The latest journal from the Medieval Settlement Research Group landed through post boxes in early November. In this volume – No 34 for 2019, there are a number of articles of interest to those studying deserted medieval settlements (as well as non-deserted settlement as well!). Here we look at some of those highlights…..
Green, M. & Frodsham, P. 2019. Well Head deserted medieval hamlet, Teesdale: survey and excavations in 2017 and 2018. Medieval Settlement Research 34: 83-87.
Martin Green and Paul Frodsham report on the recent survey and excavation of a deserted hamlet on Teeside. Here the work of the community group Altogether Archaeology looked at one particular hamlet, in a line of such settlements that lie in the valley floor at Holwick, Upper Teesdale. This hamlet of Well Head first appears on maps in c. 1800. Work at the site first of all combined theodolite and GPS survey with LiDAR. This survey revealed at least 10 structures. Three structures have since been excavated, two examples of long houses, and a possible workshop. The stone foundations of the houses were made of local stone, and had evidence of animal pens in the downhill section of the house. There are post pads in at least one of the buildings suggesting a cruck-framed building. Deposits under the flagstone floor of one of the buildings included pottery from around 1200. There was also evidence of a later insertion of a cross wall and fire place – occurring sometime after c. AD 1620 with the discovery of a clay pipe under the newly laid floor. The team have discussed parallels for the settlement layout and structure – highlighting many similarities with Hound Tor, Devon. This is a very clear example of a deserted settlement that adds to our wider understanding of types of settlements outside the Central Province.
Dyer, C. 2019. R.F. Hartley’s survey work in Leicestershire, 1979-2018. Medieval Settlement Research 34: 88-89.
Here Chris Dyer reviews the work of Fred Harvey at surveying and recording earthworks sites across the county in honour of the publication of the final volume of surveys. These are vital viewing for anyone studying the settlement of Leicestershire – and you can find more here: Leicestershire Fieldworkers.
The next post will be a quick review of volumes 31-33 as I suddenly released I had got a tad behind!
While perusing through the Medieval Village Research Group Archive it can be surprising what you come across. In the Card Index drawers there are cards listing known DMVs, cards listing sites of shrunken settlements and a set of cards of ‘other sites’. These are usually sites that have been suggested in the past as DMVs for one reason or another, but have been dismissed. Some are where an isolated church has never had a settlement close by, others where it has always only been a single farmstead. However occasionally there are other sites. One of these is Dinham Beaumont. Afforded it own card – within the Cambridgeshire section – it is only on closer inspection that you see the nature of this suggested site. No grid-reference is given, and attached to the card is a clipping from a newspaper – from Miles Kington’s column from the Independent 29th July 1992.
In a column titled ‘Tall stories you love to hate’ the author begins:
TODAY I am making an attempt to get into The Guinness Book of Records by writing a column with more useless information and improbable superlatives than any other newspaper column or, perhaps, The Guinness Book of Records itself. I hope you will bear with me
The last of these tall stories, coming after such notable entries such as ‘The Largest Tea Bag’, ‘Sneezing Record’ and ‘Toy-train accidents’ is ‘Most Deserted Village’….
The text reads:
Most Deserted Village. There are many deserted villages in England, but Dinham Beaumont in Cambridgeshire is believed to be unique in that it has always been deserted. Historians now believe that it was built as a deserted village by a medieval baron, in order to deceive later archaeologists.
Big question – how many more tall stories about DMVs are out there……..
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Progress at cataloguing and interesting highlights will be posted here.
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 email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
We will post more information here when we have it.
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.
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?
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.
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 – https://www.eastmead.com/index.php One of Stephen’s models is below – that of East Matfen village in Northumberland.
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.
On-line viewers of LiDAR data are available for those without the knowledge or time to process the data. The main one being: https://houseprices.io/lab/lidar/map. There is not complete coverage of the country – but there are many notable sites visible – a couple are shown below:
More and more data is becoming readily available through sites such as these.