|Early history of Berry Close|
With Berry Close in the news within the Parish, with the potential bequest to the Parish, it may be of interest to give some details of the early history of Berry Close.
The name Berry Close is not the name used by all of our older residents – as you will know, quite a lot call it Betty Close. Betty Cameron can recall that the name Betty Close was in use in her childhood in the 1930s, saying that, as a child she thought it was named this way because it was the ‘field close to Betty’ (Betty lived at the top of Silver Street then).
However, there is an early map of Chacombe, now held in the British Library, which was drawn in 1696 for “Georg Holdman, Esq.” It is big (5 feet 6 inches by 3 feet 3 inches), on vellum and is graced with drawings of buildings. The buildings are clearly drawn from life; the surviving buildings resemble the drawings on the map. On this map Berry Close is the name for the field. So, Betty Close must be a corruption of the old name. In our family we have a photograph of the map which was bought by Betty Cameron and it may be nice to display it at a future exhibition.
Permission was granted from the British Library for a tiny portion of the map to be published in the Church guide. Berry Close is shown in this portion, so you can get a flavour of this special map from the guide. It is rare indeed for a village to have a map of this age and of such quality.
The ‘Close’ in the name suggests that the field was, at some point, a Church Close. This could have been in the medieval period or it could have been at a more recent time. Despite this, much of Berry Close’s history is secular.
About ten years ago, I arranged a meeting with the Northampton County Archeologist, who was then Graham Cadman, to get his opinion on some air photographs of Poplars Farm. I went with a former resident of Chacombe who was very interested in archaeology, Joan Bowes, who sadly died a few years ago. In a wide-ranging discussion, we raised the subject of Berry Close. Graham knew the field very well indeed. According to his records, there has never been any reported archaeological dig in the field. But, though it was already a Scheduled Ancient Monument, he felt that it was in urgent need of reassessment. On the spot he made a note to request that English Heritage make an archeological reassessment of it. “Sadly”, he said, “ nothing will be done. A site like this has to be under threat before English Heritage will do anything.”
that time there were a number of entries for Berry Close
on the County Sites and Monuments
Record and I
have a copy
of this record as it was at the time of our
family has bought copies of air photographs of Chacombe
made by the the RAF from 1947.
In these photographs
what jumps out at you is the medieval fish
pond in which Chacombe
Sewage Works has been built. The fishpond
in Berry Close is far less obvious.
to the Berry Close fishpond, the record suggests that
the small stream was
cut on the south
side of the fishpond at a later stage than
the creation of
the fishpond itself (the term for this type
of watercourse is ‘leat’).
Since the leat feeds water into ponds around
the Priory, which may themselves be medieval
the leat is contemporary with the fishponds.
The bumps and hollows in Berry Close around the mound are without doubt the remains of an abandoned part of the medieval village of Chacombe. We won’t know when it was abandoned until it is excavated. Interestingly the archeological record only mentions the existence of houses and their closes along the hollow way from the end of Silver Street North to the County Ditch. I think the 1977 photograph has some marks which lead to this conclusion, but they are not very clear to me.
is the mound? Joan Bowes was convinced that it was raised
so that the Bagley
bell founders could
bells in pits dug into the mound. Graham
of the suggestion that the Bagleys could
have made the mound, but not that they
used it. In
view, the most
likely origin of the mound was as a
base of a Norman fortified house or manor house,
He did not rule
out that it might have originated in
Saxon period, but all three of us knew
on the ground
linking any site with the Saxon period
are extremely rare, so
Saxon origin has to be only the remotest
possibility. But, the name of the village
may be Saxon
valley”, perhaps). So they may
have been here ... Were they in Berry
Close? Now that really would
Before the Saxons, there were the Romans. The Romans had a presence in Chacombe, but there is nothing to link them to Berry Close. The Romans preferred the high ground and most fragments of Roman pottery can be found in the soil near Castle Farm, so the probability is that Berry Close came into use in the Norman period. I guess that we won’t get to know more until a serious excavation takes place and some dateable artifacts are revealed.