The Village past



This incomplete piece of writing is believed to be the work of Dorothy Warren and appeared in the ‘Old Mail’, the village monthly magazine. 


The name Yardley meant a clearing in woodland from where yards or spars were collected, and was originally an outlying hamlet in the town of East Pury (Potterspury).

About 1160, Hugh Gobion from Northampton was granted some land at Yardley by Earl Ferrars, the overlord. The Gobion family lived here for over 200 years, until the male line died out about 1383. The family name lived on, as the hamlet took on the family name to distinguish it from other Yardleys (i.e. Hastings).

Yardley was one of eighteen villages within the bounds of Whittlewood Forest, which was created by Henry I. In his day, the forest law was strictly enforced, and nobody could hunt unless they had the King’s permission; law breaking was punishable by death.

Gradually as the King’s interest in hunting declined, law enforcement grew less, encouraging poaching and wood stealing. Forest dwellers found it was possible to erect a shelter and to scrape a living of sorts which attracted squatters who swelled the population.

In return for the damage caused by the King’s deer wandering and browsing on the villagers’ land, they in turn had the right to turn their cattle and horses into the forest from 5th April to 12th November each year. Each village had its own gate and riding into the woods called a stollage, and its own pond, which had to be kept in order. Yardley stollage was near the junction of Moor End Road with the Watling Street. All animals had to be branded with the village brand, Yardley’s being a horseshoe. The common rights of Whittlewood declined after enclosure of the fields in 1775.

In 1854, the whole forest was disafforested by Act of Parliament, and to compensate farmers for loss of grazing rights, part of the wood was cleared and land allocated to farms that received land in the 1775 enclosures. Before disafforestation the poor of the parish had rights to pick up sticks two days a week, and to compensate for this loss, a sum of money was invested, and the interest spent on coal once a year. This Whittlewood Forest charity still stands, and is administered by the Parish Council. (It Is actually administered by Parochial Charities Committee. B. P.).

Before the 1775 enclosures, the land of Yardley lay in three large open fields divided into strips, each man’s holding of strips was scattered over the three fields. The field to the east of the village was called Eastfield; hence the reason for Eastfield Crescent.

The Duke of Grafton obtained consent for an Enclosure Act and eighteen people received allocations, the Duke’s being the largest share. Almost all the rest gradually fell into the hands of the Dukes of Grafton, until the break-up of the estate in 1920.

The Brown family were among the eighteen original recipients of the enclosure land, the last of the line, John Brown still owned a cottage and field at the end of the last century; the Brown family who had been in the village for hundreds of years, are commemorated in Brownsfield Road.

Moor End, now part of Yardley Gobion, used to be a separate manor. It was bought by Edward III in 1363, where he erected a castle surrounded by a moat. The castle was probably demolished about 1541 and materials taken to Grafton for building of a new palace that Henry VIII had built there.

As Yardley was in the parish of East Pury, it had no church of its own, parishioners attended Pury church. Yardley had a chantry chapel near 1 High Street, dedicated to St Leonard. The chapel was closed in Edward VI reign (1547 – 1553), and became a Public House, later to become a private house.

The enclosure act was a beneficial move for the Duke, his tenants and freehold farmers, but led to a significant increase in unemployment. Each village had to support its own poor with money raised by rates. In 1834, the Poor Law Amendment Act compelled groups of villages to unite to provide a Poor House or Work House.


Year Population Male Female
1801 446 215 231
1811 508 238 270
1821 565 268 297
1831 594 289 305
1841 689 352 337
1851 673 345 328
1861 650 321 329
1871 654 309 345
1881 604 297 307