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.

References

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.

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