Welcome to a blog attached to the Beresford’s Lost Villages website developed at the University of Hull. The first launch of this website occurred in April 2014 but it is very much a work in progress. This blog will update on progress and mention notable deserted sites. Below is an outline of the website and its development. The website is dedicated to the study of Deserted Medieval Settlements. It has been made possible by a generous legacy bequeathed to the University of Hull by Professor Maurice Beresford. The first launch of the website concentrated on those settlements identified as being deserted in the seminal publication of 1971, edited by Maurice Beresford and John Hurst entitled ‘Deserted Medieval Villages’. This produced a consolidated list of what were then classed as Deserted Medieval Villages (DMV) in 1968, 2,263 in total.
These sites are villages which appear in documentary sources such as the Domesday Book, medieval tax records and maps, but have since seen a dramatic decline in population to the extent that at some point they have been classed as deserted. The reasons for this desertion are varied, whether from land exhaustion, coastal erosion, a change in land use or the whim of wealthy landowners. Each of the settlements listed as known in 1968 has an individual page on the website which explores a range of datasets for the settlement. In the near future it is hoped that all these sites will also contain a description of the site and links to further sources. For the time being this is only possible for a few counties. When we started the project we set our sights high and hoped to add to the 1968 list. In the preface to this gazetteer it is clear that this was a work in progress – some counties had already been subject to detailed research, for others none had taken place. The publication lists 16 counties where considerable research needed to be carried out: Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Devonshire, Durham, Essex, Herefordshire, Lancashire, Middlesex, Shropshire, Somerset, Suffolk, Surrey, Westmorland and Worcestershire. Of course in the intervening years many scholars have rallied to this call and many more settlements have been added to this list. Early on into this project it became clear that if we were to attempt an update of the county-based lists, we would not be able to publish full entries for more than a few counties. So the initial part of the project focussed on Bedfordshire and Berkshire (the first two counties alphabetically), and the East Riding of Yorkshire, the home to the project. At the end of this initial phase (2010), we had a structure for the database constructed and the beginnings of updated lists – but only for Berkshire did we feel that every attempt to supplement the 1968 list had been attempted. We also had the framework for the website built.
In 2013 a strategic decision had to be taken. If we were to continue on attempting to update all the county lists, and provide full data, we would not manage to get many more than four counties completed for the money available to the project. What we decided would be possible was to get a ‘skeleton’ data set for all the 2,263 sites from the 1968 Gazetteer completed. This would allow the website to be launched – with a country-wide data set, and with valuable information, while gradually updating as and when we could. This ‘skeleton’ data set would include location information, the basic documentary sources, as well as the information on other records such as the record numbers in the National Monuments Record and the local Historic Environments Record. We would also be able to complete the entries for a small number of counties. These complete village records would also require a full description, information on investigations that have taken place at the site, photographic and cartographic records, the period or date of desertion and a classification of the site – whether deserted, shrunken, shifted, migrated or in fact whether it was doubtful.
Progress as of 31st October 2014 Currently you can access the following sets of data via the website. As more detailed material is added, updates will be posted here.
2014 Complete list of known sites: Berkshire
1968 Gazetteer entries complete with full descriptions: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devonshire, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Yorkshire (East Riding)
1968 Gazetteer entries with skeleton data: Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Westmorland, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire (North Riding), Yorkshire (West Riding)
Awaiting data: Lancashire, London (with Middlesex)
Dr Helen Fenwick and Professor Michael Turner
Department of History,
University of Hull