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Ashton Roman small town north east of Oundle

A Scheduled Monument in Ashton, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.4905 / 52°29'25"N

Longitude: -0.4578 / 0°27'28"W

OS Eastings: 504806.793896

OS Northings: 289180.143428

OS Grid: TL048891

Mapcode National: GBR FXQ.YXR

Mapcode Global: VHFNJ.0NTN

Entry Name: Ashton Roman small town north east of Oundle

Scheduled Date: 2 January 1976

Last Amended: 28 September 2010

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021454

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35630

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Ashton

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Oundlew Ashton

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The monument includes the buried remains of Ashton Roman settlement which
lies to the east of the River Nene and around the north, east and west of the
former Oundle Station. The settlement is located roughly midway between
Durobrivae, the largest small town in Roman Britain, and Titchmarsh.

The monument is evident as a complex series of cropmarks covering a number of
fields in an area of approximately 15ha. The settlement has been the subject
of two systematic field surveys, extensive excavations along the route of the
A605, and has good aerial photographic coverage. Collectively this evidence
provides considerable information about the form and function of the

Ashton Roman Settlement dates from the mid to late C1 AD when a system of
rectangular ditched enclosures and associated drove ways was laid out running
north east to south west towards the river. The main axial route was
formalised into a road by the close of the C1 or early C2 and formed the
basic framework around which all subsequent activity focussed. The main axial
route appears to lead to a crossing of the River Nene but the absence of
significant archaeological investigation along the flood plain to date means
there is as yet no evidence for the crossing itself.

The nature of the settlement around the roadways changes over time. In the
first century the settlement pattern is unclear with only two round houses
having been identified. In the C2 however a number of rectangular stone
buildings were built and the settlement appears more densely occupied. During
the course of the mid-C2 and mid-C3, construction of a series of stone
founded strip buildings gradually filled the road frontage with simple shops,
workshops and houses particularly associated with iron smithing. Towards the
southern fringe of the settlement a series of enclosures probably defined
small agricultural plots, quarrying areas and stock yards. During the C4 the
road side plots became important foci for a range of inhumation-based burial
traditions both along boundaries and in a formal cemetery. Evidence from the
burial ground indicates it was home to a significant Christian community in
the later C4.

Evidence for craft production and the study of trade is abundant at Ashton.
There is evidence of small scale pottery production towards the western
fringe of the town but a more significant element in the town's economy was
iron smithing with clear evidence in the form of an anvil, hammers, chisel,
secondary furnaces and much hammer scale from a number of buildings along the
road front. Most of this evidence appears to be late C2 to C4 AD.

Occupation continued into the early C5 but the absence of early Middle Saxon
material from anywhere within the settlement suggests that the small town was
soon abandoned after the end of Roman rule, possibly to a new location across
the river at Oundle where Early to Middle Saxon activity is recorded, and
which appears to have functioned as an administrative centre in the Middle
Saxon period.

All modern fences, path surfaces and roads are excluded from the scheduling
although the ground beneath all these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Five types of town are known to have existed in Roman Britain: coloniae,
municipia, civitas capitals, Roman provincial capitals and Roman small towns.
The first four types can be classified as `public towns' because each had an
official status within the provincial administrative system.
Roman small towns are settlements of urban character which lack the
administrative status of public towns, but which are nevertheless recognisably
urban in terms of morphology, features and function. They tend to lack the
planned rectangular street grids, public buildings and well-appointed town
houses of the public towns and instead are generally characterised by mainly
insubstantial timber or half-timbered structures. Some small towns possess an
enclosing wall, while others have masonry or earthwork defences. Additional
features include temples, bath houses, ovens, kilns and cemeteries.
Roman small towns began to emerge in the mid-first century AD. However, the
majority of examples appeared in the later first and second centuries, while
the third and fourth centuries saw the growth and development of existing
establishments, together with the emergence of a small number of new ones.
Some small towns had their origins in earlier military sites such as fort-vici
and developed into independent urban areas following the abandonment of the
forts. Others developed alongside major roads and were able to exploit a wide
range of commercial opportunities as a result of their location. There are a
total of 133 Roman small towns recorded in England. These are mainly
concentrated in the Midlands and central southern England. Some examples have
survived as undeveloped `greenfield' sites and consequently possess
particularly well-preserved archaeological remains.

Ashton is an important example of an undefended Roman small town whose main
significance seems to have lain in its location at a key river crossing,
possibly close to an existing important late Iron Age site. Much of the core
of the settlement is still intact. The archaeological documentation in the
form of excavation records, aerial photographs and field survey evidence
provide one of the most comprehensive sets of information about the layout
and architecture of a small town in the region. The artefactual information
in the form of pottery, metalwork and coinage could contribute significantly
to our knowledge and understanding of the economy of small towns,
particularly given the longevity of occupation on the site. It can also add
to our understanding of the place Ashton held in the wider landscape and the
social and economic dynamics between different settlements.

Source: Historic England

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