Beresford’s Lost Villages website – the progress so far

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Currently completed counties – Buckinghamshire

Following on from the exploration of Bedfordshire in the last post, this week we look at Buckinghamshire, the next county where we have managed to assess all the deserted sites listed in the 1968 Gazetteer of deserted medieval villages.

Buckinghamshire has an early listing of deserted settlements appearing as an appendix to a paper by Maurice Beresford on glebe terriers and open-field systems in 1954 (Beresford 1953-4). This list contained 28 settlements with another 14 suspected sites – all of the 28 settlements apart from Bourton are still listed in 1968, and 11 of the suspected sites have also make the list.

There were 56 settlements listed in the 1968 Gazetteer, and since this time the number has grown. Page has highlighted this stating the 56 in 1968 became 60 by 1979, and 83 by 1997 (Page 2005: 189). This increase in numbers is set against a backdrop of large regional surveys such as that carried out on the medieval settlement of the East Midlands and the Whittlewood region as well as more focused research on specific sites in the county (Lewis et al. 2001, Jones and Page 2006). This research paints a vivid picture of a diverse range of settlements and an equally diverse set of events that leads to settlement desertion. This includes a dated desertion for the settlement at Boarstall. Here in 1645 the Royalist garrison housed in the local manor destroyed the village and church to avoid them being used by the besieging Parliamentary forces (Porter 1984). The houses were burnt within two days and the church had been demolished before 26 July giving us this rare example of a dated desertion to the actual day. However the population did not disappear, they were redistributed throughout the parish (Broad 2010).

Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire listed in 1968
Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire listed in 1968


Of the 56 settlements listed, 34 have remained classed as Deserted Medieval Villages by the website (for information on our classifications see the posting on Berkshire). Eight settlements have been classed as Deserted Medieval Hamlets – due to their smaller size. Two settlements have been classed as Migrated – purposefully moved, four are Shifted settlements – moving over time, and one settlement shows evidence of a Shrunken settlement rather than fully deserted – Upper Winchendon. Finally seven of the settlements listed in 1968 are now classed as Doubtful deserted settlements. These include Ackhampstead which appears to have never been larger than the couple of farms still present today, Caldecote in Newport Pagnell which was probably just a manorial centre, and Hughenden were it has been suggested that settlement in the parish was always dispersed.

Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire and their classification by the website
Deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire and their classification by the website

A number of excavations have taken place on deserted sites in Buckinghamshire. Tattenhoe was one of a number of settlements investigated as part of the development of Milton Keynes and its on going expansion. (Ivens et al. 1995). The development of the city also affected sites that were not on the Gazetteer including Westbury-by-Shenley (sometimes referred to as Shenley Brook End) (Ivens et al. 1995).

Rescue excavations at Stantonbury ahead of quarrying amounted to little more than rapid recording of disturbed archaeology but revealed house platforms and pottery dating from the twelfth to fourteenth centuries (Mynard 1971). Excavations have also revealed evidence of a deserted settlement that could also be called a ‘pottery production centre’ at Olney Hyde (Mynard 1984: 56).

The landscapes of Quarrendon and Hardmead have both been subjected to more detailed survey and analyses and show the complexity of settlement in Buckinghamshire (Everson 2001, Smith 1985). Both these sites demonstrate the polyfocal nature of the settlement with clusters of dwellings joined together – sometimes over quiet a distance to form a single settlement unit. For more information about Quarrendon see Buckinghamshire County Council

Buckinghamshire is certainly a county which rewards greater investigation with a wealth of evidence of different types of settlement and reasons for desertion. More information on the deserted settlements in Buckinghamshire, along with some aerial photographs can be found on the Unlocking Buckinghamshire’s Past website.


Beresford, M. 1953-4. ‘Glebe Terriers and Open-field Buckinghamshire, with a Summary List of Deserted Villages of the County: Part 2’, Records of Buckinghamshire 16: 4-28.

Broad, J. 2010. ‘Understanding Village Desertion in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’, in C. Dyer and R. Jones (eds) Deserted Villages Revisited: 121-139. Hatfield: University of Hertford Press.

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

Ivens, R., P. Busby and N. Shepherd 1995. Tattenhoe and Westbury: Two Deserted Medieval Settlements in Milton Keynes. Aylesbury: Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society Monograph Series no. 8.

Jones, R. and M. Page 2006. Medieval Villages in an English Landscape. Macclesfield: Windgather Press.

Lewis, C., P. Mitchell-Fox and C. Dyer 2001. Village, Hamlet and Field: Changing Medieval Settlements in Central England. Macclesfield: Windgather Press.

Mynard, D.C. 1971. ‘Rescue Excavations at the Deserted Medieval Village of Stantonbury Bucks’, Records of Buckinghamshire 19: 17-41.

Mynard, D.C. 1984. ‘A Medieval Pottery Industry at Olney Hyde’, Records of Buckinghamshire 26: 56-85.

Page, M. 2005. ‘Destroyed by the Temples: the Deserted Medieval Village of Stowe’, Records of Buckinghamshire 45: 189-204.

Porter, S. 1984. ‘The Civil War Destruction of Boarstall’, Records of Buckinghamshire 26: 86-91.

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



Currently completed counties – Berkshire

The Beresford’s Lost Villages website is still a work in progress. So far we have concentrated on getting a record for all 2,263 sites listed in Deserted Medieval Villages published in 1971 to appear on the website. A skeleton record for all these sites has been possible. The grid references used to locate the sites are those published in 1971. In some cases this has been shown to be incorrect – often simple typos of wrong map sheets or reversed numbers. These have been corrected where it has been spotted. When we look at each site in-depth then the grid reference is reviewed to check it matches with the physical evidence or historical data. One some occasions this means the grid reference is refined – and this is noted in the description of the site.

These full records with descriptions have been possible for a number of counties – so far pre-1974 counties of Berkshire-Essex as well as the East Riding of Yorkshire. Gloucestershire is currently under review. The next few blogs will review these counties – starting with Berkshire.

In 1954 seven deserted villages were identified by Maurice Beresford in Berkshire (Beresford 1954).  In 1962 the first attempt at constructing a county-wide list produced 36 sites (Beresford and Hurst 1962). All of the sites listed in 1962 appear on the 1968 Gazetteer (published in 1971) by which time the list of sites in the county had risen to 43. On the Beresford’s Lost Villages website Berkshire is the one county we have manage to update since the 1968. It is our future hope for the website that all counties can be updated to reflect our current knowledge.

The total number of sites in Berkshire now listed is 123, an increase of 79, with one of those originally listed now classed as two separate records (Betterton). These additions have been identified from local research, records on the National Monuments Record and local Historic Environments Record as well as other sources such as the research of John Brooks (1982). Of course this does not preclude settlements that have yet to be identified and the project has not undertaken a full analysis of every individual record in the county. If people do know of other sites, please contact the project.

Deserted sites in Berkshire
Deserted sites in Berkshire

Every settlement listed on the website is classified into one of six categories: Deserted Medieval Village, Deserted Medieval Hamlet, Shrunken, Shifted, Migrated or Doubtful. This refines the data and allows sites that may well not be indicative of deserted settlement to be classed as doubtful.

Deserted settlements in Berkshire and their classification
Deserted settlements in Berkshire and their classification

Deserted Medieval Villages – those settlements that show clear evidence of a population concentration that was present during the medieval period, but has since been totally depopulated. There may be a modern farmstead on the site, or a new settlement may have re-grown at a much later date.

Deserted Medieval Hamlet – a settlement that was present in the medieval period and shows clear evidence of depopulation. However such a settlement was never large in size. There is of course a wide variety of settlement types across the country, but it was felt there needed to be some distinction to indicate much smaller settlements.

Shrunken – a settlement which was much larger in the medieval period, and areas of former habitations have been identified. The area of the current settlement should have been occupied to some extent in the medieval period.

Migrated/shifted – a settlement that has moved location, whether that be by one sudden action (migrated) or through gradual processes (shifted).

Doubtful – this category includes entries where it is doubtful that there is any evidence of a deserted settlement. This may be due to three different factors: there may be no convincing evidence of any settlement either archaeological or historical; there may be no evidence a settlement was occupied in the medieval period; finally there is evidence for medieval occupation, but it is not convincing that the settlement deserved to be classed as a village or hamlet, being more likely to be just a farmstead.

For Berkshire in total, of the 123 sites, 50 are classed as deserted medieval villages (40.65%), 8 are classed as deserted medieval hamlets (6.5%), 30 show evidence of shrunken settlement (30%), three indicate shifted settlement (2.44%) and five are migrated settlements (4.07%). Finally 27 settlements on this list have been classified as doubtful (21.95%). Since the publication of the 1968 Gazetteer an additional 14 sites have now been classified as DMVs, but the majority of the recent additions to the list have been the smaller settlements, shrunken and a greater number of doubtful settlements. This reflects the developments in the study of deserted settlement in general where more attention has been paid to areas of shrinkage as well as smaller settlements.

For further information on the sites in Berkshire look at the website – notable sites include Seacourt – where excavations have revealed evidence of the buildings.


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

Beresford, M.W. and J.G Hurst 1962. ‘Introduction to a First List of Deserted Medieval Village Sites in Berkshire’, Berkshire Archaeological Journal 9: 92-97.

Beresford, M.W. and J.G. Hurst 1971. Deserted Medieval Village: Studies. London: Lutterworth Press.

Brooks, J. 1982. The Deserted Medieval Villages of North Berkshire. University of Reading Unpublished PhD Thesis.


Welcome to a blog attached to the Beresford’s Lost Villages website developed at the University of Hull. The first launch of this website occurred in April 2014 but it is very much a work in progress. This blog will update on progress and mention notable deserted sites. Below is an outline of the website and its development. The website is dedicated to the study of Deserted Medieval Settlements. It has been made possible by a generous legacy bequeathed to the University of Hull by Professor Maurice Beresford. The first launch of the website concentrated on those settlements identified as being deserted in the seminal publication of 1971, edited by Maurice Beresford and John Hurst entitled ‘Deserted Medieval Villages’. This produced a consolidated list of what were then classed as Deserted Medieval Villages (DMV) in 1968, 2,263 in total.

2014-03-05 12.51.21

These sites are villages which appear in documentary sources such as the Domesday Book, medieval tax records and maps, but have since seen a dramatic decline in population to the extent that at some point they have been classed as deserted. The reasons for this desertion are varied, whether from land exhaustion, coastal erosion, a change in land use or the whim of wealthy landowners.  Each of the settlements listed as known in 1968 has an individual page on the website which explores a range of datasets for the settlement. In the near future it is hoped that all these sites will also contain a description of the site and links to further sources. For the time being this is only possible for a few counties. When we started the project we set our sights high and hoped to add to the 1968 list. In the preface to this gazetteer it is clear that this was a work in progress – some counties had already been subject to detailed research, for others none had taken place. The publication lists 16 counties where considerable research needed to be carried out: Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Devonshire, Durham, Essex, Herefordshire, Lancashire, Middlesex, Shropshire, Somerset, Suffolk, Surrey, Westmorland and Worcestershire. Of course in the intervening years many scholars have rallied to this call and many more settlements have been added to this list. Early on into this project it became clear that if we were to attempt an update of the county-based lists, we would not be able to publish full entries for more than a few counties. So the initial part of the project focussed on Bedfordshire and Berkshire (the first two counties alphabetically), and the East Riding of Yorkshire, the home to the project. At the end of this initial phase (2010), we had a structure for the database constructed and the beginnings of updated lists – but only for Berkshire did we feel that every attempt to supplement the 1968 list had been attempted. We also had the framework for the website built.

Deserted sites in Berkshire
Deserted sites in Berkshire

In 2013 a strategic decision had to be taken. If we were to continue on attempting to update all the county lists, and provide full data, we would not manage to get many more than four counties completed for the money available to the project. What we decided would be possible was to get a ‘skeleton’ data set for all the 2,263 sites from the 1968 Gazetteer completed. This would allow the website to be launched – with a country-wide data set, and with valuable information, while gradually updating as and when we could. This ‘skeleton’ data set would include location information, the basic documentary sources, as well as the information on other records such as the record numbers in the National Monuments Record and the local Historic Environments Record. We would also be able to complete the entries for a small number of counties. These complete village records would also require a full description, information on investigations that have taken place at the site, photographic and cartographic records, the period or date of desertion and a classification of the site – whether deserted, shrunken, shifted, migrated or in fact whether it was doubtful.

Progress as of 31st October 2014 Currently you can access the following sets of data via the website. As more detailed material is added, updates will be posted here.

2014 Complete list of known sites: Berkshire

1968 Gazetteer entries complete with full descriptions: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devonshire, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Yorkshire (East Riding)

1968 Gazetteer entries with skeleton data: Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Westmorland, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire (North Riding), Yorkshire (West Riding)

Awaiting data: Lancashire, London (with Middlesex)

 Project Directors:

Dr Helen Fenwick and Professor Michael Turner

Department of History,

University of Hull