Roman Period, 55BC to 410AD
With the Roman invasion in the middle of the first century AD, Britain was divided into six Roman provinces, with Duston falling within the province of Flavia Caesariensis. A fort linked to the initial military advance might have been built at Duston, and a small town was definitely established here in that period. This was part of the continuing habitation of the fertile upper Nene basin. The nature of the settlement is uncertain because of extensive 19th and 20th century ironstone quarrying that effectively destroyed much of the site.
- Coins representing the Roman emperors Arcadius (395-408) and Honorius (395-423).
- Two buckles dating to the late 4th and early 5th centuries, possibly associated with some sort of yeomanry, perhaps formed as a defensive force during the Anglo-Saxon troubles.
- A Roman lead coffin, found in the Saxon cemetery immediately west of the Roman settlement. (the cemetery may therefore have been in continuous use during both the Roman and Saxon eras.)
The Dark Ages: Early Saxon Period (c.400-650)The Roman legions still in Britain were withdrawn to mainland Europe in the early 5th century to help defend the Empire from Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) tribes attacking the northern frontiers.
The British Isles also started to suffer Anglo-Saxon attacks, which put pressure on Roman institutions here, leaving structures such as villas, baths and public buildings to fall into disrepair. Town life seems to have fallen apart, although the substantial defensive walls of the towns provided useful strongholds in times of war. Archaeological evidence shows that crude timber buildings were erected in the ruined shells of their Roman predecessors. Some towns may have become centres for emerging Saxon royal families.
The Saxons divided England into kingdoms including Northumbria, Bernicia, Deira, Lindsay, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex, Sussex and Kent. Duston fell within the kingdom of Mercia.
Evidence of a Saxon settlement in the Duston area, found during quarrying includes:
- Over a hundred burials in the Duston Anglo-Saxon cemetery.
- Brooches and other grave goods ranging from the middle of the 5th century onwards. Picture above shows brooch of gilded bronze from 6th century AD, found in the Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Duston in 1902. Courtesy of Northampton Museum.)
Viking Invasions (c.787)The Vikings began to settle from about 787 onwards in the Danelaw – land to the east of Watling Street (now the A5) including Essex, East Anglia and Northumbra. Duston was therefore just within the Danelaw and became one of the chief Viking centres.
The Anglo-Saxon king, Alfred the Great, started the conquest of the Danelaw with the capture of London. By 910, the Danish settlers were at war with Edward the Elder (successor to Alfred the Great), who completed the conquest of the Danelaw and by 924 had taken over the entire country.
Founding of Duston ManorIn 1066 William the Conqueror defeated Harold II at the Battle of Hastings, which marked the start of Norman rule in Britain. In 1086, the manor of ‘Dustone’ was founded by the Domesday Survey and handed to a Norman noble, William Peverel, who is sometimes said to have been the son of William the Conqueror.
Before his death in 1113, Peverel founded the Abbey of St. James and gave St. Luke’s Church, Duston (which was built some time before 1113) to the Abbey. For more, see William Peverel.
- Saxon & Medieval Northampton by John H Williams, Northampton Development Corporation, 1982.
- A History of Old Duston and Old St. James, Northampton, by J.W.F. Golby, 1992.