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Kelmarsh medieval settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.4081 / 52°24'29"N

Longitude: -0.9177 / 0°55'3"W

OS Eastings: 473720.430664

OS Northings: 279453.983681

OS Grid: SP737794

Mapcode National: GBR BT3.W90

Mapcode Global: VHDR6.1QQS

Entry Name: Kelmarsh medieval settlement

Scheduled Date: 13 May 1974

Last Amended: 14 December 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017188

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30074

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Kelmarsh

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Kelmarsh St Denys

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval
settlement at Kelmarsh, which are within five areas of protection. The
remains are located to the north and north west of the present estate village
and within and around the park of Kelmarsh Hall.
Kelmarsh is first mentioned in the Domesday Book, although no recorded
population is given. At the time, the settlement was divided between two
manors, the Royal manor of Rothwell and a manor held by William Pevrel. By
1377 at least 84 people paid poll tax, and in 1674 26 households paid hearth
tax, suggesting a sizeable community which had not altered much over 300
years. Around 1728 there were still 23 families living in the village, and
there is no clear indication of depopulation at Kelmarsh at any period. Rather
it seems that the settlement was relocated and its inhabitants rehoused over
time, the most recent evidence of this being seen in the present estate
village which dates from the 19th century. Some clearance may have occurred
around 1727-1732 when the present hall replaced an earlier manor house, and
indeed earlier remodelling of the settlement may have occurred around 1600
when the earlier manor house was rebuilt.
The first area of protection includes the remains of house platforms (or
tofts) and gardens or allotment areas (crofts) located in the fields lying to
the east of Harborough Road. The most prominent feature is a hollow way
orientated north to south and lying parallel to Harborough Road at a distance
of approximately 120m. This hollow way measures up to 1m deep and 4m wide, and
is believed to represent a boundary or back lane lying behind the tofts and
crofts. To the east of the back lane, is an area of enclosures or stock
paddocks, defined by banks and ditches measuring up to 1m deep and 3m wide and
including the remains of at least one pond. The whole area of tofts and crofts
and the adjacent enclosures or paddocks, is defined and bounded by a further
hollow way measuring up to 1.5m deep and 3m wide orientated north to south and
running parallel to Harborough Road and the back lane.
To the rear of the settlement site, east of the enclosures and running upslope
to the crest of the hill, is an area of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation
remains, orientated east to west. The hill slope also includes a number of
hollow ways or ditches orientated east to west and running through the
medieval field system towards the settlement. Also included are the remains of
a number of ridges or lynchets orientated north to south running across the
slope, which may be the remains of quarrying. On the crest of the hill,
adjacent to the lane are the remains of a quarry associated with a number of
hollow ways, which is believed to represent the site of clay digging for the
production of local bricks used in and around the estate buildings during the
18th and 19th century. In the north eastern angle adjacent to Harborough Road
are the truncated remains of a large triangular fishpond, now dry, defined by
banks measuring up to 2.5m high and 6m wide and including a series of small
islands, believed to have been used to encourage wild fowl nesting.
The second area of protection includes the remains of at least a dozen tofts
and crofts, represented largely by sub-rectangular platforms defined by banks
and ditches located to the south west of Kelmarsh Hall. The earthwork remains
survive up to 1m in height. A broad hollow way, or narrow green, measuring up
to 12m wide and 1m deep, orientated east to west, and lying parallel to
Clipston Road, forms the focus of the house sites. These are arranged in an
irregular grid system on either side of the hollow way and alongside Clipston
Road. A second narrow hollow way, measuring up to 1.5m deep and 3m wide and
orientated north to south, parallel with Harborough Road intersects the first
hollow way at right angles, forming a crossroads. This second hollow way is
believed to be a footpath leading towards the church and may be a later
feature. To the west of this hollow way the settlement earthworks are well
defined. Those remains to the east of it are less obvious and appear to have
been depopulated at an earlier date and incorporated into parkland. A small
excavation carried out in 1961 on one of the house platforms in this area
produced pottery from the 11th century and also from the 13th to 14th
centuries. Two occupation layers included a post-built timber structure
underlying a much later shed which was in use between the 16th and 18th
The third area of protection is located to the south of Clipston Road, west of
St Dionysius's Church, and includes the earthwork remains of at least two
enclosures and several building platforms which are believed to represent the
remains of further tofts and crofts arranged along the road. The site of
the buildings is bounded on the south and west sides by medieval ridge and
furrow cultivation remains. The location of these buildings, set aside from
the main settlement and lying adjacent to the church may suggest the site of a
glebe farm or rectory. The medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains to
the west of the building platforms are included in the scheduling. The church,
which is a Grade II Listed Building, is not included in the scheduling.
The fourth area of protection lies to the west of the River Ise and to the
north of Clipston Road. It includes the earthwork remains of at least two
building complexes, defined by raised platforms and shallow ditches. The
earthworks measure less than 1m high. Further remains believed to have
included at least three more tofts and crofts formerly existed to the north;
these have since been destroyed by agricultural activity and are not included
in the scheduling. The location of this small group of settlement remains,
lying to the west of the river, may suggest separate ownership, or an earlier
phase of the settlement, and is believed to relate to the small manorial
holding, recorded in the Domesday survey, belonging to William Pevrel which
amounted to nine households. The low lying and waterlogged nature of this
site, which lies adjacent to the river, may account for its early abandonment,
and resulted in the use of drainage ditches around each of the building
platforms. Midway across the fourth area of protection is a ditched and banked
hollow way orientated east to west. This is believed to be a thoroughfare,
leading from the settlement in the east towards the western part of the
medieval field system.
The fifth area of protection lies to the south of Clipston Road and on either
side of the River Ise. It includes the remains of the earthen bank which
formed a retaining dam across the river, creating a large shallow pond to the
south of the dam. Although waterlogged, this area no longer retains a pond,
and only a 10m sample of the pond bay and the earthen dam is included in the
All modern post and wire fences, and all modern surfaces are excluded from the
scheduling although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the last 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the East Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province,
an area characterised in the Middle Ages by large numbers of nucleated
settlements. The sites of many of these settlements are now occupied by modern
villages, but others have been partially or wholly deserted and are marked by
earthwork remains. Most of these settlements were first documented in the 11th
century, in Domesday Book. The southern part of the sub-Province has greater
variety of settlement, with dispersed farmsteads and hamlets intermixed with
the villages. Whilst some of the dispersed settlements are post-medieval,
others may represent much older farming landscapes.
The Soar Valley and Nene Plateau local region comprises the low hill country
of the Soar Valley and, to the south east, a low plateau dissected by the
tributaries of the Nene and Welland. Nucleated villages and hamlets dominate
the region, but gaps are found within the pattern in Rockingham Forest, in
Rutland and in High Leicestershire where they are linked to the location of
woodland in and before the 11th century.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre
of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow an
woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but when they survive as earthworks
their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks, platforms
on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and
small enclosed paddocks. They frequently included the parish church within
their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages included
one or more manorial centres which may survive also as visible remains as well
as below ground deposits. In the central province of England, villages were
the most distinctive aspect of rural life, and their archaeological remains
are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the
five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.
Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on
large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into
strips (known as landes) which were allocated to individual tenants. The
cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs pulled by oxen-teams produced
long, wide ridges, and the resultant ridge and furrow where it survives is the
most obvious physical indication of the open field system. Individual strips
or landes were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal
headlands at the plough turning-points and lateral grass balks. Furlongs were
in turn grouped into large open fields. Well-preserved ridge and furrow,
especially in its original context adjacent to village earthworks, is both an
important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive
contribution to the character of the historic landscape. It is usually now
covered by the hedges or walls of subsequent field enclosure.
Kelmarsh medieval settlement survives as several areas of well defined
earthworks and associated buried deposits in which evidence for the nature of
the settlement will be preserved. Surviving documentary evidence suggests that
the earthworks represent several phases of abandonment or replanning and
relocation, and provide evidence of settlement development over a considerable
length of time.
The crofts and building platforms will contain buried evidence for houses,
barns and other structures, accompanied by a range of boundaries, refuse
pits, wells and drainage channels, all related to the development of the
settlement. Buried artifacts, in association with the buildings will provide
further insights into the lifestyle of the inhabitants and assist in dating
the development of the settlement over time. Environmental evidence may also
be preserved, particularly in the waterlogged areas of the settlement and
millpond around the River Ise, illustrating the economy of the hamlet and
providing further information about its agricultural regime.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
RCHME, , 'County of Northamptonshire' in Kelmarsh medieval settlement remains, , Vol. iii, (1981), 109-112

Source: Historic England

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