The village of Maxey was originally built well away from the Village church because of the dangers of the plague. Maxey was once part of the Soke of Peterborough in Northamptonshire. Maxey can trace its modern roots back over 1,000 years. However, archaeological excavation of the area has provided ample evidence of continuous occupation for over 4,000 years. Lolham bridges, on the outskirts of Maxey between Helpston and Bainton, were originally built in the Roman era.Details of a large Henge in Maxey were discovered from aerial photographs in 1956 by Dr. J.K. StJoseph and last excavated by Francis Pryor in 1971 to 1981. The henge was 126 metres in diameter, one of the largest known it was part of an entire landscape of neolithic features, including a cursus (course) and barrows. Along with the large and mysterious ritual village at nearby Etton this collection of sites has featured Pryor’s writing about large scale ritual landscapes.
Maxey Castle is situated at Castle End on the north edge of the village of Maxey.
The castle is a later medieval moated site with outworks to the north and north east and an associated fishpond to the south east. The moated site includes a square central island, measuring 50m across, which is surrounded by a wet moat on the south west, north west and north east sides. The remaining side, the south east, has been largely infilled to the level of the external ground surface although the moat ditch will survive as a buried feature. Where the moat is open it is about 16m wide.
The ditches have been cleared of silt recently using a machine, and the upcast material dumped on the island; as a result the ditches are now permanently wet. Two duck houses, reached from the island, have been constructed in the moat. There is a counterscarp bank, between 6m and 10m wide, on the north west and north east sides of the moat. On the north east side there is a broad, level terrace, 6m wide, beyond the outer bank. A 10m wide gully leads almost directly north east from the south east corner of the moat. This is thought to be an internal boundary feature.
A 5m wide and 0.4m deep leat leads from the south east corner of the moat to a small rectangular fishpond lying adjacent to Mill Road. The pond, which is dry, measures 45m along the north east/south west axis, and 15m acoss the north west-south east axis. It is about 1.5m deep and both the north east end and the north west side are slightly embanked. There is a 5m wide outlet channel at the eastern end of the south east side which drains into the boundary ditch flanking the road. This ditch forms part of the southern boundary ditch of the group of enclosures to the north and north east of the moated site. It is for the most part 4m wide and flanked by an internal bank, 4m wide and 0.6m high. The ditch returns along the east side, abutting the boundary fence, for approximately 160m before terminating abruptly. At a point some 20m to the south of the ditch terminal the bank and ditch divides with a branch of the bank projecting westwards for approximately 90m before turning north again. To the north and east of the moat a second bank, approximately 0.5m high and 4m-6m wide, runs parallel to the outer flood defences, some 8m within the outer bank.
The second bank is also flanked by an external ditch, approximately 0.4m deep and 3m-4m wide. This feature continues parallel to the north west arm of the moated enclosure. These two ditch systems, which define a group of enclosures to the north east and north of the moated site, probably served to define paddocks and courtyards associated with the moated site, although their primary purpose seems to have been as flood defences.
The history of Maxey Castle is well documented and indicates that occupation was relatively short-lived. A licence to crenellate (fortify) the moated manor was granted in 1374-75. By the mid-16th century, however, Leland observed that parts of the site were already ruinous. A 16th century illustration of the castle shows it to have had a tall central tower or keep and a number of earthwork banks, the outer flanked by a ditch parallel to the north east angle of the moat. All modern fences, the two duck-houses in the moat and the modern timber building outside the north west arm of the moat are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.
The Sweeting Lecture
If you require more information on the history of Maxey, a lecture was delivered in the Schoolroom, (now the village hall), MAXEY on 17th JAN 1889 , a copy of which can be viewed below.