26 GRAFTON REGIS
(OS 1:10000 a SP 74 NW, b SP 74 NE)
The parish, which is roughly rectangular, covers
about 930 hectares and includes the village and former parish of Alderton. It lies on the S.W. bank of
the R. Tove which defines the N. and E. boundaries;
an E.-flowing tributary stream marks the S. boundary. The lower areas in the N. and E. alongside the
river are covered by alluvial deposits and Upper Lias
Clay at about 75 m. above OD; Oolitic Limestones
are exposed on the steep sides and summits of several
spurs, and the higher ground in the S.W., with a
maximum height of 115 m. above OD, is covered
by Boulder Clay.
The parish contains several important medieval
monuments, including a motte or ringwork (5) and
the site of a later manor house and garden (6) at
Alderton, a group of monastic buildings at Grafton
Regis (4) and extensive settlement remains at both
villages (2) and (7).
Prehistoric and Roman
Roman coins, including a gold coin of Antony and Octavia and several silver republican ones, possibly a hoard
buried before A.D. 43, were found at Alderton in about
1821 (Wetton, Guide Book to Northampton, (1849), 185;
VCH Northants., I (1902), 215; OS Record Cards).
a(1) Ring Ditch (?) (SP 738480), in the extreme N.W. of
the parish, close to the R. Tove, on river gravel at 137 m.
above OD. Air photographs (NCAU) show an indistinct
circular feature which may be a ring ditch.
Medieval and Later
b(2) Settlement Remains and Manor House Site (SP
756467; Fig. 13), formerly part of Grafton Regis, lie in and
around the village, on a ridge of Great Oolite Limestone,
at just over 90 m. above OD.
Grafton Regis, though a small village, has an unusual
plan. At its N.E. end there is a single street with only the
manor house and the church on the N.W. side. This street
once continued further N.E. but is now blocked by two
houses; the only through-road turns sharply N.W. and
then N.E. to cross the Tove valley towards Ashton. To
the S.W. the single street divides and the two branches run
back to meet the present Northampton-Old Stratford road.
The surviving earthworks fall into three groups. On the
S.E. side of the single street, opposite the manor house,
are the very fragmentary remains of small embanked closes
with areas of uneven ground within them, probably the
sites of former houses. To the S.W. small paddocks along
the N. side of the northern branch road probably once had
houses within them. The back boundary of these paddocks
is continued N.W. by a massive bank up to 1 m. high,
suggesting that further houses and gardens once lay to the
S. where the present old school and some cottages now
stand. A similar line of houses may have stood along the
southern branch road though no identifiable remains can
Fig. 59 Grafton Regis (5) Motte or ringwork, (6) Site of manor house and garden remains,
(7) Settlement remains at Alderton
Within the triangular area formed by the two branch
roads and the main Northampton road there is a more
extensive area of earthworks. These are in a poor state of
preservation, but several small rectangular embanked
closes can be identified, surrounding a much larger enclosure which in turn has an irregular embanked area within
it. The earthworks may be the site of one of the medieval
manor houses of Grafton Regis and the whole of this S.W.
part of the village is perhaps an addition to an earlier
single-street settlement near the church. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/
1926, 3244–5; CUAP AWN55; air photographs in NMR)
b(3) Enclosure (SP 761467), lies 250 m. S.E. of Grafton
Regis church, on the S.E. side of a limestone ridge at
90 m. above OD. A small roughly rectangular enclosure
100 m. by 75 m., orientated N.W.-S.E., with a rectangular projection on its S.E. side is bounded by a shallow
ditch and low internal bank. It overlies earlier ridge-and-furrow which can still be traced in the interior. A shallow
rectangular pond and a number of more indeterminate
features lie within the enclosure. No date or function can
be assigned to this enclosure. Other earthworks, mainly
drainage ditches, and another pond now largely filled in,
lie on the lower ground to the N.E. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926,
3244–5; CUAP, AWN58; air photographs in NMR)
b(4) Site of Priory and Manor House (SP 752467), lies
300 m. W. of Grafton Regis village, on limestone at about
90 m. above OD. The site was fully excavated in 1964–5.
Before excavation there was an area of disturbed earthworks, partly overploughed with ridge-and-furrow which
terminated on a headland and ditch a little to the S. of the
site. Beyond the headland was a hollow-way running W.
from the village through the ridge-and-furrow.
It had been assumed that this was the site of one of the
two medieval manor houses of Grafton, probably the one
held by the Woodville family in the late medieval period.
The excavation revealed a range of 13th to 14th-century
buildings, apparently of monastic origin, including what
was perhaps a small unaisled church with a cloister and
other structures on its N. side. Other, detached buildings,
probably of the same date, included a barn or hospital, a
kitchen and a dovecote. In the 15th century the site seems
to have been converted to domestic use. The cloister was
removed and replaced by a new building and in the church
a new floor was laid which included tiles incorporating the
arms of Woodville and the Yorkist rose. The whole site
was abandoned soon after the late 15th century and, presumably, converted to arable land.
The excavator identified the site as the beneficed hermitage or small priory of Grafton known to have been
supported by the Woodville family in the late 13th and
14th centuries but which apparently ceased to exist at the
end of the 14th century. The lands of this priory passed to
St. James' Abbey in Northampton, but it is possible that
the Woodvilles took over the buildings and altered them.
(Med. Arch., 9 (1965), 203; 10 (1960), 202–4; VCH Northants., II (1906), 137; RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3243–4; air
photographs in NMR)
a(5) Motte or Ringwork (SP 740469; Fig. 59; Plate 3),
usually known as The Mount, stands on high ground on
the N.E. side of Alderton village, on Great Oolite Limestone at 100 m. above OD. Nothing is known of its history
apart from some 13th-century references to it (G. Baker,
Hist. of Northants., II (1836–41), 120) but it appears to be
of 11th or 12th-century date. It consists of a roughly triangular area raised only about 1 m. above the adjacent
land, but surrounded by a very large ditch up to 5 m. deep
below a well-marked inner rampart or bank which itself
is 1 m.–1.5 m. high above the interior. The ditch has been
largely destroyed on the S.W. side and modern houses
now occupy its line. However even in the early years of
this century no ditch was visible here (VCH Northants., II
Bridges (Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 280), writing in
about 1720, said that 'the entrance . . . seems to have been
on the western side'. Presumably he was referring to the
gap in the inner rampart in the centre of the S.W. side,
but this gap does not appear now to be an entrance. The
interior is uneven and very overgrown and no features are
visible apart from a sloping platform 0.5 m. high on the
S.E. side. On a map of 1726 (NRO) the ditch is shown as
filled with water and the area is called Castle Mound.
a(6) Site of Manor House and Garden Remains (SP
738470; Fig. 59; Plate 3), lie on the W. side of a valley, on
land sloping S.W., on limestone and clay at 88 m. above
OD. This may have been the site of the medieval manor
house of Alderton, but it is certain that William Gorges
built 'a very large mansion-house' here in 1582 (J. Bridges,
Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 280) and the surviving earthworks must for the most part be the gardens of this house.
The house was partly demolished in the early 18th century
and the surviving section was then described as 'embattled'
(Bridges, op. cit.). On a map of 1726 (NRO) no house is
shown on the site but an elaborate gateway is depicted,
flanked by two long buildings presumably barns or stables.
Baker refers to mullioned windows in the farm buildings
(Hist of Northants., II (1836–41), 120).
Nothing remains of the mansion-house; its site, presumably, is occupied by the 19th-century barns and cart-sheds.
To the N.E. of these buildings, on gently sloping ground,
is a roughly rectangular area bounded on the S.E. by the
existing Church Lane, on the N.W. by a low, broad,
flat-topped bank or terraced walk and on the N.E. by an
old hollow-way (see (7) below). The S.W. part of the area
is divided into rectangular blocks, bounded by low scarps
nowhere much above 0.5 m. high except on the S.E. side
where some of them rise to 1.5 m. These scarps apparently
mark the edges of formal flower-beds or terrace-walks
which formed part of a small late 16th-century garden. To
the N.E. is a large circular mound surrounded by a broad
ditch which was once water-filled. The flat top of the
mound is level with the adjacent ground to the N. and E.
and up to 1.75 m. high above the ground to the S. and W.
The ditch is between 1 m. and 2.25 m. deep below the
mound. It has been suggested that this mound might be
a motte or a moated site (OS Record Cards) but it is much
more likely to be a mount, contemporary with the rest of
the garden. Such mounts raised above formal gardens were
a normal feature of this period.
To the N.W. of the farm buildings there are three rectangular ponds, one large, the other two small and narrow.
These may have originated as medieval fishponds, belong
ing to a manor, but the raised flat-topped terraces that
bound them on the N.E. and S.W., suggest that they were
either incorporated into the later garden or were first constructed in the late 16th century as part of the overall
garden design. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3241–2; CUAP, ZJ58,
AML68, AWN61; air photographs in NMR)
a(7) Settlement Remains (centred SP 740468; Fig. 59;
Plate 3), formerly part of Alderton, lie in and around the
village, on limestone and clay between 83 m. and 103 m.
above OD. Alderton is first mentioned in 1086 in Domesday Book where it is listed as two manors with a total
recorded population of eight, both held by the Count of
Mortain (VCH Northants., I (1902), 322, 328). In 1301, 38
people at Alderton paid the Lay Subsidy (PRO, E179/155/
31) but thereafter there is no record of its size until the Lay
Subsidy of 1523–4 when 21 people paid tax (PRO, E179/
155/40). By the early 18th century there were about 25
houses there (J. Bridges, Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 280)
and the village remained much the same size until recent
The earliest map of the village is dated 1726 (NRO). It
shows the village virtually as it is now, except for three
buildings which no longer stand. At the N.E. end of the
village was a row of cottages ('a' on plan), immediately S.
of the church was a farm house ('b' on plan), and at the
N.W. end of Spring Lane, N. W. of the ponds in the garden
remains (6), was a house and barn ('c' on plan). Immediately S.W. of the manor house site there was a large triangular green. The Enclosure Map of 1819 (NRO) shows
a similar situation, except that most of the green had been
enclosed under the Act, the house and barn further N.W.
had disappeared and so had the row of cottages. The farm
lying S. of the church is shown with a large area of outbuildings around it; this farm was completely demolished
later in the 19th century.
The evidence of these maps, together with the surviving
earthworks, suggests that there were once two distinct
parts to the village of Alderton, along two roughly parallel
roads running N.W.-S.E. The road to the N.E. was in
part the present E. end of Church Lane. A broad hollowway up to 1.5 m. runs from the sharp bend in Church
Lane ('d' on plan). Ridge-and-furrow edges this hollowway over most of its length except at its S.E. end where
there are at least three small closes. These may once have
contained houses, but the area was already devoid of buildings in 1726. On the N.E. side of Spring Lane, the second
of the two main streets, S.W. of the church, nothing is
visible on the ground or on air photographs taken in 1947
(RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 3241–2). However, the area has
recently been ploughed and returned to grass and this may
have concealed the evidence of earlier occupation here. On
the opposite side of the road ('e' on plan) are some disturbed earthworks comprising low banks, scarps and shallow ditches which, though partly quarried into, probably
represent an area of former settlement though again any
houses had gone by 1726. Similar slight remains lie further
N.W. along the S.W. side of Spring Lane ('f' on plan) in
an area devoid of buildings in 1726. On the site of the
house and barn to the N. ('c' on plan) the well-marked
foundation walls of a rectangular stone structure still survive, as well as some other slighter scarps and ditches.
Fig. 60 Grafton Regis (8), Paulerspury
(21) and Yardley Gobion (8) Deer parks
a(8) Deer Park (centred SP 740455; Fig. 60), in the S.W.
part of the parish, mainly on Boulder Clay, on land sloping
S.E. between 114 m. and 99 m. above OD. It lies partly
in the old parish of Grafton Regis and partly in the old
parish of Alderton. There was a medieval deer park at
Grafton though its exact area is unknown and it was probably very small. It was greatly enlarged in 1532 when
Henry VIII ordered that 76 acres of land of the fields of
Grafton and 70 acres of Alderton should be incorporated
into the park. According to Leyland this new park was
enclosed partly by pales and partly by a hedge. It was
enlarged again in the early 17th century but was finally
disparked in 1644 (Northants. P. and P., 5 (1975), 225). The
area of the park in its final form is known from a map of
1720 (NRO). At this date it was contiguous with the parks
of Yardley Gobion (8) to the S. and Plum Park to the W.
(Paulerspury (21)). Nothing remains on the ground of any
major boundaries. Most of the park's circuit is marked by
normal hedge-banks though part of the S. side follows an
old lane, deeply hollowed in places (SP 738453–745454).
Much of the interior of the park has ridge-and-furrow and
the documented incorporation of part of the fields of Grafton and Alderton within its bounds is proved by the fact
that the northern boundary runs obliquely across earlier
ridge-and-furrow (SP 742459 and 744461). (RAF VAP CPE/
UK/1926, 3242–3, 5241–3)
(9) Cultivation Remains. The common fields of Grafton Regis were finally enclosed by an Act of Parliament of
1727. However, by that time much of the parish was
already enclosed and indeed Bridges writing in about 1720
(Hist. of Northants., I (1791), 298) described it as an 'inclosed lordship famous for its meadow-grounds and pastures'. A map of Grafton of 1720 (NRO) shows that only
that part of the parish E. of the Northampton-Old Stratford road, together with a small area of land along the S.
boundary, remained as open field at that time. The rest of
the parish is shown as divided into old enclosures. The
date of these is not known though 76 acres of former open
field was incorporated into the deer park (8) when it was
enlarged in 1532.
Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground
or can be traced on air photographs over parts of the
parish, though the pattern is very incomplete owing to
modern destruction. It is arranged mainly in end-on and
interlocked furlongs, many of reversed-S form. Considerable areas are still preserved on the low-lying ground in
the E. of the parish alongside the R. Tove. A notable
feature, now destroyed, was the ridge-and-furrow overlying parts of the monastic and manorial site (4). This
ridge-and-furrow, headlands and a hollow-way, all of
which bore no relationship to the earlier occupation that
lasted until the late 15th century, is an indication of changing land use in the post-medieval period.
The common fields of Alderton were enclosed by an
Act of Parliament of 1819 (NRO, Enclosure Map). At that
time the deer park (8) and other old enclosures to the N.
occupied the S.W. of the parish, but the rest was divided
into three large fields, Plumpton Field to the W. and S.W.
of the village, Twyford Field to the N. and Burch Field to
the E. On an earlier map of 1726 (NRO) the same area of
open fields is depicted and though no field names are given
all the furlongs are shown and named.
Very little ridge-and-furrow is visible in the former Alderton parish either on the ground or on air photographs.
What can be traced appears to be arranged in end-on and
interlocked furlongs of normal form and agrees with the
furlongs shown on the 1726 map. One small area of
ridge-and-furrow in the N.W. of the parish (SP 738478)
was known as Windmill Leys in 1726. The best surviving
ridge-and-furrow lies immediately N. of the village, along
the edge of an abandoned street or hollow-way (SP 739471;
partly on Fig. 59). Ridge-and-furrow can also be traced S.
of the village in the area already within old enclosures in
1726 as well as within the deer park (8). At the latter site,
the park boundary cuts obliquely across the ridge-and-furrow; this supports the documentary record of the enlargement of the park in 1532. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 1241–
4, 3241–6, 5243–5)
(10) Mounds (?) (centred SP 751463), immediately S.W.
of the village, on limestone at 98 m. above OD. There are
said to have been at least four 'tumuli of oblong shape',
but no trace exists on the ground or on air photographs
(Wetton, Guide to Northampton, (1849), 184; Archaeologia,
35 (1853), map Pl. 16). This may be an incorrect reference
to the monastic and manorial site (4) which, before destruction, consisted of an uneven area of earthworks.