Barby Parish

The map above was drawn by Bernard Scott (1940-2021), a former member (and chair) of Barby Local History Group.  It forms the centre fold of our book Putting Barby on the Map.

Barby, Northamptonshire

The village of Barby, Northamptonshire, lies approximately halfway between 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 and is accessed from the A45.  Once a hamlet, Onley has been developed around a large prison complex.  The site was used during and after World War II, firstly as an armaments depot, then as a prisoner of war camp.  The present complex was developed from a Borstal built in 1969.  Today, most of the houses provided by the Home Office for the prison officers are privately owned.  In 2011, the national census recorded the institutional population at Onley as 1078, out of a total parish population of 2336, about 46%. 

Until 1884, when it was amalgamated with Kilsby parish, 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. 

Barby 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 steady 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.  Since 1997, Barby has been designated a ‘restricted infill’ village. 

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 was in existence from the 1950s until 2020.  At first it housed an engineering firm; then Andrews Maclaren’s Baby Buggy factory; and most recently 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 nineteenth century, before the trade became factory-based in Northamptonshire.

The earliest models of the Baby Buggy, invented by Owen Maclaren, were made by local people, either in the stables of Maclaren’s home, Arnold House on Daventry Road, or in their own homes.  The stables were previously used for polo ponies.

Baby Buggy invented by Owen Maclaren
St Mary’s Church

Arnold House is one of the many interesting buildings in the village, some of which are listed.  The most significant of the listed buildings is the village church, St Mary’s, built mainly of pink sandstone.  The church contains some Anglo-Saxon remains, but the present construction probably dates from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.  However, mediaeval wall paintings were lost when the church was ‘restored’ in Victorian times.  More recently, in commemoration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, a fifth bell was hung in 2002, to complete the peal housed in the tower, and restoration of the external stonework was carried out in 2011.

There is a busy social life in the village, centred on the Village Hall, an extended and modernised Victorian school building, and the Sports Field and Pavilion, built on land in Longdown Lane owned by the parish’s Townlands Charity.

Other facilities include a skateboard ramp, a tennis court, and the Village Stores & Post Office.

Only one public house, The Arnold Arms, has survived into the twenty first century; at the moment its future is uncertain.

The Arnold Arms

The parish council website is at