After a busy summer of excavations and a busy start to the teaching semester, there has been little time to reflect on deserted medieval settlements directly on this blog – although they are featuring weekly in the teaching here at the University of Hull.
A week ago Historic England published the ‘Heritage at Risk Register’ for 2015. This lists those sites that are most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development. This year the register includes more data so that you can search for different types of monument. You can search the register here:
This year’s report has some positives. There are less heritage assets on the register in 2015 than there were in 2014 – the risks to the sites that have been removed from the register have been reduced through a number of different schemes. In total there are 5534 sites on the register in 2015 and although many have been removed, new ones have been added this year.
The additional information on the types of monuments at risk has shown that the archaeological sites at most risk are ancient burial mounds with 854 listed (15.6% of the register). A quick search on the register found 7 deserted settlements at risk and a total of 40 medieval settlement remains at risk. Also associated with medieval settlement – there many parish churches on the register.
The risks that sites face is varied. One of the deserted settlements on the register is Grimston, East Yorkshire (for more on this site see Grimston). The main treat for this site is coastal erosion – situated on the heavily eroding Holderness coast. The main threat to the settlement of Blackaton in Devon is plant growth. Taynton Parva in Gloucestershire is threatened by animal burrowing.
The register though only considers those sites that are ‘designated’ – sites that warrant extra protection and appear on the National Heritage List for England. A quick search of this via Heritage Gateway finds that there are 408 deserted settlements that are classed as medieval in date. So there are many sites out there that may well be at risk but do not make it to the register. So it is good that so few deserted sites appear on the register but we must also be vigilant in assessing and recognising risk at sites that are not protected and look at ways to help landowners appreciate and manage their assets for future generations.