Complex settlement patterns – Quarrendon and Hardmead in Buckinghamshire

In the last post on aerial photographs Quarrendon was used as an example where you can clearly see the earthworks of the site on Google Earth but can also view a range of images on Unlocking Buckinghamshire’s Past website. This post we look in a little more detail at this and another site in Buckinghamshire at Hardmead. Both of these sites show the complexity of studying medieval settlement and matching village earthworks to documentary evidence. 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. Both of these sites have been extensively studies and excellent papers published in the Records of Buckinghamshire series. Readers are directed to these articles for the full story and excellent illustrations.


There are three separate areas of earthworks in this area which have been given the identifications of I, II, and III in the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted village and this has continued into the modern record. They probably all represent the dispersed settlement of Quarrendon within a regional mixture of villages, ‘ends’, hamlets and farmsteads (Everson 2001). There is also extensive evidence of a sixteenth and seventeenth-century country house and landscape gardens in between Quarrendon I and II, which is recorded as partly pulled down in 1666 (Everson 2001).  Close to this area is located the remains of the church of St Peter’s. This is known from at least the twelfth century, but has a potential earlier origin perhaps back to the seventh century (Everson 2001).

Quarrendon I is the eastern most part of the settlement evidence. It is linked with Quarrendon II via an east-west hollow way. The remains are clear and can be seen from the air and on the ground. Survey work at the site has shown that the settlement was perhaps four or five farmsteads clustered around a green (Everson 2001).

Quarrendon 1 earthworks in Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.
Quarrendon 1 earthworks in Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.

Quarrendon II lies 800m to the west of Quarrendon I.  There is some evidence that there was more settlement towards the west (Everson 2001). A hollow way runs west-east across to the site of the bridge across the stream. There is a triangular green to the south of the hollow way and around this are a cluster of four enclosures but they are not clearly defined. A watching brief close to the bridge over the stream at the site recovered a large quantity of pottery including a small amount of tenth to eleventh-century pottery (Everson 2001).

Quarrendon 2 earthworks in Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.
Quarrendon 2 earthworks in Buckinghamshire. Copyright Google Earth.

Quarrendon III is located nearly two kilometres to the north-east of the main sites at Quarrendon I and II. The earthworks are not as clear as the other two sites. However the nature of the settlement looks similar with small enclosures around a potential green.

Quarrendon 3 earthworks. Copyright Google Earth.
Quarrendon 3 earthworks. Copyright Google Earth.

All the taxation records only mention a single settlement. At Domesday Quarrendon is recorded with a minimum population of 28. It is assessed with an average payment in 1334. In 1524 there are 20 tax payers but by 1543 and 1563 there are only four households recorded.

The survey work at the site seemed to show that the settlements had been deserted by the time the country house is constructed in the mid sixteenth century (Everson 2001). As part of the depopulation of the settlement at Quarrendon I there seems to be one large property. There is evidence of conversion of much of the arable to pasture. By 1540 there had been created 960 acres of pasture (Everson 2001).  In 1636 Quarrendon was described as ‘anciently enclosed and depopulated’ (Everson 2001).

The Beresford’s Lost Villages website has continued the use of three separate areas at Quarrendon, although they should be considered as all part of the same settlement. It continues calling them DMVs as they is clear evidence of a deserted medieval settlement of a size larger than a hamlet, but they should all be considered as one settlement site, with Quarrendon III being a distant outlying element to the settlement.


In the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted medieval villages there are two separate sites, recorded as Hardmead I and II, and these are probably two parts of a polyfocal settlement (Sheail 1971). Hardmead I is the northernmost of the areas of the settlement, and hence given the name in a number of publications and the Beresford’s Lost Villages website as North End. Please note that in 1971 Beresford termed this the East End, but this seems to be in error (Beresford 1971).  Until the 1960s there were upstanding earthworks but the area has been heavily ploughed. These earthworks represented a range of crofts around a village green (Smith 1985).  A moated site was situated to the east which is suggested to be the main manor house site.  A survey and watching brief took place at the site between 1973-4 during levelling of the earthworks, and a number of trial trenches were also excavated (Smith 1985). Pottery from the site dated from the twelfth to nineteenth century. The church of Hardmead is located between the two sites.

Hardmead 1 (North End) ploughed-out earthworks. Copyright Google Earth.
Hardmead 1 (North End) ploughed-out earthworks. Copyright Google Earth.

Hardmead II is the southern most of the areas of the settlement, and hence given the name here South End. Please note that in 1971 Beresford termed this the West End, but this seems to be in error (Beresford 1971). Again until the 1960s there were upstanding earthworks but the area has been heavily ploughed.  A further moated site at this southern end was also associated with the site of the village (Smith 1985). When the moat was destroyed pottery dating from the eleventh/twelfth to fifteenth century was recovered.
Within the tax records Hardmead is always recorded as a single settlement. Hardmead is recorded in Domesday with a minimum population of 36. This is a large population for the area and the size of landholding is greater than the surrounding area. It has been suggested that a dependant village is also included within this assessment (Smith 1985).  In 1344 the settlement pays an average amount. By 1524 there are 22 people paying the Lay Subsidy and in 1603 80 communicants are recorded (Dyer and Palliser 2005).  A 1638 estate map shows that after enclosure there were many small tenant holdings that were scattered and probably uneconomic (Smith 1985). The northern area of Hardmead appeared to shrink but then remain occupied until the mid nineteenth century (Smith 1985).  In 1802 there are three farms, an old rectory and ten cottages in the parish. Five of the cottages were on the green, presumably here at the northern end of the site. It is suggested that the southern end of this settlement had gone out of use by the end of the fifteenth century (Smith 1985).


Beresford, M.W. 1971. ‘A Review of Historical Research (up to 1968)’, in M.W. Beresford and J.G. Hurst (eds.) Deserted Medieval Villages: Studies: 3-75. London: Lutterworth Press. 48-49

Dyer, A. and D.M. Palliser 2005. The Diocesan Population Returns for 1563 and 1603. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 363

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

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.

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


Sources – archaeological sites and information

Following on from earlier posts back in April we continuing looking at the sources available to study deserted medieval villages. This week we look at the sources of archaeological information – some online repositories as well as the likely locations for publications. These are excellent ways of finding out if there are any deserted medieval settlements close to where you live.

National records

Historic England (formally English Heritage) maintains a list of archaeological sites and finds, compiled from various sources including old Ordnance Survey Records, past excavations, Scheduled Ancient Monuments and archives of various groups – such as the Medieval Village Research Group (see post from May). In the past this was known as the National Monuments Record and this name has been maintained by the Beresford’s Lost Villages website, although it is now know as the National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE). All of this material is maintained at the Historic England Archive at Swindon. However much of the material can be searched online and allows basic details to be gathered. Pastscape is one easy way of accessing this data. You can search by place-name, by county and even by site type – for most cases, deserted medieval villages are classed under the site type – deserted settlements. A search on this term today revealed 3734 results. But a word of caution – not all deserted settlements may be classed in such a way so this may not reveal ALL deserted settlements listed on the NRHE. Also not all of these will be medieval villages – some may be prehistoric settlements that have been classed as deserted settlements.

First page of the results screen for a search on Pastscape for site type deserted settlement
First page of the results screen for a search on Pastscape for site type deserted settlement

For a way into seeing the sites that are listed as deserted this is a useful starting place. For each individual site listed there will be a variety of accompanying information – some maybe a small mentioned of why a deserted settlement has been suggested (see Stantifield Ash example below), others a much more detailed look at the information known about the site or excavations that have been carried out (see the example of Monument 204534 below).

Simple record for Stanfield Ash from the first page of results for a search on 'deserted settlement'
Simple record for Stanfield Ash from the first page of results for a search on ‘deserted settlement’

Here there is very little detail to the record. It gives the possible location of a deserted medieval village and links to references to the source of the information but little more. To access this record directly click here: Stanfield Ash. To find more you would need to look at the references – with two of these being in local journals – see more on this below.

Monument xxxx from the first page of the 'deserted settlement' research results. Here listing information about the discovery a evidence for deserted settlement.
Monument 204534 from the first page of the ‘deserted settlement’ research results. Here listing information about the discovery and evidence for deserted settlement.

This record is an example of the complexity of studying deserted medieval settlements. Although clear evidence of settlement has been found – it is simply known as Monument 204534 on the record as it is still unclear as to the name of the settlement in the medieval period – and the entry suggests it may have been a village referred to as Barewe or Bergh in medieval records. To see the full record on Pastscape click here: Monument 204534.

Pastscape though is just one of the many sources of data. There is also more than one way to access this data. An excellent resource, also provided by Historic England is Heritage Gateway. This searches across both national and local records, so allows multiple searches all at once. This includes Pastscape but also the National Heritage list which includes listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments, Historic Photographs of England, The National Monuments Record excavation index, and over 60% of the local Historic Environments Records from across the country (see below). Again this can be searched on place-name, county or site type basis – and this time the site type can be searched as ‘deserted settlement’ or found using the categories Domestic/Settlement/Deserted Settlement. Funnily though – a search on the same day via Heritage Gateway on the term deserted settlement only reveals 2585 results, 1149 less than the same search direct on Pastscape….

The results page for a search on 'deserted settlement' on Heritage Gateway.
The results page for a search on ‘deserted settlement’ on Heritage Gateway.

Of course these are all just starting points for information and further investigation of the sources listed and other data repositories is needed. These online catalogues give a flavour of the data held by these institutions, but not its entirety. This is particularly the case with the local Historic Environments Records.

Local records

Each county and local authority across the country has a local list of known archaeology in their area. This is usually called the Historic Environment Record, although some counties still use the older term Sites and Monuments Record. These are often based within the local county offices, but some have been delegated to other organisations. Other bodies such as the National Trust and the National Parks also maintain their own records. As all of these records are independent the format of each record does differ, but many of these can be search via Heritage Gateway, or have their own online search facility. To find the local record closest to you see this list – which also indicates whether they can be searched on Heritage Gateway or through their own website. A similar level of detail for the sites is listed as we have already seen from Pastscape, but you should always contact the relevant office to visit to look at their full record which may well be much more detailed than that given online.

Local archaeological journals

Many studies of deserted medieval villages have been published in local archaeological journals. These include early attempts at listing all identified sites such as Maurice Beresford’s lists of Warwickshire and Yorkshire villages (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954), or William Hoskin’s villages of Leicestershire (1946). They are often the source of excavation reports and site-specific studies such as the work of Philip Rahtz at Upton in Gloucestershire. Many of these publications are appearing online, free to download and a list of currently available ones will appear in an upcoming blog.

This blog has just given a flavour of the material that can be searched from the comfort of your own home, and shows the variety of data now available to all.


Beresford, M.W. 1950. ‘The Deserted Villages of Warwickshire’, Transactions of the Birmingham and Midlands Archaeological Society 66: 49-106.

Beresford, M.W. 1951. ‘The Lost Villages of Yorkshire, Part I’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 37: 474-91.

Beresford, M.W. 1952. ‘The Lost Villages of Yorkshire, Part II’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 38: 44-70.

Beresford, M.W. 1953. ‘The Lost Villages of Yorkshire, Part III’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 38: 215-40.

Beresford, M.W. 1954. ‘The Lost Villages of Yorkshire, Part IV’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 38: 280-309.

Hoskins, W.G. 1946. ‘The Deserted Villages of Leicestershire’, Transactions of Leicestershire Archaeological Society 22: 241-64.

Sources for the study of deserted medieval settlements – Domesday Book

One of the first times many settlements are recorded is in 1086 and the Domesday Book. But it is not that simple….. The Domesday Book can be difficult to interpret and does not directly record villages but manors – areas of landholdings that may, or may not contain a nucleated settlement, or several dispersed (and not separately recorded) settlements. A number of manorial names also cannot be traced down to the modern day – are these deserted settlements that where depopulated so early (not long after Domesday) that they fail to be recorded in the later records, or has such a dramatic change in name occurred with no account of the change? This blog looks at the evidence from the Domesday Book that has been used by the Beresford’s Lost Villages website, examines some of the challenges this presents and gives some examples of the complexity of this record.

There are several different transcriptions of the Domesday Book. The one that has been used by the website is that published by Philimore. This is available as printed-copy but it has also been digitised by the Domesday Book Project (see The computer files and data from the project are available for download from the University of Hull data repository.

The Domesday Book was compiled on the order of William I in 1086. The data in the Domesday Book are recorded by landowner, then manor. As the basic unit of measurement, the manor was never defined in the Domesday record. It does not directly equate to a settlement, but more to a unit of land, however it is usually linked to the vill (village) in which it was located. The result is that each vill may constitute part of several different manors, and therefore have more than one record in Domesday. These separate manors within the same vill may also have a number of different landowners. Land in outlying areas may also be included under the name of the manor to which it is attached. This can mean that land and people may be recorded as located in one particular area but might actually be located at a distance. Land under one entry within Domesday may also record several vill names.

Here is a typical example of a Domesday entry for the deserted settlement of Lasborough in Gloucestershire.

‘Hugh also holds Lasborough from the Bishop himself. Leofwin held it. 5 hides, In lordship 1 plough; 5 villagers and a priest with 2 ploughs. 7 slaves. The value was £10; now 50s.’ (Moore 1982: 30,2)

Domesday Book Gloucestershire entry for Lasborough
Domesday Book Gloucestershire entry for Lasborough

The main unit of measurement used in the Domesday Book as a whole was the hide. The Saxon hide was a theoretical unit of land required to support a family farmstead, but by the Late Saxon period, it had become a unit of taxation and hence was a fiscal unit rather than signifying a specific area of land. So at Lasborough above the taxation value was 5 hides. In the old area of Danelaw (much of northern England ) the measurements are given in carucates, the Danelaw equivalent to the hide.

A number of different aspects of the landholding were recorded in the survey. These include the number of ploughlands and a formula referred to as ‘land for x ploughs’. The number of ploughs that are recorded is thought to signify the amount of agriculture being practiced at the time of the survey. The ‘land for x ploughs’ provides us with a figure of the agricultural potential of the manor, although the actual amount of land that was farmed may be different as is signified by the differences in the ‘land for x ploughs’ and the number of ploughs recorded in each manor. The meaning of the ‘land for x ploughs’ value has been much debated (Harvey 1985, 1987, Higham 1990).

The to-be deserted settlement at Brackenborough in Lincolnshire shows the complexity of the Domesday record. There are two entries for Brackenborough, both in the lands of Alfred of Lincoln. The first entry reads:

‘In Brackenborough 1 bovate of land taxable. land for 2 oxen. Ranulf, Alfred’s man has 1 plough. 4 villagers with 1/2 plough. A jurisdiction of Alvingham. Meadow, 10 acres’ (Morgan and Thorn 1986: 27,23)

The second entry follows straight after:

‘In this village Eadric and Hoc had 6 bovates of land taxable. Land for 14 oxen. Ranulf, Alfred’s man, has 1 villager and 10 freemen with 2 ploughs. 4 parts of a mill, 2s; meadow, 18 acres. Value before 1066, 16s; now 40s’ (Morgan and Thorn 1986: 27,24)

As Brackenborough is in Lincolnshire, here we have recording in the Danelaw equivalents – and in this case bovates – a sub-division of carucates – there were 8 bovates to a carucate. The first entry is an area of land at Brackenborough but belonging to the manor of Alvingham. The second entry is for the manor of Brackenborough. So altogether at Brackenborough there are 7 bovates of taxable land recorded. The ‘land for x ploughs’ in both these cases is also a smaller division – one plough was equivalent to 8 oxen so in the first entry there in essence is land for 1/4 plough and in the second entry land for 1 3/4 ploughs – so in total land for two ploughs. However it is clear that in the first entry there are more ploughs than land for ploughs as 1 1/2 are recorded. In total the land had the potential (land for x ploughs) of 2 ploughs but there were actually 3 1/2 ploughs in action.

Brackenborough Deserted Medieval Village, Lincolnshire. Copyright Google Earth.
Brackenborough Deserted Medieval Village, Lincolnshire. Copyright Google Earth.

As can be seen from the examples above other resources recorded at Domesday include population. The population of each manor is recorded as numbers of different classes of population which do vary in terminology and meaning in different regions. In the Phillimore translations villagers are equivalent to villeins, freemen are equivalent to sokemen and smallholders to bordars in other translations. Other forms of population recorded include burgesses, cottagers, slaves and priests. A villager was a member of the vill with certain burdens and responsibilities. A freeman was free from many of the burdens that rested on a villager. A smallholder had less status and land than a villager.  Also recorded in Domesday are resources such as mills, meadow, wood, woodland pasture, underwood, marsh, saltpans, livestock, fisheries etc. Again they may not be whole items. So at Brackenborough above there was ‘4 parts of a mill’ – how much this equates to is not known, if the mill was at Brackenborough or is a share of a mill elsewhere is not clear.

There has been much debate over the nature of the record presented by Domesday. For instance, the record can hide or omit settlement and population; it has been noted that the number of actual tenants in 1086 may in fact be 50% more than those recorded if a similar number of sub and joint tenancies were present in the late eleventh century as are recorded for the thirteenth (Postan 1972). Nevertheless, Domesday provides a region-wide record taken at a specific point in time which can be used to assess the extent, if not the true nature, of settlement in the eleventh century.

Lost Villages Database contents

Two items are recorded on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website: a reference to the entries in the Domesday Book Phillimore editions, and the minimum number of individuals that are recorded as belonging to that manor. The data for these sections were derived from the Domesday Explorer Project which was based at the University of Hull.

The Phillimore county editions number each of the entries in the record with a coding system. Each county edition is divided into the respective landowners, with the first (usually the King) given the number 1, and the second landowner, 2 etc. For each entry under a particular landowner, the entries are given separate numbers. So entry 2,5 would be landowner 2 and entry 5. This form of notation has been used by the website so people can be directed straight to the entry or entries about a particular manor. These details can be found in the printed versions or via the web link to the databases at the University of Hull. The Phillimore entry is prefixed with a county code to identify which county record should be used. Some settlements have since changed counties so do not appear in the pre-1974 county in which they are now placed. On a number of occasions land outside one county will be recorded in a different county.

A total minimum population figure for a manor was calculated based on the number of villagers, freemen, smallholders, cottagers, slaves, burgesses and priests. The total for each settlement has been calculated from the individual manors with the same place-name recorded under different landowners in the Domesday Book – hopefully giving an indication of a minimum population for a manor – and hopefully an indication of a size of a settlement – if this was a nucleated village at the centre of the manor – but remember that the record may not be directly recording a single nucleated settlement.

For each site that has a Domesday record a direct link is provided on the website to the Open Domesday website that provides a summary of the information, location map and a picture of the original Domesday entry.

Further Information

There are a number of online resources that may be of help to people looking at the Domesday Book:

Domesday Explorer Project –

Open Domesday –

Hull University Repository –



Harvey, S.P.J. 1985. Taxation and the ploughland in Domesday Book, in P. Sawyer (ed.) Domesday Book. a reassessment: 86-103. London: Edward Arnold.

Harvey, S.P.J. 1987. Taxation and the economy, in J.C. Holt (ed.) Domesday Studies: 249-64. Woodbridge: Boydell Press.

Higham, N.J. 1990. Settlement, land use and Domesday ploughlands. Landscape History 12: 33-44.

Moore, J.S. 1982. Domesday Book Gloucestershire. Chichester: Phillimore.

Morgan, P. & C. Thorn 1986. Domesday Book Lincolnshire. Chichester: Phillimore.

Postan, M.M. 1972. The Medieval Economy and Society. Harmondsworth: Penguin.


Problems identifying villages – the cases of Roel and Manless Town

This week’s blog looks at issues with identifying deserted villages with two examples of complex cases – Roel and Manless Town – both in Gloucestershire.

Lists of deserted medieval villages are compiled from a variety of sources and evidence. Sometimes there is a range of documentary sources recording a settlement with a specific name and listing villagers, tax payments, land under plough, duties owed etc. On some occasions there may be extensive earthworks signifying former houses and route ways. Matching both these sets of evidence can on some occasions seem fairly simple – the existence of a church, the presence of the place-name still in existence for a farm, or the settlement is clearly recorded on a map. However even the most straight forward of cases can become more and more complex once the intricacies of the evidence are explored. One example that demonstrates this is Roel located in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire. A different dilemma is faced by the site of Manless Town also in Gloucestershire where local legend and more than 5 different place-names make the settlement difficult to identify in the documentary records.


The village of Roel has been the subject of in-depth study combining the archaeological and documentary evidence to good effect (Aldred and Dyer 1991). It was this research that uncovered the complex development of Roel and its neighbouring village, Hawling. Part of the settlement of Roel is still visible with a row of at least six crofts aligned to the east of a north-south hollow way with another fainter three crofts to the south. To the west of the hollow way the modern farm complex of Roel Farm sits over the site of the manor house, church and vicarage. However this is not the entirety of settlement evidence for the village of Roel as further crofts, located 2km to the south, to the north of Hawling village have now been identified as part of Roel settlement, named Roelside (Aldred and Dyer 1991).

Earthworks at Roel Farm. Copyright Google Earth
Earthworks at Roel Farm. Copyright Google Earth

It is thought that Roel developed as a secondary settlement of Hawling, originating as a woodland hamlet (Aldred and Dyer 1991). The church is recorded as a subordinate of Hawling in 1174. Domesday records a minimum population of 21. In 1294 28 tenants are recorded as owing services with 31 tenanted yardlands. In 1327 13 people are assessed (Franklin 1993: 68). In the fourteenth-century taxations it is included with Hawling. A below average amount is paid in 1334. The documentary evidence suggests there may have been as many as 30 households in the early fourteenth century classed as the settlement of Roel.


The physical evidence at Roel Farm, the traditional site of Roel, does not suggest many more than nine house plots  – and no where near the 30 households suggested above. Hence the further evidence of settlement to the north of Hawling was investigated. These earthworks had been considered to be evidence of settlement shrinkage at Hawling as they form a continuous extension to the village, just separated by a stream. The documentary evidence, however, has confirmed this area once formed part of Roel village, named Roelside (Aldred and Dyer 1991). Further analysis of the documentary evidence shows that the split between the two areas of settlement, always recorded singularly as ‘Roel’ saw around a quarter of the population located at Roel and three quarters at Roelside, 2 km away (Aldred and Dyer 1991).

Earthworks at Roelside, Hawling, Gloucestershire. Copyright Google Earth
Earthworks at Roelside, Hawling, Gloucestershire. Copyright Google Earth

Roel and Hawling

So the documentary evidence tells the tale of a single settlement unit of Roel. And tradition therefore equated that with the settlement evidence at Roel Farm. But in fact the settlement of Roel was actually formed of two separate groups of dwellings 2 km apart – Roel and Roelside. Roel was always the smaller of the two, but seen as the centre of the settlement, with the manorial centre and church. Roelside sat cheek by jowl with the village of Hawling, so much so that only a stream separated a villager of  Roelside with a villager in Hawling. The decline of the village of Roel effects not only the settlement at Roel Farm but also the settlement at Roelside, where as Hawling survives.

Roel declines in the later middle ages, with 15 tenants recorded in 1355 (Aldred and Dyer 1991). As the number of tenants decreased, land was engrossed into larger units, but these were not successful and the tenants left. By the 1460s the last tenants relinquished land (Aldred and Dyer 1991).  Roel and Roelside seemed to decline at the same time. The decrease in the number of tenants appears as a result of outward migration, possibly due to poor yields, rather than forced eviction. It is postulated that the reason that Hawling survived but Roel became deserted can be seen in the diversity of social structure present at Hawling and better agricultural production.

Manless Town

The settlement in the fields known as ‘Manless Town’ to the south of Birdlip also pose an interesting question – what is the name of this settlement? The remains of a medieval settlement and a Roman site can be seen on either side of the Climperwell to Caudle Green road but linking these remains to a documented settlement is not easy (Smith 1998). The archaeological evidence is not clear cut – and the Roman nature of some of the remains is debated. In 1962 trial trenches were placed across the site to test for remains below the surface (Wingham and Spry 1993). These revealed a range of features including stone walls and rubble surfaces however there has been disagreement over their interpretation with the original excavator favouring an interpretation in the Roman period, and later authors suggesting a medieval date (Wingham and Spry 1993).  In 1992 the remaining earthworks were plotted and field walking produced medieval pottery dating to the twelfth to thirteenth centuries as well a range of Roman material (Smith 1998).

Manless Town settlement. Copyright Google
Manless Town settlement. Copyright Google

The physical evidence suggests medieval settlement and the name ‘Manless Town’ lends credence to the idea of a deserted settlement. However the first known reference to this field as Manless Town was in 1622 (Jurica 1981). The settlement has also been recorded as Haywick, Munley Towne, Old Mondley, Longlorn Town and Keywich as will be shown below (Newbury 1993). It is therefore unclear as to the original name of the settlement, and hence difficult to trace any taxation records or indications of the size or wealth of any population.

The name Manless would suggest a deserted settlement and local legends would seem to confirm this, but it has also been suggested that the place-name originates from a manorial name (Smith 1964). The documentary evidence proposes a range of names and stories. In a hand written document dating to 1677 there is the record of ‘a place called Keywich, where there was a market… ye men of which place being destroyed was called Munly Towne’ (Newbury 1993: 35). In 1731 a survey map includes the text ‘A patch of Plumb Hey within the ruins of Old Mondley formerly a Market Town and a Roman Station was Sacked and Burnt in the Wars of King John…’ (Newbury 1993: 33). On a ‘Survey of Lands in Brimspfield’ dating to the late eighteenth century a note records ‘stood Longlorn Town, which was destroyed in the reign of King John, then and still traces of Foundations to be seen and it has since that Time been called Manless Town’ (Newbury 1993: 33). In 1779 it is recorded as a hamlet by Samuel Rudder but with the caveat ‘if a place can be called so with no house in it’ (Rudder 1779: 310). He also mentions that the original name for this area was Haywick, the location where a weekly market was held in the reign of Edward III, but the men of the settlement were all killed and since then it has been known as Manless Town. So here we have the blame placed at the feet of King John, possibly Edward III and ideas of the settlement being destroyed and the men all killed. We have different names for the settlement given by each map or author. Unfortunately no further evidence for the settlement has been forthcoming and it remains one of those sites which has little documentary evidence although the earthworks and archaeological finds do suggest medieval occupation. The presence of a later sheepcote over the earthworks, may suggest the fate of the settlement was  a little more mundane that the antiquarian reports of mass killings, and the fate may have been similar to other small settlements in the area which were gradually depopulated of people and repopulated with sheep.


So what do the examples of Roel and Manless Town tell us about the study of deserted settlement? With Roel it indicates that the documentary evidence for a settlement may represent physical evidence across a wide area and that the earthworks next to a continuing settlement may not necessarily represent a contiguous part of that settlement. With Manless Town we have been shown that clear physical evidence and tales of deserted settlement may not lead to an easily identifiable settlement in the documentary record. Identifying deserted settlements on the ground is one thing – linking these remains to the documentary record is another challenge.


Aldred, C. and C. Dyer 1991. ‘A Medieval Cotswold Village: Roel, Gloucestershire’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 109: 139-170.

Franklin, P. 1993. The Taxpayers of Medieval Gloucestershire. Stroud: Alan Sutton

Jurica, A.R.J. 1981. ‘Brimpsfield’, in N.M. Herbert (ed.) A History of the County of Gloucester. Volume 7: 140-150. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Newbury, J.R. 1993. ‘Map and Documentary Interpretations in Brimpsfield Parish’, Glevensis 27: 33-35.

Rudder, S. 1779. A New History of Gloucestershire. Cirencester: S Rudder.

Smith, A.H. 1964. The Place-Names of Gloucestershire Part 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, N. 1998. ‘Manless Town, Brimpsfield: An Archaeological Survey’, Glevensis 31: 53-58.

Wingham, H. and N. Spry 1993. ‘More Recent Views on Manless Town, Brimpsfield SO 928 116’, Glevensis 27: 26-32.

Beresford’s Lost Villages website – the progress so far

The Beresford’s Lost Villages website was officially launched a year ago. This blog reviews the last year on the website, and reflects on the progress that has been made in providing full descriptions for all the deserted medieval villages listed in 1968. It also looks forward to the work to still be done….

Deserted Medieval Villages as known in 1968 (Beresford and Hurst 1971)
Deserted Medieval Villages as known in 1968 (Beresford and Hurst 1971)

When the website launched in 2014 we had completed the full descriptions of 404 villages from the 2263 listed on the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted medieval villages (Beresford and Hurst 1971). We also presented a further 80 settlements in Berkshire which had been identified since 1968, as an example of what could be done. Of these 484 sites, 281 have been classed as Deserted Medieval Villages, 60 as Deserted Medieval Hamlets, 48 as shrunken, 12 as migrated, 12 as shifted and 71 as doubtful by the website. This refinement of the Gazetteer, viewing truly deserted settlements against those that do continue in some form, and those we now see have no evidence of desertion is beginning to clarify the picture of desertion. But of course this is still a dated picture – one from nearly 50 years ago. For Berkshire, the one county were an update has been attempted, there has been a 186% increase in recorded settlements since 1968. However there was only a 30% increase of DMVs as classified by this website.

Deserted Medieval settlements showing the 1968 Gazetteer sites but also the classification of the deserted sites completed on the Beresford's Lost Villages website
Deserted Medieval settlements showing the 1968 Gazetteer sites but also the classification of the sites completed on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website

In total out of the 484 sites first listed with full descriptions by the website, 341 are still classed as deserted (70%). If you only consider the 404 villages from the 1968 Gazetteer, there are 81% remaining classified as deserted. Since the launch it has been possible to complete the descriptions for two more counties – Essex and Gloucestershire – we are now having to fit this in around other University commitments…… This has added a further 84 sites with full descriptions. Of these 47 are classed as DMVs, 12 as Deserted Medieval Hamlets, 4 as shrunken, 1 as migrated, 1 as shifted and 19 as doubtful so yet more refinement to the 1968 Gazetteer.

County 1968 DMV DMH Doubtful Shrunken Shifted Migrated
Bedfordshire 18 8 2 4 3 1
Berkshire 43 37 6 5
               additions 80 13 8 21 30 3 2
Buckinghamshire 56 34 8 7 1 4
Cambridgeshire 16 9 2 3 2
Cheshire 4 2 1 1
Cornwall 11 1 6 3 1
Cumberland 8 1 2 5
Derbyshire 33 19 6 5 1 2
Devonshire 15 6 5 3 1
Dorset 42 31 4 3 3 1
Durham 29 23 1 1 3 1
Essex 17 11 3 3
Gloucestershire 67 36 9 16 4 1 1
Yorkshire (East Riding) 129 97 15 9 6 1 1
Total 568 328 72 90 52 13 13

Of course the counties that have so far been tackled may not represent the full picture by the time the website is complete. Many of the counties that have full descriptions on the website fall in areas of diverse settlement patterns such as the area of the south-west with Devon and Cornwall complete. The counties tackled include six of the 15 counties identified in 1971 as requiring much further research. The results do show the relevance in reviewing the evidence, but also show the need to update the 1968 Gazetteer, often still used as the distribution map of deserted settlements in the country. On some occasions a slightly updated version (villages known up to 1977) is presented, but no published Gazetteer to accompany this exists.

Deserted Medieval Villages known up to 1977 (Aston 1985)
Deserted Medieval Villages known up to 1977 (Aston 1985)

And to the update, it is hoped that in the future we will be able to review all the evidence for deserted settlement in each county and produce a refined version of the maps of deserted settlement – but that will require funding and an application is being drafted as we speak – it would be wonderful to be able to publish an updated Gazetteer of deserted settlement in 2018 – the fiftieth anniversary of the original list…..

As to the website – how have people been using the site? Well this is always to hard to judge….. We are grateful to all those who have written in with corrections – wrong coordinates, parishes etc., and those who have pointed us towards published articles that have escaped our attention – we are constantly editing and updating the entries that at are visible. In total there have been over 2000 different visitors to the website (who have explored more than the front page), they have viewed over 27,000 pages and come from all around the world. Not surprisingly 92% of the users have been based in the UK, but 3% in the USA and visitors from many European countries such as Germany, Denmark, France and the Netherlands as well as more far flung destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Russia, India, Brazil and Japan. The most visited county page has been the East Riding of Yorkshire with 856 different page views. The second most viewed county is the Lindsey area of Lincolnshire. As for villages – unsurprisingly the most visited village page has been Wharram Percy (with 49 different page views), followed by Eske in the East Riding of Yorkshire (37 page views), Hound Tor in Devon (35 page views) and Quarrendon I in Buckinghamshire (34 page views). It is good to see that the site is being so widely used.

So the task in hand at the moment is to keep going, county by county to write the full descriptions for each village. This is no easy task. We are tackling them in alphabetical order but this does slow the process down when you are faced with one of the larger counties. We have just started to review the evidence for Hampshire and with 124 villages listed in 1968, this will take a while to complete. Here are the counties still to complete….

Hampshire 124
Herefordshire 11
Hertfordshire 44
Huntingdonshire 18
Isle of Wight 32
Kent 69
Lancashire 0
Leicestershire 67
Lincolnshire 220
Middlesex 0
Norfolk 148
Northamptonshire 82
Northumberland 165
Nottinghamshire 67
Oxfordshire 102
Rutland 13
Shropshire 9
Somerset 27
Staffordshire 22
Suffolk 23
Surrey 5
Sussex 41
Warwickshire 128
Westmorland 2
Wiltshire 104
Worcestershire 7
Yorkshire, North Riding 170
Yorkshire, West Riding 75
Total to go…. 1775

So we plod on – keep you eye on this blog for updates on how we are going along the way and hopefully Hampshire will appear with full descriptions before the summer……

The current state of play with writing full descriptions for each village on the 1968 Gazetteer
The current state of play with writing full descriptions for each village on the 1968 Gazetteer


Aston, M. 1985. Interpreting the Landscape. London: Batsford.

Beresford, M.W. and J.G. Hurst (eds) 1971. Deserted Medieval Villages: Studies. London: Lutterworth Press.

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.

Currently Completed Counties – Dorset

The next county review takes a look at the settlements listed in the 1968 Gazetteer in Dorset. In 1954 Beresford lists 13 clearly identified deserted sites in Dorset as well as listing a range of decayed churches (Beresford 1954: 347-349). In the 1968 Gazetteer, 42 settlements are listed. There are notes in the Medieval Village Research Group Annual Reports from the late 1980s of a Dorset county list of deserted and shrunken settlements being compiled. In 1988 it was noted the list totalled 254 separate sites (Higham 1988: 15). Since this point there has been continuing work on deserted settlements in the county. A detailed summary of ‘Lost Villages’ was published by Ronald Good in 1979. This divides settlements into various groups: those classed as deserted villages (43 sites); those now represented by country houses (26 sites); those represented by farmsteads (90 sites); existing villages which have changed (31 sites); and villages submerged by modern buildings (47 sites) (Good 1979). The total list of settlements reaches 237, excluding a complex landscape of settlements at Milborne St Andrew, an increase of 195 since 1968.

Deserted settlements in Dorset listed in 1968
Deserted settlements in Dorset listed in 1968

One clear source for the study of the landscape of Dorset has been the volumes published by the RCHME which reviewed known earthwork remains (available from British History Online). This has provided an excellent corpus of surveys published between 1952 and 1975. Sites with earthwork surveys include: Bardolfeston, Bingham’s Melcombe, Little Piddle and Milborne Brook.

Bingham's Melcombe  Copyright English Heritage (RCHME 1970)
Bingham’s Melcombe Copyright English Heritage (RCHME 1970)

Unfortunately Dorset does not feature heavily in recent reviews of medieval settlement in the South West (e.g. Rippon and Croft 2007). One reason for this may well be due to its variety. The pattern of settlement in medieval Dorset is not a unified picture and hence generalities are difficult to tease out. As Taylor noted ‘It is the variety of landscape in Dorset which gives the county its great charm and which has resulted in the equally varied landscape history’ (1970: 21). In places the chalklands take on a more nucleated pattern with villages and open fields, in other areas such as the heathland, a dispersed pattern of farmsteads and enclosed fields prevails (Taylor 1970). The divide between the Central Province and South East province identified by Roberts and Wrathmell cuts through Dorset following very much this geological divide (Roberts and Wrathmell 2000). Many of the early identified deserted settlements have been found in the chalklands, and there is little evidence of desertion outside this zone (Taylor 1970). In some cases clusters of deserted settlements can be seen along chalk valleys. However more recent work and re-evaluation of the definition of settlement may well change this picture.

Deserted settlements in Dorset as classified by the website
Deserted settlements in Dorset as classified by the website

Dorset includes a range of deserted sites from small hamlets, to large medieval towns, to sites that may never have developed in the first place. A clear example of a deserted town is that of Milton Abbas, where the landowner, Joseph Damer, removed more than one hundred homes, three inns and a school to ensure an uninterrupted view from his new home (Good 1979). The town of Gotowre on the other hand may never have actually developed. Edward I planned a town which was ‘to lay out with sufficient streets and lanes, adequate sites for a market and church, plots for merchants and others in a new town with a harbour in a place called Gotowre’, however it is not clear to what extent the order was ever carried out (Bowen and Taylor 1964).

A small number of excavations have take place at sites in Dorset. The village at Holworth was excavated in 1958 by Philip Rahtz using the open area methodology. This allowed the ephemeral remains of the structures to be identified. A trial excavation in 1936 had already uncovered pottery and stone work. One of the seven clearly defined tofts formed the focus of attention in 1958 (Rahtz 1959). This uncovered pottery dating from the twelfth to the fifteenth century and a longhouse was revealed that was divided into three parts with rubble floors. Only small scale test pitting has been undertaken at the other sites in Dorset such as Bexington and Blackmanston.

It is clear that the 42 sites currently listed on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website are the tip of the iceberg of deserted settlement in Dorset and it is hoped that future updates on the website will be able to provide a fuller picture.


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

Bowen, H.C. and C.C Taylor 1964. ‘The Site of Newton (Nova Villa), Studland, Dorset’, Medieval Archaeology 8: 223-226

Good, R. 1979. The Lost Villages of Dorset. Wimborne: The Dovecote Press.

Higham, N.J. 1988. ‘Research in 1988. i. Fieldwork’, Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report 3: 14-18.

RCHME 1970. An Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset. Volume Three: Central Dorset Part 2. London: RCHME: 171-172.

Rippon, S. and B. Croft 2007. ‘Post-Conquest Medieval’, in C. Webster (ed.) The Archaeology of South West England: 195-207. Taunton: Somerset Heritage Service.

Roberts, B.K. and S. Wrathmell 2000. An Atlas of Rural Settlement in England. London: English Heritage.

Rahtz, P.A. 1959. ‘Holworth, Medieval Village Excavation 1958’, Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 81: 127-147.

Taylor, C. 1970. Dorset. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Currently Completed Counties – Cornwall

This week we look at one of the completed counties on the Beresford’s Lost Villages Website. This website lists all the settlements recorded by 1968 and gives a full description of the available evidence.

Deserted villages in Cornwall
Deserted villages in Cornwall

No Cornish settlements were included when Maurice Beresford published his Lost Villages of England in 1954. This was not due to any lack of information but due to a slight publishing oversight. The list for Cornwall was later found slipped down the back of the piano when Maurice was moving in 1958 (Beresford 1971: 3). A total of 11 sites were recorded on the 1968 Gazetteer. Cornwall is highlighted as one of the 15 counties which require considerable local research, but it is unclear why some sites that had been identified in the 1960s did not make the original Gazetteer (Dudley and Minter 1962-63: 282-283). Since 1968 there has been sustained effort placed in surveying areas of the historic environment including one of the first examples of a county-wide history landscape characterisation (Herring 1998). The large-scale survey of Bodmin Moor by the RCHME has also been important to our understanding medieval Cornwall (Johnson and Rose 1994, Preston-Jones and Rose 1986: 139).

The landscape of current settlement in Cornwall (at least that on the first edition Ordnance Survey maps) has been said to reflect the medieval pattern of small hamlets and farmsteads (Preston-Jones and Rose 1986: 141). This dispersed settlement pattern is interspersed with closes (enclosed fields) and small-scale open fields (Rippon and Croft 2011: 195). The pattern though is varied and in some areas nucleated villages do dominate (Overton 2006: 109). The settlement form in Cornwall also varies, and many of the deserted sites consist of a cluster of buildings, sometimes with their own yards, but not the format of toft and croft seen in central England, and perhaps not the label of  ‘village’. Hence the website has classed most of the settlements in Cornwall as deserted hamlets.

Deserted villages as classified by the website
Deserted villages as classified by the website

With this diversity of settlement evidence there has been a diversity of approaches to the study of  settlement in the county but in many ways this has led the research in England as a whole. Two pioneers in the study of deserted settlement not only in the South West, but also in England, were Dorothy Dudley and E. Marie Minter. They excavated a number of sites in both Cornwall and Devon. In fact Cornwall has seen some of the earliest excavations of village sites in the country.

Plan of the settlement at Trewortha, Cornwall (Baring-Gould 1895a)
Plan of the settlement at Trewortha, Cornwall (Baring-Gould 1895a)

Of the 11 sites identified in 1968, four sites had been excavated by the time of the Gazetteer. Excavations in 1891-2 at Trewortha have been classed as one of the earliest excavations of a deserted medieval settlement, even if it was not identified as such at the time (Baring-Gould 1895a, 1895b). Initially excavated as it was thought to be evidence of prehistoric settlement, the only date that was given by the excavations was post-Roman (Baring-Gould 1895a, 1895b). The excavation revealed the remains of a number of stone buildings, typical longhouses of the area, although a more complex interpretation of a council house was given at the time (Baring-Gould 1895a).

Plan of building excavated at Trewortha, Cornwall
Plan of building excavated at Trewortha, Cornwall (Baring-Gould 1895a)

Dorothy Dudley and E Marie Minter worked together on a number of sites. In 1952 they excavated at Garrow looking at one house which they dated to the thirteenth to fifteenth century (Dudley and Minter 1962-63). Treworld in north-east Cornwall was excavated in 1963. A number of phases of activity were identified, with stone houses suggested from A.D. 1200. However preceding this has been a much debated phase which is said to consist of turf houses (Dudley and Minter 1966). In 1964 the site of Lanyon was excavated which revealed stone buildings from the twelfth century (Minter 1965, Beresford 1994).

More recently, the RCHME undertook detailed surveys of Garrow, Trewortha Marsh and Carwether as part of their survey of Bodmin Moor (Johnson and Rose 1994).

Carwether, Cornwall. Deserted settlement Copy right Google
Carwether, Cornwall. Deserted settlement Copyright Google

Many of the excavated sites, as well as those listed on the website, have been concentrated on what has been classed as marginal or secondary sites – areas which have seen settlement expansion (Preston-Jones and Rose 1986: 151). More research is needed in the lowland areas, the documentary evidence points to at least 750 settlements that are mentioned but have since been deserted (Preston-Jones and Rose 1986: 151).

A number of projects have been undertaken making public the information held by the Cornwall HER – they include a range of aerial photographs that can accessed at the Flying Past website at Many of the settlements on the website have excellent photos here….


Baring-Gould, S. 1895a. ‘An Ancient Settlement of Trewortha Marsh’, Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall 11: 57-70.

Baring-Gould, S. 1895b. ‘Ancient Settlement of Trewortha’, Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall 11: 289-90.

Beresford, G. 1994. ‘Old Lanyon, Madron: a Deserted Medieval Settlement. The Late E Marie Minter’s Excavations of 1964’, Cornish Archaeology 33: 130-169.

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

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.

Dudley, D. and E.M. Minter 1962-3. ‘The Medieval Village at Garrow Tor, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall’, Medieval Archaeology 6-7: 272-294.

Dudley, D. and E.M. Minter 1966. ‘The Excavation of a Medieval Settlement at Trewold. Lesnewth, 1963’, Cornish Archaeology 5: 34-58.

Herring, P. 1998. Cornwall’s Historic Landscape: Presenting a Method of Historic Landscape Character Assessment. Truro: Cornwall Archaeological Unit.

Johnson, N. and P. Rose 1994. Bodmin Moor: An Archaeological Survey Volume 1: the Human Landscape to c. 1800. London: English Heritage.

Minter, E.M. 1965. ‘Lanyon in Madron: Interim Report on the Society’s 1964 Excavation’, Cornish Archaeology 4: 44-45.

Overton, M. 2006. ‘Farming, Fishing and Rural Settlements’, in R.J.P. Kain (ed.) The South West: 109-130. London: English Heritage.

Preston-Jones, A. and P. Rose 1986. ‘Medieval Cornwall’, Cornish Archaeology 25: 135-185.

Rippon, S. and B. Croft 2007. ‘Post-Conquest Medieval’, in C.J. Webster (ed.) The Archaeology of South West England: South West Archaeological Research Framework Resource Assessment and Research Agenda: 195-203. Taunton: Somerset County Council.

Currently Completed Counties – Cheshire and Cumberland

Welcome to the blog highlighting the website ‘Beresford’s Lost Villages’ and the material that can be found there, continuing the review of the counties were it has been possible to provide full descriptions of all deserted villages listed in the Gazetteer of settlements in 1968. This week we look at two northern counties that were both highlighted in 1971 as needing further local research to provide a real picture of the nature of deserted settlement in the area – Cheshire and Cumberland (Beresford and Hurst 1971).

Only four settlements in Cheshire and eight settlements in Cumberland appear in the 1968 Gazetteer.  In both counties there is also a clustering of sites into regions where some fieldwork had been undertaken. For Cumberland it is a little confusing why some of the earlier work in the county had not been used when compiling the list. For example in 1963 William Rollinson published a paper entitled ‘The lost villages and hamlets of Low Furness’ (Rollinson 1963). This suggested at least five lost settlements in this one small area. It also explored theories from the 1770s onwards as to why these settlements disappeared including tidal inundations and monastic developments.

Deserted villages in Cheshire recorded in 1968

Since 1968 a number of surveys have taken place as well as a consideration of the nature of settlement in these counties during the medieval period. In 1975 the MVRG noted that over the last four years much work had been undertaken on Cheshire with the documentary sources but that fieldwork needed to be done (Dyer 1975). Work by a number of individuals including D. Sylvester had noted the dispersed nature of settlement in a number of townships (Dyer 1975). It is now clear that this is a much more widespread pattern and that Cheshire as a whole had a great deal of dispersed settlement so the exact nature of the village and settlement make-up is difficult to reconstruct. Many of the settlements that become classed as deserted may not have been large nucleated entities in the first place. Many townships by the nineteenth century still contained no nucleated settlements (Edwards 2007). The main concentration of nucleated settlement in Cheshire is located to the west of the central Cheshire ridge (Dyer 1975).

A similar pattern can be seen in Cumberland. With many of the sites identified in Cumberland it is questionable whether there was ever extensive nucleated settlement at these locations. The documentary record is patchy, but those settlements with records seem to have declined in the fourteenth century. Analysis of the general settlement pattern over much of Cumbria has also highlighted the high percentage of dispersed settlements consisting of single farmsteads or a couple of dwellings (Newman 2006, 2009). The landscape of the area is varied though and in some areas classical nucleated settlement can also be found. This pattern seems to have a long history. Not only does this make understanding the true pattern of desertion across the county difficult, there is also the issue that it can be difficult to identify medieval dispersed settlement as they are ‘more easily rendered ‘invisible’ by later land use’ (Newman 2006: 121). The Research Agenda for the North West has prioritised the investigation of evolution of dispersed settlement and to investigate the ways settlement expanded into marginal areas in the Medieval period (Newman and Newman 2007).

Deserted villages in Cumberland
Deserted villages in Cumberland

With this dispersed nature of settlement in both counties, it has led to many of the settlements listed in 1968 being now classed as doubtful deserted medieval settlements as it is unclear whether a nucleated settlement ever existed at that location. One of the key challenges with these regions is the patchy existence of medieval taxation documentation – often key to plotting the existence and development of medieval populations.

The palatine of Cheshire was exempt from most medieval taxation so few records appear after the Domesday Book until the sixteenth century. Cumberland in some periods belongs to Scotland, at other times it is exempt from taxation due to Scottish raids and troubles. Cumberland was not recorded in the Domesday Book, however a small number of places are recorded in the Domesday record for Yorkshire, but this is limited to just four places (Faull and Stinson 1986). In 1334 there is no Lay Subsidy for Cheshire and for Cumberland there was no tax due to recent devastation by the Scots so Glasscock (in his publication of the Lay Subsidy) has substituted this with the 1336 tax figures allowing some indication of the presence of settlements (Glasscock 1975: xxiii). It is suggested that due to ongoing devastation from the Scots the payments are probably low (Glasscock 1975: 36).  In 1377 no writ was issued for the Poll Tax in Cheshire. In 1379 commissions were supposed to levy the tax, but this was cancelled and they were asked for an offer of aid instead (Fenwick 1998: xxi). The Crown confirmed Cheshire’s immunity from parliamentary taxation in 1381 (Fenwick 1998: xxi). Although Cumberland was taxed in the fourteenth century there has been limited survival of the documents for the whole of Cumberland. Only one nominative list has survived from the 1377 Poll Tax (Fenwick 1998: 90). While this membrane is in good condition, it refers solely to Carlisle and does not refer to any of the deserted settlements. There are no surviving records for 1379 or 1381. Again in the sixteenth century no Lay Subsidy was required in 1524, 1525 or 1543 for both counties (Sheail 1998: 3).

Overall these two counties are representative of a situation outside the main ‘planned’ landscapes of central England. The nature of dispersed settlement, but also very variable local settlement patterns, results in a different type of challenge when trying to evaluate the extent and nature of settlement desertion. Much work has already been done tackling these regions and it is anticipated that once the Beresford’s Lost Villages Website Project moves into the next phase of updating the 1968 county lists, that these two counties will see a dramatic increase in the number of settlements recorded – although the number of ‘nucleated’ settlements may be limited and more evidence of deserted hamlets may well be apparent.


Beresford, M.W. and J.G. Hurst (eds) 1971. Deserted Medieval Villages: Studies. London: Lutterworth Press.

Dyer, C. 1975. ‘Research in 1975: Cheshire’, Medieval Village Research Group Report 23: 7-10.

Edwards, R. 2007. The Cheshire Historic Landscape Characterisation Final Report. Cheshire County Council & English Heritage Unpublished Report.

Faull, M.L. and M. Stinson 1986. Domesday Book: Yorkshire Part Two. Chichester: Phillimore.

Fenwick, C.C. 1998. The Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381: Part 1: Bedfordshire-Leicestershire. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Glasscock, R.E. 1975. The Lay Subsidy of 1334. London: Oxford University Press.

Newman, C. 2006. ‘The Medieval Period Resource Assessment’, Archaeology North West 8: 115-144.

Newman, C. and R. Newman 2007. ‘The Medieval Period Research Agenda’, Archaeology North West 9: 95-114.

Newman, R. 2009. A Guide to Using the Cumbria Historic Landscape Characterisation Database For Cumbria’s Planning Authorities. Cumbria County Council Unpublished Report.

Rollinson, W. 1963. ‘The Lost Villages and Hamlets of Low Furness’, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society 63: 160-169.

Sheail, J. 1998. The Regional Distribution of Wealth in England as Indicated in the 1524/5 Lay Subsidy Returns: Volume One. London: List and Index Society.

Currently completed counties – Cambridgeshire


This week’s post looks at the list for Cambridgeshire. A total of 15 deserted settlements appear on the 1968 Gazetteer. In 1954 Beresford had published a list of 13 settlements, however one of these, Silverley, was dismissed by the time of the 1968 Gazetteer.

Deserted settlements in Cambridgeshire listed in the 1968 Gazetteer
Deserted settlements in Cambridgeshire listed in the 1968 Gazetteer

In 2009 Susan Oosthuizen published an updated list of settlements in Cambridgeshire (excluding the Isle of Ely) (Oosthuizen 2009). This made a clear distinction between deserted and shifted settlements. This added a further 43 deserted and 24 shifted sites to the list. Here Oosthuizen considered issues of distribution of settlement and causes for desertion. She noted that the boundary between the Central Province of settlement characteristics and the Eastern Province, suggested by Roberts and Wrathmell (2000), runs through the region. In the Central Province (mainly west of the River Cam), settlement is mainly characterised by nucleated settlements, with evidence of polyfocal settlements in some areas (Oosthuizen 2009: 14). On the eastern side of this boundary and the River Cam is a landscape characterised by more dispersed settlement. Anyone interested in the Cambridgeshire landscape is pointed to the work of Oosthuizen, not only on deserted settlement but also a wide variety of landscape features. It is clear once the Beresford’s Lost Villages website project comes to review settlements identified since 1968 that there will be many additions to the Cambridgeshire list.

Classification of deserted settlements in Cambridgeshire
Classification of deserted settlements in Cambridgeshire

Much of the early work has originated from the Continuing Education section of Cambridge University. One well studied settlement is that of Clopton. Here an early study of the site gave a full account of the surviving historical evidence and the enclosure of the common lands in the early sixteenth century (Palmer 1933). Excavations in the 1960s revealed a range of evidence including the church, churchyard with nearly 100 burials excavated, as well as building structures (Alexander 1968). Other excavations in Cambridgeshire include those at Childerley which revealed evidence of house platforms and pottery as well as showing that although damage had occurred during ploughing some remains were still intact (RCHME 1968).

Great Childerley in 2008. Copyright Google Earth
Great Childerley in 2008. Copyright Google Earth

A number of surveys of deserted sites have been undertaken during extra mural courses since the 1970s. These included work at Castle Camps (Taylor 1973) and Croxton (Brown and Taylor 1993). These two surveys give contrasting examples of desertion.


Alexander, J.A. 1968. ‘Clopton: the Life-Cycle of a Cambridgeshire Village’, in L.M. Munby (ed.) East Anglian Studies: 48-70. Cambridge: Heffer and Sons.

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

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