About Great Bowden - Early Potted History

Near to the town of Market Harborough, which it predates, the village of Great Bowden lies north of the River Welland and is thought to be the original settlement. Separating the two is Bowden Ridge where we find Roman and Iron Age evidence and, from where, across the valley, can be seen the line of the old Roman road - Via Devana.   

Down from the ridge in the centre of the village, we find late Anglo Saxon and early Medieval pottery sherds. These include Stamford ware and many sherds of Lyvenden Stanion ware, from nearby Northamptonshire.  This pattern of finds is less often seen in other parts of Leicestershire.
 
Circa 920 AD Bowden was divided, with lands south of the river, (Little Bowden), annexed by Northampton, and to the north (Great Bowden), staying within Danelaw - the viking five boroughs of Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, Stamford and Lincoln. Little Bowden was not returned to Leicestershire until 1891.       
 
Bowden's Doomsday entry records that pre 1066 one of the two manors was held by the king, and was the centre of a large soke with lands spread over nearby settlements. After 1066 the royal manor passed to William. The current 12th century parish church - St Peter and St Paul, may have its origins as a chapel to the manor.

In medieval times Bowden's Fields extended beyond the current parish and included much of what is now Market Harborough. Farmed in rotation under the open field system, the ancient furlong names betray primarily Anglo Saxon, but some Viking and Norman origins. See Furlong and Furrow 

Open Field Map showing the extent of Bowden's pre enclosure fields, bordered in the south east by the Welland; in the north by Langton Brook; and in the west by Lubenham Brook and Leicester Road.
 
Just beyond the modern village, on a knoll above the valley, lies St Mary in Arden. This now roofless church was rebuilt in 1693, but the site is thought to pre date the division of Bowden; the building of St Peter and St Paul; and the town of Market Harborough. Some believe it was, long ago, the destination for annual pilgrimage. As recently as the early 20th century the graveyard was used for burials from the town.

See also www.greatbowden.org    greatbowdenhistoricalsociety.btck.co.uk