Domesday Book: In Great Domesday Litchborough (there spelled ‘Liceberge’) is entered as follows:
XIII. The Land of the Church of Evesham
In ‘Gravesend’ Hundred.
The ABBEY OF EVESHAM holds 4 hides (the standard unit of tax, normally the amount of land that could support a household) in Litchborough. There is land for 10 ploughs. In demesne (land in lordship whose produce is devoted to the Lord rather than his tenants) are 2 ploughs and 8 villans (a peasant of higher economic status than bordar) and 6 bordars (a poorer peasant than a villan) with 5 ploughs. It was and is worth 40s. Leonoth held it freely in TRE (Latin: Tempore Regis Edwardi – In the time of King Edward, i.e, Edward the Confessor the last Saxon king before the Norman Conquest. William the Conqueror always held that King Harold Godwinson (the chap with an arrow in his eye) was an usurper).
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Litchborough like this:
LITCHBOROUGH, a village and a parish in Towcester district, Northampton. The village stands 3 miles S of Weedon r. station, and 5 NW of Towcester; was anciently a fortified town, called Lycanburgh; and was taken by the Saxons in 571. The parish comprises 1,704 acres; and its Post town is Weedon. Real property, £3,482. Pop., 449. Houses, 111. The property is subdivided. The manor belongs to W. Blake, Esq. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Peterborough. Value, £564 Patron, the Rev. W. A. Taylor. The church is ancient; was repaired in 1842; consists of nave, S aisle, and chancel, with W tower; and contains an altar-tomb to Sir John Needham. There are a Baptist chapel, an endowed school with £30 a year, and charities nearly £170.
Professor Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in The Buildings of England Northamptonshire (2nd (1973) Edition revised by Bridget Cherry), describes Litchborough as follows:
ST MARTIN. Dec almost throughout: W tower, chancel with articulated tracery in the N and S windows (the E window is Perp), clerestory with quatrefoil windows, N doorway and S doorway and, S arcades of four bays with octagonal piers and double-chamfered arches. – RECTOR’S PEW – STAINED GLASS, S aisle e, c. 1850. – (Nave windows with early c14 Annunciation and Trinity Shield. Chancel N: c14 foliage work RM) – PLATE. Cup, c. 1570: Alms dish, 1637; Patern, 1695; Breadholder, 1706; Cup, 1809. – MONUMENTS. Sir John Needham. Erected in 1633. Noble alabaster effigy a very large tomb-chest. The VCH says this has the latest ‘military pillow’ in the county. Behind the monument, on wall, inscription tablet with two columns and some foliage decoration. – Frances Simpson Grant +1907 – White angel with raised arm – like a monument in a churchyard.
Litchborough House, by the church. c17 house embedded in neo-Tudor work of 1838 (by George Moore).
Lady Juliet Smith (later Lady Juliet Townsend, H.M. Lord Lieutenant for Northamptonshire) in the Shell Guide to Northamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough (2nd impression 1972), described Litchborough as follows:
Litchborough, ironstone village. There is good avenue of trees opposite Litchborough House, much altered nineteenth century. One farm has a pretty archway beside it. The church, with its well-built tower, stands on a small green. Some old glass and an eighteenth century glass sundial in the chancel windows. Plain but pleasant pews. Monument to Sir John Needham, 1633, whose ‘Earthly part, though now but dust, Shall rise to glory with the just’. His face and helmet are particularly well executed. Grotesque heads over door.
Litchborough is a roughly triangular parish, covering 675 hectares. It is bounded on the N. by an E.-flowing tributary of the River Nene and on the S.W. by a stream flowing S.E. towards the River Tove. Much of the higher ground in the S, above 145 m. above sea level, is covered by Boulder Clay. From there the land slopes N. across Northampton Sand, Upper Lias Clay and Marlstone Rock to the stream at 100 m. above sea level. Clay and sandstones are also exposed along the valley in the S.W. No prehistoric or Roman material has been found in the parish.
According to Morton (18th Century historian), Litchborough was one of the last Romano-British garrisons to be taken by the Saxons in around 571 AD. The name means ‘place of the dead’ or ‘mound of the dead’ Think of a ‘lychgate’, the covered gate where the the dead remained on bier, often attended against bodysnatchers, until the funeral service, which may have been a day or two later. The lychgate kept the rain off and often had seats for the vigil keepers. At the funeral, the priest conducted the first part of the service under the shelter of the lychgate.
The village was well-known for the prophylactic minerals found in a spring, called Will Pill Spring, which ran onto the village green from under the bend in the Spinney wall opposite the War Memorial.
In the Deer Park or Spinney grew the medical herb Gentiana Concava (Feltwort) or Saponaria Concava Anlica (Soapwort). Due to the Royal Patronage of King James I, the herbs were over-picked by his herbalists and became extinct in the early 17th century. Litchborough was the only know source of the plant.
Medieval and Later
The Manor House Site, lies immediately S. of the church, on Northampton Sand at 146 m. above sea level. Baker (Hist. of Northants., I (1822–30), 407) said that the medieval manor house ‘stood in the inclosure called The Spinney and was taken down about fifty years ago’. On the Tithe Map of 1843 the large paddock S. of the church is called The Spinney. The most prominent earthworks in the area are a group of large stone-pits on the N. side but these have cut through and partly destroyed a number of low banks of which fragments still survive to the S. and S.W. of the quarries. It would appear that the quarries were dug into the site of the manor house itself, perhaps for the foundation stones. In the 19th century the area was turned into a small deer park belonging to Litchborough House and was bounded by a continuous stone wall which still exists. Earthworks to the S. of the quarry may relate to this period. They include at least three shallow rectangular ponds and a rectangular enclosure 50 m. by 25 m. bounded by a low bank and ditch, as well as other shallow quarries, all cut into earlier slight ridge-and-furrow.
Settlement remains, formerly part of Litchborough, lie on the S. side of the main street, W. of the church, on Northampton Sand at 144 m. above sea level. The village now consists of little more than 2 single streets meeting at a cross-roads with a small green near the church and houses on both sides, except on the high bank S. of Litchborough House where there are fragmentary remains of house-sites. On the Tithe Map of 1843 no houses are shown here except for three buildings at the N.E. end near the church. These have now gone. The street has been realigned at this point, presumably to enlarge the grounds of Litchborough House, and some of the earthworks have been cut away. This took place after 1843.
Ponds lie S.E. of the village, on the N. side of the road to Cold Higham, on Boulder Clay at 162 m. above sea level. The site consists of a rectangular pond with, immediately to the E., a square flat island, 20 m. by 15 m., completely surrounded by a broad water-filled ditch between 5 m. and 12 m. wide. On the Tithe Map of 1843 neither feature is depicted, though the paddock in which they lie is called Windmill Pool. It is possible that the moated feature is the site of a former windmill. Some unglazed sherds, presumably medieval or later, have been found in the centre of the island.
In the early 17th century there were three open fields in the parish known as Radmore (there is still a Radmore Farm), Windmill and High Cross Fields, together with an area of woodland called The Heath. Radmore Field, which occupied the E. part of the parish, was enclosed by private agreement in 1647 and the rest, including The Heath, by another agreement in 1711.
Ridge-and-furrow of these fields exists on the ground or can be traced on air photographs over large areas of the parish and especially in the S.W. where almost the complete layout is recoverable. It is arranged in end-on and interlocked furlongs, many of reversed-S form and some up to 400 m. in length. There is evidence of the joining together of former end-on furlongs in a number of places, notably to the N.E. of the village, S. of the Bugbrooke Road, where the ridges are twisted at a sharp angle as they pass over a former headland between two furlongs. Several hollowed access-ways or lanes passing between furlongs survive or can be seen on air photographs, especially W. and S.W. of the village.
St Martin’s Church, Litchborough
The church dates from about 1290 and is built on the site of an earlier structure. The south aisle is known as Foxley Aisle. Most of the 13th Century stained glass on the North Wall windows of the church was destroyed by Cromwell’s men in the English Civil War – a small section of original glass still remains high up near the Bell Tower. The sundial in the South Window of the Chancel is rare and is about 250 years old; the sun is a smiling head and the hours are marked round a scallop. The sun-pointer was on the outside of the glass. It was no longer in place by 1945.
Tomb of Sir John Nedham (Needham) (obit. 1618): The inscription on his tomb describes him as ‘gentleman pensioner unto the late Queene Elizabeth of happie memorie and afterward unto our late soveraign lord King James and was by them both well esteemed and likewise by other persons of the best ranke and qualitie’ The tablet above the tomb belongs to the monument. The monument was erected by his widow Elizabeth in 1633 after she had married Sir Edward Tyrrell of Thornton.
A Gentleman Pensioner was a member of the bodyguard to the English monarch. The corps was formed as the Troop of Gentlemen in 1509 by King Henry VIII to act as a mounted escort, armed with spear and lance to protect the sovereign, in battle, or elsewhere. Henry decided to have ‘this new and sumptuous Troop of Gentlemen composed of cadets of noble families and the highest order of gentry’ as his personal Body Guard or Nearest Guard. As his Body Guard, it accompanied Henry to France in 1513 and took part in the Battle of Guinegate (better known as the Battle of the Spurs) and attended the king at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520. In 1526, they became a dismounted bodyguard armed with battleaxes. They last saw service in battle during the English Civil War, during which a Gentleman Matthews saved the Prince of Wales at the Battle of Edgehill (1642) from one of the Earl of Essex’s troopers. In 1834 the corps was renamed His Majesty’s Body Guard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms.
Today, their duties are purely ceremonial: the Gentlemen accompany and attend the sovereign at various events and occasions, including state visits by heads of state, the opening of parliament, lyings in state, royal weddings and ceremonies involving the various orders of chivalry, including the Order of the Garter. Their membership is drawn from retired Army and Royal Marines Officers who retain their prior military ranks, usually between major and colonel.
The Bell Tower has 5 bells:
Bell Cast Note Bell Founder
Treble 1909 E John Taylor
Two 1909 D John Taylor
Three 1875 C John Taylor (recast)
Four 1628 B H Watts II
Tenor 1922 A John Taylor (recast)
The cast inscription on the outside of bell number 4 is:
‘IHS : NAZARENVS REX : IVDEORUM FILI DEI MISERE : MEI 1628 *’
[Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, O Son of God have mercy on me]
(the * represents the Watts shield)
The S in IHS is reversed as it is whenever Watts (the bell-founder) used this inscription
Bell Number 4 Four weighs 5 Hundredweight, 2 Quarters, and 19 Pounds and has a diameter of 31 ¾ inches with the Canons removed
Litchborough Radar Memorial:
On the road out of Litchborough (eastwards) towards the A5, there is a stone memorial on the left of the roadside on the S-bends, about 800 yards before the A5 junction. Grid Reference 650558 on OS Landranger map Northampton and Milton Keynes.
On 25th February 1935, on the field adjacent to the memorial, two British scientists Robert Watson Watt and Arnold Wilkins were able to detect on the ground the radio waves deflected off an aircraft that was being flown along the Litchborough/Farthingstone valley. The radio waves were transmitted from the radio transmitter at Daventry. This experiment lead to the discovery & development of radar which later became vital in the Second World War.
The memorial was erected in 2001 to mark this historic experiment.
LITCHBOROUGH WAR MEMORIAL
(Compiled and copyright © Chris Coade 2016)
The War Memorial is on the Village Green and is overlooked by the Parish Church of Saint Martin’s, Litchborough. The memorial was dedicated on 1st January 1920, and is a Cross of Weldon Stone on an octagonal-tiered base of Yorkshire Limestone. The names of 8 men from the village who were killed in the First World War are recorded – 3 of those men have ‘No known grave’. A Church Service is held at the War Memorial at 11 a.m. on Remembrance Sunday in November, and the names of the 8 men of Litchborough are read out. In World War 2 there were 28 men and women from Litchborough who served in the Armed Forces – they all returned safely to the village. The War Memorial was restored in 2014 by Litchborough Parish Council to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1.
TO KEEP IN MIND
THOSE WHO FROM THIS PLACE
GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR
COUNTRY AND FOR THE RIGHT
IN THE GREAT WAR
1914 – 1919
Private 25122, 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. Killed in action 17th February 1917. Aged 28. Born Litchborough, enlisted Moulton. He was the son of John Arnold (Cattle Drover) and Elizabeth Arnold, and he was born in Litchborough in 1889. He was a Gardener. Buried in Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt, Somme, France. Plot VI. Row G. Grave 2.
ARNOLD Richard Varney
[Listed as Richard Varner Arnold on SDGW] Private 28222, 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. Died of wounds 10th June 1917. Aged 25. Born Litchborough, enlisted Northampton. He was the son of Alfred Arnold(Farm Labourer) and Eleanor Arnold, and born in Litchborough in 1891. He was a Farm Labourer. Buried in Brandhoek Military Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. Plot I. Row K. Grave 26.
BILLINGHAM William Walter
Private 13170, 6th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment. Killed in action 16th November 1915. Aged 23. He was the son of George Billingham (Farm Labourer) and Susan Billingham. He was born in Litchborough in 1893, and in 1901 his family lived at Wrighton’s farmhouse on the Towcester Road in Litchborough. He was a Horse Man on a farm. Buried in Point 110 Old Military Cemetery, Fricourt, Somme, France. Plot/Row/Section H. Grave 2.
Private 13075, 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. Killed in action 9th May 1915. Aged 31. Born Holloway, Middlesex, enlisted Northampton. He was born in London in 1884. By 1901 he had moved to Litchborough and was living with his widowed Grandmother Eliza Stanton, nee Thorneycroft (born Litchborough 1836). He was a Farm Labourer. No known grave. Commemorated on Ploegsteert Memorial, Ypres, Belgium. Panel 7.
HURLEY Frank William
Private 58967, 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. Died 23rd October 1918. Aged 19. Born Litchborough, enlisted Northampton. He was the son of Thomas Hurley (Farmer) and Mary C. Hurley, and was born in Litchborough in 1899. His name is shown on his Parents’ gravestone in Litchborough churchyard. He was killed 19 days before the Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918. Buried in Mazinghien Communal Cemetery, Cambrai, France.
LESTER Edward Gabriel
Lieutenant, 102nd Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment). Died 25th June 1917. Aged 29. He was born in Ayr, Scotland 11th March 1887, and he was the son of the Rector of Litchborough Reverend John Moore Lester, and Grandson of General Frederick Lester, Bombay Artillery. Edward Gabriel Lester was educated at Rugby School and University College Oxford. At the outbreak of the War he was the Headmaster of the General Brock Elementary School in Vancouver, Canada and was married with a young daughter. His father died on Christmas Eve 1919 whilst visiting his parishioners in Litchborough and he is buried in Litchborough churchyard; the Rector’s 6 sons all enlisted in the Army in World War One. Edward Gabriel Lester’s widow died in 1920 in California, and their orphaned daughter Katherine (born 1911) was adopted by the Hollywood film director Cecil B DeMille and his wife. Katherine later became a Hollywood actress and married the actor Anthony Quinn with whom she had 5 children. He was Church of England. Served in the Oxford University O.T.C 1908-1909. Buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France. Plot VII. Row A. Grave 21.
NORRIS Arthur Henry
Private 200605, 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. Died 31st July 1917. Aged 27. Enlisted Northampton. He was the son of Stephen Norris (Farm Labourer) and Fanny Norris (widowed by 1901). He was born in Litchborough in 1890, and he was the Great-Uncle of Rodney Hutchings(born Litchborough 1939) of Tystie Cottage, Litchborough. He was a Farm Waggoner. In 1916 he married Eliza Jane Alice Lantsbery at the Princess Street Baptist Chapel in Northampton. Eliza Jane Alice later remarried George Wilkinson and they had a child. No known grave. Commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate), memorial, Ypres, Belgium. Panels 43 and 45
WESTON George James
Rifleman R/8301, 18th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Killed in action 21 May 1917. Aged 17. Born Litchborough, enlisted Northampton, resident Salford, Manchester. He was the son of George Weston (Tunnel Labourer, born Fosters Booth) and Sarah Weston (born Litchborough). In 1911 he and his sister Phyllis Annie (born 1906) were living in Litchborough with their grandparents James and Ann Rickards. No known grave. Commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate), memorial, Ypres, Belgium. Panels 51 and 53.