Why did settlements become deserted? Part Two

Following on from last week and the natural forces and forced eviction that has seen the end to some settlements, we look at a further range of reasons for desertion.

Sudden events
As well as the whims of local landowners, there are occasions when sudden events have seen entire villages depopulated. One clear example of this is the village of Boarstall in Buckinghamshire. Here in 1645 the Royalist garrison housed in the local manor destroyed the village and church to avoid them being used by the besieging Parliamentary forces (Porter 1984). The houses were burnt within two days and the church had been demolished before 26 July giving us a rare example of a dated desertion to the actual day. However the population did not disappear, they were redistributed throughout the parish (Broad 2010).

Other sudden desertions may be a long time in the planning. One such example is Derwent in Derbyshire which was destroyed in the 1940s with the creation of Lady Bower Reservoir. In years of low rainfall remains of buildings can still be seen (Sidebottom 1993).

However some stories of rapid desertion may not be that clear cut. Rowley in the East Riding of Yorkshire is well known for the story surrounding the seventeenth-century incumbent Rev. Ezekiel Rogers (Cooper 1908). He went to America in 1638 and founded Rowley, Massachusetts, and some have claimed that the parish registers show that many of parishioners went with him and depopulated the village (Pevsner and Neave 1995, Beresford 1952). However it is now known that many of the people that went with Rev. Rogers were from further afield, and the size of settlement at Rowley was probably always small (Allison 1979).

Economic decline
On some occasions a once prosperous settlement witnesses a rapid economic decline, often at the benefit of a neighbouring settlement and this resulted in depopulation. At Linslade in Buckinghamshire, the settlement known as Old Linslade saw a decline after a ban was issued by the Bishop of Lincoln (Powell 1925). A holy well in the town had been attracting pilgrims, but the reporting of false miracles led to the ban being issued by 1299 and the pilgrims stopped coming and the town declined, being replaced by the neighbouring settlement at a new location. Prior to this an extensive settlement was present. At Domesday the manor included a minimum population of 33. It was a thriving settlement of borough status, and in the late thirteenth century it became a market town with a market and fair granted in 1251 (Letters 2003).

On some occasions the weakening of a settlement due to a number of factors will result in economic decline and desertion. At Seacourt in Berkshire, the vill’s 1334 Lay Subsidy assessment seems low, perhaps suggesting contraction before the Black Death. The estimated desertion of the site by c. 1400 is supported by a letter dated 1439 which notes that the church had collapsed and only two buildings remained occupied in the village. It has been suggested that Seacourt’s decline could be linked to the rising prosperity of nearby Oxford (Wilson and Hurst 1961).

Absent settlements
Sometimes a settlement may appear in the documentary records, but never really existed. This could be due to the nature of settlement in the area – a cluster of small farmsteads or buildings given a collected name in the taxations records, but no central, nucleated settlement existing. Henny in Cambridgeshire is mentioned in Domesday and papers of Pembroke College but it is unclear whether there was ever a settlement (Beresford 1954). Hughenden in Buckinghamshire was recorded in a range of taxation documents but there is no evidence of settlement at the manor site and it is suggested to have always been dispersed settlement (Ellis 1925).

Sometimes a settlement was planned but was never developed. One such example can be found in Dorset at Gotowre. No such settlement appears in the local area, and the only place-name evidence is to Goathorn Pier and Point suggesting an area of landscape rather than settlement. However it is mentioned in the plans of Edward I in 1286 (RCHME 1970, Good 1987). It is stated that the plan was ‘to lay out with sufficient streets and lanes, adequate sites for a market and church, plots for merchants and others in a new town with a harbour in a place called Gotowre’. It is not clear to what extent the order was ever carried out (Beresford and St Joseph 1958, Bowen and Taylor 1964). Four months later a charter was granted to the burgesses of Nova Villa (Newtown) for a weekly market. After this though, no further references are found to the Gotowre or Newton (Beresford and St Joseph 1958). It is suggested that this settlement was never established.

Long slow decline
Settlement desertion was all too often a long drawn-out process – resulting from many of the aspects discussed above. One example that illustrates this is Eske in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It seems to have been a settlement of just below average size based on the 1297 and 1334 subsidies (Brown 1894). A charter of c. 1280 notes at least 10 tofts, (Poulson 1840), whilst 63 tax payers were recorded in 1377 – again indicating a just below average, but certainly sustainable village. There is no evidence of tax relief during the fifteenth century. In 1458 at least seven holdings survived, but by the 1524/5 Lay Subsidies Eske was grouped with Routh in the taxation records, as it was again in the later seventeenth century. It has been suggested that depopulation accompanied the enclosure of Eske’s common fields in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, but the final decline of the settlement appears to have been a drawn out process (English and Miller 1991, Allison 1989). The present Manor House is thought to date from c. 1680, probably a re-build of the nine-hearth house present in the Hearth Tax of 1672. The year before five one-hearth dwellings survived in addition to the manor house (Allison 1989). In 1786 the manor contained just three farms, reduced to two by 1788, and the township had only three buildings in the 1841 Census.

Eske village: Google image from 2003
Eske village: Google image from 2003

However – not all deserted settlements may mean that population disappeared. Changing settlement patterns can also mask shifting populations. Many of the records used to plot the fortunes of a settlement such as lay subsides, poll taxes, hearth taxes and census records may be recording parishes and townships which may have included a multitude of settlements, not just a single village. Movement within this zone, which may see the complete desertion of one settlement, may result in no drop in recorded population as they are redistributed between other places. For example a single nucleated village may be replaced by a single farmstead, and many other smaller farmsteads in the area, with no real reduction in population. Also communities affected by the factors outlined above may not become completely deserted but shrink or migrate as population continues but in another settlement format.

As can be seen from the last two posts there are a variety of reasons for settlement desertion – and there are many more than have been described here.

References
Allison, K.J. 1979. ‘Rowley’, in K.J. Allison (ed.) A History of the County of York East Riding Volume 4: 140-154. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Allison, K.J. 1989. ‘Eske’, in K.J. Allison (ed.) A History of the County of York East Riding Volume 6: 278-81. London: Oxford University Press.

Beresford, M.W. 1952. ‘The Lost Villages of Yorkshire Part II’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 38: 44-70.

Beresford, M.W. 1954. The Lost Villages of England. London: Lutterworth.

Beresford, M. and J.K. St Joseph 1958. Medieval England: An Aerial Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bowen, H.C. and C.C Taylor 1964. ‘The Site of Newton (Nova Villa), Studland, Dorset’, Medieval Archaeology 8: 223-226.

Broad, J. 2010. ‘Understanding Village Desertion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’, in C. Dyer and R. Jones (eds) Deserted Villages Revisited: 121-139. Hatfield: University of Hertford Press.

Brown, W. 1894. Yorkshire Lay Subsidy Being a Ninth Collected in 25 Edward I (1297) . Leeds: Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 16.

Cooper, A.N. 1908. ‘How Rowley in Yorkshire Lost its Population in the 17th Century and How Rowley in Massachusetts was Founded’, Transactions of the East Riding Antiquarian Society 15: 85-100.

Ellis, G.A. 1925. ‘Hughenden’, in W. Page (ed.) A History of the County of Buckingham Volume 3: 57-62. London: The Catherine Press.

English, B. and K. Miller 1991. ‘The Deserted Village of Eske, East Yorkshire’, Landscape History 13: 5-32.

Good, R. 1987. The Lost Villages of Dorset. Wimborne: The Dovecote Press.

Letters, S. 2003. Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516: Part 1. London: List and Index Society Special Series Volume 32.

Pevsner, N. and D. Neave 1995. Yorkshire: York and the East Riding. London: Penguin.

Porter, S. 1984. ‘The Civil War Destruction of Boarstall’, Records of Buckinghamshire 26: 86-91.

Poulson, G. 1840. The History and Antiquities of the Seigniory of Holderness, Vol. 1. Hull: Brown and Sons.

Powell, D.L. 1925. ‘Linslade’, in W. Page (ed.) A History of the County of Buckingham Volume 3: 387-391. London: The Catherine Press.

RCHME 1970. An Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset. Volume Two: South-East Part 2. London: RCHME.

Sidebottom, P. 1993. ‘The Derwent Cross Shaft: Discovery and Excavation 1991’, Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society 17: 9-18.

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Why did settlements become deserted? Part One

Many different reasons have been postulated for the desertion of settlement. Initially many laid blame at the door of the Black Death. Further research and in the context of Goldsmith’s poem of 1770 (see below), the emphasis moved to an analysis of the medieval economy and a change to sheep farming, the displacement of people, and a move to the towns. Below we look at two main categories of desertion – natural forces and forced eviction. Next week we will explore some other forms of desertion – sudden events, economic decline, absent settlements and the long slow decline.  Examples are provided for each reason that can be viewed on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website.

Natural Forces
The Black Death
Examples of abandoned villages purely as a result of the Black Death are rare – even though this is the often quoted reason for settlement desertion. That the Black Death lowered the population in certain areas is probable, but the complete abandonment of a settlement is hard to prove. One example of desertion suggested as a result of the Black Death is Cainhoe in Bedfordshire. This settlement is thought to be located somewhere between the remains of the motte and bailey castle to the north and Cainhoe Manor to the south. Cainhoe was recorded in Domesday with a minimum population of 15 and later in the 1334 Lay Subsidy the village was taxed alongside the village of Clophill. The site was held by the d’Albini family following the Conquest, and it is suggested that the village was deserted soon after 1349. An inquisition post mortem of 1375 found ten cottages that were empty ‘since the pestilence’ (Beresford and St Joseph 1979: 158).

Cainhoe in Buckinghamshire - location of the motte and bailey castle
Cainhoe in Bedfordshire – location of the motte and bailey castle

Coastal erosion
Ravenserod in the East Riding of Yorkshire was a settlement clutching to existence. Located on an isolated area out in the Humber Estuary, this thriving town of the early fourteenth century was completely inundated and destroyed by the sea by 1360. It was founded in around 1230 on an island and becomes a town and was first described as a borough between 1241-1249 (Allison 1984). It gained its first grant for quayage in 1297, and another in 1310. It gained a royal charter in 1299, but erosion began soon after 1300 (Allison 1984). By 1346 two thirds of the town was destroyed. A record of 1347-8 suggests that there were at least 300 buildings (English 1991). By 1350 the chapel was in ruins (Beresford 1952). The residents had moved to Hull and taken up residence in the town.

Climate Change
Changing climate has often been quoted as a reason for desertion especially in areas perhaps seen as marginal. The economic historian Michael Postan had suggested that there were clear links between climate, desertion and marginal land (Postan 1966). Hound Tor in Devon is one such site where climate change has been suggested as a cause of desertion – see last week’s blog…… Here the reasons for desertion are not completely clear but there is evidence to suggest this was due to climate change (Beresford 1979). Climate change affecting marginal areas assumes that those places with poor soils, flooding or other factors would be deserted first. Regional studies have now shown that there was no clear link between poor quality soils and desertion (Jones 2010: 10-11).

Forced Eviction
Forced eviction was the cause of depopulation lamented by Goldsmith in 1770. In the poem The Deserted Village he describes the fate of a settlement at the whim of local landowner:

‘The man of wealth and pride,
Takes up a space that many poor supplied;
Space for his lake, his park’s extended bounds,
Space for his horses, equipage and hounds;’
(Goldsmith 1770: 15 lines 275-278)

Here emparking (see below) is the main cause suggested but other uses of the land were also to blame. But not all changes are at the hands of the lords or the church. Ordinary people played a role as well. Peasant farmers acquired more land and could initiate enclosure and change (Dyer 2010:30).

Sheep Farming
During the fifteenth century there was a movement to evict tenants and to enclose areas. This was often associated with a shift to sheep rearing. Legal cases were brought against landowners who had forcibly evicted their tenants. At Lillingstone Dayrell in Buckinghamshire, a settlement is recorded at Domesday and in the 1334 Lay Subsidy. By 1535 only three people paid the Lay Subsidy and in 1563 there are four households recorded. Glebe terriers in the early seventeenth century record memory of the depopulation, and in 1517 the local inquiry into enclosure laid the blame at the feet of Thomas Dayrell (Beresford 1953-4). The inquiry recorded the displacement of 40 people in 1491 and that this was the total population (Leadam 1897). More of this story can be found in Jones and Page (2006). However this is not all the story. There is clear evidence for settlement contraction in the second half of the fourteenth century when one third of the village was abandoned. Here Dayrell removed an already weakened settlement (Jones 2010:25).

The ploughed out remains of Lillingstone Dayrell
The ploughed out remains of Lillingstone Dayrell

A further village in Buckinghamshire tells a similar story. Doddershall does not appear in Domesday Book but the first place-name reference can be found in the late twelfth century (Mawer and Stenton 1925). In 1334 it pays an average Lay Subsidy along with Shipton Lee. By 1495 enclosure is reported which included the displacement of 120 people (Beresford 1953-4, Leadam 1897). By 1525 only nine people paid the Lay Subsidy. It is with this form of desertion that we see some of the most clearly documented and recorded causes.

Doddershall
Doddershall

Emparking
The whims of landowners led in some cases to settlement being removed during the landscaping of parks and gardens. At Wimpole in Cambridgeshire, a map by Benjamin Hare of the hall and park in 1638 shows houses close to the church and to the south of the hall. There are also other scatters of houses in other areas of the park. In total there are five clusters of houses around three main route ways (RCHME 1968). Wimpole is mentioned in Domesday and had a sizable population in the fourteenth-century taxation documents. There was a decline in population by the sixteenth century, but there were still 36 households recorded in 1563. The map of 1638 shows that there was still a sizable population and that the settlements were gradually depopulated in the eighteenth century when the park was laid out.

Wimpole Park
Wimpole Park

Small settlements were not the only ones at risk from the whims of land owners. Milton Abbas (Dorset) is a fascinating example of deliberate destruction of an established and flourishing town. In the mid-tenth century, the founding of a Benedictine Abbey allowed a village to thrive and by Domesday the village had become one of the largest settlements in central Dorset, with its own fair and market (Good 1987). The stability of the town was such that the dissolution of the monastery in 1539 had little effect on its prosperity which continued throughout the seventeenth century (Good 1987). 137 people signed the Protestation Returns of 1641–2 (Good 1987). In 1752, the estate was purchased by Joseph Damer and he commissioned the construction of a new manor house (RCHME 1970). Wishing to empark a larger area of his estate, Damer began to purchase leases and holdings and subsequently succeeded in also demolishing the town allowing for the creation of landscape gardens and an ornamental fishpond in around 1780 (Good 1987). More than one hundred homes, three inns and a school were all relocated, to ensure an uninterrupted view from his new home.

On many occasions the emparking of land around grand houses did not lead to the disappearance of population but rather their re-housing in new settlements as at Milton Abbas. At Gayhurst in Buckinghamshire the village was originally located close to Gayhurst House and church. It was moved north in 1725, where it still exists today, when the area was landscaped for George Wrighte (Pevsner and Williamson 1994). At Sledmere in the East Riding of Yorkshire, a real reduction in population begins in the 1740s. Sledmere House was built in 1748 and at the time was at the north-western edge of a sizeable village. With the construction of this new house, any houses on the higher ground to the south-east which interrupted the view were cleared (Neave and Neave 2008, Pevsner and Neave 1995). This included 20 garths or former houses and parts of four others (Neave and Neave 2008). The remaining houses were hidden behind plantations to the north-east and south-west. In the 1770s the gardens were remodelled and the remaining villagers moved to the new village laid out to the north of the house (Neave and Neave 2008, Pevsner and Neave 1995).

Emparking is not just a feature of the later centuries. During the Middle Ages land was also enclosed for a range of activities including hunting. At Nether Haddon in Derbyshire there are suggestions that the village was deserted by 1330 with the creation of a hunting park.

Monastic sites
Not all evictions were through secular landowners. The church was also responsible for the removal of population, either to provide a more secluded environment, or as with secular landowners to increase the profitability of their land. Evidence for the removal of settlement to create a monastic site can be found in a number of areas. The village of Meaux in the East Riding of Yorkshire was mentioned in Domesday as Melsa and as a berewick of Aldbrough. It was destroyed when the Cistercian Abbey was founded in 1151-4 (Bond 1866).

An example of changing land use can be found at Shingay in Cambridgeshire. The village was first mentioned in 1086 in the Domesday Book, however it was depopulated in the early fifteenth century (Oosthuizen 2009). The site was one of the earliest preceptories of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem and dates from 1144 AD. The preceptors carried out a thorough policy of enclosure. In June 1381 there was a peasant uprising which badly damaged many of the buildings and required that the site be rebuilt. By 1452 the village had been mostly cleared and reduced to only a few houses when there is mention that ‘the preceptor possessed crofts in which once were houses’ (Ellis and Salzman 1948, Keeling 1982).

Next week….. We will look at some of the other reasons that have seen the desertion of settlements……

References
Allison, K.J. 1984. ‘Kilnsea’, in K.J. Allison (ed.) A History of the County of York East Riding Volume 5: Holderness: Southern Part: 65-74. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Beresford, G. 1979. ‘Three Deserted Medieval Settlements on Dartmoor: A Report on the late E. Marie Minter’s Excavations’, Medieval Archaeology 23: 98-158.

Beresford, M.W. 1952. ‘The Lost Villages of Yorkshire Part II’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 38: 44-70.

Beresford, M. 1953-4. ‘Glebe Terriers and Open-field Buckinghamshire, with a Summary List of Deserted Villages of the County: Part 2’, Records of Buckinghamshire 27: 4-28.

Beresford, M.W. and J.K. St Joseph 1979. Medieval England: an Aerial Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bond, E. 1866. Chronica Monasterii de Melsa. Volume 1. London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer.

Dyer, C. 2010. ‘Villages in Crisis: Social Dislocation and Desertion, 1370-1520’, in C. Dyer and R. Jones (eds) Deserted Villages Revisited: 28-45. Hatfield: University of Hertford Press.

Ellis, D. and L.F. Salzman 1948. ‘Houses of Knights Hospitallers: Preceptory of Shingay’, in L.F. Salzman (ed.) A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2: 266-269. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

English, B. 1991. ‘Ravenser Odd’, in D.B. Lewis (ed.) The Yorkshire Coast: 149-155. Beverley: Normandy Press.

Goldsmith, O. 1770. The Deserted Village. London: W. Griffin.

Good, R. 1987. The Lost Villages of Dorset. Wimborne: The Dovecote Press.

Keeling, S.M. 1982. ‘Shingay’, in A.P.M. Wright (ed.) A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 8: 124-127. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jones, R. 2010. ‘Contrasting Patterns of Village and Hamlet Desertion in England’, in C. Dyer and R. Jones (eds) Deserted Villages Revisited: 8-27. Hatfield: University of Hertford Press.

Jones, R. and M. Page 2006. Medieval Villages in the English Landscape: Beginnings and Ends. Macclesfield: Windgather.

Leadam, I.S. 1897. The Domesday of Inclosures 1517-1518. London: Longmans, Green and Co.

Mawer, A. and F.M. Stenton 1925. The Place-Names of Buckinghamshire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Neave, D. and S. Neave 2008. A History of the County of York East Riding Volume 8. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer: 173-215.

Oosthuizen, S. 2009. ‘The Deserted Medieval Settlements of Cambridgeshire: A Gazetteer’, Medieval Settlement Research 24: 14-19.

Pevsner, N. and D. Neave 1995. Yorkshire: York and the East Riding. London: Penguin.

Pevsner, N. and E. Williamson. 1994. The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire. Penguin Books: London.

Postan, M.M. 1966. ‘England’, in M.M. Postan (ed.) The Cambridge Economic History of Europe Volume 1: 548-632. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

RCHME. 1968. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire: Volume I. West Cambridgeshire. London: RCHME: 210-229.

RCHME 1970. An Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset. Volume Three: Central Dorset Part 2. London: RCHME.

What are deserted medieval settlements?

Beresford’s Lost Villages website is compiling descriptions for all the known deserted settlements in England. In past posts we have looked at the progress made so far on a number of counties. In this post we examine what actually is a deserted medieval settlement?

These are settlements 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. They can also be areas that show clear evidence of former settlement in the form of earthworks, building remains or abandoned churches. The reasons for desertion are varied, whether from land exhaustion, coastal erosion, a change in land use or the whim of wealthy landowners. Over 3000 such sites have been identified across England.

Hound Tor on Dartmoor - walls of long house
Hound Tor on Dartmoor – walls of long houses

These sites were often termed as Lost Villages in the early days of investigation, but then the term Deserted Medieval Village or DMV became more popular. By the 1980s the term Deserted Medieval Settlements was adopted to show that all types of settlement including hamlets and farmsteads needed to be considered and not just villages. On the Beresford’s Lost Villages website we use the original term ‘Lost Villages’ as it has been funded by a generous bequest by the Late Maurice Beresford whose pioneering 1954 publication led the way in identifying and locating these settlements.

On the ground these settlements may have left no trace to the naked eye – completely ploughed-out or landscaped in later years. Sometimes tell-tale humps and bumps may signify past settlement. These may be hiding stone walls of houses in areas where there was a ready supply of building materials. Sometimes the humps and bumps represent route ways – often termed hollow ways, that have been produced by years of passing people and animals. Boundaries between properties and buildings may also be shown by the presence of ditches and banks.

Here are some examples of deserted medieval settlements – their evidence and how they have been identified. All three of these sites are under the guardianship of English Heritage and can be visited. A later post will explore in more detail why settlements became deserted.

Wharram Percy, North Yorkshire

This is probably the most well known deserted settlement, due mainly to the research and excavations carried out for over 40 years. The presence of a settlement here was known from the presence of the settlement in the taxation records, and the location of a parish and a church. There are also clear earthworks visible at the site. The site is publically accessible, with access off the B1248 Beverley to Malton road. A car park is situated 750m from the site, with a walk to the site down a steep slope. A guide book for the site is available from English Heritage or from one of the other English Heritage properties close by, such as Helmsley Castle (Oswald 2013).

House sites at Wharram Percy
House sites at Wharram Percy

A sizeable village was once present. In total there would seem to be around 40 peasant house plots at Wharram, but it is unsure if all would have been occupied at the same time. A roughly north-south hollow way is bounded on either side by the house plots. Two manor house sites have been uncovered; one that was abandoned in the thirteenth century, and indications are that the northern one was abandoned some time in the fourteenth century. At the south of the village is the church which was in use until 1949. To the south of this is the mill pond. Close to the church are the only surviving buildings – a row of three cottages, which were finally vacated in the 1970s. The excavations at the site have revealed an extensive occupation from at least Roman times.

Wharram Percy and St Martin's Church
Wharram Percy and St Martin’s Church

Wharram Percy was mentioned in the Domesday Book and 30 people were taxed in 1377. A record of tenant holdings from 1368 also records 30 farmhouses and cottages in the village (Wrathmell 2010). By 1435 only 16 households are recorded showing the decline of the settlement had begun (Wrathmell 2010). Further reduction in population is noted in the 1517 enquires that took place across the country into the enclosure of farmland. These record that after 1488 four cottages at Wharram had been removed (Wrathmell 2010). It has been well established that the fate of Wharram was the conversion of arable land to pasture. Over time more and more land was removed from arable production. A legal case that was heard in 1555 helps date the final stage of conversion to 1527 (Wrathmell 2010).

There are many resources on Wharram including the series of 13 volumes publishing the results of the excavations. For more detailed information on Wharram, see the pages on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website including a full consideration of the evidence and the site’s connection with Maurice Beresford or the detailed record for Wharram in the listing of villages in the East Riding of Yorkshire. More information on Wharram Percy can also be found in the History and Research section on the English Heritage website.

Hound Tor, Devon

The site of Hound Tor is probably one of the most well known settlements on Dartmoor. The location of the village is between Hound Tor and Greater Rocks lying on a gentle slope. The village can be accessed by parking on a minor road to the south of Manaton, followed by a half-mile walk. The village itself consists of about eleven buildings located within an enclosure (Beresford 1979). Full excavation of the site was completed between 1961 and 1975. The buildings would appear to consist of eight houses and three corn drying barns.  Three of the houses are clear longhouses with cross passage ways.  The remaining buildings are smaller and may represent smaller houses or out buildings. The buildings are clustered together and have small enclosures, possibly gardens close to the longhouses. There is no discernible plan to the settlement and it is suggested that although there is evidence of rebuilding, the settlement plan reflects the original layout of the settlement (Beresford 1979).

Corn-drying barns at Hound Tor
Corn-drying barns at Hound Tor

The village itself seems to have developed in the middle of the thirteenth century and then became deserted in the middle of the fourteenth century (Beresford 1979). More recent pottery analysis has suggested that the settlement was still occupied into the late fourteenth or maybe early fifteenth century (Allan 1994). Unlike other deserted sites on Dartmoor, documentary evidence exists for Hound Tor including an entry in the Domesday Book with a population of six recorded. Hound Tor or its residents appear in documents throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (Beresford 1979).

The reasons for desertion are not completely clear but there is evidence to suggest this was due to climate change (Beresford 1979). As Hound Tor was one of the highest villages above sea level on Dartmoor, there is a claim that the changing climate would have affected these sites earlier and more deeply. There is evidence for bad harvests but there are also good harvests mixed in with those years. Pollen analysis does show a change from arable to pastoral activity in the fourteenth century which may have been a contributing factor (Austin and Walker 1985).

For more information on Hound Tor see the History and Research section on the English Heritage website

Gainsthorpe, North Lincolnshire

The first aerial photograph of a deserted village was published by O.S.G. Crawford in 1925 of the site at Gainsthorpe in Lincolnshire (Gerrard 2003). Here clear earthworks of the settlement can be seen with route ways and building outlines.

Gainsthorpe Village earthworks
Gainsthorpe Village earthworks

The site is located off the A15 just to the south of Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire. The site is not sign-posted from the A15, but can be found on Gainsthorpe Road which is sign-posted for Cleatham. There is a sign from this access road. There is a short walk down a farm track from the car park.

The aerial photograph of the site was initially taken as it was thought to be the location of a Roman fort. However when he publishes the picture, Crawford draws on a seventeenth-century account of the site by Abraham de la Pryme (Crawford 1925). In 1697 De la Pryme gives the account of the remains of the settlement, describes foundations of buildings, streets and a possible location of a church. He recounts local tales that the town was ‘exceeding infamous for robberys, and that nobody inhabited there but thieves; and that the country haveing for a long while endur’d all their villanys, they at last, when they could suffer them no longer, riss with one consent, and pulld the same down about their ears’ (De le Pryme 1870: 127-128). He does continue suggesting that a more likely explanation was ‘the town has been eaten up with time, poverty, and pasturage’ (De le Pryme 1870: 128). A much more likely reason for desertion.

Gainsthorpe Village
Gainsthorpe Village

For more information on Gainsthorpe village see the History and Research section on the English Heritage website.

Deserted settlements are found throughout the country and can illustrate how people in the past coped with change. Often these settlements are not deserted overnight, but long-term changes to population and land use see dramatic reductions in the number of people living at the settlement.

References

Allan, J. 1994. ‘Medieval Pottery and the Dating of Deserted Settlements on Dartmoor’, Proceedings Devon Archaeological Society 52: 141-148.

Austin, D. and M.J.C. Walker 1985. ‘A New Landscape Context for Houndtor, Devon’, Medieval Archaeology 29: 147-152.

Beresford, M.W. 1954. The Lost Villages of England. London: Lutterworth Press.

Beresford, G. 1979. ‘Three Deserted Medieval Settlements on Dartmoor: A Report on the late E. Marie Minter’s Excavations’, Medieval Archaeology 23: 98-158.

Crawford, O.S.G. 1925. ‘Air-Photograph of Gainstrop, Lincs’, Antiquities Journal 5: 432-433.

De la Pryme, A. 1870. The Diary of Abraham de la Pryme, the Yorkshire Antiquary. Durham: Publocations of the Surtees Society 54.

Gerrard, C. 2003. Medieval Archaeology: Understanding Traditions and Contemporary Approaches. London: Routledge.

Oswald, A. 2013. Wharram Percy Deserted Medieval Village. London: English Heritage.

Wrathmell, S. 2010. ‘The Desertion of Wharram Percy Village and its Wider Context’, in C. Dyer and R. Jones (eds) Deserted Villages Revisited: 109-120. Hatfield: University of Herefordshire Press.

Currently completed counties – Buckinghamshire

Following on from the exploration of Bedfordshire in the last post, this week we look at Buckinghamshire, the next county where we have managed to assess all the deserted sites listed in the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted medieval villages.

Buckinghamshire has an early listing of deserted settlements appearing as an appendix to a paper by Maurice Beresford on glebe terriers and open-field systems in 1954 (Beresford 1953-4). This list contained 28 settlements with another 14 suspected sites – all of the 28 settlements apart from Bourton are still listed in 1968, and 11 of the suspected sites have also make the list.

There were 56 settlements listed in the 1968 Gazetteer, and since this time the number has grown. Page has highlighted this stating the 56 in 1968 became 60 by 1979, and 83 by 1997 (Page 2005: 189). This increase in numbers is set against a backdrop of large regional surveys such as that carried out on the medieval settlement of the East Midlands and the Whittlewood region as well as more focused research on specific sites in the county (Lewis et al. 2001, Jones and Page 2006). This research paints a vivid picture of a diverse range of settlements and an equally diverse set of events that leads to settlement desertion. This includes a dated desertion for the settlement at Boarstall. Here in 1645 the Royalist garrison housed in the local manor destroyed the village and church to avoid them being used by the besieging Parliamentary forces (Porter 1984). The houses were burnt within two days and the church had been demolished before 26 July giving us this rare example of a dated desertion to the actual day. However the population did not disappear, they were redistributed throughout the parish (Broad 2010).

Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire listed in 1968
Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire listed in 1968

 

Of the 56 settlements listed, 34 have remained classed as Deserted Medieval Villages by the website (for information on our classifications see the posting on Berkshire). Eight settlements have been classed as Deserted Medieval Hamlets – due to their smaller size. Two settlements have been classed as Migrated – purposefully moved, four are Shifted settlements – moving over time, and one settlement shows evidence of a Shrunken settlement rather than fully deserted – Upper Winchendon. Finally seven of the settlements listed in 1968 are now classed as Doubtful deserted settlements. These include Ackhampstead which appears to have never been larger than the couple of farms still present today, Caldecote in Newport Pagnell which was probably just a manorial centre, and Hughenden were it has been suggested that settlement in the parish was always dispersed.

Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire and their classification by the website
Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire and their classification by the website

A number of excavations have taken place on deserted sites in Buckinghamshire. Tattenhoe was one of a number of settlements investigated as part of the development of Milton Keynes and its on going expansion. (Ivens et al. 1995). The development of the city also affected sites that were not on the Gazetteer including Westbury-by-Shenley (sometimes referred to as Shenley Brook End) (Ivens et al. 1995).

Rescue excavations at Stantonbury ahead of quarrying amounted to little more than rapid recording of disturbed archaeology but revealed house platforms and pottery dating from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries (Mynard 1971). Excavations have also revealed evidence of a deserted settlement that could also be called a ‘pottery production centre’ at Olney Hyde (Mynard 1984: 56).

The landscapes of Quarrendon and Hardmead have both been subjected to more detailed survey and analyses and show the complexity of settlement in Buckinghamshire (Everson 2001, Smith 1985). Both these sites demonstrate the polyfocal nature of the settlement with clusters of dwellings joined together – sometimes over quiet a distance to form a single settlement unit. For more information about Quarrendon see Buckinghamshire County Council www.buckscc.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/archaeology/quarrendon-leas/

Buckinghamshire is certainly a county which rewards greater investigation with a wealth of evidence of different types of settlement and reasons for desertion. More information on the deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire, along with some aerial photographs can be found on the Unlocking Buckinghamshire’s Past website.

References

Beresford, M. 1953-4. ‘Glebe Terriers and Open-field Buckinghamshire, with a Summary List of Deserted Villages of the County: Part 2’, Records of Buckinghamshire 16: 4-28.

Broad, J. 2010. ‘Understanding Village Desertion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’, in C. Dyer and R. Jones (eds) Deserted Villages Revisited: 121-139. Hatfield: University of Hertford Press.

Everson, P. 2001. ‘Peasants, Peers and Graziers: the Landscape of Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire, Interpreted’, Records of Buckinghamshire 41: 1-46.

Ivens, R., P. Busby and N. Shepherd 1995. Tattenhoe and Westbury: Two Deserted Medieval Settlements in Milton Keynes. Aylesbury: Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society Monograph Series no. 8.

Jones, R. and M. Page 2006. Medieval Villages in an English Landscape. Macclesfield: Windgather Press.

Lewis, C., P. Mitchell-Fox and C. Dyer 2001. Village, Hamlet and Field: Changing Medieval Settlements in Central England. Macclesfield: Windgather Press.

Mynard, D.C. 1971. ‘Rescue Excavations at the Deserted Medieval Village of Stantonbury Bucks’, Records of Buckinghamshire 19: 17-41.

Mynard, D.C. 1984. ‘A Medieval Pottery Industry at Olney Hyde’, Records of Buckinghamshire 26: 56-85.

Page, M. 2005. ‘Destroyed by the Temples: the Deserted Medieval Village of Stowe’, Records of Buckinghamshire 45: 189-204.

Porter, S. 1984. ‘The Civil War Destruction of Boarstall’, Records of Buckinghamshire 26: 86-91.

Smith, P.S.H. 1985. ‘Hardmead and its Deserted Village’, Records of Buckinghamshire 27: 38-52.