Steane Castle

Has been described as a Rejected Fortified Manor House

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameSteane Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough
Modern AuthorityNorthamptonshire
1974 AuthorityNorthamptonshire
Civil ParishFarthinghoe

Steane Castle or Manor House (2.5miles N.W. of Brackley). — This site of the ancient building, now represented by the mansion and its

grounds commonly called Steane Park, stands 400 feet above sea level and practically upon the lowest land in the neighbourhood, having higher land on all sides except south-east along the course of the stream. A spot was chosen just below one or two water springs, so that a large quantity of water could be collected in moats surrounding the castle and in fish ponds near. Evidently the first building was a homestead built less for defence than for a habitation in time of peace.

The earthworks consist of one broad ditch or moat with the ballast thrown outward at most points to make a bank or dam for the purpose of forming a water level; since the tendency of the water is to flow east the strongest bank has been thrown up on that side. Within this moat are two islands, not artificially raised above the natural level (as would have been wise) to make a dry platform on which to build, nor yet ramparted as is one of the enclosures at Hinton Manor House, 1.5 miles south-south-east, because it was not needed to obtain the water level, and the springs not being far away no great rush of water would occur. The moat proper is now more or less dry, but in its original state would have been much deeper.

The three long fish ponds running roughly north and south still contain water and fish. The pond on the east is now practically dry, but the springs in that on the south still bubble, though the dell itself is no longer watertight, and is being filled up gradually. The chapel is a fifteenth-century building. The subsoil is stone and marl. The position commands the close immediate neighbourhood only. The remains stand within private grounds. (VCH)

Fishponds and Garden Remains (SP 555391; Fig. 57), lie N. of the manor house on the S. side of a broad shallow valley, on Upper Lias Clay at 122 m. above OD. The site was probably once a set of medieval fishponds but has been remodelled, presumably in the early 17th century as part of a garden associated with the manor house.

Part of a late medieval building still remains, but the house was apparently rebuilt in the early 17th century by Sir Thomas Crewe who also rebuilt the chapel in 1620, perhaps on the site of the original medieval church. The land to the N. may have been turned into a formal garden at the same time.

The remains can be divided into five parts. The only surviving earthworks of the medieval fishponds, probably much altered, lie in the N.E. ('a' on plan). They consist of two roughly rectangular islands, surrounded by shallow ditches which widen on the E. to form a pond. The islands themselves are flat and featureless. The E. side of the broad pond is edged by a steep-sided flat-topped bank up to 2 m. high with traces of a dry-stone wall on the inner side in the N.E. corner. This bank is very similar to terrace walks in other late 16th or early 17th-century gardens (e.g. RCHM Northants., III (1981), Canons Ashby (2)) and may be an addition of that period. To the S. ('b' on plan) is a roughly rectangular area sloping up gently to the S. with a number of very slight scarps less than 0.25 m. high across it. These form no detectable pattern but may be the remains of flower-beds or paths of a formal garden. To the W. of the medieval ponds are three long narrow ponds up to 2 m. deep bounding a roughly rectangular area now ploughed ('c' on plan). Two of the ponds, on the W., lie parallel and close to each other; the other, which returns S.W. at its N. end, lies to the E. To the S. again ('d' on plan) is a large embanked pond which, at its E. end, is raised 2.5 m. above the adjacent ground. In the N.W. is another rectangular pond ('e' on plan) with a shallower, smaller one to the W. These may not have been part of the formal gardens. (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1926, 2214–5; CUAP SA22) (RCHME)

Gatehouse Comments

The identification by Downman of the earthworks as defensive moats of a fortified house has been rejected by the RCHME and these are now identified as fishponds. Downman compaired this site with Braybrooke Castle, where the house was moated and had licence to crenellate but was, in terms of extensive earthworks of fishpond, a similar site. The manor house at Steane does not seem to have been moated, but did have it's own chapel.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSP555391
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  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 320 (reject)
  • RCHME, 1982, An inventory of the historical monuments in the County of Northampton Vol. 4: South-west Northamptonshire (HMSO) p. 57 online transcription
  • Downman, E.A., 1906, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Serjeantson, R.M., Ryland, W. and Adkins, D. (eds), VCH Northamptonshire Vol. 2 p. 418 online copy