Currently Completed Counties – Derbyshire

Continuing reviewing the villages listed in the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted medieval villages in England we move to a quick look at Derbyshire this week, which appears on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website with full descriptions of each village. In 1954 nine settlements were listed as lost, with a further seven possible sites (Beresford 1954: 346). All appear on the 1968 Gazetteer which numbered 33 in total. One piece of work that was influential in locating sites in Derbyshire was a paper by Wightman (1961) looking at open field agriculture in the Peak District. Mainly in the footnotes to this paper he examines the documentary evidence for a range of deserted villages as well as making the distinction of deserted hamlets. The number of identified deserted settlements has increased with over 60 sites now recorded on the HER (Historic Environment Record).

Deserted settlements in Derbyshire listed in 1968
Deserted settlements in Derbyshire listed in 1968

Derbyshire was traditionally seen as an upland zone, characterised by dispersed settlement. This was the premise tested by Wrightman in 1961 and his main conclusion was that Derbyshire does have evidence of nucleated villages and open field systems, although little settlement occurred in the highest levels of the Peak District. The East Midlands in general does show that areas of nucleated settlement can sit side by side with regions with dispersed settlement, and that regions and counties vary considerably (Lewis 2006).

Reasons for desertion are varied across the county. They include recent desertions with the construction of reservoirs such as at Derwent. Some villages disappear due to the whims of landed gentry such as at Kedleston and Chatsworth, and some seem to be fairly late desertions such as at Mercaston. Other sites seemed to have declined in the fourteenth century with that at Nether Haddon possibly being depopulated to make way for a deer park.

Deserted sites as classified by the website
Deserted sites as classified by the website


The main excavations that have occurred in the county are concentrated in the southern areas. Barton Blount was excavated in 1968 due to the threat from deep ploughing (Beresford 1975). This had effectively destroyed the archaeology that was both above and below the surface across a large part of the site. Based on the layout and grouping of the site these excavations found five possible phases, with a date of occupation between the tenth and fifteenth century. The excavations completely investigated four crofts, but there are thought to be about forty-three crofts at the settlement (Beresford 1975). The excavation revealed a variety of timber structures that were never replaced in stone (Beresford 1975). More recent excavations have been small scale such as the excavation of Blingsby village (does not appear on the 1968 Gazetteer), the excavation of part of a building at Derwent and the survey work on the Chatsworth Estate (Beresford 2012, Sidebottom 1993, Barnatt 2009).


Barnatt, J. 2009. ‘Chatsworth: Archaeological Landscapes and Local Distinctiveness Through Time’, Archaeological Journal 166: 124-192.

Beresford, G. 1975. The Medieval Clay-land Village: Excavations at Goltho and Barton Blount. London: The Society for Medieval Archaeology.

Beresford, M. 2012. The Hardwick Estate: A Journey Through Time. MBarchaeology Unpublished Report.

Beresford, M.W. 1954. The Lost Villages of England. London: Lutterworth.

Lewis, C. 2006. ‘The Medieval Period (850-1500)’, in N.J. Cooper (ed.) The Archaeology of the East Midlands: an Archaeological Resource Assessment and Research Agenda: 185-216. Leicester: Leicester Archaeology Monographs 13.

Sidebottom, P. 1993. ‘The Derwent Cross Shaft: Discovery and Excavation 1991’, Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society  17: 9-18.

Wrightman, W.E. 1961. ‘Open Field Agriculture in the Peak District’, Derbyshire Archaeological Journal 81: 111-125.