Barby is a village and civil parish in the Daventry district of Northamptonshire, England, situated approximately four miles south-east of Rugby and five miles north-west of Daventry. In 2001 the parish had a population of 2083.
The village is located upon a prominent hill overlooking the Rainsbrook and River Leam valleys. The Oxford Canal is about one mile west running north and south and the M45 motorway passes just north-west of the village. Two new canal marinas are currently under development within the parish, which will reinvigorate this charming and attractive stretch of inland waterway and allow visitors to appreciate the natural beauty of the rural environment.
The village church, dedicated to St Mary, is of pink sandstone and has a peal of five bells and an interesting two-storey porch. The church contains some Anglo-Saxon remains including a tombstone, but the present construction probably dates mainly from the 13th and 14th centuries. Extensive Victorian refurbishing work was carried out, in which the church's medieval wall paintings and texts were sadly destroyed (though fragments of 17th century texts were recorded in the rector's notes at the time), however some interesting column capitals remain as testaments to the dating of the structure. Recent more informed restoration work has just been completed, which will preserve the stonework for the coming centuries.
In 1965 Owen Maclaren designed and patented the first baby buggy at Arnold House, a restored farmhouse.
As for its more ancient history, the present village was probably founded in Saxon times - it has been suggested that the name 'Barby' may derive from from Old Norse Bergbýr meaning 'hill dwelling', but it is more likely that the hilltop was previously settled by Saxons and developed as Berughburh (also meaning 'hill settlement'), then subsequently deserted, re-occupied and renamed during the Viking invasions of the late 9th century
Looking much further back in time, Barby Hill may well have been home to an Iron Age settlement in pre-Roman and early Roman times - established as a strategic lookout point from which to survey and dominate a wide stretch of the surrounding countryside. It is notable that Barby parish extends a slice of Northamptonshire into neighbouring Warwickshire, using the course of the Rainsbrook to mark the county boundary - and it is possible that this boundary may have remained unchanged for over two thousand years, from the time of the pre-Roman celtic tribes. An archaeological investigation is currently under way to seek further evidence for these theories, to add to what has already been discovered by recent excavation work.
Returning to the 9th century, there was certainly a Viking settlement at nearby Barby Nortoft, where a Danish socman (free-man) probably established a small community around 890-910AD - and the old road leading down from Barby to Nortoft almost certainly dates right back to that period. The parish also contains an interesting deserted medieval settlement site at Onley - this is known to have been occupied from the 1200s until the late 1500s, and then to have been suddenly deserted over a period of about 20-30 years, probably due to a mixture of epidemic disease (plague) and enclosure by wealthy sheep-landlords (a more detailed account of the creation and desertion of Onley can be found in the Regional section of this site). It is interesting to note that Onley in the early 1600s had become a sort of mass-production logistics plant for sheep-processing, with outputs of wool and meat to the respective markets of Coventry and London - so that the current logistics-park development of the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT) just north of Barby and Kilsby can be seen as just a repetition of what had already happened previously some 400 years earlier!
We hope you will enjoy this visit to Barby's village history site - and don't forget to look in the site's Regional section, where there are more historical articles about the archaeology and history of the surrounding area.