Sources – archaeological sites and information

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

National records

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local records

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

Local archaeological journals

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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