Midsomer Murders….. and deserted villages

Why Midsomer Murders? – All will be revealed in a moment…..

Over the summer of 2016 a trip to Dorset allowed a number of sites to be visited on the ground. One of the sites did not make it into the original Gazetteer of deserted sites from 1968. It was not that this site was unknown at this point – but would seemingly be a result of a decision not to include this and other similar sites – this will be a topic of the next post.

The site in question is Tyneham. Requisitioned by the army in 1943 for the preparations for D-Day it has remained abandoned since, but is now open to the public when the army range is not in use. Today, particularly during the summer months, it is a popular tourist hot spot.

This is not the only similar settlement to suffer such a fate – more below….. and a similar village formed the focus of a recent Midsomer Murders episode (The Village that Rose from the Dead), as local families compete for the recently returned settlement. Redevelopment opportunities create rivals of executive holiday apartments, an eco-village and heritage centre, competing for bids to take over the village. Needless to say, soon the village has seen death by: running over by a tank, cyanide poising and death by positioned snake bites (deserted settlements are apparently an excellent base for illegal tropical snake breading!). The title of the episode ‘The Village that Rose from the Dead’ gives an insight into the nature of the tale to be told, but the name of the village – Little Auburn – harks back to Goldsmith’s 1770 poem ‘The Deserted Village’ with the opening line ‘Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain’.

Tyneham in Dorset first appears on the Medieval Village Research Groups lists of deserted villages on the lists produced in 1988. It was not that sites such as these – modern abandonments of medieval villages, had not be known or considered earlier – it was just that they had not fitted into the traditional idea of a deserted medieval village, perhaps as many of these types of sites had been deserted less than 10 years before the founding of the Deserted Medieval Villages Research Group. Perhaps they thought that they would be returned to use in the near future…..

At Tyneham many of the houses are still standing, although some in better repair than others. The church and school are well maintained as information centres for the village.

The two most well-known of these recently abandoned villages are those of Tyneham in Dorset and Imber in Wiltshire, but other settlements suffered a similar fate. The Stanford training area in Norfolk saw at least six settlements vacated across a wide area to allow live ammunition practice from 1942. This is still a live practice range and therefore has limited public access although a number of churches do survive from the earlier settlements. The settlements include Buckenham Tofts (appears on 1968 list), Langford (appears on 1968 list), Stanford, Sturston (appears on 1968 list), Tottington and West Tofts.

All these sites are still contained within MOD land and so access is controlled – but visits are possible – Tyneham is the easiest and most accessible. For information about visiting these sites see:

Tyneham – https://www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/389942

Imber – http://www.imberchurch.org.uk/index.html

Edits to published sites

When the Medieval Village Research Group Archive was visited in March 2016 additional information on a number of sites was gathered. The following lists the edits made to the website from these records. Also the work on the 1977 list of deserted villages threw up some other errors on the website and these have also been corrected. Finally – thanks to a number of individuals who have emailed in with some corrections – and if any one spots anymore – please let us know!


We have also added references to CUCAP photos to a number of Durham sites that were viewed from archive – part of ongoing project to link photos now viewable on the CUCAP website….


Slingley – now classed as Doubtful as the card index file for this site showed the thorough process of consideration that suggested there is no physical and very little documentary evidence for the settlement and that this site had been identified due to the presence of an empty parish.


Newbold Saucey – corrected typo in grid reference SK765090

Whittington – Longitude and Latitude were missing – now added.


Adewelle – This had been changed from  TF grid reference to a TA grid reference – it is actually a TF reference but it was the grid reference that was placing it in the wrong county. This has been altered and will be discussed in further detail when the full description for the site is written. This change now places the site in Kesteven, not Lindsey.

Audby – This was misspelt in 1968 and should be Autby

Kingersby – This was misspelt in 1968 and should be Kingerby

Hungerton – corrected typo in grid reference SK873302


Seaton Delavel – corrected typo in grid reference NZ320763


Copcourt – corrected typo in grid reference SP707010


Heathcote – error in the Longitude and Latitude resulted this being placed on the maps in the sea off the Isle of Man!

Yorkshire West Riding

Battersby – correction to letters in original grid reference – should be SD not SE

Huddleston – corrected typo in grid reference SE465340

Humberton – this appears in the Gazetteer as located in the West Riding. However it is actually located in the North Riding.


Missing sites

During the resolution of the 1977 list of deserted sites it has become clear that a site from the original Gazetteer were omitted from the initial launch of the website. This will be added once the counties are reviewed and data added :


Thorpe – TL 899906


There are a number of other corrections that being made website as we go along and please do get in touch if you spot any more issues!

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.

The 1977 map of deserted villages

After the publication of Deserted Medieval Villages in 1971, the listing of deserted sites continued. This managed to fill in some of the gaps in counties that had received less attention in the early years of research – for example lists were made of Lancashire and Middlesex which had no known deserted settlements in 1968. This listing was carried out by the Medieval Village Research Group with active help from local volunteers and some were published in the Annual Reports. The frequency of these declined in the later 1970s and work on listing and checking of sites reduced due to other commitments.

In 1977 a new distribution map was drawn and published in a number of places. Publishers had been pressing for an update to the ‘Deserted Medieval Villages’ book but this was not possible. This increased the total of known deserted sites from 2263 to 2813. Unfortunately no complete gazetteer of these sites was ever published and a consolidated list was never actually produced. To come to an understanding of the data that went into creating this map, you have to delve deep into the archives of the Medieval Village Research Group. What is available is a list of notes discussing county by county the additions and subtractions from the original gazetteer, a list of the totals of known settlements by county, and a folder containing lists of villages per county labelled as the 1977 map. You may think it would be a straight forward task recreating the list of settlements known in 1977 from these sources but it is never that easy! It is clear the notes on the revisions to the lists is not complete – the total for the counties do not match that on the table of the totals for each county – in fact it is over 100 sites shy of the 2813 total. The totals for each county seem to compound errors that had been made calculating the total in each county in 1968 (see earlier post). Some of these errors have been removed, others have not. And finally the lists of deserted sites in each county are of a variety of dates. None of them take as their basis the 1968 Gazetteer. Some take one of the earlier versions of the county lists of settlements. So for some these reach back to original lists from the 1950s and early 1960s. In other cases, where considerable work has been carried out these lists will date to the 1970s. All of these lists include a number of additions and corrections by hand, but no clear indication of when these were added. It would seem that some of them are additions that made it onto the 1977 map, in other cases it is clear some of them are later additions otherwise the overall total of sites would surpass 2813 by a couple of dozen.

Deserted Medieval Villages known in 1977. Red dots the sites from 1968 (with no edits), green dots – new and amended sites upto 1977


So after much detective work, matching all three sources, analysis of handwriting to see which additions were added to lists at the same time, a 1977 Gazetteer has been created. In the future it will become publically available – when the next step is complete – a 1988 Gazetteer that may also be possible from the archive contents. But for the time being here is the updated map and the total lists per county. What you may notice is that it has been impossible to reach the total of 2813 – and this is down to the errors in county totals in 1971. What has been possible is to reach 2811 – the best we can do, and as accurate as possible! So from now on we will refer to a total of 2811 known sites in 1977…..

County table with 1977
The county total lists from Beresford and Hurst (1971) with the corrections made to the totals and the total number of sites known in 1977

Errors and corrections – 1968 Gazetteer

The review of the list of deserted sites continues to throw up more strange occurrences with the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted sites. After the last post that discussed how the totals of deserted villages known in 1968 in each county did not match the totals listed in the Gazetteer we have now found that some errors and corrections with the Gazetteer spotted in 1972 had been forgotten by 1989…..

There are three versions of the publication by Maurice Beresford and John Hurst – Deserted Medieval Villages which contain the list of deserted medieval villages known in 1968 (Sheail 1971). The original edition was that published in 1971. However a reprint was commissioned in 1972. The Medieval Village Research Group took this opportunity to add a few corrections to the Gazetteer – mainly with the wrong two-letter codes being given for grid references, but also some numerical errors in grid references and some changes to the spelling of names. These corrections were listed in the 1972/1973 report (but without noting exactly what they changes were (Dyer 1973)). The final version of the book was a second edition in 1989. It had been hoped by the publisher that this would be a fully updated version of the book, but time did not allow so instead it was a reprint with a new Editor’s Introduction. However they went back to the original 1971 version and not the 1972 reprint – and so the errors have appeared once more……

Below is a list of the corrections that appeared in 1972 with a note of the change that has occurred. Most of these corrections are listed in the annual report but a few slipped through the next but have been picked up here. Beresford’s Lost Villages Website more by chance than planning had used the 1972 reprint for the source of the Gazetteer in the first place so the edits have appeared on the database. That is not to say that the 1972 version was still perfect – there were still occasions with the wrong letters and reversed numbers….. also below are the ones we have spotted so far…… This has included two entries that were corrected in 1972 (but the corrections were actually in error!).


Dyer, C. 1973. Medieval Village Research Group Report No.20/21.

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.

Corrections from 1972


Hillend                                  SP 466065 (Change in letters)

Seacourt                              SP 486075 (Change in letters)

Stroud                                  SP 444075 (Change in letters)

Tulwick                                 SU 413904 (Change in letters)

Whitley                                SP 442053 (Change in letters)



Birchill                                   SK 226707 (Error in number)



Beere, Great                      SS 690034 (Change in letters)



Afflington                            SY 972801 (Change in letters)

Hemsworth                        ST 970060 (Change in letters)



Braxted, Great                  TL 850155 (Change in letters)

Faulkbourne                      TL 800163 (Change in letters)

Wickham Bishops             TL 837120 (Change in letters)



Aston                                    ST 901991 (Change in letters)


Hants and Isle of Wight

Newtown                            SU 476638 (Change in grid reference)

St. Anastius by Wyke      SU 479300 (Change reveres eastings and northings)



Devereux                            Change in Spelling

Hentland                             Change in Spelling



Flaunden                             TQ 009988 (Change in letters)

Munden, Great                Change in Spelling

Stagenhoe                          TL 186227 (Change in letters)

Tiscott                                   SP 883178 (Change in letters)



Aldeby                                  SP 552987 (Change in letters)

Ringlethorp                        SK 776235 (Change in letters)

Starmore                             SP 583806 (Change in letters)

Whittington                        SK 486083 (Change in letters)



Bassingthorpe                   SK 966285 (Change in letters)

Cawthorpe                         TF 353956 (Error in numbers)

Darby                                    SE 878180 (Change in letters and error in number)

Fultnetby                            SK 098795 (Change in letters)

Sawcliffe                              Change in spelling

Somerby                              TA 061067 (Change in letters)

Sudwelle                             SK 990230 (Change in letters)

Swine Haven                      TA 395985 (Change in letters)



Boyland                                TM 225944 (Change in letters)

Semere                                Change in spelling

Thorpe                                 TL 946841 (Change in letters)

Threxton                             TF 885001 (Change in letters)



Belsay                                   NZ 085785 (Change in letters)

Bolam                                   NZ 092827 (Change in letters)

Budle                                    NU 159351 (Change in letters)

Bullocks Hall                       NU 245982 (Change in letters)

Clarewood                          NZ 018701 (Change in letters and error in number)

Debdon                                 Change in spelling

Evistones                             NY 830968 (Change in letters)

Fallodon                               Change in spelling

Fenrother                           Change in spelling

Hawick                                  NY 963826 (Change in letters)

Hollinghill                             Change in spelling

Monkridge                          NY 918912 (Change in letters)

Nesbit                                   Change in spelling (not listed in annual report)

Ray                                         NY 967856 (Change in letters)

Ross                                       NU 135370 (Change in letters)

Spindlestone                     NU 151332 (Change in letters)

Todburn                               NZ 120957 (Change in letters)



Currypool                            ST 227385 (Error in number, not listed in annual report)



Easton Bavents                 Change in spelling



Bracklesham                      SZ 805964 (Change in letters)



Fletchamstead                  SP 300773 (Error in number)

Watergall                             SP 425558 (Error in number)



Hartham                              Change in spelling

Norrington                          Change in spelling

Vasterne                             Change in spelling (not listed in annual report)

Washern                              Change in spelling (not listed in annual report)

Whelpley                             SU 231240 (Change in letters)



Poden                                   SP 125435 (Change in letters)


Yorkshire East Riding

Holm Archiepiscopi         Change in spelling

Newsome Nowthorne  TA 305268 (Error in number)


Yorkshire North Riding

Cawthorn                            SE 773891 (Change in letters)

Corburn                               SE 580590 (Change reveres eastings and northings)

Didderston                         SE 180080 (Error in number)

Kilton Thorpe                     NZ 693177 (Change in letters)

Leckby                                  Change in spelling

Martin                                  Change in spelling

Otterington, North          Change in spelling


Yorkshire West Riding

Gawthorpe                         SE 310440 (Error in number)

Hammerton                       SD 720537 (Change in letters)

Lotherton                            SE 450360 (Error in number)

Thorpe Stapleton             SE 340310 (Error in number)


Corrections by the website


Polingston                           SY 667953 (Change in letters)



Preswold                             SK 580216 (Change in letters)



Adewelle                             TA 060050 (Change in letters)

Fultnetby                            TF 098795 (Change in letters) back to original, changed in error 1972

Stocking                               SK 850465 (Change in letters)



Norton                                 TF 708010 (Change in letters)

Toimere                               TF 650070 (Change in letters)



Blagdon                                NZ 215772 (Error in number)

Buckenfield                        NZ 179978 (Change in letters)

Bullocks Hall                       NZ 245982 (Change in letters) back to original, changed in error 1972

Elyhaugh                              NZ 158998 (Change in letters)

Row                                       NZ 091996 (Change in letters)



Attington                             SP 700016 (Change in letters)

Puttes                                   SP 284020 (Change in letters)


Yorkshire, East Riding

Linton, East                         SE 800283 (Swapped with West Linton)

Linton, West                      SE 793280 (Swapped with East Linton)


Yorkshire, North Riding

Danby on Ure                    SE 171869 (Change in letters)

Didderston                         NZ 180080 (Change in letters)




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 http://slhg.org.uk/


West Wickham & District Local History Group – https://www.facebook.com/pages/West-Wickham-Big-Village-Dig/208527505966436


Pirton Local History Group – http://www.pirtonhistory.org.uk/


Great Bowden Heritage and Archaeology – http://www.greatbowdenheritage.btck.co.uk/

Lutterworth Fieldworkers – http://leicsfieldworkers.co.uk/currentwork/local-groups/lutterworth-fieldwork-group/


Binham Local History Group – http://www.binhampriory.org/BLHG.html


Bingham Heritage Trails Association  http://www.binghamheritage.org.uk/


Nayland with Wissington Conservation Society – http://www.naylandconservation.org.uk/index.html

North Yorkshire

Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology group – http://www.swaag.org/

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.