Village History

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The Village

Village History

Village History

The History of Little Houghton

Ten Thousand years ago when the last great ice age retreated, the huge terminal lake, that had formed south of what is now Coventry, broke its banks. The ensuing flood fashioned the Nene Valley as we know it today. In certain important respects it also fashioned the future history of what we know as the parish of Little Houghton. The flood, heavily laden with rocks and sediment washed away all before it except for a hard rocky island that withstood the onslaught in an otherwise flat marshy valley.

When the flood subsided there remained a promontory ending in a cliff and leaving a much narrower valley on the northern boundary of our parish with a firm base over which the river flowed faster than elsewhere. Ancient Britons were not slow to take advantage of nature’s help. This was an ideal spot for a river crossing through the otherwise impassable swamp which stretched for many miles along the valley in both directions. 3500 – 4000 year ago this ford also lay on the direct route between the early civilised settlement near Peterborough of Beaker People (so called because of their remarkably fine and detailed pottery.) and the religious centres of Ancient Britain at Stonehenge, Avebury and others en route.

For obvious reasons the ford by the cliff assumed great strategic importance in times of war and strife, and for this reason, in about 40 BC., the Romans build a fort to guard the ford on its southern side. This fort lay along the old road from Little Houghton to Cogenhoe and Brafield on the high ground beyond Coneygre. A thousand years later the Normans build a motte and bailey or fortified hill to guard the ford. The importance of the ford is emphasised by the rarity of such motte and baileys, and ours is one of the finest in the country.

Quite apart from the fort, the parish contains widespread evidence of Roman occupation, including the remains of a villa near the southern boundary with Hackleton. Recent surveys have produced evidence of a Roman road running near this villa from Salcey Forest, past the Roman Villa at Piddington and apparently aligned on the “Cliff ford”.

In more peaceful mode the river brought an early prosperity to the village established by the Saxons in its present position. The flow of the river just beside the cliff made it an ideal site for a water mill and this, the only mechanised industry of the day, was flourishing by about 800 AD. This was a valuable asset to the village and to the great landowners who followed.

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