Site of the medieval village of Astwick and the moated site 1500yds (1370m) SW of Evenley village


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
Medieval village of Astwick and associated moated site located at SP5700734169 (centre)


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Medieval village of Astwick and associated moated site located at SP5700734169 (centre)
South Northamptonshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Medieval settlement and moated enclosure at Astwick.

Reasons for Designation

The moat and medieval village site at Astwick, near Brackley, Northamptonshire, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: for the exceptional earthworks and waterlogged deposits depicting the form and plan of the settlement and moated manorial site; * Potential: for the stratified archaeological deposits which retain considerable potential to increase our understanding of the physical characteristics of the buildings and settlement. Buried artefacts will also have the potential to increase our knowledge and understanding of the social and economic functioning of the settlement within the wider medieval landscape; * Documentation: for the high level of historical and archaeological documentation pertaining to the settlement’s evolution; * Group value: the close historical and functional relationship between these two key elements of the medieval settlement enhances the national importance of the site; * Diversity: for the range and complexity of features such as building platforms, crofts, trackways and the moated platform which, taken as a whole, provide a clear plan of the settlement and retain significant stratified deposits which serve to provide details of the continuity and change in the evolution of the settlement and status of its inhabitants.


The village, comprising a small group of houses (tofts), gardens (crofts), yards, streets, paddocks, a manor and a church, sometimes a green, occupied by a community devoted primarily to agriculture, was a significant component of the rural landscape in much of lowland medieval England, much as it is today. The Introduction to Heritage Assets on Medieval Settlements (English Heritage, May 2011) explains that most villages were established in the C9 and C10, and exhibit a variety of plan-forms, from the highly irregular at one extreme to planned villages with tofts and crofts running back from a main road, often linked with a back lane around the rear of the crofts, and typically having a church and manor house in larger compartments at the end of the village. In recognising the great regional diversity of medieval rural settlements in England, Roberts and Wrathmell (2003) divided the country into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements; these were further divided into sub-Provinces. The Northamptonshire settlements lie in the East Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province, an area characterised in the medieval period by large numbers of nucleated settlements. The southern part of the sub-Province has greater variety of settlement, with dispersed farmsteads and hamlets intermixed with the villages. Whilst some of the dispersed settlements are post-medieval, others may represent much older farming landscapes.

Although many villages and hamlets continue to be occupied to the present day, some 2,000 nationally were abandoned in the medieval and post-medieval periods and others have shrunken. In the second half of the C20, research focussed on when and why desertion and shrinkage occurred. Current orthodoxy sees settlements of all periods as fluid entities, being created and disappearing, expanding and contracting and sometimes shifting often over a long period of time. Abandonment may have occurred as early as the C11 or continued into the C20, although it seems to have peaked during the C14 and C15. In the East Midlands sub-Province, Roberts and Wrathmell identified that the sites of many settlements, most of which were first documented in Domesday Book of 1086, are still occupied by modern villages, but others have been partially or wholly deserted and are marked by earthwork remains. Research into Northamptonshire medieval villages highlights two prevalent causes of settlement change, namely the shift from arable farming to sheep pasture in the C15 and C16 (requiring larger tracts of land to be made available for grazing), and the enclosure of open fields from the late-C16 through to the mid-C19 for emparkment or agricultural improvement. Despite the commonly held view that plague caused the abandonment of many villages, the documentary evidence available confirms only one such case in Northamptonshire, the former settlement of Hale, in Apethorpe.

Recent attention on the evidence for medieval agricultural practices, typically found in the hinterland of the settlements, has highlighted the survival of the earthwork remains of ‘ridge and furrow’. The Introduction to Heritage Assets on Field Systems explains that the origins of ridge and furrow cultivation can be traced to the C10 or before. By the C13, the countryside had acquired a widespread corrugated appearance as settlement developed into a pattern of ‘townships’ (basic units of community life and farming activity). The cultivated ridges, individual strips known as ‘lands’, were incorporated into similarly aligned blocks known as ‘furlongs’, separated from each other by raised ridges known as ‘headlands’ which, in turn, were grouped into two, three or sometimes four large unenclosed ‘Great Fields’. These fields occupied much of the available land in each township but around the fringes lay areas of meadow, pasture (normally unploughable land on steep slopes or near water) and woodland. The characteristic pattern of ridge and furrow was created by ploughing clockwise and anti-clockwise to create lines of flanking furrows interspersed with ridges of ploughed soil. The action of the plough, pulled by oxen, takes the form of a reversed ‘S’-shape when seem in plan. The furrows enabled the land to drain and demarcated individual farmer’s plots of land within the Great Fields. The open-field system ensured that furlongs and strips were fairly distributed through different parts of the township and that one of the Great Fields was left fallow each year.

The 1981 survey of Northamptonshire by the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England (RCHME) and the Northamptonshire Historic Environment Record (HER) summarise the history of the former village of Astwick, and documents the archaeological evidence for its interpretation and survival. The use of aerial photographs (English Heritage, October 2013) further enhances our understanding of the site and its extent.

Astwick is not mentioned by name until 1195 but it has been identified as a manor of Evenley listed in Domesday Book of 1086; as such all of its tax returns are included with Evenley. Nevertheless the RCHME survey states that it is mentioned as a separate settlement in the Nomina Villarum of 1316. The land was owned by Brackley Hospital, but passed to Magdalen College in 1484. In 1510 there were still at least 15 houses there, but the site was enclosed (probably, that is, turned over to a sheep pasture) before 1535. Bridges in his unpublished early-C18 History of Northamptonshire states that Astwick ‘appears to have been formerly a large town, as may be seen by ruins which are called The Old Town’. In 1839, the tithe map shows the whole site clear of buildings; the western field was then called Stoneheap Ground. The Ordnance Survey map of 1890 shows an ‘L’ shaped building with a small yard located near to the eastern boundary of the area of interest where it meets an east-west aligned fence. On the OS map of 1900, this building is called ‘Old Town Hovel’ suggesting that it may have had some antiquity, or perhaps more probably perpetuated a local memory of the village's existence. The site of this building, or perhaps some of the structure, was used more recently as a livestock shelter shed, but was knocked down in the late-C20; its stone rubble foundations are identifiable. The settlement site is currently laid to pasture.

Attached to the north-east corner of the village site is the scheduled moat of the manor house, an Old County Number scheduling (ref. NN43). Bridges described it as a ‘moat full of water’ and the field in which it lies was called Moat Close on the 1839 tithe map. It seems highly probable that this was indeed the site of the village manor house . The ditches are silted to a degree, but hold water, and the enclosing banks are covered with scrub.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The medieval village of Astwick lies in the parish of Evenley to the north of Astwick farm. The scheduled area includes the moated site at Astwick, formerly the site of the manor house, which is contiguous with the village site lying to the south-west of the moat. At the time of the assessment in 2013, the village remains and the ridge and furrow were under permanent pasture. The moated site was covered with scrub vegetation.

DESCRIPTION The surviving earthworks of the village cover a wide area measuring approximately 450m x 150m and are at present under pasture. The site is bounded on the east side by a hedge, by a stream to the north and north-west and by a pronounced, near continuous sequence of banks and ditches on the west side. The southern boundary of the settlement is defined by a ditch aligned east-west, to the south of which medieval ridge and furrow survives.

The distribution of the settlement earthworks indicates that the village had a broadly L-shaped plan. The RCHME survey suggests at least two phases of occupation, thus there is the potential for buried deposits from different periods of the settlement's history to survive on the site. A later phase of settlement comprised two hollow ways, the principal of which enters the site from the south and for the first 200m or so follows that of the earlier phase. It passes to the east of the earthwork of a large pond and then branches to the north-west, evident as a pronounced and well-preserved, broad and banked feature between 4m and 12m wide, cutting through some of the earlier tofts and crofts, before heading west over the stream. The second main hollow way branches from the first just east of the stream and curves eastwards toward the moat; it is approximately 3m wide and 1 m deep. Many well-preserved building platforms (tofts) and crofts (gardens) remain defined by banks and ditches on the north and south sides of the hollow way, some apparently arranged around courtyards. At the time of the RCHME survey, rubble walls of some of the houses remained exposed here; thus the potential for good preservation of buried archaeological features is high. Other tracks and roads run from the main thoroughfares of the village. Later phases of broad ridge and furrow, probably late-medieval in date, overlie substantial crofts delineated by ditches in the central and southern part of the area of interest, implying that phases of shrinkage occurred during the occupation history of the village. The stone foundation walls of the farm buildings on the site of ‘Old Town Hovel’ are clearly evident at approximately grid ref. SP57033405.

The scheduled moat is sub-triangular in form and measures 159m east-west by 103m north-south. Ditches measuring between 12 and 16m wide enclose the central platform measuring 105m by 60m, and are fed by the watercourse which defines its western boundary, and the northern boundary of the village site. There is no evidence of a building on the central platform, but the potential for the remains of the manor house to be preserved there are high as is environmental data in the ditches of the moat which may provide information on the settlement of the site and the local economy during the medieval period.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The village earthworks are bounded on the east side by a post and wire fence and by a banked stream to the north, north-west and west. The southern boundary of the settlement is defined by a ditch aligned east-west, to the south of which medieval ridge and furrow survives, which is included in the monument and bounded to the south by a post and wire fence. Contiguous with the north-east corner of the village is the moated manorial site, defined by tree-lined banks. All modern tracks, posts, fences, gates and animal troughs are excluded from the monument although the ground beneath them is included.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
NN 43
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Allison, K J, Beresford, M W, Hurst, J G, The Deserted Villages of Northamptonshire, (1966)
Astill, G, Grant, A, The Countryside of Medieval England, (1988)
Aston, M, Austin, D, Dyer, C(eds), The Rural Settlements of Medieval England: Studies dedicated to Maurice Beresford and John Hurst, (1989)
Christie, N, Stamper, P (eds), Medieval Rural Settlement: Britain and Ireland AD 800-1600, (2012)
Dyer, C, Jones, R, Deserted Villages Revisited, (2010)
Hall, D, Turning the Plough. Midland Open Fields;landscape character and proposals for management, (2001)
Partida, T, Hall, D, Foard, G, An Atlas of Northamptonshire The Medieval and Early-Modern Landscape, (2013)
Roberts, B K, Wrathmell, S, An Atlas of Rural Settlement in England, (2003)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , Archaeological sites of Northamptonshire, Volume III
Williamson, T., Partida, T, Champion. The Making and Unmaking of the English Midland Landscape, (2013)
Northamptonshire Historic Environment Record (HER),


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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