The 1988 list of deserted medieval villages

This is the first post in a long while – other projects have got in the way of this website. Since the launch of the website, the further development of the site has had to be fitted into a hectic schedule of other work. Now time has become available – the first task to complete was the review of the lists of deserted medieval settlements within the Medieval Village Research Group (MVRG) archive. As a recap the last post had reported on the list from 1977 that could be formed from lists within the archive, to create the Gazetteer that was never published alongside a map. This had brought the total of known sites to 2813.

When the MVRG archive was closed in 1987 several hundred queries were processed and the numbers of these recorded (Wilson 1987). No grand total was ever published for the number of deserted settlements known at this point. However in the archive, for most counties, there are lists of the accepted sites as of 1988. Sometimes this is an earlier list that has been hand amended, and on most occasions this is a freshly typed and labelled list for 1988.

Between 1987 and 1988 Maurice Beresford and John Hurst reviewed 2474 ‘query’ cards that had been in the archive. These queries had been compiled over the years but had not been easy to resolve as definite sites or to be dismissed. Of these queries about 10% (241 sites) were added to the list of confirmed deserted sites, 21% (532 sites) were added to the list of shrunken sites and 69% (1701 of the sites) were still unresolved.

Alongside these separate county lists of settlement, there is a lists of counties and the number of deserted villages recorded at various points of time. On this list there are a number of columns including the total number new sites added upto 1986, the total number of queries in 1987, total number of sites in 1988, and the total on the actual lists. These can be a confusing mix of rises and declines in the numbers of villages recorded in each year, for each county. As with the 1977 list not all the county totals match the number of villages on each county list.  However with certain decisions and observations it is possible to provide a Gazetteer for 1988 and to come to a grand total of 3199 accepted sites by 1988 – a rise of 386.

Deserted villages identified by 1988 – red dots represent villages known upto 1977, green dots are new in 1988.

Some counties had seen no or very little change, others had seen more notable increases. This is was partly due to local studies carried out in some areas.

The table from Beresford and Hurst (1971) with the county totals, amended with the totals from the 1977 map, and the totals from the 1988 lists

Also in the archive – noted on the title of the folder – there is a reputed 1993 list of deserted villages. This is well after the time the archive was closed and transferred to English Heritage (now Historic England), so the original of this folder must have been a later deposition. However when this was closely studied, it turned out to be the 1988 lists again with a few textural hand edits to make clear some poor original typing.

So for now – were have the three Gazetteers of sites – the original from 1968 (published in 1971), that created to produce the map in 1977, and finally this list from 1988 – totals 0f 2263, 2813 and 3199. The next real move is to look forward to creating a 2018 list – fifty years after the original. The full lists of sites from 1977 and 1988 will be made available next year so watch this space….


Wilson, D. 1987. Finalising the M.V.R.G archive. Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report 2: 8-9.