Early settlers in Britain probably made their first homes in valleys such as that of the Nene, which provided water as well as wildfowl and fish. Ecton is just such a site and it certainly found favour with these early parishioners. In fact the parish has been described as remarkable for the large number of prehistoric and Roman sites which have been found, the oldest a Neolithic and Beaker settlement - evidence of a community there over four thousand years ago.
Bronze Age occupation has also been proved at Ecton with the discovery of a spearhead dating from the Middle Bronze Age. Houses at this time were simple circular structures with wattle and daub walls and thatched roofs; the villagers grew wheat and barley, kept livestock, used looms for weaving and probably made dug-out canoes for trading and communication on the river.
The people of the Iron Age lived much the same sort of life and they have also left evidence of their settlements as well as the remains, down by the river, of a possible cobbled trackway.
The Roman colonists who followed them must also have found the parish very much to their liking. Finds have included coins, brooches, flint arrowheads and huge amounts of pottery. Over fifty kilns have been discovered, mainly on the north-east side of Sywell Lane, showing that, in the 2nd and 3rd centuries there was a thriving pottery industry in the parish.
Evidence of a continuing occupation during Anglo-Saxon times is provided by the discovery, in 1762, of a cemetery, together with two silver coins, one of Ethelred II (968-1016), found in the gardens of Ecton Hall. An Anglo-Saxon loom weight has also been found in the parish.
The Saxons had been colonising Britain from the 4th century and they were followed, in the 9th century, by Danish Vikings. Anglo-Saxons and Danes lived and worked side by side (evidence of their occupation survives in the place names we know today) but the Danes’ authority was eventually broken and the next, and last, successful invasion was by the Normans in the 11th century.
In 1085 William I ordered a survey of land ownership and value; this was completed within twenty-one months and immediately christened the Domesday Book by the populace because of its total authority over their affairs. Its details of Ecton read in translation as follows:
IN ‘HAMFORDSHOE’ HUNDRED
RALPH holds of Henry in ECTON 4 hides. There is land for 8 ploughs. In demesne [are] 1½ hides of this land, and there are 2 ploughs, and 4 slaves; and 8 villans and 9 bordars and 12 sokemen, with 8 bordars, have 6 ploughs. There are 2 mills rendering 14s., and 32 acres of meadow. It was worth £3; now 100s. Bondi held it.
This information is tantalisingly brief but does give us the earliest name we have of a lord of the manor of Ecton and confirmation of two mills - perhaps one was a water mill by the river.
Ecton is an ancient settlement. For thousands of years people have found it to their liking and lived out their lives there. In that respect, whilst we may live a more comfortable life than our ancestors, we are no different from them