The quaint parish of Mears Ashby in Northamptonshire has a population of approximately 450 people and is conveniently located between the large towns of Wellingborough, Northampton and Kettering.
Mears Ashby is built in a most unusual format in that it does not have a main road passing through the centre, but instead has five different routes into and out of the "box-shaped" community. The village is pleasantly set out, more or less square, with intersecting lanes in which it is easy to get lost ! Of the 180 houses, the older cottages are built of local stone. Mears Ashby stone is of varying types of ironstone and sandstone, and was once found well beyond the parish boundaries. As with any village, newer properties are always being added, though the Parish Council always keeps a keen eye on the developments to ensure the old and new blend well together.
Mears Ashby Hall, a fine example of Jacobean architecture, was built in 1637 by Thomas Clendon, a London solicitor, whose brother was headmaster of Wellingborough School. The building underwent many changes around 1859, including the gabled roofs that dominate the skyline today. The Hall is now privately owned.
Mears Ashby has a long tradition of witchcraft and accusations of witchcraft. In 1785 Sarah Bradshaw, was so accused of being a witch by her neighbours. In order to prove her innocence she was dunked in the Manor House duckpond, where she immediately sunk to the bottom. Which went to prove that she was indeed no witch.
A typical medieval village church, All Saints, stands on high ground in a central position. It’s nave, chancel, aisles, porch and tower were built in stages between the 12th and 15th centuries. An extensive restoration was carried out in the mid 19th century, when the vestry was added, and a 14th century painting, or ‘doom’, was found under plaster probably put on in the reign of Henry VIII. This painting has been restored and preserved. The church also boasts a rare Viking Cross Wheel window and the beautiful stone font on the south side also dates from the 12th century. The church has a good organ, a peal of six bells, a mixed choir and a warm welcome for visitors.
The present vicarage is a relatively modern house, whilst the old vicarage, built in 1859 by the architect William Butterfield, who designed and rebuilt the church chancel at the same time, is now a private residence.
The main building of the primary school is dated 1879, but improvements and extensions have brought it up to modern standards for approximately 75 pupils.
The Griffin’s Head is the only public house in the village and, although there are no shops, school buses may be used by anyone.
The village has an active social life, with the village hall, the sports field and its pavilion being fully used. There is also a considerable link with Sywell and other neighbouring villages in leisure activities.
The farms employ very few people today, but within the village there are businesses engaged in horticulture. There are opportunities for employment in the surrounding areas.
Very few of the 18th century hedges have been removed, and regular planting of bulbs, shrubs and young trees ensures that the village retains its rural aspect throughout the seasons.
Mears Ashby does have one rather sad claim to fame - two American bomber planes collided over the village during World War II killing 16 crew members. Debris was scattered over local fields but the village was spared any damage. A memorial plaque now stands at the main crash site.
A most unusual feature within the community is the Town Estates Charitable Trust. The original purpose of the trust was to use the funds to maintain the roads and bridges in the village, though more recently the fund was used to restore the Town Well in North Street. The Town Well was originally built in 1890 and was used to provide water for steam engine vehicles.
The Town Well is situated in North Street, one of the main roads in the village and close to the village centre. It is a historical site which is considered to be an integral part of Mears Ashby’s heritage.
Early records show that the Town Well was re-sited to its present place in 1815 in order for a causeway to be made from Brookside to the Workhouse (i.e. Town houses).
In 1890 it was rebuilt and 3 years later the supply of water was improved after trenching across the site and 10 yards into the field beyond picking up a spring 13 feet deep. In 1912 one of the springs feeding the well was diverted to the Flushing Tank of the Parish sewer in the adjoining road. Due to development within the area the supply of water feeding the well is much less than it was.
In years past the well was used for drawing out water for the steam engines passing through the village, also cattle were allowed to stop and drink from it when being driven to and from the market.
Today Town Well is in good sound and clean condition, and regularly maintained. The Well gives much pleasure to the young and old passing by, and it has recently been restocked with goldfish. Today it is protected by railings and a gate to gain access.
The Parish Council are anxious to ensure that this historical monument to days gone by is protected and maintained for future generations.