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Volume 41 (2021)
The Archaeology of Medieval Northampton
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Introduction: The archaeology of medieval Northampton
Andy Chapman
[pp 1 - 3]

Brave New World: Northampton Development Corporation and Archaeology 1970-85
John H Williams
In 1968 Northampton was designated an area of considerable expansion under the New Towns Act of 1946, with the Master Plan for development being approved in 1970. In the same year an archaeologist was appointed by Northampton Development Corporation and from then an expanding team undertook archaeological investigations within the town and surrounding area designated for development until the demise of the Corporation in 1985. The paper looks at the organisational and planning context of the Corporation's archaeological work and reflects on some of the results of this work.
[pp 5 - 15]

Prehistoric Northampton: A circular ring ditch and flint scatters
Andy Chapman
An arc of ditch excavated at St Peter's Street in the 1970s may have been part of a ring ditch with an internal diameter of c.23m, probably dating to the Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age and either an Early Bronze Age round barrow or some other form of Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age monument. The ditch fills produced small scraps of pottery and a small mixed flint assemblage, while the snail assemblage indicated the presence of local scrub or woodland. A complete but damaged collared urn, buried 35m to the east within a shallow depression, may have been an accessory vessel to a lost satellite cremation burial. A small flint assemblage from the excavations at Northampton Station in 2013 is described and related to more extensive flint scatters from nearby sites and at Duston to the west. The assemblages indicate a specific Mesolithic presence at Chalk Lane, but also span the Neolithic to Early Bronze Age. It is suggested that these concentrations of flint to the north of the river Nene may define parts of a zone of enhanced flint deposition centred on the Briar Hill causewayed enclosure to the south of the river. They may at least partly derive from periodic temporary gatherings of people in the vicinity of the enclosure. It has previously been postulated by the author that there were similar zones of enhanced flint deposition around the Dallington causewayed enclosure, Northampton, and the Cardington causewayed enclosure, Bedford.
[pp 17 - 24]

Anglo-Saxon Northampton Revisited
John H Williams, Michael Shaw and Andy Chapman
The paper reviews archaeological work relating to the development of Anglo-Saxon Northampton during the past almost fifty years. A major series of excavations was undertaken between 1973 and 1982 to the north and south of Marefair, with further investigations, particularly to the east, being subsequently spread across the area enclosed by and immediately outside the medieval town walls. Early Anglo-Saxon settlement was represented by a few sunken-featured buildings. By the middle of the 8th century and possibly as early as the late 7th century a large timber hall was erected immediately to the east of St Peter's church, to be replaced, perhaps early in the 9th century, by an even more substantial stone hall, which remains without parallel in Anglo- Saxon England. Five mortar mixers were associated. Contemporary churches almost certainly lay to the west at St Peter's and to the east at St Gregory's. The paper reassesses the ongoing debate as to whether the complex represents a minster complex or a royal or high-status estate centre. The evidence for Danish occupation at the end of the 9th century and the subsequent development of Northampton in the late Saxon period is then considered. Three appendices look at: how an analysis of the distribution of the major pottery types of the period contributes to understanding the development of settlement at Northampton up to the Norman Conquest; whether advances in radiocarbon analysis and calibration can refine the previous chronology put forward for Anglo-Saxon Northampton; and how early medieval mortar mixers, first identified as such at Northampton, can now be seen to have a wide distribution both in Britain and continental Europe. An opportunity is taken to publish, for the first time in colour, photographs of a number of the most significant excavations.
[pp 25 - 77]

Late Saxon and Saxo-Norman occupation beneath the Outer Bailey of Northampton Castle
Andy Chapman
In 2013 the forecourt of Northampton Station was subject to open area excavation in advance of the construction of a new station. Beneath the medieval levels within the Outer Bailey of Northampton Castle (which are reported separately) there was a sequence of late Saxon to Saxo-Norman ditches, pits and wells. The primary fill of a well has been radiocarbon dated to the 10th century, suggesting the presence of nearby occupation at this time. Late Saxon curvilinear boundary ditches, which ended in a seasonally damp area adjacent to the river, are dated to the 11th century, as are several pits. By the later 11th century there was a new rectilinear ditch system, perhaps marking a change in land divisions following the Norman Conquest. The pre-castle features and the contemporary buried soil produced quantities of animal bone, indicating that the area had been a dumping ground for butchery and craft waste through the 11th century. The site produced no evidence of pre-Conquest town defences. Either the excavated area lay outside the defences, with a defensive bank on the higher ground to the immediate east, or the river had provided a sufficient defence in this area, as it did later for the castle. Clearance to enable construction of the Outer Bailey of Northampton Castle occurred between AD1100-1150, perhaps around AD1120 during the reign of Henry I.
[pp 79 - 127]

The late Saxon town defences at Green Street, Northampton: a review of the evidence and a radiocarbon date
Andy Chapman
Excavation of a length of the town defences at Green Street in the mid-1990s is reviewed. A sample of animal bone from beneath the defensive bank has been radiocarbon dated, giving a broad date spanning the 9th century AD. As a result, from the archaeological evidence the question of whether the excavated defences had an origin during the Danish occupation of the late 9th to early 10th centuries or in the early to mid-10th century following the Saxon re-conquest is still unproven either way. The presence of Northampton Ware pottery, dated to the 10th century, within the clay bank, still supports a date in the 10th century, as part of the reorganization of the eastern region, the Danelaw, with the creation of burhs as safe places for the promotion of trade and manufacturing following the re-conquest by Edward the Elder, son of Alfred, in AD 917.
[pp 129 - 136]

Northampton Castle, Part 1: Introduction, pre-castle archaeology, and the history and topography of the castle
Andy Chapman
Northampton Castle was a major royal castle through the 12th and 13th centuries but thereafter it declined in importance. Through the 15th and 16th centuries it was the site of the county gaol and sessions house, but became fully derelict once these functions transferred to the town following the destructive town fire of 1675. The castle then stood as a scenic ruin, but encroachment of housing onto the Inner Bailey defences began in the early 19th century. In the mid-19th century the building of a new rectory, followed by the first railway and a straightened approach to the new West Bridge affected parts of the Outer Bailey. By this time there was antiquarian interest, particularly from Sir Henry Dryden and local architect E F Law and family, who together provided plans and photographs of the castle as it then survived. Further recording was carried out in 1879-80 when much of the Inner Bailey was swept away in the construction of a new railway. Eighty years later, the small portion of the north-east corner of the Inner Bailey that had survived and the nearby Castle Hill mound were subject to excavation in the early 1960s. This included examination of the castle bank and ditch, as well as royal apartments and a kitchen range. It was demonstrated that the Castle Hill mound had been constructed in the mid-17th century during the Civil War, and was not an early motte. It is also suggested that a medieval building beneath Castle Hill, previously interpreted as a church with an apsidal end, may have been part of a gatehouse at the eastern end of an elongated and otherwise lost barbican protecting the north gate. These previously unpublished excavations are the main focus of this report, although the earlier records are used to provide the broader picture of the whole castle. In Part 1, a broad overview of the context of the 1960s excavations is followed by an account of the pre-castle archaeology seen through the antiquarian records and the 1960s excavations. A concise history of the castle is followed by an account of the various works from the 19th century onward that have recorded elements of the castle archaeology enabling an overall, although incomplete, plan of the castle to be produced. Part 1 ends with a consideration of the topography of the castle and its relationship to the medieval town. Part 2 will deal with the detailed archaeological record for the castle defences, the buildings of the Inner Bailey, and the Castle Hill mound. Excavations within the Outer Bailey of the castle in 2013 in advance of building the present station are published separately in the same volume.
[pp 137 - 189]

Excavation within the Outer Bailey of Northampton Castle, 2013-15
Andy Chapman
In 2013 the forecourt of Northampton Station was subject to open area excavation in advance of construction of a new station. This work was followed by a watching brief during the digging out of the buried foundations of the adjacent Victorian station. In 2015 there was an intermittent watching brief during the demolition of the 1960s station building. The late Saxon and Saxo-Norman deposits pre-dating the castle are reported separately. Clearance to enable construction of the Outer Bailey of Northampton Castle had probably occurred by around AD1120, during the reign of Henry I. A watching brief adjacent to the excavated area located the mortared ironstone foundations of a revetment wall along the front of the 7.5m wide, Outer Bailey bank. There was also a probable postern gate providing direct access between the Outer Bailey and the West Bridge river crossing. A small building within the Outer Bailey was 11.0m long by 5.6m wide, with unmortared stone walls, a wide doorway towards the eastern end of the north wall, and a succession of four large hearths occupying much of the western end of the building. The deeply founded west wall abutted the inner face of the bailey bank, while the other walls were ground laid. Remnants of other walls further east were probably parts of another building, with small areas of scorched soils suggesting a connection with cooking, and perhaps brewing, to feed the castle garrison. The pottery largely comprises utilitarian cooking pots. Other finds were sparse: two arrowheads and a scabbard chape attest to its military role, and gilded mounts for use on horses and on caskets or boxes attest to its status and wealth, while a group of horseshoes came from the road. The buildings had a short lifetime, as they had been levelled by the end of the 12th century or shortly after. Thereafter, there was no further building within this part of the Outer Bailey, and no disturbance until the appearance of the railway stations and a rectory in the mid to late 19th century.
[pp 191 - 255]

Excavations at The Green, Northampton, 1983: the Anglo-Saxon and medieval phases
Michael Shaw
The excavations at The Green, Northampton lay immediately south of the earlier excavations at St Peter's Street and St Peter's Gardens which had uncovered evidence of a middle Anglo-Saxon ‘palace' complex replaced by extensive late Saxon activity. It was anticipated that additional features associated with the ‘palace' complex might be present, along with further evidence for the character and layout of the late Saxon town. In the event a linear ditch in the north-west corner of the site appeared to define the southern boundary of middle Anglo-Saxon activity. Evidence for late Saxon settlement mirrored that uncovered at the earlier excavations, comprising scattered pits and possible sunken-featured buildings, along with postholes, stakeholes and foundation trenches, all heavily disturbed by later activity. Of particular interest from this phase was a finely-decorated bone mount, possibly from a staff. Post-Conquest (c.AD1075-c.AD1275) the site was largely a backyard area with a dense palimpsest of pits, wells and postholes, with some evidence for timber buildings, later replaced in stone, lying alongside Narrow Toe Lane to the west and Freeschool Street to the east. It was only in the later medieval period (c.AD1275-c.1470), however, that sufficient lengths of boundary wall survived to enable property boundaries to be defined. At the northern end of the site the back boundaries of properties fronting on to the south side of St Peter's Street could be recognised, with further properties fronting on to Narrow Toe Lane and Freeschool Street. Two well-preserved stone-built drying ovens lay by the back boundary of the Narrow Toe Lane property. Domestic occupation ceased at around the end of the late 15th-early 16th centuries, with the area given over to large-scale skin processing, evidenced by groups of tanning pits and associated buildings. The evidence relating to the late medieval to early post-medieval tanneries has been published previously, and is only briefly summarised here, with this report documenting the Anglo-Saxon to medieval period occupation, based on a draft report of the early 1990s.
[pp 257 - 304]

The Topography and Archaeology of the Medieval Synagogue and Jewry, Northampton
Marcus Roberts
The location of the Northampton medieval Jewry had not survived as part of local historical knowledge. From the known locations of medieval Jewries in other towns, it is argued that the Jewry and synagogue in Northampton would have been close to the central business district and local market place. Documentary evidence indicates that it lay in ‘Parmentry', named after dealers in English broad cloth, who were resident In Silver Street, and in medieval rentals several Jewish-owned properties are located in relation to the Red Lyon Inn, which stood adjacent to Bradshaw Street. This indicates a location to the north-west of the market place, north of Bradshaw Street and between Silver Street and Sheep Street. Through map-regression, using the Marcus Pierce map of 1632, it is argued the site of the synagogue may be what is now 9 Sheep Street (the Kebabish takeaway), which would have been surrounded with other buildings and homes of the Jewish community. Historical survey indicates that the medieval English synagogue was deeply sunken into the ground, so substantial remains might survive in situ, even where there are later cellars. Through the use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) on the cellars and ground floors of 7 and 9 Sheep Street, it is argued that major parallel linear anomalies beneath the cellar of 9 Sheep Street may be an entry stair and walls, extending as much as 4m (nearly 14 feet) below the cellar floor level, and which could continue well beyond the survey area. An adjacent massive medieval wall in the cellar of the Bear, to the north, could be part of the stair or entry structure at 9 Sheep Street, and might even be a visible section of the synagogue wall, or an adjacent Jewish house. In addition, a GPR linear anomaly below the ground floor rear of 7 Sheep Street might have been part of the southern wall of the synagogue. It is also not beyond question that the structures seen at 9 Sheep Street might even be the galleried entry to a mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath.
[pp 305 - 333]

Archaeological investigation at the former Fishmarket and 5-7 Sheep Street, Northampton
Tim Upson-Smith, Charlotte Walker and Mark Holmes
Northamptonshire Archaeology carried out archaeological investigation and recording during the demolition of the former Fish Market and 5 & 7 Sheep Street, Northampton, prior to the construction of a new Bus Interchange. Remains of cellars on the Bradshaw Street frontage had been largely removed prior to the construction of the Fish Market in the late 1930s. Below the Fish Market three extant cellars were observed. A further cellar lay under the rear of 5 Sheep Street and there was a stone-lined well under the cellar floor of 7 Sheep Street. Both of these properties were demolished, with only the Sheep Street façades retained. No evidence for the Jewish Synagogue, which research has indicated probably stood close by, was observed, and the information gained demonstrated that medieval or earlier archaeology survived only in isolated areas between extensive disturbance from the construction of the cellars and walls of post-medieval and modern buildings. An area of intact deposits, including an ironstone wall, beneath 5 Sheep Street pre-dated the existing building and may have been of medieval to late medieval date. A test pit excavated on land to the north of Yard Lane revealed the remains of post-medieval buildings above a quarry pit of post-medieval or earlier date.
[pp 335 - 348]

An alternative topography for the medieval Jewry, Northampton
Andy Chapman
Marcus Roberts has provided a sound analysis of the documentary evidence to conclude that the medieval Jewry and synagogue at Northampton occupied a block of land between Sheep Street and Silver Street, to the north of Bearward Street, and immediately north-west of the medieval market place. His more detailed analysis by map regression in attempting to locate the probable site of the synagogue was based on a number of assumptions, in particular that the Marcus Pierce map of 1632 was based on a lost map, pre-dating Speed's map of 1610, that recorded a medieval street pattern different in some significant details from all later maps from 1610 onward. The present author was unhappy with a number of the assumptions made and has reworked the map regression based on accepting Speed's map of 1610 and later maps as recording a street pattern that had not changed substantial from the medieval period. The alternative map regression has, however, produced a very similar result: again indicating that the synagogue probably stood on land now occupied by 7 and 9 Sheep Street, but the different set of assumptions indicate that it probably occupied both of these properties and was, therefore, probably substantially larger than indicated in the analysis by Marcus Roberts. The alternative map regression also indicates that the buildings of the Jewry occupied the eastern half of the block between Sheep Street and College Street, with the western half, now occupied by the Bus Interchange, probably largely open ground contemporary with the existence of the Jewry through to the Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. The archaeological evidence from the watching brief during the demolition of the Fish Market in 2012 is also summarised and related to the evidence produced by Marcus Roberts on the location of the Jewry and synagogue to bring all relevant evidence together in one document.

From medieval quarry pits to a 19th century foundry at Cow Lane (Swan Street), Northampton
Claire Finn
An area of land was excavated in 2014 at a former car park on Cow Lane, Northampton, now known as Swan Street. The earliest archaeological features dated to the late 12th century and comprised intercutting quarry pits. By the 13th century Cow Lane had been laid out, the quarry pits had been backfilled and the land terraced for occupation. From the late 13th century, an ironstone wall served as a property boundary and revetment for the terrace. This boundary wall was retained through later periods up to the present development. In the 15th century, on the upslope side of the wall, a number of dwellings were erected with gardens and stone-lined cesspits to the rear; probably with stables and orchards beyond. In the 16th century, these buildings had been demolished, the stonework robbed, and existing pits backfilled to level the land for horticultural use. The 17th and 18th centuries saw renewed domestic activity and the site again became a backyard area, with drains, stone-lined cesspits and post-built structures. In 1830 the Lion Foundry ironworks was constructed to the north of the revetment wall. Several circular pits, possibly wells, had been backfilled with large quantities of iron and copper slag waste, as well as domestic pottery. The foundry was demolished in the 1960s and replaced by a car park. Below the revetment was a row of three-storey terraced brick houses forming St John's Terrace, built in the mid-19th century. The terrace had two public houses at its eastern end, which were demolished in the late 20th century.

The history and development of the Northampton County Gaol and Northampton Museum and Art Gallery
Amir Bassir
The former County Gaol, Northampton, later home to Northampton Museum & Art Gallery and County Council offices, was subject to comprehensive historic building recording survey ahead of proposed redevelopment. The report describes the development of the county gaol and the subsequent phases of redevelopment, and in particular the establishment of the museum and art gallery. The buildings and later alterations to them are described in detail with photographs illustrating both major features and structural details, particularly windows.

Medieval chess pieces from Northampton
Andy Chapman

Northampton Castle's postern gate
Graham Cadman

Northampton Town Mill
Graham Cadman

Northampton, Historic Jetties
Graham Cadman

A 3D model of the Greyfriars Bus Station, Northampton
Amir Bassir

Social distancing and leprosy: a medieval example from Raunds
Andy Chapman

A late medieval pottery kiln at Glapthorn
Gill Johnston

Pottery wasters at 1 High Street, Stanion
Graham Cadman

A medieval Rhenish ‘Blaugrau' cooking-pot handle from the Prebendal Manor, Nassington
Paul Blinkhorn and Jane Baile

Northamptonshire and the Heritage at Risk Register 2020
Graham Cadman

Portable Antiquities Scheme in Northamptonshire 2018
Eleanore Cox

Portable Antiquities Scheme in Northamptonshire 2019
Eleanore Cox


Recent Publications
Andy Chapman

Archaeology in Northamptonshire 2018

Archaeology in Northamptonshire 2019

Archaeology in Northamptonshire 2020