known about the history of
the extensive earthworks.
Prehistoric and Roman
a(1) Enclosure (SP 732808), N.W. of Lodge Ground
Spinney, on Boulder Clay at 130 m. above OD. Air
photographs (in NMR) show all but the S.W. side of an
apparently rectangular enclosure at least 50 m. across
(Northants. Archaeol., 9 (1974), 114).
a(2) Enclosure and Ditch (SP 725813), S. of Kelmarsh
Field Farm, on Upper Lias Clay at 137 m. above OD. Air
Photographs (in NMR) show, rather indistinctly, what
may be the N. part of a sub-rectangular enclosure at least
60 m. across, with a linear ditch extending for at least
200 m. from its N.W. corner (Northants. Archaeol., 9
c(3) Enclosures (SP 719793; Fig. 84), lie in the W. of
the parish, on Northampton Sand and Upper Lias Clay, at
160 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR) show
cropmarks of at least two rectangular enclosures, one with
a circular feature in its S.E. corner. Other ditches are also
a(4) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 726806), 500 m. S. of (2),
on Boulder Clay at 145 m. above OD. A scatter of Roman
pottery has been found here (Northants. Archaeol., 11 (1976),
a(5) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 732803), 500 m. S.E. of
(4), on river gravel at 122 m. above OD. A scatter of
Roman pottery has been found in the area (Northants.
Archaeol., 11 (1976), 192).
d(6) Roman Settlement (SP 750796), S. and S.E. of New
Covert, in the E. of the parish, on Northampton Sand and
Upper Lias Clay between 135 m. and 150 m. above OD.
Air photographs (in NMR) show, very indistinctly, a large
area of cropmarks covering some 10 hectares. It is not
possible to interpret the features clearly, not only because
there are discrepancies between the available air
photographs but also because there is extensive frost-wedging in the area. The site appears to consist of a
number of conjoined rectangular enclosures, possibly with
a ditched trackway passing between them. From the S.W.
part of the site (SP 748796) Roman pottery has been found
(Northants. Archaeol., 11 (1976), 192; for Saxon pottery
from this site, see (12) below).
c(7) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 745793), 500 m. S.W. of
(6) on Boulder Clay at 152 m. above OD. Roman pottery
has been found and air photographs (not seen by RCHM)
are said to show cropmarks of a settlement (Northants.
Archaeol., 11 (1976), 192; 12 (1977), 230; for Saxon finds
from this site, see (13)).
c(8) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 744790), 300 m. S.S.W.
of (7) on Upper Lias Clay at 145 m. above OD. A scatter of
Roman pottery has been found (Northants. Archaeol., 12
c(9) Roman Settlement (SP 723788), S.W. of the
village, on Boulder Clay and Upper Lias Clay between
135 m. and 145 m. above OD. Air photographs (in NMR)
show, rather indistinctly, a large area of cropmarks
covering some 8 hectares. They include overlapping and
conjoined rectangular enclosures, with other linear features
intersecting them. Roman pottery has been found on the
N. edge of the site (SP 720803) and to the W. (SP 722788;
Northants. Archaeol., 11 (1976), 192; 12 (1977), 212).
a(10) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 734806), in the N.E. of
the parish, on Boulder Clay at 123 m. above OD. Roman
sherds have been noted (Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977),
a(11) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 733815), in the N. of
the parish on Upper Lias Clay at 135 m. above OD. A
scatter of Roman pottery has been discovered (Northants.
Archaeol., 12 (1977), 212).
Medieval and Later
d(12) Saxon Settlement (?) (SP 750796), found on the
Roman settlement (6). Early Saxon pottery has been
discovered (Northants. Archaeol., 11 (1976), 192).
c(13) Saxon Settlement (?) (SP 745793), found on the
Roman settlement (7). Early Saxon pottery has been
discovered (Northants. Archaeol., 11 (1976), 192).
c(14) Deserted Village of Kelmarsh (SP 743794; Fig.
85), lies N. and N.W. of the present estate village, around
and within the park of Kelmarsh Hall, on Upper Lias Clay,
between 120 m. and 145 m. above OD. The remains of the
village are both extensive and well preserved, but its history
and the date of desertion are not known.
Kelmarsh is first mentioned by name in Domesday Book
but no total recorded population is given there. At that time
it was divided into two holdings, one of which was part of
the royal manor of Rothwell; the other was a small manor
held by William Pevrel, with a recorded population of nine
(VCH Northants., II (1906), 306, 338). In 1377, 84 people
over the age of 14 paid the Poll Tax, indicating a sizable
community (PRO, E179/155/28). In 1674, 26
householders paid the Hearth Tax, a figure which does not
suggest a major drop in population (PRO, E179/254/14).
Bridges (Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 39) records that in
about 1720 there were 23 families living in the village, and
the population of the parish in 1801 was 131. There is no
clear documentary indication of depopulation at Kelmarsh
at any period and, though some clearance may have taken
place in 1727–32 when the present hall replaced the older
manor house of around 1600, it is likely that much of the
abandonment had already taken place before then. The
modern village lies S.E. of the hall and is made up largely of
19th-century estate houses.
The remains fall into three main blocks. To the S.W. of
the hall, N. of and around the isolated church, is a large
area of earthworks consisting mainly of sub-rectangular
closes or platforms bounded by low scarps and banks or by
shallow ditches. Some appear to be arranged around the
church along the existing road to Clipston; the others are
on either side of a broad hollow-way to the N. which runs
almost parallel to the present road. This hollow-way is cut
at right-angles by a broad, deep ditch running N.–S. ('a'
on plan). To the W. of this ditch the village earthworks are
well preserved but to the E. only slight fragments remain.
It appears that the ditch is a late feature bounding the W.
edge of an area which has been ploughed and returned to
parkland in recent times. It is possible that this was done in
the 18th century when the hall was built and the park
The second main area of earthworks lies E. of the hall, E.
and N. of Hall Farm. These appear to be the rather
mutilated remains of former houses and closes lying along
the existing Harborough Road with, behind them to the E.,
a roughly trapezoidal ditched area divided into paddocks. It
is possible that these remains are of two separate phases
though the exact relationship is not clear. At the N. corner
('b' on plan) is a triangular feature, bounded by banks up to
1.5 m. high broken by several gaps. This may be a
mutilated fishpond. It is unlikely to be a 17th-century Civil
War fortification as has sometimes been claimed (see (16)
The third part of the site lies W. and N. of Wilderness
Farm and consists of a number of long closes bounded by
ditches and scarps extending E. to the R. Ise. These remains
are extremely fragmentary but may be sites of abandoned
houses and gardens.
To the N. of the village earthworks, N. of the artificial
lake of Kelmarsh Hall, air photographs show traces of
ploughed out enclosures (not shown on plan). These may
be associated with the former village.
A small excavation was carried out in 1961 on a building
platform N. of the church. This produced pottery from the
11th century, including Stamford Ware, with smaller
quantities of 13th and 14th-century sherds. Two
occupation layers were noted, the lower with post-holes
for a timber building, the upper with stake-holes of light
sheds dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries (DOE
Arch. Excavations 1971 (1972), 33; DMVRG Annual Rep.,
18 (1971), 17; RAF VAP 106G/UK/636, 3188–9; CUAP,
SB48–51, AEV30–31, AHE85–90, AWV12–14, BQD25–32, 35,
c(15) Dam (SP 731792; Fig. 85), lies across the valley of
the R. Ise, S. of the Clipston road, on alluvium and Upper
Lias Clay at 125 above OD. It consists of a large earthen
bank up to 2 m. high, spanning the narrow valley, with a
modern break through which the river now flows. It
presumably ponded back a considerable lake and may have
been the site of a medieval fishpond or watermill.
Fig. 86 Kelmarsh (17) Site of sheep-fold
Fig. 85 Kelmarsh (14) Deserted village, (15) Dam
a(16) Earthworks (SP 728801; Plate 12), lay in the
bottom of a valley N.W. of Kelmarsh Hall, on alluvium at
125 m. above OD. They consisted of a small rectangular
area with an elongated triangular one immediately to the
S., bounded by earthen banks up to 1.5 m. high in which
there were a number of gaps. In general appearance they
were very similar to the surviving earthworks at the N.
end of the deserted village (14) ('b' on plan). The site was
completely levelled in 1968, but before destruction an
excavation was carried out, on the supposition that the
remains represented the late 16th or earlier 17th-century
manor house of Kelmarsh which is traditionally said to
have stood there. The excavation showed that the banks
were made from the underlying clay and in parts were
revetted in stone. No finds or dating evidence was
recovered and the excavator, while rejecting the idea that
the site was that of the manor house, concluded that it was
a 17th-century Civil War sconce. This is most unlikely, as
the earthworks bore little relationship to Civil War
defences. Although the excavator rejected the OS
classification of the site as a medieval fishpond, this still
seems to be the most likely explanation (Northants. Ant. Soc.
Rep., 66 (1969), 7–14; Post-Med. Arch., 3 (1969), 197;
CUAP, SB47, AFB89, AWV15; air photographs in NMR).
c(17) Abandoned Sheep-fold (SP 715796; Fig. 86), lies
in the extreme W. of the parish on Upper Lias Clay at
160 m. above OD. An area of former ridge-and-furrow
appears to have been partly destroyed and overlaid by two
sub-rectangular enclosures, bounded by low banks and
scarps. At the E. end of the S. enclosure, and also overlying
ridge-and-furrow, is a small embanked feature, perhaps
the site of a stone building. The remains are probably the
site of a sheep-fold and shepherd's hut of unknown date
but presumably constructed after the enclosure of the
common fields, and are a rare survival of a once common
(18) Cultivation Remains. The date of the enclosure of
the common fields of the parish is unknown but it had
certainly taken place before the early 18th century when
Bridges (Hist. of Northants., II (1791), 39) described it as an
'inclosed lordship'. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields can
be traced on the ground or from air photographs over
almost the whole of the parish, apart from a wide band of
fields immediately N. and W. of the village where it has
been destroyed by modern agriculture. In the W. and S. of
the parish the furlongs were arranged both end-on and at
right-angles to each other over the broken ground but in
the N. there are long sweeps of end-on furlongs running
N.W.–S.E. across the spurs and, in the N.E., running N.
towards the stream. It is particularly well preserved in the
area E. and N.W. of the village (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994,
2452–6, 4455–61; CPE/UK/2109, 3288–93; 106G/UK/636,