Complex settlement patterns – Quarrendon and Hardmead in Buckinghamshire

In the last post on aerial photographs Quarrendon was used as an example where you can clearly see the earthworks of the site on Google Earth but can also view a range of images on Unlocking Buckinghamshire’s Past website. This post we look in a little more detail at this and another site in Buckinghamshire at Hardmead. Both of these sites show the complexity of studying medieval settlement and matching village earthworks to documentary evidence. 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. Both of these sites have been extensively studies and excellent papers published in the Records of Buckinghamshire series. Readers are directed to these articles for the full story and excellent illustrations.


There are three separate areas of earthworks in this area which have been given the identifications of I, II, and III in the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted village and this has continued into the modern record. They probably all represent the dispersed settlement of Quarrendon within a regional mixture of villages, ‘ends’, hamlets and farmsteads (Everson 2001). There is also extensive evidence of a sixteenth and seventeenth-century country house and landscape gardens in between Quarrendon I and II, which is recorded as partly pulled down in 1666 (Everson 2001).  Close to this area is located the remains of the church of St Peter’s. This is known from at least the twelfth century, but has a potential earlier origin perhaps back to the seventh century (Everson 2001).

Quarrendon I is the eastern most part of the settlement evidence. It is linked with Quarrendon II via an east-west hollow way. The remains are clear and can be seen from the air and on the ground. Survey work at the site has shown that the settlement was perhaps four or five farmsteads clustered around a green (Everson 2001).

Quarrendon 1 earthworks in Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.
Quarrendon 1 earthworks in Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.

Quarrendon II lies 800m to the west of Quarrendon I.  There is some evidence that there was more settlement towards the west (Everson 2001). A hollow way runs west-east across to the site of the bridge across the stream. There is a triangular green to the south of the hollow way and around this are a cluster of four enclosures but they are not clearly defined. A watching brief close to the bridge over the stream at the site recovered a large quantity of pottery including a small amount of tenth to eleventh-century pottery (Everson 2001).

Quarrendon 2 earthworks in Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.
Quarrendon 2 earthworks in Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.

Quarrendon III is located nearly two kilometres to the north-east of the main sites at Quarrendon I and II. The earthworks are not as clear as the other two sites. However the nature of the settlement looks similar with small enclosures around a potential green.

Quarrendon 3 earthworks. Copyright Google Earth.
Quarrendon 3 earthworks. Copyright Google Earth.

All the taxation records only mention a single settlement. At Domesday Quarrendon is recorded with a minimum population of 28. It is assessed with an average payment in 1334. In 1524 there are 20 tax payers but by 1543 and 1563 there are only four households recorded.

The survey work at the site seemed to show that the settlements had been deserted by the time the country house is constructed in the mid sixteenth century (Everson 2001). As part of the depopulation of the settlement at Quarrendon I there seems to be one large property. There is evidence of conversion of much of the arable to pasture. By 1540 there had been created 960 acres of pasture (Everson 2001).  In 1636 Quarrendon was described as ‘anciently enclosed and depopulated’ (Everson 2001).

The Beresford’s Lost Villages website has continued the use of three separate areas at Quarrendon, although they should be considered as all part of the same settlement. It continues calling them DMVs as they is clear evidence of a deserted medieval settlement of a size larger than a hamlet, but they should all be considered as one settlement site, with Quarrendon III being a distant outlying element to the settlement.


In the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted medieval villages there are two separate sites, recorded as Hardmead I and II, and these are probably two parts of a polyfocal settlement (Sheail 1971). Hardmead I is the northernmost of the areas of the settlement, and hence given the name in a number of publications and the Beresford’s Lost Villages website as North End. Please note that in 1971 Beresford termed this the East End, but this seems to be in error (Beresford 1971).  Until the 1960s there were upstanding earthworks but the area has been heavily ploughed. These earthworks represented a range of crofts around a village green (Smith 1985).  A moated site was situated to the east which is suggested to be the main manor house site.  A survey and watching brief took place at the site between 1973-4 during levelling of the earthworks, and a number of trial trenches were also excavated (Smith 1985). Pottery from the site dated from the twelfth to nineteenth century. The church of Hardmead is located between the two sites.

Hardmead 1 (North End) ploughed-out earthworks. Copyright Google Earth.
Hardmead 1 (North End) ploughed-out earthworks. Copyright Google Earth.

Hardmead II is the southern most of the areas of the settlement, and hence given the name here South End. Please note that in 1971 Beresford termed this the West End, but this seems to be in error (Beresford 1971). Again until the 1960s there were upstanding earthworks but the area has been heavily ploughed.  A further moated site at this southern end was also associated with the site of the village (Smith 1985). When the moat was destroyed pottery dating from the eleventh/twelfth to fifteenth century was recovered.
Within the tax records Hardmead is always recorded as a single settlement. Hardmead is recorded in Domesday with a minimum population of 36. This is a large population for the area and the size of landholding is greater than the surrounding area. It has been suggested that a dependant village is also included within this assessment (Smith 1985).  In 1344 the settlement pays an average amount. By 1524 there are 22 people paying the Lay Subsidy and in 1603 80 communicants are recorded (Dyer and Palliser 2005).  A 1638 estate map shows that after enclosure there were many small tenant holdings that were scattered and probably uneconomic (Smith 1985). The northern area of Hardmead appeared to shrink but then remain occupied until the mid nineteenth century (Smith 1985).  In 1802 there are three farms, an old rectory and ten cottages in the parish. Five of the cottages were on the green, presumably here at the northern end of the site. It is suggested that the southern end of this settlement had gone out of use by the end of the fifteenth century (Smith 1985).


Beresford, M.W. 1971. ‘A Review of Historical Research (up to 1968)’, in M.W. Beresford and J.G. Hurst (eds.) Deserted Medieval Villages: Studies: 3-75. London: Lutterworth Press. 48-49

Dyer, A. and D.M. Palliser 2005. The Diocesan Population Returns for 1563 and 1603. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 363

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

Sheail, J. 1971. ‘County Gazetteers of Deserted Medieval Villages (known to 1968)’, in M.W. Beresford and J.G. Hurst (eds) Deserted Medieval Villages: Studies: 182-212. London: Lutterworth Press.

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


Sources – Google Earth and aerial photographs

One of the greatest resources for studying deserted settlements are aerial photographs. Unfortunately many of these images are copyrighted so are not reproduced here, but links are made to a number of excellent websites.

Aerial photographs offer an insight into the settlement layout and structure that can be hard to grasp from on the ground. They can be used to map the extent of sites and to look at the routeways connecting them to other local settlements. In the early days of deserted settlement exploration, one of the pioneers of aerial photography in England, JK St Joseph took many photographs for the Deserted Medieval Village Research Group, identifying new sites, and confirming possible sites listed by local contacts. Copies of his collection form the backbone of the Medieval Village Research Group Archive, but the originals are part of the Cambridge University Aerial Photographic Collection. Although these photographs are not available online, the catalogue can be searched to see which pictures are held and is available here. A simple search on the keywords ‘deserted medieval village’ reveals 10,093 hits! A number of the deserted medieval villages images appear in the publication ‘Medieval England: an aerial survey’ published by Beresford and St Joseph in 1979.

However St Joseph was not the first to use aerial photography to identify deserted villages. The earliest known aerial photograph of a deserted medieval village was that of Gainsthorpe published by OGS Crawford in 1925. The photograph had not been taken to identify a medieval settlement, but had been suggested as the location of a Roman camp (Crawford 1925). As with many of the nineteenth-century excavations at medieval settlements, investigators were seeking earlier periods, only to come up against the unknown world of medieval settlement archaeology. Luckily Crawford knew exactly what he was seeing and published it as the medieval settlement of Gainsthorpe.

Collections of aerial photographs are held by many organisations. As well as Cambridge University mentioned above, Historic England have a substantial collection of over 4 million photographs housed in Swindon. One of the online repositories of aerial photographs undertaken by Historic England is the Britain from Above website containing the Aerofilms collection of aerial photographs from 1919-1953. This can be searched online but does not contain many medieval settlements. Their collection can be viewed in person with a trip to Swindon.

Other local organisations also hold collections and several of these are becoming available online. Two excellent examples are Buckinghamshire County Council and Cornwall County Council. Unlocking Buckinghamshire’s Past is the online Historic Environment Record for the county. Included on the site are many aerial photographs – for example see the record for Quarrendon I. Here are several shots of the sites from the ground and from the air. Simply search for a sites and scroll down to the bottom of the records to see any aerial photographs they hold. The Cornwall site is called Flying Past and has a range of excellent black and white and colour photographs. These include the deserted sites of Trewortha and Brown Willy. There are other counties following suit and providing their own aerial photographs online.

And finally – there is Google Earth. This has revolutionised out access to instant full coverage of the UK. It allows landscapes to be viewed as a whole, rather than individual shots and from the comfort of our own armchair. The images mainly date from the early 2000s to the present day so do come with challenges, but they are now expanding with the digitisation of earlier photographs from 1945. Images vary in quality but many have clearly visible medieval settlement earthworks. The two examples below have already been mentioned above and images can be viewed and compared with those on Google Earth.

Part of the complex earthworks at Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.
Part of the complex earthworks at Quarrendon, Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.

The earthworks at Quarrendon shown above are part of a complex landscape that forms three distinct areas of earthworks. The features are showing as earthworks, and can be seen from the air due to the shadows that these cast. In areas were houses were made predominately of stone, the outlines of buildings can sometimes still be seen such as at Trewortha in Cornwall below.

Trewortha deserted settlement, Cornwall. Copyright Google Earth.
Trewortha deserted settlement, Cornwall. Copyright Google Earth.

Whilst on most occasions sites are visible due to their existence as earthworks, sometimes these features may have been destroyed and ploughed flat. These features will be hidden for most of the year. They may show when the field has been recently ploughed and different colours of soil are visible such as at Cowlam below.

Ploughed-out remains of Cowlam village visible as soil marks. Copyright Google.
Plough-out remains of Cowlam village visible as soil marks. Copyright Google.

Other times crops growing on the field may show the remnants of the settlement remains such as at Lillingstone Dayrell below were the ditches of the settlement are showing as darker green as the crop has more access to water and is growing for longer, growing taller and ripening later.

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

And here lies one of the issues with Google Earth. Most of the images are from the last ten years. Since their initial identification, many deserted settlements have been ploughed-out, flattened and built over. Where a site was photographed by St Joseph or other early flyers, Google Earth may now show no indication of features and the site may have completely vanished. So in this digital age when we can visit our front door and street via Google, we cannot always gain clarity of life in the middle ages. Until there is greater mapping and digitisation of the earlier aerial photographs, we will still need to get up out of our armchairs to visit the archives to view this wonderful resources and its insight into the form and structure of these early settlements. And that is no bad thing.


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

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

Local journals online

This is not an exhaustive list but below you will find a number of the local archaeology journals that have provided free online access to their back-run. Sometimes this is housed on their own website, for some very early additions it may be at an online archive, and for a number it can be found through the excellent Archaeology Data Service website (which also contains much more of value as well).

Archæologia Cantiana (Kent Archaeological Society) Volumes 1 (1858) to 133 (2013)

Reports and Transactions of the Berkshire Archaeological and Architectural Society 1878 to 1883

Quarterly Journal of the Berkshire Archaeological and Architectural Society Volumes 1 (1889) to 3 (1895)

Berks, Bucks, and Oxon Archaeological Journal Volumes 1 (1895) to 34 (1930)

Berkshire Archaeological Journal Volumes 35 (1931) to 70 (1980)

Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Volumes 1 (1876) to 126 (2008)

Records of Buckinghamshire currently only volumes 1, 10, 11, 12, 17, 19, 25

Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire Society Volumes 1 (1848) to 148 (1999)

Cornish Archaeology Volumes 1 (1962) to 38 (1999)

Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Volumes 1 (1879) to 29 (1907)

Transactions of the Devonshire Association Volumes 1 (1862) to 52 (1920)

Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society. Only some volumes between 2 (1878) and 41 (1920)

Hampshire Field Club & Archaeological Society Annual Report 2004 to 2013

Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Volumes 1 (1855) to 78 (2004)

London Archaeologist Volumes 1 (1968) to 13 (2012)

Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society First series Volumes 1 (1860) to 6 (1890)

Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society Second Series Volumes 1 (1905) to 60 (2009)

Northamptonshire Archaeology Volumes 9 to 29 (2001)

Oxoniensia Volumes 1 (1936) to 74 (2009)

Somerset Archaeology and Natural History: the proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society Volumes 3 (1852) to 10 (1860)

Transactions of the Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society    One free download per year Volumes 1 (1959) to 46 (2013)

Surrey Archaeological Collections Volumes 1 (1858) to 96 (2011)

Sussex Archaeological Collections Volumes 137 (1999) to 149 (2012)

Sources – archaeological sites and information

Following on from earlier posts back in April we continuing looking at the sources available to study deserted medieval villages. This week we look at the sources of archaeological information – some online repositories as well as the likely locations for publications. These are excellent ways of finding out if there are any deserted medieval settlements close to where you live.

National records

Historic England (formally English Heritage) maintains a list of archaeological sites and finds, compiled from various sources including old Ordnance Survey Records, past excavations, Scheduled Ancient Monuments and archives of various groups – such as the Medieval Village Research Group (see post from May). In the past this was known as the National Monuments Record and this name has been maintained by the Beresford’s Lost Villages website, although it is now know as the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE). All of this material is maintained at the Historic England Archive at Swindon. However much of the material can be searched online and allows basic details to be gathered. Pastscape is one easy way of accessing this data. You can search by place-name, by county and even by site type – for most cases, deserted medieval villages are classed under the site type – deserted settlements. A search on this term today revealed 3734 results. But a word of caution – not all deserted settlements may be classed in such a way so this may not reveal ALL deserted settlements listed on the NRHE. Also not all of these will be medieval villages – some may be prehistoric settlements that have been classed as deserted settlements.

First page of the results screen for a search on Pastscape for site type deserted settlement
First page of the results screen for a search on Pastscape for site type deserted settlement

For a way into seeing the sites that are listed as deserted this is a useful starting place. For each individual site listed there will be a variety of accompanying information – some maybe a small mentioned of why a deserted settlement has been suggested (see Stantifield Ash example below), others a much more detailed look at the information known about the site or excavations that have been carried out (see the example of Monument 204534 below).

Simple record for Stanfield Ash from the first page of results for a search on 'deserted settlement'
Simple record for Stanfield Ash from the first page of results for a search on ‘deserted settlement’

Here there is very little detail to the record. It gives the possible location of a deserted medieval village and links to references to the source of the information but little more. To access this record directly click here: Stanfield Ash. To find more you would need to look at the references – with two of these being in local journals – see more on this below.

Monument xxxx from the first page of the 'deserted settlement' research results. Here listing information about the discovery a evidence for deserted settlement.
Monument 204534 from the first page of the ‘deserted settlement’ research results. Here listing information about the discovery and evidence for deserted settlement.

This record is an example of the complexity of studying deserted medieval settlements. Although clear evidence of settlement has been found – it is simply known as Monument 204534 on the record as it is still unclear as to the name of the settlement in the medieval period – and the entry suggests it may have been a village referred to as Barewe or Bergh in medieval records. To see the full record on Pastscape click here: Monument 204534.

Pastscape though is just one of the many sources of data. There is also more than one way to access this data. An excellent resource, also provided by Historic England is Heritage Gateway. This searches across both national and local records, so allows multiple searches all at once. This includes Pastscape but also the National Heritage list which includes listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments, Historic Photographs of England, The National Monuments Record excavation index, and over 60% of the local Historic Environments Records from across the country (see below). Again this can be searched on place-name, county or site type basis – and this time the site type can be searched as ‘deserted settlement’ or found using the categories Domestic/Settlement/Deserted Settlement. Funnily though – a search on the same day via Heritage Gateway on the term deserted settlement only reveals 2585 results, 1149 less than the same search direct on Pastscape….

The results page for a search on 'deserted settlement' on Heritage Gateway.
The results page for a search on ‘deserted settlement’ on Heritage Gateway.

Of course these are all just starting points for information and further investigation of the sources listed and other data repositories is needed. These online catalogues give a flavour of the data held by these institutions, but not its entirety. This is particularly the case with the local Historic Environments Records.

Local records

Each county and local authority across the country has a local list of known archaeology in their area. This is usually called the Historic Environment Record, although some counties still use the older term Sites and Monuments Record. These are often based within the local county offices, but some have been delegated to other organisations. Other bodies such as the National Trust and the National Parks also maintain their own records. As all of these records are independent the format of each record does differ, but many of these can be search via Heritage Gateway, or have their own online search facility. To find the local record closest to you see this list – which also indicates whether they can be searched on Heritage Gateway or through their own website. A similar level of detail for the sites is listed as we have already seen from Pastscape, but you should always contact the relevant office to visit to look at their full record which may well be much more detailed than that given online.

Local archaeological journals

Many studies of deserted medieval villages have been published in local archaeological journals. These include early attempts at listing all identified sites such as Maurice Beresford’s lists of Warwickshire and Yorkshire villages (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954), or William Hoskin’s villages of Leicestershire (1946). They are often the source of excavation reports and site-specific studies such as the work of Philip Rahtz at Upton in Gloucestershire. Many of these publications are appearing online, free to download and a list of currently available ones will appear in an upcoming blog.

This blog has just given a flavour of the material that can be searched from the comfort of your own home, and shows the variety of data now available to all.


Beresford, M.W. 1950. ‘The Deserted Villages of Warwickshire’, Transactions of the Birmingham and Midlands Archaeological Society 66: 49-106.

Beresford, M.W. 1951. ‘The Lost Villages of Yorkshire, Part I’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 37: 474-91.

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

Beresford, M.W. 1953. ‘The Lost Villages of Yorkshire, Part III’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 38: 215-40.

Beresford, M.W. 1954. ‘The Lost Villages of Yorkshire, Part IV’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 38: 280-309.

Hoskins, W.G. 1946. ‘The Deserted Villages of Leicestershire’, Transactions of Leicestershire Archaeological Society 22: 241-64.