Currently completed counties – Buckinghamshire

Following on from the exploration of Bedfordshire in the last post, this week we look at Buckinghamshire, the next county where we have managed to assess all the deserted sites listed in the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted medieval villages.

Buckinghamshire has an early listing of deserted settlements appearing as an appendix to a paper by Maurice Beresford on glebe terriers and open-field systems in 1954 (Beresford 1953-4). This list contained 28 settlements with another 14 suspected sites – all of the 28 settlements apart from Bourton are still listed in 1968, and 11 of the suspected sites have also make the list.

There were 56 settlements listed in the 1968 Gazetteer, and since this time the number has grown. Page has highlighted this stating the 56 in 1968 became 60 by 1979, and 83 by 1997 (Page 2005: 189). This increase in numbers is set against a backdrop of large regional surveys such as that carried out on the medieval settlement of the East Midlands and the Whittlewood region as well as more focused research on specific sites in the county (Lewis et al. 2001, Jones and Page 2006). This research paints a vivid picture of a diverse range of settlements and an equally diverse set of events that leads to settlement desertion. This includes a dated desertion for the settlement at Boarstall. Here in 1645 the Royalist garrison housed in the local manor destroyed the village and church to avoid them being used by the besieging Parliamentary forces (Porter 1984). The houses were burnt within two days and the church had been demolished before 26 July giving us this rare example of a dated desertion to the actual day. However the population did not disappear, they were redistributed throughout the parish (Broad 2010).

Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire listed in 1968
Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire listed in 1968


Of the 56 settlements listed, 34 have remained classed as Deserted Medieval Villages by the website (for information on our classifications see the posting on Berkshire). Eight settlements have been classed as Deserted Medieval Hamlets – due to their smaller size. Two settlements have been classed as Migrated – purposefully moved, four are Shifted settlements – moving over time, and one settlement shows evidence of a Shrunken settlement rather than fully deserted – Upper Winchendon. Finally seven of the settlements listed in 1968 are now classed as Doubtful deserted settlements. These include Ackhampstead which appears to have never been larger than the couple of farms still present today, Caldecote in Newport Pagnell which was probably just a manorial centre, and Hughenden were it has been suggested that settlement in the parish was always dispersed.

Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire and their classification by the website
Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire and their classification by the website

A number of excavations have taken place on deserted sites in Buckinghamshire. Tattenhoe was one of a number of settlements investigated as part of the development of Milton Keynes and its on going expansion. (Ivens et al. 1995). The development of the city also affected sites that were not on the Gazetteer including Westbury-by-Shenley (sometimes referred to as Shenley Brook End) (Ivens et al. 1995).

Rescue excavations at Stantonbury ahead of quarrying amounted to little more than rapid recording of disturbed archaeology but revealed house platforms and pottery dating from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries (Mynard 1971). Excavations have also revealed evidence of a deserted settlement that could also be called a ‘pottery production centre’ at Olney Hyde (Mynard 1984: 56).

The landscapes of Quarrendon and Hardmead have both been subjected to more detailed survey and analyses and show the complexity of settlement in Buckinghamshire (Everson 2001, Smith 1985). 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. For more information about Quarrendon see Buckinghamshire County Council

Buckinghamshire is certainly a county which rewards greater investigation with a wealth of evidence of different types of settlement and reasons for desertion. More information on the deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire, along with some aerial photographs can be found on the Unlocking Buckinghamshire’s Past website.


Beresford, M. 1953-4. ‘Glebe Terriers and Open-field Buckinghamshire, with a Summary List of Deserted Villages of the County: Part 2’, Records of Buckinghamshire 16: 4-28.

Broad, J. 2010. ‘Understanding Village Desertion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’, in C. Dyer and R. Jones (eds) Deserted Villages Revisited: 121-139. Hatfield: University of Hertford Press.

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

Ivens, R., P. Busby and N. Shepherd 1995. Tattenhoe and Westbury: Two Deserted Medieval Settlements in Milton Keynes. Aylesbury: Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society Monograph Series no. 8.

Jones, R. and M. Page 2006. Medieval Villages in an English Landscape. Macclesfield: Windgather Press.

Lewis, C., P. Mitchell-Fox and C. Dyer 2001. Village, Hamlet and Field: Changing Medieval Settlements in Central England. Macclesfield: Windgather Press.

Mynard, D.C. 1971. ‘Rescue Excavations at the Deserted Medieval Village of Stantonbury Bucks’, Records of Buckinghamshire 19: 17-41.

Mynard, D.C. 1984. ‘A Medieval Pottery Industry at Olney Hyde’, Records of Buckinghamshire 26: 56-85.

Page, M. 2005. ‘Destroyed by the Temples: the Deserted Medieval Village of Stowe’, Records of Buckinghamshire 45: 189-204.

Porter, S. 1984. ‘The Civil War Destruction of Boarstall’, Records of Buckinghamshire 26: 86-91.

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