Early Times up to the 18th Century
The parish of East Farndon, including all its fields, currently covers around 1400 acres (near 600 hectares). It used to be larger but some fields in the north of the parish were transferred to Leicestershire, most recently in 1964. At the northern end, bordering Leicestershire, is the River Welland. On this lower ground evidence has been found of Roman and Saxon settlement. At what point we could say there was a village cannot be certain - perhaps in the late Saxon period.
The ground rises quite steeply to the south, in the direction of Clipston and Great Oxendon. The church is at the top. This makes it seem likely that when a village began to form, it may well have been here, on high ground, and not down near the river. The name Farndon (meaning Hill of Ferns) is Anglo-Saxon, although many nearby placenames are of Danish origin because this part of Northamptonshire was under Danish control for a time around 900. The village probably has its origins in the period 650 to 850 when scattered dwellings were gradually concentrated into more compact settlements and villages became the norm.
As there is no village close by called West Farndon, people often wonder why our village is so called. There is in fact a West Farndon, though it is some 24 miles away and more south than West. It is a small hamlet within the parish of Woodford Halse. The distinctions 'East' and 'West' were being used of the two Farndons by the 17th century.
Domesday Book of 1086, as is the case with most villages, gives us our first real glimpse of East Farndon. The village is called Ferendone at that time. Four people or institutions are listed as the tenants-in-chief of the land in the parish. The largest landholder is the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. The others are Robert, Count of Mortain (half-brother of King William), Countess Judith (the King's niece) and a non-Norman, Oslac, who had far more land before the conquest. The Abbey's land is actually held by the Abbot, Baldwin. Robert's land is then let to Humphrey of Wigginton and Judith's to Grimbald. The names of those who held the land before the conquest are given and values before and after the conquest are compared. Values generally had risen a little, showing that the settlement was reasonably prosperous. Land was not held in blocks but in strips scattered throughout the parish. This arrangement of strips continued right through the medieval period until the fields were enclosed in 1781. The ridge and furrow still visible in so many parts of the parish shows how the strips were ploughed. Over time, the ridges got higher and the furrows got lower.
This aerial view from 1965 shows the lines of the former ridge and furrow
beneath the modern field pattern
The village seems to have formed a complete unit or 'manor' , to use the usual term. The first Lord of the Manor known by name was Ralph de Stanlowe, in 1316. The Abbey of St Edmund continued to hold land, presumably from Ralph. Ralph was succeeded in 1318 by the Longvils (their name, as commonly in those times, was spelt in many different ways). This family continued as Lords of the Manor for three hundred years. In about 1611, the Walker family succeeded to the Lordship. Then, through marriage it came to the Cradocks later in the century. By this time St Edmund's Abbey had been dissolved and its land transferred to private individuals. Very little is known of the village in these early times. Did the Lords of the Manor live in the village? If so, where? There is some evidence that they lived in the house now known as East Farndon Hall, or in an earlier house on the site. Over the last two centuries, however, as the title 'Lord of the Manor' had less and less meaning, the Lordship passed to people who lived outside the village. In the early nineteenth century, for example, it passed to the owners of Dingley Hall in the village of Dingley, some five miles away.
The village must have been quite prosperous at some periods. The land which still shows the lines of ridge and furrow is unusually steep in some places. This implies that there was such a need for land that more difficult areas had to be taken into cultivation. According to Bridges' 'History of Northamptonshire', published in 1791 but with information gathered around 1720, there were 60 houses and the population was 267. This figure is higher than the population figures recorded in any of the censuses which started in 1801 and have continued at ten-yearly intervals since.
Snow reveals the 'ridge and furrow' remaining from the open fields of the period before 1781
The village was probably nearer the church, at the top of the hill, in medieval times. There are puzzling earthworks in Hall Close, the field opposite the church on the western side of the main road, running up to the Hall. These have been variously interpreted but the current view is that they mark old roads or tracks, perhaps round the back of the original village and leading to the fields. If so, that would suggest the village houses were in this area, near the church. Perhaps this part of the village was abandoned at some point, as many entire villages were. Hall Close is known to have existed as early as 1712, before the bulk of the parish fields were enclosed, and this perhaps shows that the houses were deserted and the track rendered unnecessary when the owner of the Hall decided to enclose the area for keeping sheep. This was not unusual. He may simply have cleared the villagers off this part of the land. The village then started to develop along the road and down the hill. It has continued to do this and now extends, as a long thin settlement, for about three-quarters of a mile from the church and towards the nearby town of Market Harborough.
This deeply sunken trench or ditch in Hall Close may have been a track separating the dwellings
of the medieval settlement (now disappeared) on one side from the open fields on the other