Daventry (Holy Cross)

DAVENTRY (Holy Cross), an incorporated market-town, a parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Fawsley, S. division of the county of Northampton, 12¼ miles (W. by N.) from Northampton, and 71½ (N. W.) from London; containing, with the hamlet of Drayton, 4565 inhabitants. The British name of this place, Dwy-Avon-Tre, "the town of two Avons," from which its present appellation is derived, originated in its situation between the source of the river Leam, which falls into the Western Avon, and the river Nene, anciently styled the Aufona. According to a tradition, from which the device on the borough seal appears to have been taken, the town, now commonly called Dane-tree, was built by the Danes, who during their irruption in 1006 are supposed to have occupied a station designated the Borough Hill, about half a mile to the south-east. This station had previously been occupied by the Britons when opposed to Ostorius, who, after their reduction, converted it into the Castra Æstiva of his forces; it is identified with the ancient Beneventa of the Britons, and the Isannavaria of the Romans. At the time of the Conquest, Daventry was of considerable importance, and formed a part of the immense possessions given by the Conqueror to his niece Judith, wife of the great Earl of Northumberland. In the reign of John, the manor belonged to Robert Fitz-Walter, who headed the confederated barons who obtained from that monarch the grant of Magna Charta. In 1629, it became the property of the Finch family, in whose possession it remained till 1786, when it was purchased by the ancestor of the present proprietor. During the parliamentary war, the place was the scene of frequent conflicts between the contending parties; in the beginning of 1645, Sir William and Sir Charles Compton, brothers of the Earl of Northampton, with 300 horse of the royalist party, routed 400 of the parliamentarian cavalry, near the town. In the same year the king, having taken Leicester by storm, on his march to relieve Oxford, which was then besieged by the parliamentarians, fixed his quarters in this town, where he remained for six days prior to his departure for MarketHarborough, at which place his vanguard was stationed, and in the neighbourhood of which the battle of Naseby was fought on the day following.

The town is pleasantly situated on a gentle eminence, sheltered on all sides, except the north-east, by hills, and consists of two principal and several smaller streets: the houses are well built and of handsome appearance, though without any regularity of plan. The town is paved, under the provisions of an act obtained in the 46th of George III.; and the inhabitants are supplied with water from numerous springs in the town, and with soft water from several fine springs collected into a reservoir on Borough Hill, and conveyed to the town by pipes. The water of these springs is equalled only by that of Malvern, and no chemical test has yet been able to detect the slightest impurity. The manufacture of whips, which had been carried on here to a considerable extent, fell gradually into decay, till within the last few years, during which it has been rapidly reviving; more than one-half of the population, also, are employed in making shoes. The situation of the town upon a great thoroughfare, and its numerous fairs, contribute to its prosperity; and the purity of the air and healthiness of the neighbourhood are such, that epidemic diseases are seldom known to assume a malignant character. The Grand Junction canal, at the northern angle of the parish, passes through a tunnel 2054 yards in length. The market is on Wednesday; and the fairs are held on the first Monday in Jan., the last Monday in Feb., the Tuesday in Easter week, June 6th and 7th, the first Wednesday in July, Aug. 3rd, the first Wednesday in Sept., Oct. 2nd, 3rd, and 27th, and the first Wednesday in December. The fairs in Easter week and on Oct. 2nd are for cheese, and the others for cattle; on the three Wednesdays next after Michaelmas are statute-fairs for hiring servants. The inhabitants, notwithstanding several attempts to emancipate themselves, are still obliged to bake their bread at a public oven, and grind their malt at a public mill, or to pay fees for exemption. Daventry was originally a borough by prescription; it received a charter of incorporation in the 18th of Elizabeth, which was confirmed by James I. and Charles II., and under which the corporation consisted of a bailiff, twelve burgesses, and a commonalty, consisting of twenty persons, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, coroner, chamberlain, two head and two under wardens, and two serjeants-at-mace. By the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the government is now vested in a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors; and the mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace. The powers of the county debt-court of Daventry, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Daventry. The town-hall having become greatly dilapidated, a commodious house was purchased and fitted up for transacting the business of the corporation. The borough gaol and house of correction, lately erected, is a wellbuilt edifice.

The parish comprises 3427a. 3r. 20p., and is bounded on the west by a portion of the county of Warwick. The Living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £344; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Canons of Christ-Church, Oxford: the tithes, with certain exceptions, were commuted for land and money payments in 1802. The ancient church, originally the church of a priory, was taken down in 1752, and the present structure erected on its site. A chapel of ease, for which Miss Hickman, of Newnham Nell, gave a site, has been built by subscription, aided by a grant of £150 from the Incorporated Society; it is a neat edifice, containing about 500 sittings, of which 250 are free. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. A free grammar school was founded by William Parker, of London, who left a rent-charge of £20; and in 1729, John Farrer, of Daventry, bequeathed £400 (laid out in the purchase of land producing £35 per annum) the interest to be paid to the master, if in holy orders, on condition of his giving certain assistance to the minister of of the parish. The endowment was further augmented in 1740 by John Sawbridge, who left £150, to which £100 were added by his brother Edward. A charity school, now conducted on the national plan, was established in 1736, by Dr. Edward Maynard; it is endowed with £83 a year, arising from land, and with £700 three per cent. consols. There are various charitable bequests for the benefit of the poor. An academy for dissenters was maintained here by the trustees of William Coward, Esq., of London, till 1789, when it was removed. The union of Daventry comprises 28 parishes or places, and contains a population of 21,467.

About half a mile from the town is Borough Hill, a lofty and commanding eminence, remarkable as the site of the most extensive military intrenchments in the kingdom. On the summit are the remains of an elliptical camp, including an area of about 150 acres, defended on the south and west by a double trench and rampart, and on the north and east sides by four deep trenches and five ramparts. At the distance of 300 yards, and on the south side of the hill, are the remains of a smaller camp, including a quadrilateral area of about one acre, defended by a fosse and vallum: towards the northern extremity of the hill the encampment was divided by two ramparts, extending across the area, and separating from it a circular area of about twelve acres, with a high mount towards the north-east. This mount was explored by Mr. Baker, in 1823, and the remains of the foundations of walls enabled him to trace a great part of the ground plan of the prætorium; fragments of tessellated pavement, and other vestiges of Roman habitations were discovered. A range of tumuli on the hill was also opened, in which were found fragments of crematory urns, bones, charcoal, kists, and other relics of antiquity; from the rude structure of some of the urns, they are supposed to have been British, prior to the invasion of the Romans, by whom the others were evidently deposited. At the foot of the hill towards the south is a remarkable spot, named Burnt Walls, where a variety of walls, foundations of buildings, and vaults, have been discovered, and contiguous to which are vestiges of a fortified place, called John of Gaunt's Castle. The Watling-street passes within a short distance to the north-east of the town. The priory of Daventry was founded in 1090, by Hugh de Leycestre, sheriff of the county, who amply endowed it for monks of the Cluniac order: it was dissolved in the 17th of Henry VIII., by permission of Pope Clement VII., and its revenue, amounting to £236. 7. 6., granted to Cardinal Wolsey, for the endowment of his intended colleges at Ipswich and Oxford: the last remains were taken down in 1826, and their site is now occupied by the borough gaol. John Smith, a celebrated engraver in mezzotinto, was born here in 1740. Daventry gives the title of Baron to the Earl of Winchilsea.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.