The map above was drawn by Bernard Scott, a member of Barby Local History Group.  It forms the centre fold of our book    Putting Barby on the Map.

Barby Local History Group


Barby Parish

The history of the parish of Barby in Northamptonshire

Barby, Northamptonshire

The village of Barby lies approximately midway between the towns of Rugby in Warwickshire and Daventry in Northamptonshire.  It sits on a hill overlooking the Rainsbrook and River Leam valleys.  The Oxford Canal is about one mile to the west, running roughly north/south.  The M45 motorway passes close by to the north.

The parish of Barby includes Onley, which lies beyond the canal.  Once a hamlet, Onley is now home to a large prison complex.  The site was used during and after World War II, firstly as a supply depot, then as a prisoner of war camp.  The present complex has been developed from a Borstal, built in 1969.  Today, most of the houses provided for prison officers by the Home Office are privately owned.  In 2001, the institutional population at Onley constituted about a third of the total for the parish, 743 out of 2083.

Until 1884, when it was amalgamated with Kilsby, the detached hamlet of Nortoft was part of Barby parish.  Part of it has been absorbed into development at Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT), the logistics park at Junction 18 of the M1.

The village was probably founded in Saxon times, its name variously thought to be derived from Saxon or Old Norse words meaning ‘hill dwelling’ or ‘hill settlement’.  The wood on the western slope of the hill overlooking Onley, probably planted in the Twelfth Century, was felled by the Seventeenth Century.  Onley itself became a deserted mediaeval village.

Today, Barby is thriving.  Although the population remained stable during the Nineteenth Century, it fell to a low of 427 in 1961, endangering the future of the village school.  Housing development in the 1960s ensured rapid growth and a new school was built.  Barby is now an infill-only village, with small-scale development to satisfy local need.

Many of those arriving in the 1960s were employed in engineering, working in Rugby and Coventry.  Previously Barby had been an agricultural village, occupied by farm workers and associated tradesmen, although a small factory building in the centre has been in existence since the 1950s.  This first housed an engineering firm, then Andrews Maclaren’s Baby Buggy company, and now a wood-turning workshop.  Earlier village trades included weaving – there were 10 weavers in an adult male population of 54 in 1777 - and domestic shoemaking in the late Nineteenth Century, before the trade became factory-based in Northamptonshire. 

Continued on the next page