In 1968 there were 2263 DMVs…..

Currently research is progressing on the various lists of DMVs within the Medieval Village Research Group Archive. In the 1971 publication ‘Deserted Medieval Villages’ edited by Maurice Beresford and John Hurst the Gazetteer of deserted villages known upto 1968 recorded a total of 2263 villages, split into county lists. Also in the book in a chapter reviewing the historical research into deserted villages Beresford provides a summary of the number of deserted villages per county (Beresford 1971: 35). This highlighted areas which needed further research as well as those counties where a considerable number of villages had already been identified. It has only recently come to my attention when I have been trying to reconcile which villages were added to this gazetteer at a later date, that the listed number of villages per county does not match the number of sites actually listed in the gazetteer. Possibly by luck the total number of villages on the gazetteer is still the same – the total is still 2263, just not quiet in the same counties as suggested – see the hand-edited table below…….

county table editted
Table from Beresford (1971:35) showing the errors in numbers of DMVs in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Oxfordshire and the North Riding of Yorkshire


Minor errors but these numbers were carried through on many tables in the Medieval Village Archive when plotting the changing numbers of villages…..

Handwritten list of accepted DMVs per county from the Medieval Village Research Group Archive (Copyright Medieval Settlement Research Group)

Here Cambridge is still listed as having 17 recorded DMVs in 1968 when there were only 16 listed and Cornwall as having 8 when 11 were listed.

Just one example where information entered the public domain and from then on was repeated without simple cross checking – it has taken me a number of years to spot this and I have been working with the gazetteer for over 7 years!


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


Riseholme DMV

As part of the Medieval Settlement Research Group weekend we went to look at the remains of Riseholme deserted village to the north of Lincoln as the last part of the conference. Risholme Hall and the surrounding grounds are owned by the University of Lincoln and have been converted into University buildings and training facilities. The Hall itself dates from the 19th century (rebuild of an earlier structure) and the area around the hall has been landscaped including the creation of a lake to the south of the hall. Further to the south, across the lake are the remains of the deserted village.

Riseholme DMV from Riseholme Hall
Riseholme DMV from Riseholme Hall looking south across the lake

The remains of the village have been investigated on a number of occasions. Survey and excavation at the site were conducted in 1954 and 1955 (Thompson 1960), and a fuller and more detailed survey was undertaken by the RCHME in 1990s (Everson et al 1991). On the ground the earthworks are still visible and some of the pattern of the settlement can be easily discerned. A hollow way crosses the site from the southwest in a north-easterly direction. On either side of this are a number of crofts and tofts. Those to the south of the hollow way are more regular in appearance but this may be due to the northern ones being affected by upcast from the creation of the lake. This would suggest some form of planning in the layout of the settlement.

Looking east along the hollow way at Riseholme DMV

The site of Riseholme village is recorded as being ruined in 1602 and the church (located near the hall) had also suffered by this point. This was the end of a slow decline as there were fewer than 10 households recorded in 1428. The excavation at the site concentrated on one of the possible house sites along the hollow way (called House 4) and the site of a well. The house excavation located evidence of a structure – in some places indicated by the presence of walling, in others the presence of robber trenches. The evidence suggested that there were two rooms in the building, one had a stone floor and the other a mortar floor. Pottery recovered from under the floor and walls suggested a thirteenth century date for construction, and a coin of Edward I along with the absence of later pottery have suggested a fourteenth century abandonment.

View of the area of the excavated house at Riseholme DMV

The excavation of the well was halted when the water level was reached but no pottery later than fourteenth century was recovered. In the report on the excavations only 13 sherds of pottery are listed and it is unclear how much pottery was recovered in total from the excavations and this would be well worth revisiting to establish if such a clear distinction can be made with no later pottery discovered.

The site at Riseholme is complex. The neat earthworks of the village visible today may not be the only settlement at the site. These are some distance from the church, next to the hall. This is assumed to be the location of the medieval church. Earthworks do show hollow ways linking the village area to the church and a possible grange site to the east. There are suggestions therefore that there was another part of the medieval settlement located close to the church and hall site – possibly the medieval manorial centre of the estate.

This is a site which in many ways is a ‘typical’ DMV – neat hollow way with house plots either side – but dig a little deeper and the story becomes more complex. It would be an ideal site to reinvestigate to review the site as a whole, in its landscape, and to try to establish the true settlement development of the area.


Everson, P., C. Taylor and C. Dunn 1991. Change and Continuity: Rural Settlement in North-West Lincolnshire. London: HMSO.

Thompson, F.H. 1960. The deserted medieval village of Riseholme, near Lincoln. Medieval Archaeology 4: 95-108.


MSRG Spring Conference in Lincoln

Over the weekend I attended the Medieval Settlement Research Group Spring Conference in Lincoln. This event was organised by Carenza Lewis – now Professor for the Public Understanding of Research at the University. It took as its focus a review of work done in Currently Occupied Rural Settlements (CORS) in Eastern England. Most of this work originated in Carezna’s work with Access Cambridge, but was then taken, and expand by the many different communities that had been involved. So both the Saturday and Sunday were a mix of local people presenting their own projects, results and challenges as well as the ‘professional’ workers on the subject. The professional here is in quote marks – not to be derogatory to this group of people but to emphases the high quality and professional presentations made by all the community groups. Nearly all sticking to time, all well supported by very good visual aids and all clear and audible to a large lecture theatre. They are all to be congratulated on their work and show what a blurred line exists between amateur and professional.


I am not going to summarise all the work these groups have done here as that would be a real disservice to the many insights they gave at the conference but here are the groups that presented and the links to their websites were many of their materials can be freely accessed.


Sharnbrook Local History Group


West Wickham & District Local History Group –


Pirton Local History Group –


Great Bowden Heritage and Archaeology –

Lutterworth Fieldworkers –


Binham Local History Group –


Bingham Heritage Trails Association


Nayland with Wissington Conservation Society –

North Yorkshire

Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology group –

All of these groups had undertaken the technique of 1x1m test pits throughout the villages trying to locate finds (mostly pottery) to plot the development of their settlements. Although each settlement paints a slightly different picture, one overarching theme seems to be a decline in activity in most (but not all) settlements in the 15th- 16th centuries (well a reduction in the pottery that was recovered). This could be explained by issues of the post-black death period and I for one are looking forward to Carenza’s paper on this that will be appearing soon in Antiquity. She presented the issues surrounding this idea and the nature of the evidence on the Saturday afternoon.

This test pit methodology has been rolled out a numerous villages across the country and the tight control on the method and the consistent approach to having one pottery specialist look at the pottery does help comparing one settlement with the next. What would be really interesting is to see if this methodology produced similar results in deserted settlements – digging in the back plots of medieval houses long since gone – does the pottery assemblages here also see a decline? Of course many of the deserted settlements are not necessarily deserted until later on – and any sampling strategy of sites to be chosen would have to look at the variety of dates and possible reasons for desertion, and so some deserted sites may mirror some of the CORS sites and show a revival in the 17th century. But perhaps a DURS project (Deserted Unoccupied Rural Settlement Project) may be an interesting addition to the CORS project…..

Also tackled over the weekend were issues of the development of settlements and field systems. Looking at ‘persistent’ places and the added value of Portable Antiquities Scheme data was Adam Daubney, the role building survey can play in helping understand complex landscape development was presented by Jeremy Lake of Historic England, looking at evidence for Middle Saxon development and settlement on the edges of existing settlements were Duncan Wright and Richard Mortimer, place-names and settlement development was tackled by Richard Jones and Susan Oosthuizen looked at the origin of open field systems and suggesting a twelfth century date for the classic three-field system.

2016-04-30 14.54.34
Excellent opening slide of Richard Jones’ talk


All in all a very interesting weekend with plenty to ponder. An although the focus was clearly on surviving settlements, all the papers presented also brought forward new questions to answer on deserted settlement as well. You cannot study one with the other. The final part of the weekend though directly tackled this issue – with a visit to the deserted village of Riseholme, just outside Lincoln and this will be reflected on in the next post……

East Anglian Archaeology

Over the last couple of months a few new resources have become available online. This includes the out of print copies of East Anglian Archaeology – published since 1975 covering work across the wider landscape of East Anglia. Below are a few of the works that cover medieval settlement.

EAA 10, 1980: Fieldwork and Excavation on Village sites in Launditch Hundred, by Peter Wade-Martins

This report looks at the fieldwork undertaken over an area of Norfolk which includes over 40 settlements some of which had been deserted. The report includes the excavations at the deserted site at Grenstein. The village appears to be deserted in the fifteenth century. Twenty-six tofts were present at the site and one of these was excavated in 1965-66.

EAA 14, 1982: Norfolk: Trowse, Horning, Deserted Medieval Villages, Kings Lynn, by B. Cushion, A. Davison, F. Healy, M. Hughes, H. Richmond, E. Rose, P. Wade-Martins et al.

Eight of the best deserted medieval settlements in Norfolk are described. This includes: Pudding Norton, Roudham, Godwick, Waterden, Great Palgrave, Egmere, Bixley, Little Bittering…….

EAA 44, 1988: Six Deserted Villages in Norfolk, by Alan Davison

A further six villages are considered in this volume following on from the oneabove. Rougham and Beachamwell, are sites with surviving earthworks; Letton and Kilverstone, which had earthworks in 1946 when aerial photographs were taken; and Holkham and Houghton, which disappeared under parkland in the 17th and 18th centuries.

EAA 46, 1989: The Deserted Medieval Village of Thuxton, Norfolk, by Lawrence Butler and Peter Wade-Martins

Two house sites and the front of a toft were excavated at this good example of a linear village site. Areas of the surrounding parish were also fieldwalked and the site is compared to that at Grenstein mentioned above.

Medieval Village Research Group Archive visit 2

At the end of March we managed to go back to the Historic England Archive in Swindon to continue work on the Medieval Village Research Group Archive – see this earlier post for an outline of the archive.

This time we completed  the review of the evidence for deserted sites in the counties that have been completed in full on the website to date. Back last year we had managed to review the counties up to Durham and on this trip it included the sites in Durham, Essex, Gloucestershire and East Riding. This includes checking information on the sites listed on the 1968 Gazetteer and seeing if there is anything else to be added, either from within the box files on each county or written on the individual index cards for each village. Some times these show the debate surrounding including a site on the Gazetteer or over the location. They also record information on damage to sites through the period the archive was active from the 1950s-1980s.

This review of the evidence for these counties has brought to light some new information on a number of sites that will be reviewed in due course, added to the website and reported here. As well as the review of the sites listed on the 1968 Gazetteer, this visit also recorded any new sites that did not make it onto this Gazetteer so that in the future the website can be brought up to date.

As well as the counties that have been completed for the website, we also managed to review counties Hampshire-Kent. Currently the full descriptions for all the villages in Hampshire are being written by the project and should appear in the summer. These counties were viewed to see if extra information was available on any of the settlements and to record settlements not on the 1968 Gazetteer.

As well as reviewing the county evidence, one other task is to look at how the lists of deserted settlements have evolved over time. On a country-wide scale there have been two nationally published lists of deserted settlements – that published in 1954 by Maurice Beresford in his Lost Villages of England, and that published in 1971 in Deserted Medieval Villages – known as the 1968 Gazette and this forms the basis of the current version of our website. But buried within the archive are other lists. Some of these were published as separate county lists within the Annual Reports. In 1977 a new map of deserted settlements was published by the Group – but no Gazetteer accompanied this – although different dated lists of settlements do exist. These are often hand edited earlier lists – for example the list for Gloucestershire is that published in 1965, with hand-added additions and deletions.

The first page of the 1965 list of deserted villages in Gloucestershire – with hand addition – this acted as the list for this county for the 1977 map. Courtesy of Medieval Settlement Research Group


From these lists it should be possible to produce the 1977 Gazetteer – to sit along side the original 1968. In 1977 it was noted that the total of deserted villages had increased to 2813 – we have yet to work out if these lists come to this amount. There is also a final list of deserted settlements per county from when the archive was closed in 1988 – so another Gazetteer should be possible – both of these are a work in progress.

This is just a short report on the work of a few days of work that now needs to be followed by a few weeks of cataloguing and sorting….. Thanks once again to staff at Historic England for supporting access to the archive.


Medieval Settlement Research 30

The 2015 issue of Medieval Settlement Research appeared late in the year and here are two of the highlights which are relevant to deserted settlement studies…..

Three Medieval Village sites in Suffolk by Anthony Mustchin, Julia Cussans and John Summers

This article reviews the evidence from excavations in three Suffolk villages ahead of development. The results highlight that all three villages developed in a similar manner, as a linear development along a pre-existing road. They all then show a cessation of occupation activity in the fourteenth century. These three sites show the value that can be gained from small area excavation in existing villages.

Castle Carlton, Lincolnshire by Duncan Wright, Oliver Creighton, Michael Fradley and Steven Trick

This paper reports of the topographic and geophysical survey of this motte and bailey castle site and its surrounding landscape including the failed town development. The survey showed that the town and castle were not contemporaneous developments and in quiet distinct locations. The 1220s town was formed away from an existing extramural settlement that had formed at the castle site. The paper examines the documentary record for the site and the many confusions which lie within. The survey of the settlement area revealed possible platforms and hollow ways. The survey also found settlement evidence to the west of the castle. On the whole this picture provides a wonderful overview of the attempt to develop this town in the thirteenth century but also shows how our perceived understanding of sites can be changed with closer investigation.


Remember the past volumes of Medieval Settlement Research and The Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Reports can be found at the Archaeology Data Service:





Medieval Archaeology 2015

The new volume of Medieval Archaeology (the journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology) has now been published and here is just a quick mention of things medieval settlement related…..

David Griffiths – Medieval Coastal Sand Inundation in Britain and Ireland. Medieval Archaeology 59: 103-121.

An interesting paper that looks at the impact of coastal inundations around the country including a number of examples were settlements are deserted (or drastically shrink) as a result such as Ravenserodd in Yorkshire and Dunwich in Suffolk. These two examples deserted due dramatic storm events but others were deserted from the result of sand being blown into settlements, fields and then being abandoned such as Kenfig in South Wales. It also tackles the methodology surrounding the investigation of such sites.

Ben Jervis, Chris Briggs and Matthew Tompkins – Exploring Text and Objects: Escheators’ Inventories and Material Culture in Medieval English Rural Households. Medieval Archaeology 59: 168-192.

This paper uses a range of metalwork that has been excavated across central England to explore the value and meaning of objects to a non-elite section of the population from the late 13th century to the 16th century. Many of these finds come from deserted villages such as Great Linford in Buckinghamshire, West Cotton in Northamptonshire and Seacourt in Oxfordshire.

Eric Johnson – Moated sites and the production of authority in the Eastern Weald of England. Medieval Archaeology 59: 233-254.

This paper takes a case study of moated sites in the eastern Weald to examine the role they may have played in displays of inequality in the minds of the medieval population. As well as linking through to interpretations of moats for defence or status it also directly draws on the ‘Battle for Bodiam’ which has been raging in castles studies since the 1990s.

Neil Christie and others – Medieval Britain and Ireland in 2014. Medieval Archaeology 59: 290-336.

Howes – Cambridgeshire – A short report on excavations at a small deserted medieval settlement near Cambridge which discovered ditched plots, pits, wells and other features. The area investigated declined in the 15th century and occupation stopped in the 16th century although the area was never fully deserted.