Medieval Village Research Group Archive arrives in Hull

The Medieval Settlement Research Group (MSRG) took the decision in 2018 to make the archives of its predecessor groups more accessible. This archive is known as the Medieval Village Research Group Archive but also includes material from the Deserted Medieval Village Research Group, the Moated Sites Research Group, and the MSRG. Since the archive was closed in the late 1980s it had formed a part of the National Monuments Record, resting in the Historic England Archive in Swindon. Access to the archive needed prior booking, with limited public access. This was partly due to the lack of a full catalogue of the contents.

The archive was being actively used in the research behind the Beresford’s Lost Villages website based in Hull, and part of Maurice Beresford’s personal archive was already in the Hull History Centre. It was therefore decided to see if the Hull History Centre, a joint venture of the University of Hull Archives and Hull City Council Archives, would be willing to take the archive as well. This was indeed a possibility but the size and unknown contents of the archive do pose problems. To aid in the process of deposition, the archive is currently housed on University campus to enable cataloguing to take place and for a future retention and acquisitions policy to be created. It will then move to the History Centre.

The c.280 red box files that form the biggest part of the archive

For a discussion of the contents of the archive see the earlier post Medieval Village Research Group Archive. If anyone wants more details about the archive – then please email

Progress at cataloguing and interesting highlights will be posted here.







Issue with the website

Unfortunately we have had to take down our website for a time due to a security issue – we will try and get it up as soon as possible. If anyone needs any data that they would usually have used the website to retrieve – then please do email and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

We will post more information here when we have it.


DMVs in Archaeological Magazines 2018

With the Christmas break comes the annual read of all the magazines and journals that have dropped through the letter box in the last year and piled up unread. The likes of Current Archaeology and British Archaeology report on ongoing fieldwork, research projects, development-led excavations and reflect on projects passed. Covering the whole of the UK and all time periods, deserted villages appear occasionally and here are a few of the highlights for this year.

The A14 excavations Cambridgeshire

This project has featured in both British Archaeology (Sept/Oct 2018 Issue 162) and Current Archaeology (June 2018 Issue 339) over the last year. These major excavations ahead of the creation of a new bypass and widening of the current A14 and part of the A1 have been one of the largest development projects to date (but as the article in British Archaeology (Issue 162) highlights – is one of a number of large infrastructure projects that will be coming soon). The excavations employed 250 archaeologists, excavated over 40 sites, revealed extensive evidence of activity from prehistory onward – including part of the deserted settlement identified as Houghton – there in the 12th century but abandoned in the 13th century (the site was not listed in 1968 – so has yet to appear on the website). Excavations revealed a number of buildings situated alongside a hollow way along with evidence of industrial activity. This included a blacksmith’s workshop and a number of pits used for retting or tanning. Suggestions in the articles were that the village was abandoned as royal forests were expanded – but some of the press coverage does repeat the old adage that many DMVs are the result of the Black Death – something that is not substantiated by the evidence. The British Archaeology article mentions a community excavation at Houghton, continuing after the completion of the investigations required for the road works – so maybe more will be revealed of this village in the future.

Brit Arch
British Archaeology 162 Front cover showing the work on the A14


Remembering Wharram Percy

Joe Flatman regularly digs into the back issues of Current Archaeology to review themes or projects. In the July issue of Current Archaeology (Issue 340: 14-15), he reviews the times that Wharram featured in the magazine from Issue 4 onwards. In this review he also demonstrates how important the excavations were in terms of not only Medieval settlement studies, but in archaeological methodology and how the annual excavations trained many of the future generation of archaeologists (including this blog’s author as a novice 16 year-old!). It seems fitting that the article appeared in the July edition – the annual timing for the excavations – which continued from 1948 to 1990. The appearances of Wharram in the pages of Current Archaeology reflect the changing focus of the project through the years, but stand the test of time of this important project. In contrast to the A14 excavations were new ways of recruiting archaeologists had to be developed, the annual excavations at Wharram saw the development of many archaeologists, the networking and camaraderie that camping brought, and make you wonder if Wharram was still running – would there be a ready supply of trained archaeologists for these large projects?

wharram current arch
Wharram on the front cover of Current Archaeology Issue 49 from 1975

Deserted villages, drones and LiDAR

The changing technologies of the modern day are allowing new views of many different archaeological sites including deserted medieval villages. The advent of drones which allow aerial data to be gathered across sites not only enables detailed archaeology photographs to be taken but also fine grained topographic surveys. LiDAR (Light Detection & Ranging) data also allows for topographic survey as well as peeling back layers such as tree cover. This is also becoming more widely available.

As with all new technology the full capabilities of drones is only just being explored. One group that have explored the possibilities of the technology has been Yorkshire Archaeological Aerial Mapping and among their surveys have been a number of deserted village sites. They have so far provided the surveys of Wharram Percy, Lead and East Tanfield. Below you can see their survey of Wharram Percy.

Drone survey of Wharram Percy by Yorkshire Archaeological Aerial Survey

Further information and examples of this technique can be found here 

LiDAR data is becoming more freely available and as such more and more people are modelling archaeological sites, and deserted medieval settlements are among these. One site with a number of deserted villages modelled is that of Stephen Eastmead – and this includes a guide to processing LiDAR data using a freely available GIS package –  One of Stephen’s models is below – that of East Matfen village in Northumberland.

East matfen
East Matfen Deserted Village (at number 1) (C) Stephen Eastmead

For those with access to GIS software to process and present the data – you can download LiDAR data from

The data will need processing to make the most of the data – below is the first view of the data from Eske in East Yorkshire – earthworks are visible – but needs processing to reveal all the features.

Initial data from of Eske Deserted Medieval Village before processing

On-line viewers of LiDAR data are available for those without the knowledge or time to process the data. The main one being: There is not complete coverage of the country – but there are many notable sites visible – a couple are shown below:

Eske houseprices
Eske Deserted Medieval Village in East Yorkshire taken from Houseprices LiDAR map of England


Rotsea Deserted Medieval Village in East Yorkshire from Houseprices LiDAR map of England

More and more data is becoming readily available through sites such as these.

Midsomer Murders….. and deserted villages

Why Midsomer Murders? – All will be revealed in a moment…..

Over the summer of 2016 a trip to Dorset allowed a number of sites to be visited on the ground. One of the sites did not make it into the original Gazetteer of deserted sites from 1968. It was not that this site was unknown at this point – but would seemingly be a result of a decision not to include this and other similar sites – this will be a topic of the next post.

The site in question is Tyneham. Requisitioned by the army in 1943 for the preparations for D-Day it has remained abandoned since, but is now open to the public when the army range is not in use. Today, particularly during the summer months, it is a popular tourist hot spot.

This is not the only similar settlement to suffer such a fate – more below….. and a similar village formed the focus of a recent Midsomer Murders episode (The Village that Rose from the Dead), as local families compete for the recently returned settlement. Redevelopment opportunities create rivals of executive holiday apartments, an eco-village and heritage centre, competing for bids to take over the village. Needless to say, soon the village has seen death by: running over by a tank, cyanide poising and death by positioned snake bites (deserted settlements are apparently an excellent base for illegal tropical snake breading!). The title of the episode ‘The Village that Rose from the Dead’ gives an insight into the nature of the tale to be told, but the name of the village – Little Auburn – harks back to Goldsmith’s 1770 poem ‘The Deserted Village’ with the opening line ‘Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain’.

Tyneham in Dorset first appears on the Medieval Village Research Groups lists of deserted villages on the lists produced in 1988. It was not that sites such as these – modern abandonments of medieval villages, had not be known or considered earlier – it was just that they had not fitted into the traditional idea of a deserted medieval village, perhaps as many of these types of sites had been deserted less than 10 years before the founding of the Deserted Medieval Villages Research Group. Perhaps they thought that they would be returned to use in the near future…..

At Tyneham many of the houses are still standing, although some in better repair than others. The church and school are well maintained as information centres for the village.

The two most well-known of these recently abandoned villages are those of Tyneham in Dorset and Imber in Wiltshire, but other settlements suffered a similar fate. The Stanford training area in Norfolk saw at least six settlements vacated across a wide area to allow live ammunition practice from 1942. This is still a live practice range and therefore has limited public access although a number of churches do survive from the earlier settlements. The settlements include Buckenham Tofts (appears on 1968 list), Langford (appears on 1968 list), Stanford, Sturston (appears on 1968 list), Tottington and West Tofts.

All these sites are still contained within MOD land and so access is controlled – but visits are possible – Tyneham is the easiest and most accessible. For information about visiting these sites see:

Tyneham –

Imber –

Edits to published sites

When the Medieval Village Research Group Archive was visited in March 2016 additional information on a number of sites was gathered. The following lists the edits made to the website from these records. Also the work on the 1977 list of deserted villages threw up some other errors on the website and these have also been corrected. Finally – thanks to a number of individuals who have emailed in with some corrections – and if any one spots anymore – please let us know!


We have also added references to CUCAP photos to a number of Durham sites that were viewed from archive – part of ongoing project to link photos now viewable on the CUCAP website….


Slingley – now classed as Doubtful as the card index file for this site showed the thorough process of consideration that suggested there is no physical and very little documentary evidence for the settlement and that this site had been identified due to the presence of an empty parish.


Newbold Saucey – corrected typo in grid reference SK765090

Whittington – Longitude and Latitude were missing – now added.


Adewelle – This had been changed from  TF grid reference to a TA grid reference – it is actually a TF reference but it was the grid reference that was placing it in the wrong county. This has been altered and will be discussed in further detail when the full description for the site is written. This change now places the site in Kesteven, not Lindsey.

Audby – This was misspelt in 1968 and should be Autby

Kingersby – This was misspelt in 1968 and should be Kingerby

Hungerton – corrected typo in grid reference SK873302


Seaton Delavel – corrected typo in grid reference NZ320763


Copcourt – corrected typo in grid reference SP707010


Heathcote – error in the Longitude and Latitude resulted this being placed on the maps in the sea off the Isle of Man!

Yorkshire West Riding

Battersby – correction to letters in original grid reference – should be SD not SE

Huddleston – corrected typo in grid reference SE465340

Humberton – this appears in the Gazetteer as located in the West Riding. However it is actually located in the North Riding.


Missing sites

During the resolution of the 1977 list of deserted sites it has become clear that a site from the original Gazetteer were omitted from the initial launch of the website. This will be added once the counties are reviewed and data added :


Thorpe – TL 899906


There are a number of other corrections that being made website as we go along and please do get in touch if you spot any more issues!