Medieval Village Research Group Archive

Two weeks ago I managed to get down to Swindon to visit the Medieval Village Research Group Archive housed in the Historic England (formerly English Heritage) Archive. We had evaluated this resource at the start of the Beresford’s Lost Villages project back in 2009, but now looking forward to the future of the website, and an update of the 1968 Gazetteer, it was time to go back to plan the wholesale review of the archive.


In 1952, after late night discussions at Wharram Percy between John Hurst and Maurice Beresford, the Deserted Medieval Village Research Group was formed, which would act as a platform for further study of desertion by people from a range of disciplines. One role of the group was the compilation of county lists of deserted sites. This took as its basis the list of 1353 sites that Beresford had provided in his Lost Villages of England in 1954. Through a network of county correspondents and the tireless visits of Maurice Beresford and John Hurst, this list was added to and amended, with the publishing of all sites identified up to 1968 (2263) in Deserted Medieval Villages in 1971 (Beresford et al. 1980, Sheail 1971). After 1970 the regular meetings to add settlements to the list became less frequent and a backlog built up, so the list was supplemented by those produced by county correspondents. This increased the number of settlements to 2813 by 1977 and a new distribution map drawn, but no consolidated list ever published (Beresford et al. 1980). This continued work showed that counties originally with few deserted sites, where gradually appearing on the distribution map (Aston 1985). As well as compiling lists of sites, the group also played a part in the preservation of sites and the emergency recording of those under threat. This was partly due to John Hurst’s day job at the Ministry of Works and with particular oversight of budgets and funding allocation.  Since 1978 the archive had been deposited on loan at the National Monuments Records in the Archaeological Record Section (Aberg and Croom 1986), transferring to the Archive in Swindon when it opened.

The word ‘deserted’ was dropped from the title of the research group in 1971 to emphasise the interest in all types of settlements, not just those that were deserted (Beresford et al. 1980). The archive was added to until the late 1980s, when a further name change to the Medieval Settlement Research Group, and a refocus of activity saw the archive closed. This also coincided with the point in time both Beresford and Hurst were nearing retirement and their standardised approach could not continue to be enacted with such precision. The archive by this point contained a wide and varied array of material. It contained the county lists, suggestions and queries from members of the public and interested local researchers, copies of reports and site visits, as well as information on individual sites. This information often comes with notes on the documentary evidence, physical remains, sketch maps and aerial photographs.

Current contents of archive

The archive consists of a number of different elements. The most substantive part is over 285 box files. These contain maps, photographs but also the county information (see below). As well as these there are 9 card index cases. Most of these contain the collection of individual cards for each deserted settlement, and small scale aerial photographs.

One of the 280 or so red box files. Reproduced with permission from the Medieval Settlement Research Group.

One issue with the archive is there is no readily available index of all the sites it contains. A computerised database was created in 1990 but all trace of this has disappeared (unless anyone out there knows of its location?). Although the archive resides within the Historic England Archive it is clear through a number of simple searches that not all the villages have made it onto the computerised records of Historic England. So which villages are included in the archive and what information does it hold?

And so the process has begun at looking at this information and starting to list the villages. For each county there is one, or sometimes two, red box files containing general information about the county. This includes on most occasions Maurice Beresford’s notes from Lost Villages of England, hand written notes on the mentions of villages from the National Archives such as taxation records, publications about villages in the county, documents that include information on more than one village site in the county, and superseded lists of deserted settlements. This includes the list from 1968, as well as earlier lists published in the annual reports of the research group, as well as lists of shrunken settlements and settlements that have since been deleted from the lists. On some occasions it includes new additions to the 1968 lists.

As well as this general box, each county then has a number of files on individual sites, either continuing in the general box file, or accompanying it in a number of additional files. These files include sites listed in 1968, but also other sites. The contents of each file varies. It may be a scrap of paper listing documentary references, it may be a letter highlighting the presence of a site, it may be an aerial photograph or may be more substantial information. For example the file on Old Sennington in Gloucestershire contains a page and half report on the 1936 excavations at the site by the excavator – a small insight into these unpublished excavations. So working through county by county there are additions to the 1968 list to be found here in these box files.

The other source of information are the card index files. Listed by county, here each settlement has its own card with basic locational information and documentary evidence, sometimes sketches and St Joseph aerial photographs from the Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. As well as the DMV card drawers there are also drawers containing cards on shrunken settlements, and the queries draw which includes sites that have not been assessed but also ‘traps’, sites (particularly those from evidence spotted on aerial photographs) which in the past had been identified as settlement remains but has since been shown to be something completely different. Once example in this section is Naunton in Gloucestershire. There is clear documentary evidence that this is the site of a deserted medieval settlement, but the features originally spotted have now been shown to be an access road and hut emplacements from the Second World War.

Faint soil marks of the hut emplacements at Naunton. Copyright Google Earth
Faint soil marks of the hut emplacements at Naunton. Copyright Google Earth

Below is an example of one of DMV cards showing the nature of the detail they can contain. This lists the grid reference, the reference from Beresford 1953, Domesday book entry, 1334 and 1332 lay subsidy information, note on 1517 evictions and a number of other documentary references.

The front of the card for
The front of the card for East Compton village in Berkshire. Reproduced with Permission from the Medieval Settlement Research Group.
card back
The sketch on the back of the card for East Compton, Berkshire. Reproduced with Permission from the Medieval Settlement Research Group.

On the back of the card there is a sketch of the site from a site visit. There are cards for all deserted sites accepted by the group, and this list is longer than those that have separate box files. Going through these will also add more sites to the 1968 list…..

So this long process has begun. The archive is a treasure trove of material. As well as the detailed information it contains there is also the social history of the group and the personalities behind its creation – so much so it can be hard to concentrate at the job in hand and you get distracted by the odd letter from an interested party putting forward their local site for consideration. Over the coming months there will be more visits to the archives as the listing of sites continues…….

If anyone wishes to view the archive themselves, they must contact Historic England ahead of their visit as the material is kept in climate controlled storage and needs to be brought out ahead of any visit.


Aberg, A. and J. Croom 1986. ‘The Medieval Village Research Group Index’, Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report 1: 14.

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

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

Beresford, M.W., J.G. Hurst and J. Sheail 1980. ‘M.V.R.G: The First Thirty Years’, Medieval Village Research Group Annual Report 28: 36-38.

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.

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.

Deserted Villages in Gloucestershire – some examples

This blog reviews the evidence from some of the deserted villages in Gloucestershire that appear on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website. Gloucestershire is the latest county which has appeared on the website in its full form with descriptions of all the settlements listed in 1968.

Upper Coberley

The earthworks of Upper Coberley have been recorded to the west of Westbury and Lower Farm. They include a trackway and at least ten building outlines however much of the area is now covered in trees. These earthworks are 500m to the east of the shrunken settlement at Coberley. In Domesday Book a single hide is recorded at Upper Coberley as part of the manor of Northleach. In later records Upper Coberley is recorded with Northleach, apart from 1327 when it is recorded separately and seven people are assessed (Franklin 1993: 44). In 1334 they pay an above average amount of Lay Subsidy. At least 24 people were taxed in 1381. It continues to be recorded through the sixteenth century. The earthwork evidence clearly shows a more extensive settlement than the three farms now present.


There are three deserted settlements at Ditchford, although only two made it onto the 1968 list of deserted settlements in Gloucestershire. All three Ditchfords recorded in documents, Upper, Middle and Lower, and all continued as a separate farm. The earthworks of Lower Ditchford can be clearly seen to the north of Ditchford Mill, to the northwest of the Knee Brook. The history of these sites is complex as they formed a detached part of Worcestershire, within Gloucestershire, at various points of time (Beresford and St Joseph 1969: 16-17). The complex set of earthworks of Lower Ditchford includes a number of tofts on either side of a sinuous hollow way and wide green. At least 12 building enclosures and at least eight buildings have been identified. Surrounding the settlement is a number of fields which were probably seasonally flooded water meadows. A number of building structures are possibly post-desertion structures.

Earthworks at Lower Ditchford. Copyright Google
Earthworks at Lower Ditchford. Copyright Google

The earthworks of Upper Ditchford are located to the west of Neighbrook Manor (formally Upper Ditchford Farm). A central green is surrounded by a range of building and house platforms. The village is surrounded by extensive ridge and furrow suggesting the area of the earthworks and present farm buildings are the maximum extent of the settlement.

Earthworks of Upper Ditchford. Copyright Google
Earthworks of Upper Ditchford. Copyright Google

There is not always a clear division into separate settlements in the records. Ditchford was recorded in the Worcestershire section of the Domesday Book with a minimum population of five. In 1334 Upper and Middle Ditchford are recorded in the Lay Subsidy but Lower Ditchford is absent. The value of the tithe-corn in Upper Ditchford had halved in value between 1384-1419 and the end of arable farming is signalled when it ceased completely in about 1475(Dyer 1982). The villages at Ditchford were noted as ruinous in 1491 by John Rous, a priest of Warwick (Rous 1745).


The remains of medieval settlement of Lancaut are located on a peninsula formed by a meander in the River Wye, close to the ruins of St James’ church. The earliest part of the church dates to the late twelfth century, but a lead font dating to 1130-1140 from the church is now on display in Gloucester Cathedral.

Lead font from Lancaut now in Gloucester Cathedral
Lead font from Lancaut now in Gloucester Cathedral

The church was remodeled in later periods but has been in ruins since c. 1865 (Parry 1990). The lack of fine architectural detail and small size of the church suggests it served a small parish. The remains of the deserted settlement can be seen to the north and west of the church. A geophysical survey in 1994 identified linear features but no discernible buildings. The modern settlement of Lancaut is situated further to the north on the higher ground.

Place-name evidence suggests that a church at least may have been present on the peninsula since the seventh century. There is no clear taxation history for the settlement but the manor of Tidenham had ten tenants at Lancaut in 1306. At Lancaut in 1551 there were 19 communicants and five households were recorded in 1563 (Herbert 1972). By 1710 four families are recorded and this had decreased to two inhabited houses by 1750 (Herbert 1972).


Extensive earthworks are visible between Upper Lemington (now just Lemington) and Lower Lemington. It can be suggested that these are the remains of the settlement of Lemington and formed a larger single settlement rather than two separate places. The earthworks run to the north of Lemington Manor are those traditionally called Upper Lemington, and these carry on northwards to the church at Lower Lemington. There are further earthworks to the north of the church. As such this would be quite an extensive settlement. Some of the earthworks appear to be overlain by ridge and furrow suggesting an early date for abandonment. A hollow way runs from Lower Lemington Manor south along the current hedge line.

Earthworks to the north of Lemignton Manor, with Lower Lemington to the north of the picture. Copyright Google.
Earthworks to the north of Lemignton Manor, with Lower Lemington to the north of the picture. Copyright Google.

Both settlements were simply recorded as Lemington up until the sixteenth century lending support to the idea of one continuous settlement (Elrington and Morgan 1965). At Domesday there are two entries for Lemington, with the one identified as Upper Lemington being an outlier of the large manor at Deerhurst. Lemington pays an average Lay Subsidy in 1334. In 1524 a below average amount is paid, and seven households are recorded in 1563. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there has been a steady population recorded at Lower Lemington. There were around 20 households in 1650 but only six paid the Hearth Tax in 1672 (Elrington and Morgan 1965). The distinguishing of Lower and Upper Lemington may just be a result of two different manorial descents and land holdings. This settlement is now considered to be evidence of a shrunken settlement, rather than a deserted village.


The earthwork remains of a settlement known as Old Sennington can still be seen from the air. These include at least two north-south hollow ways, and a number of indistinct croft boundaries. A report of coins having been discovered was published in 1889 which also suggested that the original chapel of Sevenhampton may have been located at the settlement (Hall 1889-90). The present church at Sevenhampton is located 800m to the southeast. Unpublished excavations at the site in 1936 revealed stone walls as well as twelfth and thirteenth-century pottery (Baldwyn and O’Neil 1958, Dunning 1949).

Earthwork remains of Sennigton. Copyright Google
Earthwork remains of Sennigton. Copyright Google

Sennington would appear to be a variant of the place-name Sevenhampton, with other variants including Senhampton and it is suggested that this is indicative of seven settlements (Smith 1964: 117). Many small hamlets and farmsteads become deserted in the parish in the fourteenth century (Jurica 2001). No separate settlement of Sennington is recorded and it is possible that these earthworks were one of the smaller settlements of Sevenhampton, or it could have been an extension of the settlement of Nash to the west.

Taynton Parva

Taynton Parva is an excellent example of a number of different medieval landscape elements including a ringwork, motte and bailey, moated site and fishponds, a church, swannery as well as the settlement evidence. The castle site is the most distinct feature in the centre of the site, with the moated site to the east and the location of the church to the southeast. The site is surrounded to the south and east by a defensive earthwork constructed during the Civil War when Royalist Troops were garrisoned at the site. The evidence of the village is less clear and some of the features are covered by trees so are hard to interpret from the air, but presumably lay around these sites. The site has been surveyed but the remains are still open to interpretation (Williams 1996).

Taynton Parva settlement. Copyright Google
Taynton Parva settlement. Copyright Google

At Domesday a minimum population of six is recorded. In 1327 nine people are assessed (Franklin 1993: 88). In 1334 a below average Lay Subsidy is paid. By the sixteenth century there is only a record for Taynton and it is not subdivided into Magna and Parva. The church was in existence by 1134 but burnt down by Royalists in 1643 (Williams 1996, Rudder 1776). This has been confirmed in recent years by the discovery of metalwork in the area, particularly lead from the church (Rawes and Wills 1998). It has been suggested that the village was abandoned by 1485, but there is insufficient evidence to be sure (Williams 1996). In 1285 the landowner was granted a charter to use his lands at Taynton as a hunting chase and warren (Williams 1996). It is perhaps this that signifies the start of a slow decline.

These few villages give a flavour of the range of sites that become deserted in Gloucestershire – the remaining evidence and the documentary details available.


Baldwyn, R.C. and H.E. O’Neil 1958.A Medieval Site at Chalk Hill, Temple Guiting, Gloucestershire, 1957’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 77: 61-65.

Beresford, M.W. and J.K. St. Joseph 1979. Medieval England: An Aerial Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 16-17.

Dunning, G.C. 1949. ‘Report on the Medieval Pottery from Selsley Common, near Stroud’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 68: 30-44.

Dyer, C. 1982. ‘Deserted Medieval Villages in the West Midlands’, Economic History Review 35: 19-34.

Elrington, C.R. and K. Morgan 1965. ‘Lower Lemington’, in C.R. Elrington (ed.) A History of the County of Gloucester. Volume 6: 216-220. London: Oxford University Press.

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

Hall, J.M. 1889-90. ‘Sevenhampton’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 14: 328-355.

Herbert, N.M. 1972. ‘Tidenham including Lancaut’, in C.R. Elrington and N.M. Herbert (eds) A History of the County of Gloucester. Volume 10: 50-79. London: Oxford University Press.

Jurica, A.R.J. 2001. ‘Sevenhampton’, in N.M. Herbert (ed.) A History of the County of Gloucester. Volume 9: 166-187. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Parry, C. 1990. ‘A Survey of St James’s Church, Lancaut, Gloucestershire’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 108: 53-103.

Rawes, J.A. and J. Wills (eds) 1998.’ Archaeological Review No. 22’, Transactions of Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 116: 191-212: 208.

Rous, J. 1745. Historia Regum Angliae. Oxford

Rudder, S. 1779. A New History of Gloucestershire. Cirencester: S Rudder: 726.

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

Williams, S.E. 1996. Taynton Parva Deserted Medieval Village. Its History and Archaeology. Lydney: Dean Archaeological Group Occasional Publication No. 2.

New county released – Gloucestershire

This week we look at the most recent county to be completed on the website – Gloucestershire – where all 67 sites listed as deserted medieval settlements in 1968 now have full descriptions. This list includes sites which may never have seen nucleated settlement, sites which have been abandoned in the fourteenth century due to numerous factors affecting the fortunes of the villagers as well as a number of interesting stories with complex village histories.

Deserted villages in Gloucestershire as listed in 1968
Deserted villages in Gloucestershire as listed in 1968

The compiling of a definitive list of deserted medieval settlements in Gloucestershire has seen many attempts. There are 15 sites mentioned by Beresford in 1954. A revised list of sites in 1959 contained 28 settlements (Icomb had been lost by this point) and a further revision in 1962 added 26 settlements and noted that Icomb, Little Sodbury and Halford had been deleted from the list (although it is not clear when Halford had ever been listed or if this is a typographical error for Harford) (Hurst 1960, 1962a, 1962b).

By 1968 the list of deserted settlements had reached 67. A number of settlements do not appear in the 1968 Gazetteer that we would expect to see at this point such as Middle Ditchford which is absent whilst Lower and Upper Ditchford both appear.

In 1980 Alan Saville published a list of deserted medieval village sites with earthworks in the Avon and Gloucestershire Cotswolds particularly those that were under threat of ploughing (Saville 1980). This listed a total of 43 settlements – of which 24 were on the 1968 Gazetteer. This did not include all the villages recorded in 1968 in this sub-region of Gloucestershire, but those that could be clearly identified on the ground. This resulted in 19 further sites being identified. In 1981 Mick Aston and Linda Viner published the first attempt at a list of the deserted settlements in Gloucestershire since the 1968 Gazetteer. This included settlements mentioned in Beresford (1954), Beresford and Hurst (1971), Saville (1980) as well as unpublished sites in the Medieval Village Research Group Archive, those that had been deleted from previous lists, and those in the records of Gloucestershire and District Archaeological Research Group. This list was not a definite list of known and tested sites, but was presented as a starting point for further investigation (Aston and Viner 1981). This included 173 sites, (14 from Beresford 1954 [including the deleted ones] and 66 from 1968 [Lark Stoke since having transferred to Warwickshire]). By 1984 this list had risen to 195 (Aston and Viner 1984). Aston and Viner (1984) do suggest that many of the deserted settlements should not be called villages, lacking the size or criteria to be villages – such as the presence of a church. For the purposes of this website, many settlements have still been classed as deserted villages as opposed to deserted hamlets as the evidence would suggest a sizable population once inhabited the site, even if the settlement was subsidiary in status to another settlement.

Deserted villages listed in 1968, as classified by the Beresford's Lost Villages website
Deserted villages listed in 1968, as classified by the Beresford’s Lost Villages website

Since these surveys much work has been carried out on individual sites but also on the wider context of settlements studies in the West Midlands. One researcher who has made a vital contribution to this study has been Christopher Dyer who has provided regional overviews (Dyer 1982, 2002) as well as in-depth studies of particular settlements (Aldred and Dyer 1991, Dyer 1987, 1998). In one of his earlier reviews of deserted settlements in the West Midlands he shows the range of reasons for desertion, and that on many occasions this is the result of long-term changes rather than sudden events, and the final abandonment of many settlements was after a slow gradual decline (Dyer 1982). These long-term affects often saw outward migrations from settlements and while accusations of forcible eviction were present there is also evidence of land owners trying to encourage tenants to stay by offering building repairs and support, or forcibly ensuring building maintenance (Dyer 1982: 28).

Within Gloucestershire there is a range of different landscape types which have seen different patterns of settlement development and desertion. This includes areas of nucleated settlement such as the Cotswolds as well as areas of very small hamlets and individual farms, which dominate the woodland areas of west Gloucestershire (Dyer 1987, 2002). One landscape that has been intensively studied has been that of the Cotswolds. Here a concentration of deserted sites has been identified (Dyer 1982). This shows the increase in the number of settlements identified since 1954 when Beresford stated ‘the Cotswolds have been remarkably free from depopulation’ (1954: 351). Traditionally the Cotswolds are seen as a pastoral landscape with nucleated settlements, but the medieval pattern was significantly different.

The nucleated villages of the Cotswolds were associated with high levels of arable agriculture and the development of open fields instead of the modern pastoral view (Dyer 1987). These settlements often show evidence of planning in their structure and layout. One suggestion for the organisation of settlements is the high proportion of slaves recorded at Domesday and the need to house these families close to their manorial centre (Dyer 1987, 2002). However this was not always the case and some villages which on the outside looked like single planned units may have actually involved more than one landowner (Dyer 1987). On the Cotswolds nucleated villages were not the only form of settlement. Hamlets, mills, sheepcoates and granges were all present highlighting the presence of dispersed settlement intermingled with the nucleated villages (Dyer 2002). Some of the smaller settlements may have originated in areas heavily wooded, developing a dispersed pattern as small areas were gradually cleared (Dyer 2002).

On the Cotwolds there is a concentration of deserted settlements and a once packed landscape saw a reduction in settlements. Dyer provides a nice illustration of this when looking at one particularly deserted settlement – that of Lark Stoke. There are now only three villages within 2 miles of the site, but at the height of settlement activity there had once been 11 villages and hamlets across the same area (Dyer 2012: 137). The Cotwolds seem to have been heavily affected by the crisis that developed in the fourteenth century. The Nonarum Inquisitiones for Gloucestershire shows that villages were starting to struggle in the mid-fourteenth century; Harford and Ailworth recorded in 1341 that ‘many tenants left their holdings and left them vacant and uncultivated’ and at Littleton ‘seven parishioners of the hamlet of Littleton … abandoned their holdings and left the parish’ (Dyer 1982: 22). In total 17 parishes in Gloucestershire recorded tenants leaving and land being uncultivated (Dyer 2002). One suggestion Dyer puts forward to explain these struggles is the over-extension of arable farming and a shortage of livestock to help maintain soil fertility (Dyer 1982: 22). Long-term sustainability of the great number of settlements and such intensive arable agriculture was not possible and through much of the Cotswolds a decline in population was seen between 1300-1520 (Dyer 1987). Of the settlements that were struggling in the mid-fourteenth century, a number seemed to be heavily affected by the late fourteenth century, possibly compounded by the Black Death. Land that was gradually abandoned as villagers sought their fortunes elsewhere was then gradually enclosed. The conversion of land to pasture was recorded in the fifteenth century. In the 1480s John Rous published a list of 60 Warwickshire villages that he observed in ruins, some of which lie in modern Gloucestershire including the Ditchfords and Sezincote (Rous 1745, Dyer 1982). That a number of settlements were deserted and then put over to sheep farming is attested by the presence of sheepcotes over the earthworks at sites such as Manless Town, Pinnock, and Hilcot (Dyer 2002). These buildings would have been used to shelter sheep and from the excavated examples and documentary evidence seem to be common between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries and have gone out of use by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Dyer 1995).


Gloucestershire has seen a number of different projects investigating deserted settlement sites. The earliest excavation was in 1907 at Hullasey which identified two buildings and the possible location of the chapel (Baddeley 1910). A more recent re-evaluation and survey of the site has suggested that this was in fact four buildings with over 30 buildings identified across the site (Ellis 1984).

Hullasey Grove (c) Google Earth
Hullasey Grove (c) Google Earth

Excavations at Old Sennington in 1936 revealed stone walls and twelfth to fourteenth-century pottery but the results remain unpublished (Baldwin and O’Neil 1958). In 1962 trial trenches were placed across the settlement earthworks at Manless Town, partly to discover if any of the remains were Roman in date (Wingman and Spry 1993, Smith 1998). The results were not published at the time and recent discussion shows different interpretations. Further field walking was undertaken at the site in 1992 which produced twelfth and thirteenth-century pottery (Smith 1998).

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

The most detailed work has been carried out at Upton under the leadership of Philip Rahtz between 1959 and 1968 as part of the courses taught at Birmingham University (Hilton and Rahtz 1966, Rahtz 1969, Watts and Rahtz 1984). This work focussed on detailed analysis of the earthworks, the excavation of a series of buildings in the centre of the site as well as a number of small trial trenches across the settlement boundary and outlying buildings (Hilton and Rahtz 1966, Rahtz 1969). The survey identified at least 27 buildings, but the evidence from excavation suggests the number is probably greater as a single earthwork may hide a number of other structures. The excavated building earthwork at the centre of the site revealed a series of stone buildings focused around two separate longhouses which were expanding and being adapted over time, preceded by timber structures (Hilton and Rahtz 1966, Rahtz 1969). It is suggested that the main building phases were later twelfth to fourteenth century. Only a few finds can be dated to the fifteenth century and are nothing more than indications arising from people walking across the site. In 1973 a number of trenches were excavated across the site to improve the water supply and a watching brief conducted at the time recorded 49 features, and showed a number of features that were not visible on the earthwork plan of the site as well as buildings outside the core of the settlement (Watts and Rahtz 1984).

Since this early work there have been no extensive excavations at any other Gloucestershire site, but a number of detailed landscape and documentary surveys have added to our knowledge of settlement development and desertion. One long-term project investigated the landscape around Frocester starting in 1961 running up until 2009 (Price 2000a, 2000b, 2008, 2010). This took a long-term view and found evidence of a Roman villa under the medieval church. It has also clarified that the village of Frocester has a complex development, with a number of smaller farmsteads doted around the area and that the isolated church does not represent the location of the medieval settlement. This evidence downgraded Frocester as a deserted medieval village, although added a number of other smaller potential deserted sites.

Frocester - St Peter's Church (c) Google Earth
Frocester – St Peter’s Church (c) Google Earth

Other settlements where study since the 1968 Gazetteer has revealed detailed evidence of desertion include sites such as Little Aston (Dyer 1987). Here Dyer has shown the development of a small settlement and its relationship to the nearby Aston Blank. He has also shown the decline starting in the early fourteenth century and how one of the factors that led to desertion was the stress caused by the bullying tactics local miller, with outward migration from the settlement noted in 1340 when seven parishioners had left the parish (Dyer 1987). Little Aston fits into a landscape in the upper Windrush valley where another four deserted settlements are located (Aylworth, Castlett, Eyford and Harford) and where surviving settlements also show evidence of shrinkage such as at Temple Guiting and Aston Blank itself (Dyer 1987). Dyer has described the desertion in this landscape as ‘very severe, and began unusually early’ (Dyer 1987: 176).

At Taynton Parva a survey by the local archaeological group has brought some clarity to the plan of the earthworks at this complex site, but the exact layout of the settlement is still unclear (Williams 1996). A number of other sites have been studied as part of larger projects. Lark Stoke has been investigated as part of the Admington Survey looking at the development and decline of three neighbouring villages (Dyer 1998). The rise and fall of Thornden is discussed by Dyer in his consideration of hamlets and dispersed settlement in the Cotswolds (2002).

Taynton Parva settlement. Copyright Google
Taynton Parva settlement. Copyright Google

County Records

Two Historic Environments Records cover the area of Gloucestershire. The Gloucestershire HER is based in Gloucestershire County Council and can be accessed via HeritageGateway at The South Gloucestershire HER is based in South Gloucestershire Council and is currently not available online. Gloucestershire Archives have a useful online search facility at

Much of the work undertaken in Gloucestershire has been published by the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society and their Transactions can be accessed online via their website at, allowing many of the key articles referenced here to be freely available.


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

Aston, M. and L. Viner 1981. ‘Gloucestershire Deserted Villages’, Glevensis 15: 22-29.

Aston, M. and L. Viner 1984. ‘The Study of Deserted Villages in Gloucestershire’, in A. Saville (ed.) Archaeology in Gloucestershire: 276-293. Cheltenham: Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museums and Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society.

Baldwyn, R.C. and H.E. O’Neil 1958.A Medieval Site at Chalk Hill, Temple Guiting, Gloucestershire, 1957’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 77: 61-65.

Baddeley, W. St C. 1910. ‘The Manor and Site of Hullasey, Gloucestershire’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 33: 338-354.

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

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

Dyer, C. 1982. ‘Deserted Medieval Villages in the West Midlands’, Economic History Review 35:19-34.

Dyer, C. 1987. ‘The Rise and Fall of a Medieval Village: Little Aston (in Aston Blank), Gloucestershire’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 105: 165-182.

Dyer, C. 1995. ‘Sheepcotes: Evidence for Medieval Sheepfarming’, Medieval Archaeology 39: 136-164.

Dyer, C. 1998. ‘Medieval Pottery from the Admington Survey: Some Preliminary Conclusions’, Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report 13: 24-25.

Dyer, C. 2002. ‘Villages and Non-Villages in the Medieval Cotswolds’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 120: 11-35.

Dyer, C. 2012. A Country Merchant, 1495-1520: Trading and Farming at the End of the Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, P.J. 1984. ‘The Medieval Settlement at Hullasey, Coates’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 102: 210-211.

Hilton, R.H. and P.A. Rahtz 1966. ‘Upton, Gloucestershire, 1959-1964’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 85: 70-146.

Hurst, J.G. 1960. ‘Appendix C. Gloucestershire: Revised D.M.V. List 1959’, Deserted Medieval Village Research Group Annual Report 8.

Hurst, J.G. 1962a. ‘Appendix A. List of the Deserted Medieval Villages Identified Since the Publication of Lost Villages of England in 1954 and December 1962’, Deserted Medieval Village Research Group Annual Report 10.

Hurst, J.G. 1962b. ‘Appendix B. List of sites deleted from ‘The Lost Villages of England’ between 1954 and 1962’, Deserted Medieval Village Research Group Annual Report 10.

Price, E. 2000a. Frocester: a Romano-British settlement, its antecedents and successors. Volume 1 the sites. Stonehouse: Gloucester and District Archaeological Research Group.

Price, E. 2000b. Frocester: a Romano-British settlement, its antecedents and successors. Volume 2: the Finds. Stonehouse: Gloucester and District Archaeological Research Group.

Price, E. 2008. Frocester: a Romano-British settlement, its antecedents and successors. Volume 4: The Village. Stonehouse: Gloucester and District Archaeological Research Group.

Price, E. 2010. Frocester: a Romano-British settlement, its antecedents and successors. Volume 3: Excavations 1995-2009. Stonehouse: Gloucester and District Archaeological Research Group.

Rahtz, P.A. 1969. ‘Upton, Glos., 1964-68’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 88: 74-126.

Rous, J. 1745. Historia Regum Angliae. Oxford.

Saville, A. 1980. Archaeological Sites in the Avon and Gloucestershire Cotswolds. Bristol: Committee for Rescue Archaeology in Avon, Gloucestershire and Somerset.

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

Watts, L. and P. Rahtz 1984. ‘Upton Deserted Medieval Village, Blockley, Gloucestershire, 1973’, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 102: 141-154.

Williams, S.E. 1996. Taynton Parva Deserted Medieval Village. Its History and Archaeology. Lydney: Dean Archaeological Group Occasional Publication No. 2.

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

Currently Completed Counties – Essex

This week’s blog reviews the evidence from Essex. This is the last of the counties that currently have completed descriptions of each village on the Beresford’s Lost Villages website to be reviewed . In 1954 a total of six deserted villages were listed by Maurice Beresford, all which appear in the later 1968 Gazetteer and are mainly those identified through the presence of isolated churches (1954: 350). There were 17 settlements recorded in the 1968 Gazetteer and Essex was noted as one of the counties needing further study. Of these 17, nine are unlocated settlements recorded in Domesday but their modern counterpart is not known, and the majority of the remaining identifications continue to be based on the presence of ruined or destroyed churches. A number of the settlements have had a chequered history and been added to, removed and added back to the lists of deserted settlements such as Wickham Bishops (DMVRG 1962, DMVRG 1963).

Since 1968 some work has extended the list of potential deserted settlement sites. In 1977 Warwick and Kirsty Rodwell undertook a survey of churches in Essex, particularly those that were threatened and derelict (Rodwell 1977). Within this survey several of the churches at sites of deserted medieval settlement were reviewed. However it is unclear whether these ever formed centres of a nucleated settlement or if they were instead serving a widely dispersed parish. Since 1977 more sites have been identified but again some of these are simply on the basis of an isolated church.


Deserted villages of Essex listed in 1968 as classified by the website
Deserted villages of Essex listed in 1968 as classified by the website

Investigation into the medieval landscape of Essex has not been extensive (Rippon 2008: 181). There is evidence of much dispersed settlement (Martin 2012: 234-35). Rippon has reviewed the nature of the landscape as part of the ‘Great East Anglia’ and the nature of settlement outside the nucleated village zone which highlights the variation of settlement in the area (Rippon 2008).

Detailed research has been published into the affects of the Black Death on the Essex population and this paints a picture of high mobility, but one that was present before the events of 1349. It also showed that the pattern in Essex of the rural population and society is one that cannot be used across the country as a whole (Poos 1991).


None of the settlements on the 1968 Gazetteer have been excavated, and none of them show evidence of buried remains from aerial photographs or the presence of earthworks, apart from church remains. The National Mapping Programme of aerial photographs undertaken on behalf of English Heritage did not highlight many medieval features, though moated sites were one of the most common (Ingle and Saunders 2003). However in general there has been considerable valuable work undertaken in the county looking at a range of site types from moated sites, to farmsteads, mills and industrial sites (Medlycott 2006). All this work has confirmed the dispersed nature of settlement in the county. It has also shown that a number of sites had been abandoned in the fourteenth century, something alluded to by Poos (1991) (see Medlycott 2006: 5). There has also been a historic settlement assessment of 29 parishes in the county (Medlycott 2011: 61).

The Essex HER (Historic Environments Record) can be accessed online at the Unlocking Essex’s Past website – This covers the areas of the County of Essex and the Unitary Authority of Thurrock. A search here reveals 101 sites that are classed as ‘deserted settlements’. This includes a number of moated sites and possible shrunken settlement remains, but also a large number of untested sites that the HER records as only ‘possible DMV’ and that they probably appeared on the recorded due to the isolated church. Essex is still a county which would benefit from a detailed survey of the deserted settlements.


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

DMVRG 1962. ‘Appendix B: List of Sites Deleted from ‘The Lost Villages of England’ Between 1954 and 1962’, Deserted Medieval Village Research Group Annual Report 10: Appendix B.

DMVRG 1963. ‘Appendix A: Deserted Medieval Villages – New Sites 1963’, Deserted Medieval Village Research Group Annual Report 11: Appendix A.

Ingle, C. and H. Saunders 2003. National Mapping Programme Essex: Management Report. Unpublished Report Essex County Council and English Heritage.

Martin, E. 2010. ‘Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex: Medieval Rural Settlement in ‘Greater East Anglia’’, in N. Christie and P. Stamper (eds) Medieval Rural Settlement in Britain and Ireland AD 800-1600: 225-248. Oxford: Windgather.

Medlycott, M. 2006. ‘Sweet Uneventful Countryside: Excavated Medieval Farms and their landscape in Essex’, in N. Brown and M. Medlycott (eds) Research, Planning and Management: the East of England Archaeological Research Framework Review

Medlycott, M. 2011. Research and Archaeology Revisited: a Revised Framework for the East of England. Norwich: East Anglian Archaeology Occasional Paper No.24.

Poos, L.R. 1991. A Rural Society: After the Black Death: Essex 1350-1525. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rippon, S. 2008. Beyond the Medieval Village: The Diversification of Landscape Character in Southern Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rodwell, W. 1977. Historic Churches: a Wasting Asset. London: Council for British Archaeology Research Report 19.

Currently Completed Counties – East Riding of Yorkshire

This week we review the evidence for deserted settlements in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Although the Beresford’s Lost Villages website is reviewing and writing descriptions for each village by county in alphabetical order, Yorkshire (East Riding) was taken out of sequence as it is home to the project and has a long history of study of deserted settlements. It has proven to be one of the most searched counties on the website.

Yorkshire as a whole was one of the counties to have separate lists of deserted villages produced in the early years of study, with the list for the East Riding appearing in 1952 (Beresford 1952). As such in 1954 Beresford only published some of the key sites ‘intended as a guide for visitors’ (Beresford 1954: 392). The 1952 list noted 123 sites, although in the introduction Beresford hints at 99 (Beresford 1952: 44). He suggests that around 40-50 were a result of sheep farming depopulations and 20-30 were earlier desertions due to the Black Death (Beresford 1952: 4). A number of settlements had also been lost through coastal erosion. By 1968 the number of settlements had risen slightly to 129, with three of the 1952 listing having disappeared in the meantime.

Deserted settlements listed in 1968
Deserted settlements listed in 1968

The East Riding of Yorkshire has remained a focus for attention, with the research project at Wharram Percy being a catalyst for other studies elsewhere. The continued investigation of medieval settlement in the area has resulted in the increase of known sites and the listing of many shrunken settlements. Research has included detailed local studies. One of the key examples of this is the PhD thesis of Susan Neave that looked at settlement contraction during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, with particular examples from the Bainton Beacon division of the county (Neave 1990). This revealed that many of the ‘classic’ deserted settlements of this area such as Rotsea and Sunderlandwick were late depopulations and that for many villages the end was a long drawn-out process. Also new forms of evidence occasionally appear which allow clearer pictures to be painted of settlements and their road to desertion. A recently discovered survey from 1723 of the village of Menethorpe has allowed the pre-desertion settlement to be viewed in new light, the families of farmers to be traced, with the final desertion of the village placed in 1872 (Cookson 2010-2011).

Deserted settlement remains at Sunderlandwick. Copyright Google.
Deserted settlement remains at Sunderlandwick. Copyright Google.

The landscape of the East Riding is characterised by nucleated settlements and this is one of the reasons why we see so many villages initially identified in the county as the picture was much clearer than areas of dispersed settlement. There have been numerous studies of settlement development in the different zones of the East Riding with ideas of planning in village design and the origins of open-field systems (e.g. Harvey 1980, 1982, Sheppard 1976).

Deserted settlements as classified by the website
Deserted settlements as classified by the website


For information on the long-term project at Wharram Percy please look under the Beresford pages of the Beresford’s Lost Villages website as this provides a summary of the work undertaken between 1950-1990 as well as the more recent topographic and geophysical surveys. It also discusses the impact this project had on a generation of archaeologists.

However Wharram is not the only site to be investigated in the county. Numerous excavations have been carried out, some on a small scale and never fully reported such as at Auburn and Wauldby. Other small projects have included that at Arras, where fieldwork in 2004-05 to the west of the farm found a large quantity of pottery dating from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries (Phillpott 2005). It also potentially located the position of the chapel.

At Hilderthorpe, to the south of Bridlington, an excavation on the main street in 1954-5 found a fifteenth-century pot sherd in a re-cut and sealed ditch, confirming that the street was in use in the medieval period. Other features uncovered included a number of walls from toft boundaries and possible buildings (Brewster et al. 1975).

The site at Riplingham can be clearly seen from with road. A hollow way runs east-west with crofts and tofts to the north and south. Excavations in 1956-57 were undertaken to the west of Riplingham House. The first house excavated was found to date from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century with phases of reconstruction up to the middle of the eighteenth century (Wacher 1966). The second house excavated was built in the thirteenth century and rebuilt twice before becoming completely ruined in the late fourteenth century (Wacher 1966). A further house site was excavated in 1966 (Wilson and Hurst 1967).

Riplingham, East Yorkshire. Copyright Google.
Riplingham, East Yorkshire. Copyright Google.

At Cowlam, a rescue excavation was conducted in 1971-2 in advance of ploughing (Hayfield 1988). A courtyard farm at the site was targeted for excavation which revealed four structures that were abandoned in the late seventeenth century. The use of each of these structures is unclear from the excavated evidence, and whether they originally formed two separate crofts as the village plan would suggest has not been confirmed (Hayfield 1988). The excavation did not reveal evidence for structures earlier than the fifteenth century but pottery from the site would suggest occupation from the eleventh century. The historical sources for Cowlam match the archaeological evidence with a suggested depopulation between 1674 and 1680. Fourteen households had been recorded in 1674, and it has been suggested that the settlement was depopulated due to either a change in landowner or the tenants consolidating holdings (Hayfield 1988).

Plough-out remains of Cowlam village visible as soil marks. Copyright Google.
Plough-out remains of Cowlam village visible as soil marks. Copyright Google.

A number of sites have also under gone detailed historic and topographic surveys. The earthworks at Rotsea were surveyed in 1989 and the plan published in the same year, with a larger scale plan appearing in 1990 (Cocroft et al. 1989, 1990). The main hollow way takes two routes and it is suggested that they be could be different phases with the more sinuous route replaced at a later date (Cocroft et al. 1989). The survey and combined documentary evidence has shown that the nucleated medieval village became reduced to a number of substantial farms and was finally deserted as dispersed farms were developed. It is suggested that the change from village to individual farms came about by the early sixteenth century possibly with the conversion to pasture. A map of 1784 shows the settlement had been completely depopulated by this time (Neave 1990).

Rotsea deserted village remains. Copyright Google.
Rotsea deserted village remains. Copyright Google.

The research undertaken at Eske shows how the physical remains can be matched to the documentary evidence (English and Miller 1991). This showed the re-planning of the site which occurred in 1300. Field walking produced a range of thirteenth to sixteenth-century pottery, but all the later fifteenth-century sherds were fine tablewares indicating that just the leading tenants remained in residence. A north-south street with a number of tofts and sunken yards is visible. The tofts to the east of the hollow way appear to have no crofts. To the south of this area is an east-west hollow way leading to the River Hull. This is suggested as the original focus of the settlement with the area to the north as a planned expansion sometime before the late thirteenth century (English and Miller 1991).

Eske village: Google image from 2003
Eske village: Google image from 2003

Since the publication of the 1968 list of deserted settlements many more areas of desertion have been identified – particularly areas of shrunken settlement and it is anticipated that the list for the East Riding will increase once the county as a whole is reviewed.


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

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

Brewster, T.C.M., P. Armstrong and P. Hough 1975. ‘Excavations at Hilderthorpe’, East Riding Archaeologist 2: 71-81.

Cocroft, W.D., P. Everson and W.R. Wilson-North 1989. ‘The Deserted Medieval Village of Rotsea, Humberside’, Medieval Settlement Research Group 4: 14-17.

Cocroft, W.D., P. Everson and W.R. Wilson-North 1990. ‘Rotsea’, Medieval Settlement Research Group 5: 19-20.

Cookson, G. 2010-2011. ‘Menethorpe: Rediscovering a Lost Village’, The Rydale Historian 25: 22-31.

English, B. and K. Miller 1991. ‘The Deserted Village of Eske, East Yorkshire’, Landscape History 13: 5-32.

Harvey, M. 1980. ‘Regular Field and Tenurial Arrangements in Holderness, Yorkshire’, Journal of Historical Geography  6: 3-16.

Harvey, M. 1982. ‘Regular Open-Field Systems of the Yorkshire Wolds’, Landscape History 4: 29-39.

Hayfield, C. 1988. ‘Cowlam Deserted Village: a Case Study of Post-Medieval Village Desertion’, Post-Medieval Archaeology  22: 21-109.

Neave, S. 1990. Rural Settlement Contraction in the East Riding of Yorkshire c. 1660-1760 with Particular Reference to the Bainton Beacon Division. University of Hull Unpublished PhD Thesis.

Phillpott, M. 2005. ‘A Landscape Study of a Deserted Medieval Settlement at Arras, East Yorkshire’, Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report 20: 31-33.

Sheppard, J.A. 1976. ‘Medieval Village Planning in Northern England: Some Evidence from Yorkshire’, Journal of Historical Geography 2: 3-20.

Wacher, J. 1966. ‘Excavations at Riplingham East Yorkshire 1956-7’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 41: 608-669.

Wilson, D. and D.G. Hurst 1967. ‘Medieval Britain in 1966’, Medieval Archaeology 11: 262-319.

Currently Completed Counties – Durham

This week we review the deserted settlements listed in 1968 in County Durham. In 1954 seven villages were suggested as classic deserted sites with another nine listed as possibilities (Beresford 1954: 350). One site from 1954, Newton – Archdeacon does not appear on the 1968 Gazetteer, which lists a total of 29 sites. Extensive work has since been carried out in the county and the Historic Environment Record now records over 140 sites.

Deserted settlements in County Durham listed in 1968
Deserted settlements in County Durham listed in 1968

Much of the work has been spearheaded by Brian Roberts’ analysis of village form. Evidence from such settlement investigation in the county and the wider northern England has highlighted that up to 80% of settlements contain evidence of planning in their structure and layout (Roberts 2008, Wrathmell 2012). There are a range of plans that these settlements follow – but many of the settlements listed on the website show clear evidence of the regular two-row format, with the rows facing each other, often on either side of a street or a green. A more complex regular plan can be seen at Walworth which shows evidence of two regular rows to the north and west of a central green, with perhaps further evidence for more tofts on the other sides.

Walworth, County Durham. Copyright Google.
Walworth, County Durham. Copyright Google.

There is a change in settlement pattern in County Durham from east to west, with the east falling within the landscape characterised by nucleated villages. To the west is an increase in farmsteads and a more dispersed settlement pattern with place-names signifying woodland mainly located on Pennine Spurs and High Pennines (Roberts 2008, Roberts et al. 2005). The general pattern of desertions in the county has been studied from a number of different angles and suggests gradual reductions rather than sudden desertions (Roberts 2008: 44).

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


Compared with some of the other counties of England there has been considerable fieldwork on deserted sites in County Durham. In several cases this was due to an imminent threat to the archaeology. One of the earliest excavations was undertaken at Yoden, a site now identified as Horden (Middleton 1885, Turnbull 2004). Excavations in 1884 proved the medieval date of the remains uncovering what were described as ‘foundations of the rudest descriptions, consisting entirely of mere shapeless masses of un-hewn stone’ (Middleton 1885: 186). Since then the site has been encroached upon by Peterlee but a small area of earthworks still survives (Turnbull 2006).

At Swainston at least 10 house sites have been identified and two of these were excavated between 1957-1960 (Booth 1957). The excavated houses were located in the south-east of the site and may have been on the edge of the settlement. Both structures have been dated to the fourteenth to fifteenth century (Wilson and Hurst 1960: 160). A full excavation report has not appeared.

Excavations were conducted in the 1960s at West Hartburn. Earthworks north of the road through the village had been ploughed and the excavations concentrated on the earthworks that still existed to the south (Still and Palliser 1964, 1967, Palliser and Wrathmell 1990). These revealed evidence of a number of different buildings with at least two longhouses uncovered, and a smaller building which is now thought to be a smaller structure associated with one of the longhouses. It is estimated that altogether there were 12 tofts. Pottery dating to the thirteenth to sixteenth century was recovered (Palliser and Wrathmell 1990).

West Hartburn, County Durham, surviving earthworks. Copyright Google.
West Hartburn, County Durham, surviving earthworks. Copyright Google.

The remains of the village of Thrislington were badly damaged during quarrying activity; however rescue excavations were undertaken in 1973-1974 (Austin 1989). These excavations revealed evidence of toft boundaries, a chapel, industrial areas, houses and a manor house. The east-west track present in the 1970s signified the medieval routeway through the settlement and on either side of this were enclosures which backed onto ridge and furrow. These enclosures seemed to represent tofts with building platforms to the front of them. The excavations suggested the manor house was constructed in the twelfth century and abandoned in the early fourteenth century. Excavation of buildings in the tofts suggests they appear in the thirteenth century and some disappear by the middle of the fifteenth century, while others continue until the sixteenth century (Austin 1989).

Excavations were carried out at Castle Eden in 1974 when the site was under threat from development (Austin and O’Mahoney 1987). The earthworks at the site were not clear, but ten trenches were excavated down to the first archaeological features, but not fully excavated (Austin and O’Mahoney 1987). The intention was to show the presence of medieval settlement and the potential of the site while not compromising the archaeology. These revealed a north-south hollow way and suggested houses to either side forming two rows. Pottery uncovered dated from the twelfth to sixteenth century (Austin and O’Mahoney 1987).

A deserted settlement in County Durham – Ulnaby – has also featured on Channel 4’s Time Team in 2008. Survey work and excavations as part of the programme suggested that the settlement was only occupied for a short period from the late thirteenth century to the fifteenth century (Wessex Archaeology 2008). A survey in 2007 had suggested that there was an earlier phase to the site without a green (Grindley et al. 2008). The small-scale excavation though did not support this conclusion (Wessex Archaeology 2008).

Ulnaby, County Durham. Copyright Google.
Ulnaby, County Durham. Copyright Google.

One site, Sockburn, is currently under investigation due to the presence of a possible minster church and pre-conquest sculpture (Semple and Petts 2014). It is in doubt if there was ever a village here, but this project may help resolve this issue.

Smaller excavations have occurred elsewhere such as at Elton where a medieval barn was uncovered (Nenk et al. 1992). Some sites have also undergone detailed survey work. One such site is Newsham which was surveyed in 1972. The earthworks could be seen clearly from the air, located to the east and north of the River Tees. These included hollow ways and enclosures. At least 11 tofts were identified and at least 11 building platforms suggested including one that was possibly the chapel of St James (Pallister and Pallister 1978). These were aligned along a north-south axis which corresponded to the modern farm track, and the house plots were located on either side of a narrow green.

One excellent source of information on deserted settlements in County Durham is the Durham Historic Environment Record that is available online via the Keys to the Past website at


Austin, D and C. O’Mahoney 1987. ‘The Medieval Settlement and Landscape of Castle Eden, Peterlee, Co. Durham: Excavations 1974’, Durham Archaeological Journal 3: 57-78.

Austin, D. 1989. The Deserted Medieval Village of Thrislington, Co Durham: Excavation 1973-1974. London:  Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph Series No 12.

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

Booth, J.C. 1957. ‘Swainston Village’, South Shields Archaeological and History Society Papers 1, 5: 9-14.

Grindey, C., M. Jecock and A. Oswald 2008. Ulnaby, Darlington: An Archaeological Survey and Investigation of the Deserted Medieval Village. English Heritage Unpublished Research Department Report No. 13-2008.

Middleton, R.M. 1885. ‘On Yoden, A Medieval site between Castle Eden and Easington’, Archaeologia Aeliana 10: 186-187.

Nenk, B.S., S. Margeson and M. Hurley 1992. ‘Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1991’, Medieval Archaeology 36: 204-205.

Pallister, A.F. and P.M.J. Pallister 1978. ‘A Survey of the Deserted Medieval Village of Newsham’, Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland 4: 7-19.

Pallister, A.F. and S. Wrathmell 1990. ‘The Deserted Village of West Hartburn, Third Report: Excavations of Site D and Discussion’, in B.E. Vyner (ed.) Medieval Rural Settlement in North-East England: 59-78. Durham: Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland Research Report 2.

Roberts, B.K. 2008. Landscapes, Documents and maps: Villages in Northern England and Beyond AD 900-1250. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Roberts, B.K., H. Dunsford and S.J. Harris 2005. ‘Framing Medieval Landscapes: Region and Place in County Durham’, in C.D. Liddy and R.H. Britnell (eds) North-East England in the Later Middle Ages: 221-237. Woodbridge: Boydell.

Semple, S and D. Petts 2014. Sockburn Project, Co Durham.

Still, L. and A. Paliister 1964. ‘The Excavation of One House Site in the Deserted Village of West Hartburn, County Durham’, Archaeologia Aeliana 42: 187-206.

Still, L. and A. Pallister 1967. ‘West Hartburn 1965 Site C’, Archaeologia Aeliana 45: 139-148.

Turnbull, P. 2004. A Deserted Medieval Village off Eden Lane, Peterlee, Co. Durham. The Brigantia Archaeological Practice Unpublished Report.

Wessex Archaeology. 2008. Ulnaby Hall, High Coniscliffe, County Durham: Archaeological Evaluation and Assessment of Results. Wessex Archaeology Unpublished Report 68731.01.

Wilson, D.M. and J.G. Hurst 1960. ‘Medieval Britain in 1959’, Medieval Archaeology 4: 134-165.

Wrathmell, S. 2012. ‘Northern England: Exploring the Character of Medieval Rural Settlements’, in N. Christie and P. Stamper (eds) Medieval Rural Settlement in Britain and Ireland AD 800-1600: 249-269. Oxford: Windgather.

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.