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.

References

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.

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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.

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).

Excavations

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 – http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk/. 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.

References

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 http://www.eaareports.org.uk/FW_Medlycott.pdf

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.

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….