(OS 1:10000 a SP 75 NW, b SP 75 SW)
The parish is of irregular shape, covering almost 800
hectares. The N. part is a rather flat area of Upper
Lias Clay, glacial sands and gravels and alluvium, all
at about 84 m. above OD, but from there the land
rises steeply, exposing narrow bands of Northampton Sand, Blisworth Limestone and other Oolitic
deposits, to a high ridge covered by Boulder Clay
with a maximum height of 130 m. above OD. A
N.-flowing stream has cut a steep-sided, narrow valley, now occupied by the Grand Union Canal which
then passes below the ridge in a tunnel.
Prehistoric and Roman
A gold stater of Tasciovanus (Mack, 167) was found in
the S.W. of the parish around 1950 (SP 720524; NM; S. S.
Frere (ed.), Problems of the Iron Age in S. Britain (1958),
223; NM Records). Another, listed under Gayton, may
have come from Blisworth. Part of a quern, possibly
Roman, was found in 1969 (SP 71935404; NM; BNFAS,
4 (1970), 6).
b(1) Round Barrow (?) (SP 73435160), on Blisworth
Hill in the S. of the parish, on Boulder Clay at 125 m.
above OD. The mound is situated in a field called Bury
Hill in 1729 (map in NRO); it is circular, 16 m. in diam.
and 0.25 m. high, with slight traces of a surrounding ditch
about 3 m. across. The field has slight traces of ridge-and-furrow in it but it is impossible to say if this pre-dates
the mound. The mound may be a barrow, but could also
be a medieval windmill mound. (BNFAS, 5 (1971), 1; RAF
VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1029–30)
ab(2) Enclosure (SP 727550), lies in the N. of the parish,
on Upper Lias Clay at 80 m. above OD. Air photographs
(not seen by RCHM) are said to show a rectangular enclosure of just under 1 hectare, perhaps with other enclosures
attached to it on the N. (BNFAS, 6 (1971), 3).
b(3) Roman Settlement (unlocated but possibly around
SP 735530), believed to have been discovered in the 19th
century during ironstone-quarrying S.E. of the village, on
Blisworth Limestone at just over 122 m. above OD.
Roman coins, pottery and 'ornaments', some from wells
or pits, are recorded from the parish (VCH Northants., I
(1902), 216; T. J. George, Arch. Survey of Northants. (1904),
10). Worked flints are also documented.
b(4) Roman Settlement (?) (SP 733536), in a restored
quarry E. of the village, on Northampton Sand, at 145 m.
above OD. Roman pottery has been found on reclaimed
land, in soil taken from the adjacent area (inf. D. N. Hall).
For Roman settlement at SP 712529, see Gayton (3).
Medieval and Later
b(5) Settlement Remains (SP 726537), formerly part of
Blisworth, lay at the N. end of the village, immediately
N. of Chapel Lane and Little Lane. The earthworks, in
existence until at least 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3030–
1), have now been destroyed, but consisted of a group of
small rectangular paddocks bounded by low banks, presumably the gardens of houses that once stood along the
lane. Some of the houses remained until after 1810 for they
are depicted on the draft Enclosure Map of that date
(NRO) as well as on a map of the parish of 1729 (NRO).
b(6) Tramway (SP 743500–724533; Fig. 32), extends for
3.8 km. over Blisworth Hill, between Blisworth and Stoke
Bruerne. It was build in 1800–1 to carry the freight of the
Grand Junction Canal over the hill during the construction
of Blisworth Tunnel. The construction of the tunnel
started in 1793, but difficulties with flooding and contractors continually held up the work. By the end of 1796,
when there was still no prospect of the tunnel's early completion, it was proposed that a road be constructed over
the hill to join the two already complete sections of the
canal. The road was not a success and in March 1799, it
was decided that it should be replaced by a tramway. This
was finished by 1801 and was in use until February 1805
when the tunnel was finally completed. The tramway was
then abandoned and its track was reused on the Northampton Tramway (see Rothersthorpe (6)). The rails used for
the line were L-shaped in section and were fixed to stone
sleepers with the horizontal flange facing outwards (examples in Stoke Bruerne Waterways Museum). The wagons therefore had flangeless wheels and elaborate sidings
were not necessary as wagons could simply be run off the
track and parked. The gauge of the track was probably
4 ft. 2 in. Although no record survives it seems likely that
the N. end of the tramway was later used to carry stone
from the Blisworth quarries to the canal wharves. (A. H.
Faulkner, The Grand Junction Canal (1972), 42–60; Northants. Ant. Soc. Rep., 64 (1962–3), 14–26).
Fig. 32 Blisworth (6) Tramway
The S. end of the tramway lay S.E. of Stoke Bruerne,
on the E. side of the canal where the Northampton to
Stony Stratford road crosses it (SP 74894919). No trace of
it survives for the first 1200 m. to the N., but it probably
ran N.W. alongside the existing towpath. At the point
where the canal enters the cutting leading to the S. entrance
of Blisworth Tunnel (SP 74135006) the line of the tramway
is visible as a ledge or terrace, 4 m.–5 m. wide, climbing
the hillside, parallel to the cutting. This terrace continues
beyond the tunnel entrance until it meets a lane running
S. from the Blisworth-Stoke Bruerne Road (SP 73885033).
For the next 300 m. the lane takes the original line of the
tramway as it ascends the steep S. side of the hill and no
trace of the tramway exists. Then (at SP 73865070) the lane
swings N.W. and in a small triangular copse the tramway
is again visible as a terrace 5 m. wide. Beyond the copse,
as the top of the hill is reached, no trace of the tramway
can be seen except for a line of stones 5 m.–6 m. wide
across an arable field.
At the point where it enters Blisworth parish (SP
73765094) the tramway appears as a broad stony ridge
10 m. wide and 0.25 m. high crossing a green lane. This
ridge continues N.N.W. for 350 m. in a pasture field. At
the N. end of this field it cuts across an area of rather
narrow ridge-and-furrow. Beyond the field it continues
for a further 140 m. until it reaches the Blisworth-Stoke
Bruerne Road. Along this section the remains have been
ploughed over but survive partly as a low embankment
and partly as a shallow cutting 15 m. across. At the point
where it crossed the road (SP 73525141) the tramway turned
N.W. and the line continues as a low embankment 0.25 m.
high and 12 m. wide for a distance of 230 m. Midway
along this section (SP 73425155) the embankment is partly
overlaid by the tail of one of the spoil heaps from the canal
tunnel which lies directly below. From this point the tramway starts to descend the N. side of Blisworth Hill and
for the next 200 m. the remains take the form of a shallow
cutting, crossing two adjacent furlongs of reversed-S
ridge-and-furrow. At Blisworth Hill Farm (SP 73195189)
the tramway turned N. but any trace has been obscured
by farm buildings. To the N. of the farm, for some 500 m.,
the remains of the tramway have been ploughed over and
only a broad cutting up to 20 m. wide and 1.5 m. deep
survives, in a very degraded form. Immediately S.W. of
Tunnel Hill Farm (SP 73005253) the alignment again turns
N.N.W. and is visible for 230 m. as a broad cutting passing
between piles of spoil from the canal tunnel. Beyond, the
tramway survives as a massive embankment over 3 m.
high and some 70 m. long crossing a small valley after
which it passes on to the level summit of another spoil
heap (SP 72905282). This point probably marks the position
of winding machinery which drew the wagons up the very
steep incline to the N. The incline can be traced as a cutting
or terrace running in a broad curve N.W. and then W.
above and roughly parallel to the canal as it enters the N.
portals of the tunnel. To the S. of the village (SP 72505307)
the tramway reached the level of the canal and continued
along the W. side of it until it reached wharves at Blisworth
(SP 72385335). Along this section it survives as a broad
In 1969 an excavation was carried out on the line of the
tramway in the extreme S. of Blisworth parish (SP 736513).
Four rows of stone sleeper blocks, two rows for each track,
were found (BNFAS, 4 (1970), 30).
Although there is no documentary proof, a section of
the tramway to the N. of the tunnel entrance to Blisworth
may have had a later use. At its S. end, above the tunnel,
a secondary cutting runs S.E. and then E. and appears to
be heading towards the stone quarries further E. and N.E.
In addition the discovery, during fieldwork on the incline,
of a cast iron chair to take a rail of conventional type
suggests that a later track had at some time replaced that
of 1800–5. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1029–30, 1242–3, 3029–
(7) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of the
parish were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1808
(NRO, Draft Enclosure Map, 1808). By that time the
whole of the S. part of the parish centred on Blisworth
Hill was already enclosed, as well as a large area N.W. of
the village and a narrow strip N. of the village on the W.
side of the main A43 road. Until enclosure the remaining
land was divided into four open fields. Windmill Field lay
to the N.E. of the village, Nether Field to the N.W., Long
Stockin Field to the S.E. and Wood Field to the S.W. An
earlier map, of 1729 (NRO) shows exactly the same situation except that in the extreme S.W. a small area was
named Wooley Field. Ridge-and-furrow of these and
earlier fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air
photographs over parts of the parish. Most of the traceable
remains lie on the summit and slopes of Blisworth Hill,
which was already enclosed by 1729. Here as elsewhere,
the ridge-and-furrow is arranged in end-on and interlocked
furlongs, and it would appear that most of this area was
under normal strip-field cultivation at some time. Similar
ridge-and-furrow is traceable in other areas of old enclosures to the W. and N. of the village. Ridge-and-furrow
in the area covered by the four open fields up to 1808
survives in a few places and where it is complete it agrees
exactly with the furlongs and direction of strips shown on
the draft Enclosure Map. It is notable that in the N.E. of
the parish, against the Milton Malsor parish boundary (SP
731542), the location as well as the furlong names, Lower,
Middle and Upper Breach Furlongs, would suggest a late
intake of land. The ridge-and-furrow is laid out in large
blocks neatly related to adjacent furlongs and does not
appear to be the result of infilling of small irregular areas
left uncultivated at an earlier period. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926,
1028–31, 3029–33, 5028–31; FSL 6565, 1796–8, 1997–9,