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Rothersthorpe, The Berry

In the civil parish of Rothersthorpe.
In the historic county of Northamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough.
Modern Authority of Northamptonshire.
1974 county of Northamptonshire.
Medieval County of Northamptonshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP71535672
Latitude 52.20408° Longitude -0.95471°

Rothersthorpe, The Berry has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The Berry is one of seven surviving medieval ringworks in Northamptonshire. It has a long history of occupation and is in an essentially undisturbed condition.
The Berry is the site of a ringwork which stood at the centre of the medieval village of Rothersthorpe. The site is an irregularly shaped enclosure measuring approximately 120m from east to west and about 90m from north to south. The ringwork is delineated on the north and west sides by a wide ditch between 2.5m and 4m deep. There are also remains of an inner rampart in the north east corner and at the southern end of the site. Undulating features in the west of the interior of the ringwork indicate the locations of former buildings. On the eastern side of the interior remains of ridge and furrow ploughing can be seen. (Scheduling Report)

Enclosure (SP 715567; Figs. 100 and 102; Plate 4), known as The Berry, lies in the centre of the village between North Street and Church Street, on Boulder Clay sloping gently S. between 81 m. and 77 m. above OD. Nothing is known of its history and no date can be assigned to it. To judge from its position, its name and perhaps its form, it could be a medieval structure of defensive purpose and it has been so regarded by a number of authorities (OS Record Cards; VCH Northants., II (1906), 417). However, its unusual shape and the ample evidence of secondary use both for habitation and agricultural might indicate that it is perhaps pre-medieval in origin and was reused in the medieval period, perhaps as a manorial centre. The nearest parallel to it in form, if not in situation, is Burnt Walls, Daventry (RCHM Northants., III (1981), Daventry (35)).
The remains consist of a roughly triangular area, formerly bounded by a wide, deep ditch and an inner bank or rampart. The ditch is now preserved only on the W. and N. sides where it is up to 2.5 m. deep below the adjacent land and up to 4 m. deep below the inner bank. On the S. side no trace of the ditch now survives and its line has either been built over or incorporated within modern gardens. The bank or rampart also remains on the N. and E. side, but has been much altered. The only place where it is in its original form is near the E. corner where it is a narrow-topped bank up to 1.5 m. high above the interior. Along the rest of the N. side it has been pulled down, apparently by ploughing, so that it now has a wide summit and a much-degraded inner edge. Modern footpaths pass through two gaps in the centre of the N. side. In the N.W. corner and along the W. side, the bank has also been altered and in one place appears to have a short section of a later stone-rubble wall on it ('a' on plan). There are slight traces of a bank in the S.E. corner, but along most of the S. side this has been removed and only a degraded scarp marks its outer face. No certain original entrances into the enclosure are visible, though it has been suggested (OS Record Cards) that there may have been one at the extreme E. end. The interior has a number of features all of which appear to be later than the encircling bank and ditch. In the S.W. corner is a small circular mound 0.4 m. high with a hole in the centre. To the E. of this is a length of shallow ditch which, at its E. end, turns S. and becomes a scarp. Further E. again there is a short stretch of low bank only 0.2 m. high which also continues N. as a scarp. These features may be the sites of buildings. Part of the rest of the interior has slight traces of wide ridge-and-furrow on it. That this is later than the defences is clear from the fact that the rampart on the N. side has been pulled down as a result of its use as a headland. A low bank ('b' on plan) only 0.3 m. high crosses the interior. Its purpose is unknown, but it too seems to have been altered by later ploughing. (Air photographs in NMR; CUAP AZV71). (RCHME)

ROTHERSTHORPE Berry (3.5 miles S.W. of Northampton). — This enclosure, called locally The Berries, is curious for two reasons : first, while the base of the entrenchments on the north and west is 96 feet, that on the east and possibly south is only 70 feet; and secondly, the earth-work is apparently a village stronghold, near the church and surrounded by the houses, as if it was a mote castle, and yet unlike the usual types of such; for a Saxon or earlier strong-hold however it is rather small. Standing on level ground 245 feet above sea level, with higher land on the west and south, and slightly lower land on the north and east, it partially commands the neighbouring country for about a mile. The south side is more or less destroyed to make room for cottages and their gardens. The whole work in its original condition must have been of some considerable power. The entrenchments stand in a field and are used for pasture. (VCH)

Enclosure, possibly pre-Medieval in origins, reused and formed part of a manorial complex during the Medieval period. (PastScape)

Not recorded in David King's Castellarium Anglicanum although, since it is in the VCH he must have been aware of it. Called a Ringwork in scheduling report but arguably not 'strong' enough to be called a castle, although Castle Farm place-name nearby. Berry is presumably a corruption of Burh and therefore it seems probably this was a thegnal site (The comment in the VCH about it being too small to be a Saxon stronghold was made before the realisation that Saxon thegns did build fortified manor houses). The RCHME makes the interesting comparison with Burnt Walls at Daventry.
Are The Berry and Burnt Walls both Saxon thegnal burhs unusual in not being altered and strengthened post-Conquest and turned into either ringwork or motte and bailey castles?
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:02

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