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.

Roel

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.

Roelside

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.

Summary

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.

References

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.

Advertisements

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.

Ditchfords

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).

Lancaut

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).

Lemington

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.

Sennington

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.

References

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).

Excavations

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 http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/gateway/. 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 http://ww3.gloucestershire.gov.uk/DServe/DServe.exe?dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=Index.tcl

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 http://bgas.org.uk/publications/transactions.html, allowing many of the key articles referenced here to be freely available.

References

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.

Progress report January 2015

Beresford’s Lost Villages website is still a work in progress. All 2,263 deserted village sites listed in 1968 appear on the site – each has an individual record with lots of useful information such a the taxation records, the number of the relevant record on the local Historic Environment Record (HER) and National Monument Record (NMR) as well as the suggested location of the site. This short report updates on the progress being made at adding further information to these records, which is being tackled on a county by county basis. Up to now we have managed to complete the process for the pre-1974 counties up to Essex. At the moment we are in the process of reviewing Gloucestershire.

What does this review entail?

Well it is at this point we check a number of aspects of the data for each settlement as well as writing a brief description of each site. In a future blog we will explore in more detail the process of writing a description of a site, but this entails locating as much information about the archaeology and history of the site, reviewing old maps, aerial photographs and evaluating the data that already forms part of the record. More often than not it is at this stage that we find the grid reference listed in 1968 in the Gazetteer of Deserted Medieval Villages (Beresford and Hurst 1971), is not actually placed over the site of the village. This may be due to recent work which has pinpointed the village more accurately, may be that the original location was placed over a particular feature such as a church, which is no longer seen as the centre of the settlement, or a simple error occurred in the original record. We have already found a number of typos that had occurred in 1968 with the wrong grid square letters being used for example. It is only really when sites are reviewed on an individual basis that these mistakes are picked-up. We are also thankful for the eagled-eyed users of the website who have been emailing in with corrections to the locations – it is really only when you have people with the specific local knowledge that these things are easily identified – please continue to let us know!!!!

Once all the evidence has been compiled – we then evaluate the material to categorise the site – is it a deserted settlement – or has it shrunk, migrated, shifted or actually is it doubtful there was ever a settlement there?

Gloucestershire

Progress so far on Gloucestershire is going well but was hampered by Christmas…. In 1968 there were 67 settlements listed – we have reviewed the evidence for around 50 of these so far… hopefully by the middle of February we will have completed this review and all the new data can be added to the website. As a taster of what is to come here are some highlights (full references to all sources will be available in the finished product) ….

Ampney St. Mary

There are two sites that have been classed as the deserted settlement at Ampney St. Mary – resulting in confusion. The church of St Mary stands isolated close to Ampney Brook. The church contains twelfth century elements.  This is the site that the HER and NMR record as the deserted medieval village of Ampney St. Mary.  The Gazetteer in 1968 listed the location as close to the current settlement of Ampney St. Mary (also known as Ashbrook). Here a field visit in 1988 noted areas of limestone rubble. All the evidence currently points to a settlement that at some point migrated locations.

Castlett Farm

At least 14 house platforms have been plotted at the site, along a northwest-southeast running hollow way. Medieval pottery was reported during construction work and an evaluation in 2005 revealed a ditch in-filled in the eleventh and twelfth century. Castlett is recorded in the Domesday Book with a minimum population of 4. In 1327 five people are assessed.  In 1334 a below average Lay Subsidy is paid. In 1381 four people paid the Poll Tax. The documentary evidence suggests a small settlement.

Farmcote

Farmcote was a grange of Hailes Abbey. A number of earthworks are associated with this grange and part of the existing farm and barn may be medieval in origin. The earthworks include croft platforms, hollow ways, and a fishpond. It is recorded in the Domesday Book with a minimum population of 17. In 1327 12 people were assessed. An average amount is paid in the 1334 Lay Subsidy. In 1381 26 people are taxed and by 1563 four households are recorded. There still exits a number of properties at this site and it appears to be a shrunken settlement.

Farmcote (c) Google Earth
Farmcote (c) Google Earth

Frocester

This site has been identified due to the presence of St Peter’s Church 1.5km to the west of the present settlement. The church has been mainly destroyed, but areas have been excavated which shows evidence of a Roman villa, followed by a Norman church constructed on the site. The area surrounding the church shows no evidence of settlement remains, but ridge and furrow is present. There has been extensive excavation and fieldwork carried out in the parish enabling a detailed understanding of settlement development from the pre-Roman period onwards. For further information on this project see Gloucestershire Archaeology.

It has also been shown that the parish of Frocester included a number of small dispersed settlements, many of which were abandoned in the thirteenth century. There is no clear evidence of settlement in the area of St Peter’s Church and a variety of reasons for the isolated location of the church can be postulated.

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

Hullasey

Extensive earthworks of the village of Hullasey are now engulfed in Hullasey Grove, which has preserved the remains, some which stand to 1m high.  They include a north-south hollow way with a shorter east-west section at the southern end. A survey in 1981-2 recorded 30 buildings and a possible five others. A chapel existed by 1349 and was still there in the eighteenth century but by this time was used as a barn. Excavations in 1907 revealed two houses and a large building which was suggested to be the manor house, but has more recently described as four separate buildings. The excavations also located the chapel.  From both the archaeological and historical evidence it would suggest this settlement was deserted in the fifteenth century.

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

As work progresses we will keep you informed.

As to the future developed of the website it is hoped that funding will be secured to enable the lists of deserted settlements in all counties to be brought up-to-date….