Beresford’s Lost Villages website – the progress so far

The Beresford’s Lost Villages website was officially launched a year ago. This blog reviews the last year on the website, and reflects on the progress that has been made in providing full descriptions for all the deserted medieval villages listed in 1968. It also looks forward to the work to still be done….

Deserted Medieval Villages as known in 1968 (Beresford and Hurst 1971)
Deserted Medieval Villages as known in 1968 (Beresford and Hurst 1971)

When the website launched in 2014 we had completed the full descriptions of 404 villages from the 2263 listed on the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted medieval villages (Beresford and Hurst 1971). We also presented a further 80 settlements in Berkshire which had been identified since 1968, as an example of what could be done. Of these 484 sites, 281 have been classed as Deserted Medieval Villages, 60 as Deserted Medieval Hamlets, 48 as shrunken, 12 as migrated, 12 as shifted and 71 as doubtful by the website. This refinement of the Gazetteer, viewing truly deserted settlements against those that do continue in some form, and those we now see have no evidence of desertion is beginning to clarify the picture of desertion. But of course this is still a dated picture – one from nearly 50 years ago. For Berkshire, the one county were an update has been attempted, there has been a 186% increase in recorded settlements since 1968. However there was only a 30% increase of DMVs as classified by this website.

Deserted Medieval settlements showing the 1968 Gazetteer sites but also the classification of the deserted sites completed on the Beresford's Lost Villages website
Deserted Medieval settlements showing the 1968 Gazetteer sites but also the classification of the sites completed on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website

In total out of the 484 sites first listed with full descriptions by the website, 341 are still classed as deserted (70%). If you only consider the 404 villages from the 1968 Gazetteer, there are 81% remaining classified as deserted. Since the launch it has been possible to complete the descriptions for two more counties – Essex and Gloucestershire – we are now having to fit this in around other University commitments…… This has added a further 84 sites with full descriptions. Of these 47 are classed as DMVs, 12 as Deserted Medieval Hamlets, 4 as shrunken, 1 as migrated, 1 as shifted and 19 as doubtful so yet more refinement to the 1968 Gazetteer.

County 1968 DMV DMH Doubtful Shrunken Shifted Migrated
Bedfordshire 18 8 2 4 3 1
Berkshire 43 37 6 5
               additions 80 13 8 21 30 3 2
Buckinghamshire 56 34 8 7 1 4
Cambridgeshire 16 9 2 3 2
Cheshire 4 2 1 1
Cornwall 11 1 6 3 1
Cumberland 8 1 2 5
Derbyshire 33 19 6 5 1 2
Devonshire 15 6 5 3 1
Dorset 42 31 4 3 3 1
Durham 29 23 1 1 3 1
Essex 17 11 3 3
Gloucestershire 67 36 9 16 4 1 1
Yorkshire (East Riding) 129 97 15 9 6 1 1
Total 568 328 72 90 52 13 13

Of course the counties that have so far been tackled may not represent the full picture by the time the website is complete. Many of the counties that have full descriptions on the website fall in areas of diverse settlement patterns such as the area of the south-west with Devon and Cornwall complete. The counties tackled include six of the 15 counties identified in 1971 as requiring much further research. The results do show the relevance in reviewing the evidence, but also show the need to update the 1968 Gazetteer, often still used as the distribution map of deserted settlements in the country. On some occasions a slightly updated version (villages known up to 1977) is presented, but no published Gazetteer to accompany this exists.

Deserted Medieval Villages known up to 1977 (Aston 1985)
Deserted Medieval Villages known up to 1977 (Aston 1985)

And to the update, it is hoped that in the future we will be able to review all the evidence for deserted settlement in each county and produce a refined version of the maps of deserted settlement – but that will require funding and an application is being drafted as we speak – it would be wonderful to be able to publish an updated Gazetteer of deserted settlement in 2018 – the fiftieth anniversary of the original list…..

As to the website – how have people been using the site? Well this is always to hard to judge….. We are grateful to all those who have written in with corrections – wrong coordinates, parishes etc., and those who have pointed us towards published articles that have escaped our attention – we are constantly editing and updating the entries that at are visible. In total there have been over 2000 different visitors to the website (who have explored more than the front page), they have viewed over 27,000 pages and come from all around the world. Not surprisingly 92% of the users have been based in the UK, but 3% in the USA and visitors from many European countries such as Germany, Denmark, France and the Netherlands as well as more far flung destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Russia, India, Brazil and Japan. The most visited county page has been the East Riding of Yorkshire with 856 different page views. The second most viewed county is the Lindsey area of Lincolnshire. As for villages – unsurprisingly the most visited village page has been Wharram Percy (with 49 different page views), followed by Eske in the East Riding of Yorkshire (37 page views), Hound Tor in Devon (35 page views) and Quarrendon I in Buckinghamshire (34 page views). It is good to see that the site is being so widely used.

So the task in hand at the moment is to keep going, county by county to write the full descriptions for each village. This is no easy task. We are tackling them in alphabetical order but this does slow the process down when you are faced with one of the larger counties. We have just started to review the evidence for Hampshire and with 124 villages listed in 1968, this will take a while to complete. Here are the counties still to complete….

Hampshire 124
Herefordshire 11
Hertfordshire 44
Huntingdonshire 18
Isle of Wight 32
Kent 69
Lancashire 0
Leicestershire 67
Lincolnshire 220
Middlesex 0
Norfolk 148
Northamptonshire 82
Northumberland 165
Nottinghamshire 67
Oxfordshire 102
Rutland 13
Shropshire 9
Somerset 27
Staffordshire 22
Suffolk 23
Surrey 5
Sussex 41
Warwickshire 128
Westmorland 2
Wiltshire 104
Worcestershire 7
Yorkshire, North Riding 170
Yorkshire, West Riding 75
Total to go…. 1775

So we plod on – keep you eye on this blog for updates on how we are going along the way and hopefully Hampshire will appear with full descriptions before the summer……

The current state of play with writing full descriptions for each village on the 1968 Gazetteer
The current state of play with writing full descriptions for each village on the 1968 Gazetteer

References

Aston, M. 1985. Interpreting the Landscape. London: Batsford.

Beresford, M.W. and J.G. Hurst (eds) 1971. Deserted Medieval Villages: Studies. London: Lutterworth Press.

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