Village History

Early Settlement

Some prehistoric and Roman artefacts have been found in the parish and aerial photographs indicate crop marks of a number of enclosures.  The evidence suggests that there were people living in the parish from prehistoric times but it is not clear how long the site of the village has been continuously occupied.  A flint scraper and Roman coins and pottery were found in an unknown location in the parish before 1904. In 1926 a Roman bronze pin was unearthed in the garden of Roade Council School (now Roade Primary School) and in 1933 a flint arrowhead and an Iron Age ring were found on the same spot. Recently an area of Iron Age activity, including kilns or ovens, was investigated on the site of the forthcoming Roade Bypass.

The place name Roade (formerly ‘Rode’) is thought to derive from the Old English word ‘rod’ often used to describe ‘a clearing in a forest’.  This suggests a Saxon settlement within a wooded area, as do other local place names such as Wootton and Ashton.

Roade in Domesday Book 1086

Three entries in Domesday Book refer to places in the present parish.  Each tenant had a different overlord.  Roade was not in the hands of one person or family and this continued to be the case, although an important landholder might be described as ‘lord of the manor’. Roade has always been an ‘open village’.

Stephen held one hide in Rode of Bishop Odo of Bayeux, William the Conqueror’s half-brother.  It lay waste and was in the king’s hands.  A ‘hide’ varied in size but was generally reckoned at 120 acres. The land later passed to the Chocques family, whose tenant, Walter de Preston (of Preston Deanery) gave ‘Hyde juxta Roda’ to the canons of the Augustinian Abbey of St James in Duston in the 12th century. The Abbey was founded around 1104 by William Peverel and received other land in the area, which the Abbey cleared and cultivated.

Dodin held land for 1 plough with two smallholders and some woodland in Rode of Gunfrid de Chocques.  Before 1066 the land had been held freely by Swein [who held land in Stoke Bruerne and 21 houses in Northampton in 1086].

Turstin Mauntell held land for 1 plough in ‘another Courteenhall’ of William Peverel.  The 12th century Northamptonshire Survey indicates that this land was in the east part of what is now Roade parish.  The Survey refers to the land as being in ‘Somereshale’ and there is still a Summerhall field in the area.

Medieval Roade

The ecclesiastical parish of Roade included Ashton and Hartwell, with the mother church at Roade and chapels at Hartwell and Ashton. This continued until the early 16th century when the lord of Ashton contrived to reverse the status of the Roade and Ashton churches, so that Ashton had a rector and Roade had a perpetual curate like Hartwell.

St Mary’s Church is the oldest building in Roade and dates from the 12th century, when it was owned jointly by the Norman lords of Hartwell and Ashton. By 1166 the Hartwell family share (two thirds) had been given to St James’s Abbey. The lord of Ashton provided a priest for Roade every third year while the Abbey provided one every two years in three.

Roade Church Postcard c.1910

More land was cleared and cultivated and a ‘township’ grew up south of the church, surrounded by open fields.  In 1301 21 households were assessed for tax or lay subsidy.

The Hyde estate: The oldest secular building in Roade is a hall house dating from the 14th century and now known as Hyde Farm House.  The Hyde estate had its own fishponds, dovecote, water mill and open field system and belonged to St James’s Abbey until the Reformation. It was surrendered to the Crown in 1538.

Hyde Farm House 1920

Dovecote c.1900

Other landholders included the following families:

The Mauntells

In 1316 Robert Mauntell was described as lord of Roade although he did not hold all the land there.

The family holdings included ‘Somerhale’, ‘Lidyate’ and a wood called Shortwood, which was near the church.  In the early 16th century Shortwood covered 160 acres. The Mauntells continued to hold land in Roade until 1541, when John Mauntell was executed for murder and his estates escheated to the Crown.

The Botelers and Knightleys

The Botelers of Hartwell had some land in Roade in the early 15th century.  This later passed to the the Knightleys of Fawsley, whose lands in 1533 included the ‘manor’ of Roade, which was conveyed to the Crown in 1542.

The Woodvilles

The Woodvilles of Grafton also had land in Roade which passed to the Crown in 1527. Elizabeth Woodville married Edward IV. Their daughter married Henry VII and was the mother of Henry VIII, who conferred the title of Regis.

16th-18th Century Roade

In the 1520s about 30 people paid lay subsidy but some families were too poor to pay tax and it is likely that there were quite a lot more than 30 households then.

The Grafton estate in Roade

From 1542 the former Mauntell, Knightley and Woodville estates in Roade and Ashton formed part of the newly created Honor of Grafton, a large royal estate which was centred  on the former Woodville manors of Grafton and Hartwell and included land in several other local parishes.

In 1673 the Grafton estates in Roade and Ashton were placed in trust for the first duke of Grafton, natural son of Charles II and Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland.  From at least 1713 the 2nd duke of Grafton claimed the lordship of Roade although he owned less than half the land in the parish.  The people of Roade were obliged to attend the duke’s manor court whether they were his tenants or not.  In the early 18th century a single court was held for the manors of Grafton, Roade and Hartwell.

The earliest known maps of Roade were made for the second Duke of Grafton in the 1720s.  Many of the old stone houses in the village are shown on these maps.

Grafton Estate Map of Roade 1727

For more information contact Northamptonshire Record Office quoting Northamptonshire Archives Service Reference:  Roade 1727 Map 360 Plan of Duke of Grafton Estate

Grafton Estate Map of Roade with Field Names 1768
For more information contact Northamptonshire Record Office quoting Northamptonshire Archives Service Reference: Roade 1768 Map 440 Map of Duke of Grafton's Manor

The Hyde estate

After the Reformation, the land in Roade which had belonged to St. James’s Abbey remained in Crown hands until 1550 when what was described as the manor of Hyde was granted to Richard Fermor of Easton Neston.  During the reign of James I Sir Hatton Fermor sold the manor of Hyde to Stephen Hoe, whose descendants retained much of the estate until the 19th century.

Thorpe Wood

In 1662 Matthew Silsby of Northampton left Thorpe Wood House, with several closes, a little wood ground and 6 acres in the fields of Roade near Hyde to his son Nathaniel. In 1720 Thorpe Wood belonged to Mrs Sarah Eaton and Mrs Anne Eaton.  In 1819 Worcester College, Oxford, owned about 100 acres centred on Thorpe Wood Farm.

The population increased in the 16th and 17th centuries and in 1674 79 households were assessed for hearth tax, of which 22 were discharged because of poverty.

In 1676 a census carried out for the Archbishop of Canterbury recorded 83 families living in Roade.  There were 330 people including 1 Catholic and 30 ‘separatists’ (probably mainly Baptists). The population then remained fairly static. The 1801 census recorded 345 inhabitants living in 82 houses in the parish.

As in medieval times most village families derived some or all of their income from farming.  The majority of the men were farmers or agricultural labourers.  There were a number of craftsmen and tradesmen and many of these also had some land.  Some of the land had been inclosed but most of it was in large open fields farmed in common under the supervision of the manor court.  Many women and children earned money by making lace.  At the end of the 18th century some families were extremely poor and found it difficult to make a living however hard they worked.

Roade Baptist Church is said to have been formed in 1688. It was easier for Nonconformity to thrive in open villages such as Roade and the community included people from other villages. In 1715 Joseph Palmer was minister at Roade and had 200 hearers. It is not known where meetings took place then. The chapel in the High Street was built in 1736/7. The manse was next door – accounts in 1738 referred to the “building and repairing of the dwelling-house”. Baptisms took place in a stream at Hyde Farm at that time. Later people were baptised in the chapel

Baptist Chapel c.1938

Baptist Manse 1986

19th Century Roade

During the 19th century two major changes took place – the inclosure of the open fields and the coming of the railways.

Map of Roade Showing Open Fields
Reproduced from A History of the County of Northampton Vol. Five (Boydell & Brewer Ltd. 2002), p.347, by by permission of the Executive Editor


By the end of the 18th century, agriculture in Roade was described as being ‘in a wretched state, from the land being in common fields: the farmers are often at a great loss for hay; their cows, in the summer, must be herded on the head-lands in the daytime and confined in the night; their crops of corn are scanty; and their land by constant tillage becomes almost exhausted. In short they are of opinion that were their lands enclosed and their rents doubled they should be considerable gainers.’

Sir Frederic Eden writing about Roade in The State of the Poor, published in 1797.

The open fields of Roade and Ashton were inclosed between 1816 and 1819. At that time the Grafton Estate owned about a third of the farmland, mainly in the east of the parish. Other major landholders included Robert Cave (farmer); the vicars of Roade, Hartwell and Ashton; Worcester College, Oxford; Elizabeth Paggett (heiress of The Cock); Stephen Warwick (farmer and owner of Hyde Farm); Stephen Blunt (farmer) and Sir William Wake. Ten others owned between 10 and 55 acres, including the Corporation of Northampton and two local charities. Altogether 26 owners received allotments of land in the former open fields while others, such as John Markham, owner of the New Inn (later Woodleys), held only land which had already been inclosed. There is no record of objections to the inclosure of Roade, although there may have been some. In 1817, 1 rood and 9 perches were deducted from land being sold by the Duke of Grafton to Sir William Wake in order to provide gardens for some of the Duke’s cottages ‘much required, in consequence of some of their former gardens having been took away, from being open field property’. No new farmhouses were built in the parish as a result of inclosure and during the 19th century the Grafton farms there were gradually consolidated into Burman Farm.

After the open fields were inclosed, the landscape around Roade was transformed but the village itself did not change much until the arrival of the railway bringing more jobs, houses and pubs. In 1861 just under half the men worked on the land and by 1891 the proportion had dropped to around 18%.

The population doubled between 1801 and 1841 and then remained around 660 to 700 until the 1930s.

The London and Birmingham Railway – Roade Cutting

The construction of Roade Cutting was a major engineering feat which enabled the opening of the London and Birmingham Railway.  It was designed and supervised by Robert Stephenson.  The 1½ mile cutting was officially opened on Monday 17 September 1838, following four and a half years of arduous and accident-ridden construction.

The coming of the railway had a profound effect on the future social and economic growth of the community.  The following prophecy was included in a “Handbook for Railway Travellers along the London and Birmingham Railway” published in 1839:

‘About this spot we leave the county of Buckinghamshire and enter that of Northampton and, passing rapidly over a lofty embankment of about a mile in length, which divides the village of Ashton in two parts, shortly arrive at the Roade Station. The little village of Roade, which lies close to the railway, has suddenly been invested with all the bustle and activity of a town; and will, no doubt, enjoy increasing consequence and prosperity from its locality to this great line of communication. This is one of numerous instances which could be adducted, of the great benefit which a Railway confers upon towns near which it is formed; and amidst the changes which are thus originated, many places heretofore have been comparatively unknown will become towns of considerable extent.’

For further information, click here

LNWR Postcard of the 1839 Roade Cutting c.1910

Roade in 1862

In 1862 the Rev. Maze W Gregory (Vicar of Roade 1853-1866) gave a talk on the history of the parish at a meeting of the Architectural Society of Northampton.  The following extracts give a picture of the village at that time:

‘The village consists of one long straggling street, divided into two parts, called respectively “up th’ street” and “down th’ street”, by the road from Ashton, which enters the London Road about a quarter of a mile from the village. At present there are in it 178 houses, principally for the labouring class, the majority of which are modern, and in good repair, though very few could be considered “model cottages”. About 60 are either old, or show signs of having been “done up”….

One peculiarity amongst the inhabitants of Roade, arising principally from its being an open village, in the neighbourhood of close and full ones, is the number of changes that are constantly taking place among them.  From January 1, 1854, to December 31, 1861, eight years, there were no less than 260 changes, some houses having changed hands five times, and only 44 retaining their original inhabitants.’

Maze Gregory c.1879

‘In former days the Parish was well supplied with springs … and I am told that in some parts a hole dug a couple of feet deep was presently filled; but the cutting having acted as a deep drain, the wells must now be sunk to a greater depth, and in dry Summers the water is often very scarce.’

‘Still, the effects of the railway are visible – men made their fortunes, the houses built for the accommodation of the railway people are there, and, worse than all, the public-houses and beer-shops then thought necessary are, with one exception, still in existence , and we have now six to 669 people.’

Roade Methodist Church

Methodism was brought to Roade by a group of men from Bletchley who came to work on the railway cutting.  At first they attended the Baptist Chapel but their enthusiastic alleluias etc during sermons were  frowned on and they moved to a room built by railway contractor Richard Dunkley and registered in 1834 (now 35 High Street). There they were mocked from outside causing them to move to a cottage near The Green registered in 1835. In 1852 they bought an old malting house on the Ashton Road.  When that became too small they built a chapel on Hartwell Road.  It opened in 1875 and became a school hall in 1908 when the present church was built next door.  The original building is now the church hall.

Ashton Road Chapel between two cottages

Hartwell Road Chapel opened 1875

Architects’ drawing of present church opened in 1908 on left with previous chapel, now the church hall, on the right.

Early Schools

Education was not compulsory until 1880 and did not become free until 1891. Previously  Roade children might attend various local church or private schools or receive some basic education at lace and Sunday schools. The Baptist and Methodist churches had school rooms and a Church of England school was established in a rented building (now 5-7 Church End). Some boys went to the Grammar School at Courteenhall, which closed in 1898. In the mid-19th century some girls attended Herbert House Seminary for Young Ladies, opposite the Baptist Church, run by Miss Anne Lalor and Miss Mary Wilson, who also taught lacemaking in the evenings. Their school closed in April 1879 and was immediately succeeded by Warwick House School for Girls, a boarding school on the corner of Church End and High Street run by the Misses Lea.

Warwick House School for Girls 1920

Roade Primary School 2008

Roade Board School opened in 1876  for children between the ages of 5 and 13. It was managed by a Board consisting of three ‘Churchmen’ and two ‘Dissenters’.  It later became Roade Council School and is now Roade Primary School.

20th Century Roade

Ordnance Survey Map of Roade 1900

Simplex Factory
Around 1909 a polish factory was built for Masters and Shuter next to the railway. In 1912 the factory was sold to Thomas Henry Dey, who incorporated the business as the Simplex Polish Co Ltd, but it failed after about ten years, closed and was known as ‘Masters Folly’ until it was bought by Cyril Cripps in 1923.

Refer also to the section below entitled Cyril Cripps and Pianoforte Supplies Ltd.) PSL

Simplex Factory 1920

World's First Night Navigation Flight
Claude Grahame-White made history when he took off from Roade in the early hours of Thursday 28th April 1910. He was responding to a Daily Mail Challenge to be the first to fly from London to Manchester in 24 hours with not more than two stops for a prize of £10,000. He landed in Roade in failing light at about 7:50pm on 27th April, stayed with Dr. Ryan at Tilecote House and took off at 2:54am on 28th April. His French rival, Louis Paulhan, had left London before him and Claude was determined to catch up. Unfortunately, mechanical problems prevented him from winning the prize but in October 1910 he restored national pride by winning the Gordon Bennett Aviation Trophy at Belmont Park, New York.

Claude Grahame-White 1910

The population in 1911 was 660 and was well served by a variety of shops and tradesmen, a doctor, two schools, three churches, five pubs and, of course, the railway. There were cricket and football teams and a strong community spirit shown when everyone cooperated to celebrate the Coronation of George V and Queen Mary in June 1911.

World War I

Almost 100 Roade men are known to have served in the forces during WW1. Others joined the Northampton Citizen Corps, which was affiliated to the Central Association Volunteer Training Corps (the equivalent of the WW2 Home Guard).

Eight Roade men who lost their lives in WW1 are commemorated on the village war memorial, which was unveiled on Sunday 31st July 1921. In addition there are two graves with non-military headstones in Roade Cemetery which are designated as WW1 War Graves because the men concerned, William Sheppard and Herbert John Wales, died of illness as a result of war service.

War Memorial Unveiling 1921

War Memorial First World War Panel 1921

In October 2022 the surname Harbidge was amended to Harbage.

World War 2

Eight Roade men who died in WW2 are commemorated on the War Memorial and there is also a memorial to six Canadian airmen who lost their lives when their Wellington bomber was struck by lightning over Roade on 29th June 1944. Roade men served in most theatres of  war and occupied territories and the Home Guard and Auxiliary Fire Service had sections in the village. Women served in the Women’s Land Army, WVS and Red Cross. Many evacuees came to Roade and at least 9 families stayed on after the war, including the Every family, 3 members of which are commemorated on Roade War Memorial.

War Memorial Second World War Panel 1947

Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial 2014

Cyril Cripps and Pianoforte Supplies Ltd (PSL)

Cyril T Cripps (later Sir Cyril) had a major impact on Roade. He had been employed by the Simplex Polish  Company and after various other jobs set up his own business in London in 1919. This was Pianoforte Supplies Ltd, which made components for pianos.  In 1923 he moved the business to Roade and took over the defunct Simplex factory.  The business expanded and began making components for the motor industry. By 1938 PSL employed about 400 people and had customers all over the country.

During WW2 the factory turned to the manufacture of munitions and parts for aircraft and army vehicles.

After WW2 the main output was for the car industry. By 1952 over 800 people were employed and the workforce reached a peak of around 1,800 in the 1960s. The village grew along with the factory.  Cyril Cripps became a district councillor with a particular interest in housing. He was a generous supporter of St Mary’s Church, local schools, Northampton General Hospital and a variety of clubs and sport and leisure facilities. In 1956 he established the Cripps Foundation, a charity which has made considerable gifts to universities, colleges, schools, churches, hospitals and museums.

Aerial View of PSL 1950

The 1952 Ordnance Survey map shows the PSL factory and the first council houses in the village, which were built in The Leys in 1919. It also shows housing built to the west of the A508 during the 1930s and 40s. Expansion continued rapidly and the population grew from just under 1,000 in 1951 to just over 1,500 in 1961 and just over 2,500 (850 households) in 1971 before falling as families became smaller.

Ordnance Survey Map of Roade 1952

Roade secondary modern school opened in 1956, became comprehensive in 1975 and is now Elizabeth Woodville School (North Campus) linked with a South Campus at Deanshanger

Roade Secondary Modern School 1956

Roade Railway Station 1956

The railway station closed in 1964 but Roade remained an important service centre for the surrounding area.

The Roman Catholic chapel of St Lawrence opened in Croft Lane on 7th October 1962 and served Roade and other local villages.  It closed a few months after a new Catholic church opened in East Hunsbury in November 1989 and was later converted into a dwelling.

Roade Catholic Church 1982

The Baptist Church had to be closed as unsafe in the 1980s although the pastor, Mr Ray Lineham, continued to hold services in private houses.  Mr Lineham died in 1993 and the chapel was subsequently sold and became a guest house and later a private house called the Chapter House.

21st Century Roade

The decline of the British car industry in the 1970s led Sir Cyril Cripps’s son Humphrey (who was also knighted) to diversify. The PSL factory gradually declined and finally closed in 2010 but the family business has prospered elsewhere and still owns land around the village. The village is surrounded by farmland but few Roade residents are now involved in farming.

Other notable businesses were Walkerpack, which provided specialist export packing and removal services, and Chaplins Transport, a road haulage business. Both were located on Stratford Road and both were sold and moved away. Their premises in Roade were replaced by major housing developments, as was the PSL site.

At the 2011 Census the population of Roade was 2,312, lower than the previous peak in 1971, and the number of dwellings had risen to 1,019. In February 2021 the number of dwellings had increased to 1,538 and was still rising and the population at the 2021 Census was 3,575.

Roade is still very much an ‘open village’ where a growing number of small, predominantly home-working businesses are based. Although many people commute to work elsewhere, Roade’s good transport links and wide range of services, including shops, schools, library, medical centre, two churches, pub, village hall, tennis, football, bowls and numerous other clubs and societies make the village a desirable place to live where newcomers are welcome. It is good to have a higher proportion of children in the village and community spirit is flourishing, as has been very evident during the Covid epidemic.

More Information about Roade's history can be found in:

  • Books mentioned in our Publications section here

  • British History Online here

  • By searching our Photo Archive here