< previous  
The History of Towcester (c.1795)

History of Towcester 

 written in 1795

By Rev. Francis Meek (?)

Towcester is bounded on the east by Easton Neston, by Tiffield on the north, on the north-west by Greens Norton and by Whittlebury on the south. In Towcester are about 350 families. The town is chiefly situate on each side of the road that goes from London to Chester. In the Domesday survey; tis called TOVECESTRE . Camden (Ref 2) is inclined to think its true name was TORCESTRE, and that it was so called from towers, there is no reason why this name should be admitted.

The Watling Street which passeth on hither from Stony-Stratford in a direct line, is cross'd in its passage by three several channels (Ref 3) which unite on the east side of the town. These as Camden supposes had anciently over them three bridges, which gave the name of TRIPONTIUM to the place, and from this fanciful derivation he fixes the TRIPONTIUM of Antonius here at Towcester.

But as this supposition doth not only transpose the order of Roman Stations, as they stand in all the editions of this itinerary, but necessarily implies a mistake in all copies on no fewer than three distances, so it may further be objected to, that the Romans do not appear to have given new names to the places they conquered, but only to have assigned a Latin termination to old ones.

That this was a Roman Station, tho' not the TRIPONTIUM of Antomius, may fairly be gathered from the Roman Coins, which have frequently been found here, and particularly upon Berrymount Hill. This mount, wh(i)ch seems to have been raised ag(ains)t a northern enemy, lies on the north-east side of Towcester, on the southern bank of the rivulet (Ref 4) that encloses the town on the north. It is surrounded by a mote, w(hi)ch is supplied with water from the brook. It is composed of earth and gravel and is flat on the top. The diameter of it is about one hundred and two foot, and the height from ground about twenty-two foot. In 1712 in digging at the foot of it, was found a coin of Gratianus (Ref 5) inscrib'd DN. GRATIANUS. PF. AUG. and on the reverse within a wreath MULTIS SISPS XX. On the north-west side of the town are the vestiges of a ditch and the ruins of a castle or tower (Ref 6).

The name of the river w(hi)ch rune by Towcester Camden tells us, is by some some writers called the Tove. It hath its rise from Holywell-spring in Sulgrave Field, and flowing in a winding course is discharged into the Ouse below Cosgrove Field. The old Bridge thrown over it as you go towards London is now demolished (Ref 7). It stood beyond another bridge of two arches that is still in being (Ref 8). At the north-west end of the town, in the road to Daventry are two bridges and one of them built over a stream whose channel has been cut within these hundred years (Ref 9).

The town of Towcester before the conquest appears to have been a place of considerable strength. Before the year 921, it had probably suffered hostilities of the Danes, for in this year King Edward, who was in possession of the whole Kingdom, excepting that part of it which was subject to the Danes, issued out his orders to have it rebuilt. The Danes however, of Northampton and Leicester, breaking the treaty they had concluded with Edward, marched on Towcester, and made an assault on it for a whole day; but the inhabitants signalized their courage upon the occasion, and holding out till succour came, obliged the enemy to quit the siege and retire. Upon this, King Edward, towards the close of the summer advanced with his army to Passenham, took up his residence there until he had fortified this city of Towcester, for so the Saxon Annals call it, and encompassed it with a stone wall. In the month of June in the year 1783 in digging for gravel in White Horse Close near Berrymount Hill, were found the skeletons of nine persons buried about two foot deep in the earth. From the appearance of the bones, they seem'd to have lain a number of years in the ground. The skull of one which I saw dug up, you might crumble it to mould with your fingers, but the teeth to all appearance seem'd very firm, and as white as if they had not been taken out of the jaw above a few days. There is I think the greatest probability from the situation of the place that these were some of the Danes that were kill'd from Berrymount Hill and buried upon the spot at the time of their besieging Towcester about the year 921.

In 1684 King Charles the second granted to Sir William Fermor Bart, Lord of the Manor of Towcester, and his heirs a weekly market to be kept here on Tuesday for cattle, with three fairs, the first on the 23rd of September in a lieu of a former fair held here on St Lawrence’s Day, the second on Shrove Tuesday, and a third on the 23rd March. But the present fairs are kept Shrove Tuesday, on 1st May, and on the eighteenth of October.

  1. From "TOWCESTER" by the Rev. Francis Meek (?) circa 1795.
    Transcribed by Brian Giggins June 2005
    The following details about the town of Towcester appears as a manuscript on vellum that has been bound into the back of the register of Births, marriages and deaths for Abthorpe [NRO ref: 2p/76], that was formerly a chapel of ease to the parish of Towcester. Notes of the history of the Church of St Lawrence, Towcester with details of the Rectors that is included in the manuscript has not been included here.
  2. Camden (1551-1623) was an antiquarian and historian who published 'Britannia' in 1586.
  3. River Tove (north), Silverstone Brook (middle) and a brook from Wood Burcote that is now mostly culverted and crosses Watling Street by the 'White Bear' at the south end of the town.
  4. The Mill Leat.
  5. Roman Emperor from AD 367-383
  6. This may have been the ruined foundations of a Roman stone tower situated on the north-west corner of the town defences which is believed to still have been standing in the 18th century.
  7. Presumably this was a bridge by the 'White Bear' public house.
  8. This would be a bridge crossing Silverstone Brook.
  9. The channel is undoubtedly the Mill leat.
 < previous