Cold Ashby Grange


Grange Field, which is now pasture, is the site of our official ‘ancient monument’ (though the parish has several other areas now designated 'Historic Environment Assets').

The grange appears to have been quite large so would have been important to the economy of both the village and Pipewell Abbey to which it was ‘attached’.

Granges were primarily intended to supply food and essential materials for their Abbey but also, in times of plenty, to provide income from any surplus. It seems the Cistercians at Pipewell Abbey had a network of such farming communities in this area. The Cistercian Order originated at Cîteaux in Burgundy when a group of Benedictines, dissatisfied with the conduct of their original order, set themselves up as a rebel sect in the forest (Cistercium is Latin for Cîteaux). Cistercians eventually established the grange system widely in Europe. In Britain, it operated outside the secular manorial system whilst working, as it were, alongside it.

A History of the County of Northampton:volume 2 [R.M. Serjeantson, W.R.D. Adkins (editors) 1906] has this interesting snippet:

In 1266 the chief men of Thurlaston united to claim common rights on Causton Common, but Abbot Gerardde Lega stood firm against them, and obtained a verdict in his favour at the Warwick assizes. There were then at Causton Grange two large ovens, where they baked weekly sixteen quarters of corn for common bread, and six of better quality for the monks and lay brethren and their servants in their granges of Dunchurch, Thurlaston, Rokeby, 'Lalleford,' Newbold, and 'Thirnmilne,' in Warwickshire, and for their granges of Ashby, Winwick, and Elkington, in Northamptonshire (my emphasis) . The bread cart from Causton would have to make a considerable round.

[From: 'House of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Pipewell', A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 2 (1906), pp. 116-121. URL: ]

The extent of the Abbey Grange and its potential as a source of income can be assessed by going to the Cold Ashby Map page, clicking the ‘satellite button’ and zooming in on the Google 'Monastic Grange' marker in Grange Field which is North of Main Street and behind the Village Hall.

Here you can discern the hollow way to the North of the site which runs from Bridle Lane to the Naseby Road. The features between this and Main Street are clearly closes or paddocks and building platforms which could be what remains of living accommodation, also possibly a chapel and various barns. There is also a pond which still exists in the North East corner of Grange Field which may have supplied fish for Fridays.

You can, of course, actually visit the site by crossing the field diagonally on the public footpath which connects Bridle Lane and Naseby Road. It is probably erroneous, as you walk, to imagine Cold Ashby’s Grange as peopled entirely by monks in white habits - there may well have been only a few actual Brethren (or none at all) as granges were sometimes manned by lay-brothers (conversi) or non-resident local peasants.

Nevertheless, in the 13th and 14th Centuries the grange must have provided considerable employment opportunities locally and there is fair reason to suppose that ‘the monks and lay brethren and their servants’ who were fed by the bakery at Cawston lived in and farmed Ashby Grange for the benefit of their Abbey, themselves and local people.

Unfortunately, Pipewell Abbey could not escape Cromwell’s attentions and, after very mixed fortunes during the previous century, eventually succumbed to dissolution on 5 November, 1538.

An account roll of 1540 shows that all its estates had been leased.

It seems that parts, if not all, of the Abbey Grange were owned by the Saunders family for several generations (Nigel Bird kindly sent details of his research into this family's occupation for which click here - please respect Mr Bird's copyright)  and by Mr. Wykes of Haslebech in 1720, who apparently held Court there from time to time.

This clearly suggests that at least one domestic building remained in the 18th Century, an assertion made by Bridges (History of Northamptonshire 1791) who actually died in 1724, his work having been published 67 year’s posthumously (whereby hangs another tale!).

Clearly, the relatively undisturbed remains and historical textual references make our monument important to research into Medieval farming and settlement - the main reason for its scheduled status.


Sources (and opportunities for further reading).

 I believe this to be the complete list - any omissions are unintentional and will,of course, be rectified if you contact me with details.

Thanks for your interest! 

**More Cold Ashby History on the History Page

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