Deserted Villages in Gloucestershire – some examples

This blog reviews the evidence from some of the deserted villages in Gloucestershire that appear on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website. Gloucestershire is the latest county which has appeared on the website in its full form with descriptions of all the settlements listed in 1968.

Upper Coberley

The earthworks of Upper Coberley have been recorded to the west of Westbury and Lower Farm. They include a trackway and at least ten building outlines however much of the area is now covered in trees. These earthworks are 500m to the east of the shrunken settlement at Coberley. In Domesday Book a single hide is recorded at Upper Coberley as part of the manor of Northleach. In later records Upper Coberley is recorded with Northleach, apart from 1327 when it is recorded separately and seven people are assessed (Franklin 1993: 44). In 1334 they pay an above average amount of Lay Subsidy. At least 24 people were taxed in 1381. It continues to be recorded through the sixteenth century. The earthwork evidence clearly shows a more extensive settlement than the three farms now present.

Ditchfords

There are three deserted settlements at Ditchford, although only two made it onto the 1968 list of deserted settlements in Gloucestershire. All three Ditchfords recorded in documents, Upper, Middle and Lower, and all continued as a separate farm. The earthworks of Lower Ditchford can be clearly seen to the north of Ditchford Mill, to the northwest of the Knee Brook. The history of these sites is complex as they formed a detached part of Worcestershire, within Gloucestershire, at various points of time (Beresford and St Joseph 1969: 16-17). The complex set of earthworks of Lower Ditchford includes a number of tofts on either side of a sinuous hollow way and wide green. At least 12 building enclosures and at least eight buildings have been identified. Surrounding the settlement is a number of fields which were probably seasonally flooded water meadows. A number of building structures are possibly post-desertion structures.

Earthworks at Lower Ditchford. Copyright Google
Earthworks at Lower Ditchford. Copyright Google

The earthworks of Upper Ditchford are located to the west of Neighbrook Manor (formally Upper Ditchford Farm). A central green is surrounded by a range of building and house platforms. The village is surrounded by extensive ridge and furrow suggesting the area of the earthworks and present farm buildings are the maximum extent of the settlement.

Earthworks of Upper Ditchford. Copyright Google
Earthworks of Upper Ditchford. Copyright Google

There is not always a clear division into separate settlements in the records. Ditchford was recorded in the Worcestershire section of the Domesday Book with a minimum population of five. In 1334 Upper and Middle Ditchford are recorded in the Lay Subsidy but Lower Ditchford is absent. The value of the tithe-corn in Upper Ditchford had halved in value between 1384-1419 and the end of arable farming is signalled when it ceased completely in about 1475(Dyer 1982). The villages at Ditchford were noted as ruinous in 1491 by John Rous, a priest of Warwick (Rous 1745).

Lancaut

The remains of medieval settlement of Lancaut are located on a peninsula formed by a meander in the River Wye, close to the ruins of St James’ church. The earliest part of the church dates to the late twelfth century, but a lead font dating to 1130-1140 from the church is now on display in Gloucester Cathedral.

Lead font from Lancaut now in Gloucester Cathedral
Lead font from Lancaut now in Gloucester Cathedral

The church was remodeled in later periods but has been in ruins since c. 1865 (Parry 1990). The lack of fine architectural detail and small size of the church suggests it served a small parish. The remains of the deserted settlement can be seen to the north and west of the church. A geophysical survey in 1994 identified linear features but no discernible buildings. The modern settlement of Lancaut is situated further to the north on the higher ground.

Place-name evidence suggests that a church at least may have been present on the peninsula since the seventh century. There is no clear taxation history for the settlement but the manor of Tidenham had ten tenants at Lancaut in 1306. At Lancaut in 1551 there were 19 communicants and five households were recorded in 1563 (Herbert 1972). By 1710 four families are recorded and this had decreased to two inhabited houses by 1750 (Herbert 1972).

Lemington

Extensive earthworks are visible between Upper Lemington (now just Lemington) and Lower Lemington. It can be suggested that these are the remains of the settlement of Lemington and formed a larger single settlement rather than two separate places. The earthworks run to the north of Lemington Manor are those traditionally called Upper Lemington, and these carry on northwards to the church at Lower Lemington. There are further earthworks to the north of the church. As such this would be quite an extensive settlement. Some of the earthworks appear to be overlain by ridge and furrow suggesting an early date for abandonment. A hollow way runs from Lower Lemington Manor south along the current hedge line.

Earthworks to the north of Lemignton Manor, with Lower Lemington to the north of the picture. Copyright Google.
Earthworks to the north of Lemignton Manor, with Lower Lemington to the north of the picture. Copyright Google.

Both settlements were simply recorded as Lemington up until the sixteenth century lending support to the idea of one continuous settlement (Elrington and Morgan 1965). At Domesday there are two entries for Lemington, with the one identified as Upper Lemington being an outlier of the large manor at Deerhurst. Lemington pays an average Lay Subsidy in 1334. In 1524 a below average amount is paid, and seven households are recorded in 1563. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there has been a steady population recorded at Lower Lemington. There were around 20 households in 1650 but only six paid the Hearth Tax in 1672 (Elrington and Morgan 1965). The distinguishing of Lower and Upper Lemington may just be a result of two different manorial descents and land holdings. This settlement is now considered to be evidence of a shrunken settlement, rather than a deserted village.

Sennington

The earthwork remains of a settlement known as Old Sennington can still be seen from the air. These include at least two north-south hollow ways, and a number of indistinct croft boundaries. A report of coins having been discovered was published in 1889 which also suggested that the original chapel of Sevenhampton may have been located at the settlement (Hall 1889-90). The present church at Sevenhampton is located 800m to the southeast. Unpublished excavations at the site in 1936 revealed stone walls as well as twelfth and thirteenth-century pottery (Baldwyn and O’Neil 1958, Dunning 1949).

Earthwork remains of Sennigton. Copyright Google
Earthwork remains of Sennigton. Copyright Google

Sennington would appear to be a variant of the place-name Sevenhampton, with other variants including Senhampton and it is suggested that this is indicative of seven settlements (Smith 1964: 117). Many small hamlets and farmsteads become deserted in the parish in the fourteenth century (Jurica 2001). No separate settlement of Sennington is recorded and it is possible that these earthworks were one of the smaller settlements of Sevenhampton, or it could have been an extension of the settlement of Nash to the west.

Taynton Parva

Taynton Parva is an excellent example of a number of different medieval landscape elements including a ringwork, motte and bailey, moated site and fishponds, a church, swannery as well as the settlement evidence. The castle site is the most distinct feature in the centre of the site, with the moated site to the east and the location of the church to the southeast. The site is surrounded to the south and east by a defensive earthwork constructed during the Civil War when Royalist Troops were garrisoned at the site. The evidence of the village is less clear and some of the features are covered by trees so are hard to interpret from the air, but presumably lay around these sites. The site has been surveyed but the remains are still open to interpretation (Williams 1996).

Taynton Parva settlement. Copyright Google
Taynton Parva settlement. Copyright Google

At Domesday a minimum population of six is recorded. In 1327 nine people are assessed (Franklin 1993: 88). In 1334 a below average Lay Subsidy is paid. By the sixteenth century there is only a record for Taynton and it is not subdivided into Magna and Parva. The church was in existence by 1134 but burnt down by Royalists in 1643 (Williams 1996, Rudder 1776). This has been confirmed in recent years by the discovery of metalwork in the area, particularly lead from the church (Rawes and Wills 1998). It has been suggested that the village was abandoned by 1485, but there is insufficient evidence to be sure (Williams 1996). In 1285 the landowner was granted a charter to use his lands at Taynton as a hunting chase and warren (Williams 1996). It is perhaps this that signifies the start of a slow decline.

These few villages give a flavour of the range of sites that become deserted in Gloucestershire – the remaining evidence and the documentary details available.

References

Baldwyn, R.C. and H.E. O’Neil 1958.A Medieval Site at Chalk Hill, Temple Guiting, Gloucestershire, 1957’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 77: 61-65.

Beresford, M.W. and J.K. St. Joseph 1979. Medieval England: An Aerial Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 16-17.

Dunning, G.C. 1949. ‘Report on the Medieval Pottery from Selsley Common, near Stroud’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 68: 30-44.

Dyer, C. 1982. ‘Deserted Medieval Villages in the West Midlands’, Economic History Review 35: 19-34.

Elrington, C.R. and K. Morgan 1965. ‘Lower Lemington’, in C.R. Elrington (ed.) A History of the County of Gloucester. Volume 6: 216-220. London: Oxford University Press.

Franklin, P. 1993. The Taxpayers of Medieval Gloucestershire. Stroud: Alan Sutton.

Hall, J.M. 1889-90. ‘Sevenhampton’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 14: 328-355.

Herbert, N.M. 1972. ‘Tidenham including Lancaut’, in C.R. Elrington and N.M. Herbert (eds) A History of the County of Gloucester. Volume 10: 50-79. London: Oxford University Press.

Jurica, A.R.J. 2001. ‘Sevenhampton’, in N.M. Herbert (ed.) A History of the County of Gloucester. Volume 9: 166-187. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Parry, C. 1990. ‘A Survey of St James’s Church, Lancaut, Gloucestershire’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 108: 53-103.

Rawes, J.A. and J. Wills (eds) 1998.’ Archaeological Review No. 22’, Transactions of Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 116: 191-212: 208.

Rous, J. 1745. Historia Regum Angliae. Oxford

Rudder, S. 1779. A New History of Gloucestershire. Cirencester: S Rudder: 726.

Smith, A.H. 1964. The Place-Names of Gloucestershire Part 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, S.E. 1996. Taynton Parva Deserted Medieval Village. Its History and Archaeology. Lydney: Dean Archaeological Group Occasional Publication No. 2.

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