AntiquitiesThe Roman road, Watling-street, now the London and Chester-road, passes here in a direct line from Stony Stratford, and is crossed in its passage by several channels, which unite at the east end of the town, and the river Towe being crossed by three bridges, Camden erroneously fixes the tripontium of Antonius at Towcester, instead of Lilbourne. (See page 370.) [In fact Camden fixes the distances from Bennavenna and Vennones leading Baker to fix it at Towcester and Morton at Lilbourne.] That Towcester has been originally a Roman station there is no doubt, and several of the best authorities pronounce it the Lactodoro or Lactodorum of that people.
Bury-Hill.Bury-hill, a great tumulus at the N.E. side of the town, on the southern bank of the rivulet which incloses the town on the north, is supposed to be the site of the speculum or watch tower. This mount, which seems to have been raised against a northern enemy, is surrounded with a moat which is supplied with water from the brook, and now used as a mill dam. It is composed of earth and gravel, and flat at the top; its diameter is about 100 feet, and height about 24 feet. The top, which is of a circular form, has lately been planted with Scotch fir, by its noble owner, the Earl of Pomfret. The Roman coins found in digging here prove it to have been an appendage of a Roman station. In 1824, fragments of urns, Samian ware, and pottery were found on the hill, and coins have been disinterred on almost every occasion when the ground is opened for building or agricultural purposes. Mr. Deacon, of Towcester, has collected a series, including those of several of the most celebrated Roman emperors. The Saxons, it would appear, took advantage of this little fortress, and added the foss which surrounds it. From them it received its present title of Bury, or Borough, to which has since been added the double tautology of Berry Mount Hill. On the N.W. Side of the town are vestiges of a foss, and the ruins of a tower supposed to be Saxon. The Saxons called the town Tofeceastre, and in early records it is called Tosseter, or Tovecestre, from it having been a castrum or Roman Station, on the river Tove and the ancient Watling-street. In the time of Edward the Elder it was so strongly fortified, that a vigorous attack made upon it in 917, by a large army of the Danes, was wholly unsuccessful, and the besiegers were compelled to raise the siege. But fearing their return, and likewise a second, and perhaps more disastrous attempts, the King, in 921, refortified the town with a strong stone wall and deep trench, some traces of which are now discernible. "The Danes ," writes Mr. Bridges, "of Northampton and Leicester, breaking the treaty they had concluded with Edward, marched to Towcester, and made an assault upon it for a whole day; but the inhabitants signalized their courage upon the occasion, and, holding out till succour came, obliged the enemy to quit the siege and retire. Upon this King Edward, towards the close of the summer, advancing with his army to Passenham, took up his residence there, till he had fortified the city of Towcester, so the Saxon annals call it, and encompassed it with a stone wall." A most violent storm of rain and hail occurred here on the 6th June, 1573, by which 6 houses were "Borne downe," and 14 more "sore perished," by the flood Towcester Antiquities. The hailstones were square, and six inches round. One child was drowned, and a number of sheep and other cattle, some of which, when the water subsided, were lying on the hedges where the flood left them.
In the Civil War, in 1643, Towcester bore a prominent part, it being the principal garrison of the royalists, to keep the Northampton parliamentarians in check. In February, Prince Rupert, with his brother Maurice, and the Earl of Carnarvon, entered Northamptonshire, and after plundering Towcester and the neighbourhood, proceeded into Warwickshire. In August, a sharp conflict took place within less than a mile of Towcester, between a party of about 30 horse from Banbury, who were levying contributions, and 120 parliamentarians; and, notwithstanding the disparity in numbers, the fight was continued for more than half an hour. Capt. James Chamberlain, who commanded the royalists, was killed; Capt. Lawson, the other commander, wounded; five of the parliamentarian soldiers left dead on the field, and 20 severely wounded. A considerable section of the royal army, commanded by Prince Rupert, was quartered at Towcester, and constant skirmishes took place between the adverse parties. On one occasion, a party of the Newport horse, headed by Colonel Harvey, surprised Towcester in the night, slew the sentinels, killed about 30 men, took 2 colours, and 20 prisoners, whom they brought to Newport, without the loss of a single man, and only two slightly wounded. On another occasion, Captains Butler and Wollaston, and two other captains of the parliamentary army, united their troops, and surprising their opponent's quarters at Duncot, near Towcester, killed about 20, wounded several, and took about 30 prisoners, besides horses. A detachment of a troop or two from Northampton, under Major Lydcot, attacked a party of royalists, near Towcester, on the 24th of June, 1644, killed 25 who refused quarter, and secured a number of prisoners. "Both armies faced each other in battle array on the 28th; the King in Grimsbury field, and Waller on the opposite bank of the Charwell. The following morning, Waller having taken a decidedly advantageous position near Banbury, the King drew off towards Daventry, leaving a strong guard of dragoons at Cropedy Bridge, the pass over the Charwell between the two armies. Waller again attempting to cross the bridge, was repulsed with much loss, and chased to a considerable distance; but rallying again, formed a junction with major general Brown, a few days after (July 2), on a large common, within a mile of Towcester, where they remained the whole of the next day, and entered Northampton the day following, with 7,000 horse and foot." [Baker] In June, l645, the principal armies of the contending parties occupied nearly the same relative positions. On the night of the 13th, the King was at Lubenham, and Fairfax at Guilsborough, and the following morning witnessed the sanguinary conflict on the memorable field of Naseby.