Cold Higham


English Heritage


Year published


Supporting documents




Comment on this article
Double click anywhere on the text to add an annotation in-line

Citation Show another format:

'Cold Higham', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 4: Archaeological sites in South-West Northamptonshire (1982), pp. 32-34. URL: Date accessed: 16 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


(Min 3 characters)


(OS 1:10000 a SP 65 SW, b SP 65 SE, c SP 65 NE, d SP 65 NW)

The parish, covering just over 700 hectares, lies W. of Watling Street (A5) which forms the N.E. boundary, and is drained by several small streams flowing generally N.E. and S.E. A large outcrop of Northampton Sand with small patches of Oolitic Limestone occupies much of the central and S. part, with a blanket of Boulder Clay in the S.W. and S.E. where the land rises to a maximum height of 162 m. above OD. A N.-facing scarp in the N., between 120 m. and 90 m. above OD, is on Upper Lias Clay and Marlstone Rock.

The parish contains three medieval settlements (Fig. 41) one of which, Potcote (5), is now largely deserted. The village of Cold Higham itself is very small, and only Grimscote (4) is of any size.

Prehistoric and Roman

A Roman sestertius, probably of the 2nd century, was found in 1966 at Grimscote (SP 653535; Northants. Archaeol., 12 (1977), 211).

b(1) Ring Ditch (?) (SP 660531), 500 m. S.W. of Cold Higham church, on Northampton Sand at 152 m. above OD. Air photographs (NCAU) show a possible ring ditch some 15 m. in diam.

b(2) Enclosures and Ditches (centred SP 663535; Fig. 40), S. and N.E. of Cold Higham church, on Northampton Sand between 142 m. and 152 m. above OD. Air photographs (NCAU) show an area of complicated cropmarks covering some 12 hectares. Most of these are indistinct and almost impossible to understand. The plan given here should be regarded as an interim interpretation. The numerous overlapping enclosures and ditches presumably indicate a long period of occupation.

b(3) Enclosures and Ring Ditch (SP 665541), 200 m. N. of Foster's Booth and immediately W. of Watling Street, on Northampton Sand at 142 m. above OD. Air photographs (NCAU) show very indistinctly a rectangular arrangement of at least six small elongated paddocks or closes only 50 m. by 10 m.–20 m., orientated E.-W. and not aligned on the Roman road. A ring ditch 12 m. in diam. is just visible inside one of them.

For Roman Road 1f, Watling Street, see Appendix.

Fig. 40 Cold Higham (2) Enclosures and ditches

Medieval and Later

b(4) Settlement Remains (SP 654535; Fig. 41), formerly part of Grimscote, lie in and around the hamlet, on Northampton Sand between 122 m. and 140 m. above OD. The hamlet is the largest centre of population in the parish and already was so in the early 18th century (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 259). Little is known of its history, but extensive earthworks around it might suggest that it was once much larger than it is now. Indeed even in the mid 19th century Baker (Hist. of Northants., II (1836– 41), 291) said that Grimscote 'abounds in abrupt inequalities of surface'.

Most of the surviving earthworks are of little archaeological interest as they appear to be relatively modern and unconnected with settlement. For example, there are extensive stone quarries immediately S. and S.W. of Manor Farm (SP 654535) and broad bench or terrace features on the valley side to the N. of the farm (SP 654537) also appear to be old quarries. Banks to the N.E. and S.E. of the farm (SP 655637 and 655534) are at least in part the lines of old hedges bounding paddocks which were still in existence in 1812 (NRO, Enclosure Map). Elsewhere the banks appear to be old close boundaries, which had already been aban doned by 1726 (Map in NRO), for example on both sides of Mill Lane, behind Home Farm, Goffs Farm and Ivybank (SP 649535, 651534 and 651535). The only possible former house-sites lie in two small embanked closes on the E. side of Manor Road and immediately S. of Manor Farm (SP 653535); the E. ends of these have been cut by the later quarries. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3041–3; CUAP, AKS2; air photographs in NMR)

b(5) Deserted Hamlet of Potcote (SP 658526; Fig. 41), lies S.W. of Cold Higham, around Potcote Farm, on limestone and sand at 137 m. above OD. The hamlet was the centre of a discrete unit of land which occupied the S. part of the modern parish of Cold Higham, the boundaries of which are shown on a map of 1726 (NRO). In addition, it appears that a small area of land at the N. end of Greens Norton parish also belonged to Potcote, and there is still a farm called Potcote there (at SP 662518). It is not clear how or why this land in Greens Norton became part of Potcote. Either there were originally two places both called Potcote, or the unit of land belonging to Potcote predates the establishment of the Cold Higham-Greens Norton parish boundary.

Potcote is not recorded in documents until 1202 (PN Northants., 91–2), but is almost certainly much older. In the 12th-century Survey of Northamptonshire (VCH Northants., I (1902), 373) there is a reference to an otherwise unidentified place called Potton in Towcester Hundred and this may by Potcote. The hamlet is mentioned by name in the 1316 Nomina Villarum, but thereafter there is no indication of its size until 1499 when Sir Thomas Green of Greens Norton, whose family had acquired the manor before 1428, destroyed four houses and enclosed 304 acres of land, converting it to pasture (K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 45). Nothing is then known of Potcote until 1726; a map of that date shows a single farmstead there, with another farm to the S. within Greens Norton. The same situation existed in 1812 (NRO, Enclosure Map of Cold Higham). Since then, except for the rebuilding of the main Potcote Farm on a new site to the N.W. of the old one, nothing has changed.

There is little trace of the hamlet on the ground and the modern farm may have destroyed any former earthworks. An area of some 8 hectares around the farm is devoid of ridge-and-furrow and this may mark the overall extend of the hamlet. There are some very slight, indeterminate banks and scarps forming no coherent pattern to the S.E. of the modern farm, while to the S.W. are the fragmentary remains of what appear to be three sides of an embanked enclosure of about 2 hectares. A small quantity of pottery, mainly of 13th or 14th-century date but including some post-medieval sherds, has been found in the fields to the S. of the farm (SP 658525).

At the Potcote Farm to the S., in Greens Norton parish, are some slight banks lying to the W. of the present buildings. These may be the boundaries of paddocks abandoned relatively recently. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3041–3; CPE/UK/ 1994, 4171–2)

(6) Cultivation Remains (Fig. 41). The common fields of Cold Higham and Grimscote were enclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1812 (NRO, Enclosure Map), and it is not certain whether each settlement had its own field system. An earlier map of 1726 (NRO) shows the common fields, but the furlongs and strips on it appear to be schematic.

Fig. 41 Cold Higham, Greens Norton, Pattishall and Towcester Medieval settlements and estates

Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over much of that part of the parish associated with Grimscote and Cold Higham. It is arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs, many of reversed-S form. There are examples of the overploughing of headlands in order to make two end-on furlongs into one (e.g. at SP 651532) and in places where the ridge-and-furrow has been ploughed out the original headlands survive as broad low ridges in the modern arable (e.g. at SP 649540).

The common fields of Potcote were apparently at least partly enclosed in 1499 when Sir Thomas Green converted 304 acres there to pasture (K.J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants. (1966), 45). Certainly the whole area was enclosed by 1726. Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over much of the land attributable to Potcote, arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs of normal medieval form. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3040–5, 5039–43; CPE/UK/1994, 4168–74)

Chipping Warden