20 EASTON NESTON
(OS 1:10000 a SP 75 SW, b SP 74 NW, c SP 65 SE,
d SP 64 NE)
The modern parish covers about 700 hectares and is
of irregular shape, incorporating the land of two
medieval settlements, Easton Neston itself, now deserted (2), and Hulcote (3). Part of the interest of
Hulcote is its 19th-century rebuilding. The area is
bounded on the S. by the R. Tove here flowing in
a wide alluvial valley at 84 m. above OD. Boulder
Clay covers the higher W. part of the parish and
from there the land slopes gently E. across bands of
Oolitic Limestone to an area of Upper Lias Clay.
Prehistoric and Roman
A quernstone, perhaps prehistoric or Roman, was
ploughed up somewhere in the parish between 1860 and
1870 and a complete Roman 'flagon' was discovered in
1889, during the construction of the railway 'near Showsley' (Dryden Collection, Central Library, Northampton).
Fig. 45 Easton Neston (2) Deserted village
a(1) Iron Age and Roman Settlement (SP 724514), lies
in the N.E. projection of the parish, on Boulder Clay at
122 m. above OD. A scatter of Roman material extending
over 2 hectares, including samian, colour-coated and grey
wares as well as some possible Iron Age sherds, a coin of
Constans and a brooch, is recorded from this site (BNFAS,
4 (1970), 13).
Fig. 46 Easton Neston (3) Settlement remains at Hulcote, (4) Site of manor house, (5) Pond
Medieval and Later
b(2) Deserted Village of Easton Neston (SP 701490;
Fig. 45), lies S. of Easton Neston House and immediately
S. of the isolated church, on Boulder Clay at 100 m. above
OD. The village is first mentioned in 1086, when Domesday Book lists two small manors under Easton Neston,
with a total recorded population of 14. However a further
holding, listed under Ashton with a recorded population
of six, has also been identified as part of Easton Neston
(VCH Northants., I (1902), 326, 342, 348). The village is
noted in the Nomina Villarum of 1316 but thereafter was
always taxed with Hulcote (3). In 1307, 65 people from
Hulcote and Easton paid the Lay Subsidy (PRO, E179/
155/31) and the two places together paid a total of £4–03d in tax in 1334, a relatively large sum for the area (PRO,
E179/155/3). The Poll Tax Returns of 1377 indicate that
117 people over the age of 14 lived in the two villages
(PRO, E179/155/28), and the 1523 and 1525 Lay Subsidy
Returns respectively list 33 and 29 people paying tax (PRO,
E179/155/122 and 130). Only 27 people paid the Hearth
Tax in 1673 (PRO, E179/254/14) but it is likely that most
of these lived at Hulcote and that Easton Neston was by
then deserted. A small park had been created at Easton
Neston in 1499 by Sir Richard Empson, who made it from
64 acres of former pasture and arable land. Empson also
converted a further 24 acres of arable to pasture at the same
time. In 1531 the estate was purchased by Richard Fermor
and by 1541 only the manor house is mentioned in a survey
(K. J. Allison et al., The Deserted Villages of Northants.
(1966), 38). This house stood S. of the church according
to Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 289) but was presumably pulled down in the late 17th century when the
present house was built for Sir William Fermor.
The remains of the village are very fragmentary and in
poor condition, having been much damaged by landscaping. Nothing survives N., W. and E. of the church in the
gardens of Easton Neston House. Immediately S. of the
church are a few low banks and scarps, some of which are
likely to represent the site of the old manor house. Further
E. are slight traces of a curving hollow-way, running
N.-S. The surrounding area is devoid of ridge-and-furrow.
and appears recently to have been levelled. (RAF VAP CPE/
UK/1926, 1236–7; air photographs in NMR)
ab(3) Settlement Remains (SP 705500; Figs. 46, 47 and
48), formerly part of Hulcote, lie on the N. side of the
present village green, on clay at 100 m. above OD. The
village is first mentioned in 1086 when Domesday Book
listed it as a small manor with a recorded population of
only seven (VCH Northants., I (1902), 348). In the later
medieval period it was always taxed with Easton Neston;
the relevant figures are given in (2) above. In 1673, 27
people at Hulcote and Easton paid the Hearth Tax (PRO,
E179/254/14) and it is probable that most of these lived at
Hulcote. Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 295), writing
in about 1720, described Hulcote as 'a considerable hamlet'.
The earliest map of the village, dated 1806 (NRO; Fig.
47), shows three farmsteads and four other houses or cottages in addition to the two lodges to Easton Park, all set
around a triangular green. Between 1812 and 1849 (NRO,
Tithe Map; Fig. 48) most of the buildings on the N. and
S.E. sides of the green were removed, the three small
farm-houses were rebuilt and two rows of brick cottages
of gothic design were erected to the S. of the green. The
exact date of this alteration is unknown but the old school
house in the S.W. corner of the green, which is built of
similar brick to the cottages and farm-houses, bears the
date 1816. Hulcote was evidently the estate village for
Easton Neston House, a function which it still performs.
Since 1849 the only changes have been the removal, in the
late 19th century, of the sole surviving house on the N.
side of the green and the enlargement of the green southwards to the cottages to give it a rectangular form. The
earthworks associated with the village lay to the N. of the
green until 1977 when they were ploughed over and largely
destroyed. They consisted of a series of ditched or scarped
closes and building-platforms with long narrow ditched
closes extending to the stream behind them. The recent
ploughing revealed large areas of stone-rubble and brick,
associated with post-medieval pottery, tiles, glass and
bone, in the places where buildings are shown on the 1806
map. Elsewhere large quantities of earlier pottery including
12th-century Stamford ware and 13th and 14th-century
sherds of Olney, Lyveden and Potterspury types were
exposed. Other closes, possibly the sites of former houses,
lie immediately E. of the manor house site (4) ('c' on plan).
(Air photographs in NMR)
Fig. 47 Easton Neston (3) Settlement remains at Hulcote, (4) Site of manor house (based on a
map of 1806, NRO)
a(4) Manor House Site (SP 702501; Figs. 46 and 48), lies
immediately W. of Hulcote village, on clay at 107 m.
above OD. The field it occupies is called Hall Close (G.
Baker, Hist. of Northants., II (1836–41), 153; NRO, Tithe
Map, 1849), and the earthworks are presumably the site of
the medieval manor house of Hulcote. A large sub-rectangular enclosure is bounded on the W., S. and E. by a
shallow ditch; on the E. this has been cut into and flattened
by later activities. The N. side is defined by a small E.-flowing stream. A rectangular raised platform ('a' on plan),
bounded on the N. by a scarp 1.7 m. high lies in the S.W.
corner of the enclosure. This may be the site of the manor
house itself. The platform has a number of depressions and
low banks on it. At the N. end of the main enclosure,
close to the stream, are two rectangular fishponds, both
now dry, linked by a shallow ditch ('b' on plan). Elsewhere
within the main enclosure are depressions, some of which
may be later quarry pits, and banks and scarps forming no
coherent pattern. To the E. of the enclosure are' other
closes bounded by slight scarps ('c' on plan), these may be
sites of houses and gardens. On the S. side of the enclosure
and to the S.E. are two long narrow paddocks bounded
by ditches and containing ridge-and-furrow. A small quantity of medieval and post-medieval pottery was found in
the N.E. corner of the site in 1977 (Northants. SMR). (Air
photographs in NMR)
Fig. 48 Easton Neston (3) Settlement remains at Hulcote,
(4) Site of manor house (based on the Tithe Map of Easton Neston, 1849, NRO)
b(5) Pond (SP 706499; Figs. 46 and 48), lies immediately
E. of Hulcote, on clay at 100 m. above OD. The pond is
roughly circular, with an island in the centre. No function
can be assigned to it but it did not exist in its present form
in 1849 when the Tithe Map (NRO) shows it only as a
b(6) Moat, Fishponds and Watermill (SP 703487; Fig.
49), lie in the S. of the parish, close to the R. Tove, on
river gravel and alluvium at 85 m. above OD. The area is
known as Waterhall but its history is unknown. It may
have been the site of a medieval manor house though by
the 17th century the manor house of Easton Neston certainly stood immediately S. of Easton Neston church
within the area of the former village (2). The earthworks
consist of a trapezoidal island surrounded by a broad ditch
up to 1.5 m. deep. The island is featureless and overgrown.
Immediately to the S.W. are two long narrow ponds and
a larger rectangular one; these and the moat are surrounded
entirely by an outer rectangular ditch which was supplied
with water from two inlet leats running N.E. from the R.
Tove. The water continued N.E. along a single leat which
passes through the site of a watermill. Part of the dam and
the foundations of the mill building still survive, as does
the mill pond below them. A channel runs S.W., back to
the river. The mill still stood in the 19th century (NRO,
maps of 1806, 1844 and 1849) but the moat was then
unoccupied. The general appearance of the moat and fishponds suggests that they have been altered in post-medieval times as part of the landscaping of the park.
b(7) Mound (SP 70534883), lies in the S. of the parish,
N.E. of (6) within the park, on alluvium at 86 m. above
OD. A flat-topped circular plat form 40 m. across and only
0.25 m. high, surrounded by a ditch 10 m. wide and
0.25 m. deep except on the S. where the ditch has been
mutilated, appears to cut ridge-and-furrow approaching it
from the N. It is probably a landscape feature of 18th or
19th-century origin; a tree about 100 years old stands in
the centre. (Air photographs in NMR)
a(8) Site of Cistercian Priory (SP 717508), lies around
Showsley Grounds Farm, in the N.E. of the parish, on
limestone at 120 m. above OD. Richard de Lister founded
a small house of Cistercian nuns at Showsley or Sewardsley
sometime in the reign of Henry II. It seems always to have
been very small and poor and at its suppression in 1536
there were only four nuns and the prioress. In 1459–60 the
House was appropriated to the Cluniac Abbey of Delapre
in Northampton, which then became responsible for its
upkeep (VCH Northants., II (1906), 125–7; J. Bridges, Hist.
of Northants., I (1791), 295; D. Knowles and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses (1957), 225; U. H. Brooks,
Manuscript History of Sewardsley Priory (1856), Central Library, Northampton).
Little now remains of the priory. The present house,
though much altered especially in the mid 19th century,
appears to include some parts of a medieval building. In
1852 during the alteration of the house at least three graves
associated with elaborately carved coffin lids of the 14th
century were discovered under and immediately E. of the
E: wing of the house. These remain in the garden. A
number of wall foundations, glass and decorated floor tiles
were also recorded (Ass. Arch. Soc. Reps., 4 (1857), 139–
40; PSA, 4 (1859), 121). More recently another plain coffin
lid and at least two more burials have been found in the
garden E. of the farm-house.
To the S. of the farm, in the bottom of a shallow
S.W.-draining valley on Upper Lias Clay (SP 717507), are
the remains of a small rectangular fishpond 40 m. by 20 m.
and only 0.25 m. deep with a low dam at its S.W. end.
There are traces of an inlet channel at its N.E. end, and
below the dam to the S.W. are several other shallow
ditches and an irregular depression which may mark the
site of another pond. The main pond and others in the area
are said to have been filled in soon after 1850 (Ass. Arch.
Soc. Reps., op. cit.).
Immediately N. of the farm (SP 717509) there were, until
recent destruction, some rectangular enclosures bounded
by banks (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1030–5; FSL6565, 1997; air
photographs in NMR). No trace of these now exists but
large quantities of limestone rubble and 18th and 19th-century material as well as a few medieval sherds remain.
The closes probably represent post-medieval buildings unrelated to the priory.
(9) Cultivation Remains. The date of enclosure of the
common fields of Hulcote and Easton Neston is not
known, nor whether each had a separate field system,
though this seems likely. Some small-scale enclosure is
recorded at Easton Neston in the 16th century and the
existence of Easton Neston Park indicates that the S. part
of the parish had been enclosed by the 18th century. the
N. part of the parish was enclosed by 1780; it is described
as Old Enclosures on a map of Tiffield of that date (NRO).
Fig. 49 Easton Neston (6) Moat, fishponds and watermill
Ridge-and-furrow survives on the ground or is visible
on air photographs over much of the parish though in the
W. it has mainly been destroyed by modern cultivation.
The pattern of interlocked and end-on furlongs is traceable
on air photographs around the site of Showsley Priory (8)
(SP 717507) as well as further S.W. towards Hulcote (SP
712504). There are also considerable areas of ridge-and-furrow around Hulcote village. However ridge-and-fur-row is best preserved in the S. of the parish within Easton
Neston Park where broad tracts still survive. Here many
interlocked and end-on furlongs together with headlands
and access-ways are preserved in permanent pasture. (RAF
VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1030–5, 1235–8; air photographs in