Medieval village of Stanford


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
To the north, east and south of the currently occupied areas of Stanford on Avon, centred around the Church of St Nicholas, NN6 6JR


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

Location Description:
To the north, east and south of the currently occupied areas of Stanford on Avon, centred around the Church of St Nicholas, NN6 6JR
West Northamptonshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Abandoned areas of the medieval village of Stanford, first documented in Domesday Book of 1086.

Reasons for Designation

The medieval village site at Stanford on Avon, first documented in Domesday Book of 1086, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: for the well defined settlement earthworks and the associated ridge and furrow depicting the form and plan of the settlement and its associated agricultural practices;

* 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: for its close proximity to other related contemporary designated monuments;

* Diversity: for the range and complexity of features such as building platforms, crofts, trackways, moated manorial centre and ridge and furrow 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.


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.

Stanford is listed in Domesday Book as one manor held by Guy de Reinbuedcurt with a recorded population of 22 including a priest. The next record of population is not until 1377 when, from both Stanford and Downtown 131 people over the age of 14 paid the Poll Tax. Downton (also now abandoned) was presumably combined with Stanford in Domesday Book, they certainly were in all the subsequent national taxation records. In 1674, 34 households paid the Hearth Tax, and this figure is probably for Stanford alone, Downton by then was completely abandoned. In the early C18 it is recorded that there were then 15 houses and a shepherds cottage at Stanford, a statement which seems to be at variance with Hearth Tax returns 50 years earlier. Stanford Hall was built between 1697 and 1700, to the west of the village, in Leicestershire and is unlikely to have affected the size of the village, nor is it likely that the mid C18 emparking around the hall had a significant influence, as it has never extended further east than the main north to south road. In 1801 the population for the whole parish was only 45 suggesting that the village was then about the same size as it was in late C18. By the early C19 the village was much as it is today; in 1831 only 24 people lived in the parish. Since that time one or two cottages disappeared but new estate buildings have replaced them. It is probable that the village was largely depopulated in late medieval times, perhaps by Selby Abbey (Yorkshire) which held the manor until the dissolution, or by the Cave family who bought it in 1540.

It is not certain when enclosure of the common fields of Stanford took place but it is thought to be before or during C16. Ridge and furrow can be traced on the ground or from aerial photographs in places throughout almost the entire parish. Within the area of assessment this is most pronounced either side of the dismantled railway line on the south-east edge of the area.

The earthwork remains of much of Stanford village were surveyed by the Royal Commission in 1981. In 1995 geophysical survey carried out to the rear of Home Farm identified potential walls relating to the medieval settlement; trial trenches were later dug and demonstrated that archaeological features of medieval date do survive in this area, below a shallow covering of soil. These are understood to be part of the abandoned areas of the medieval village (Shaw et al 1995).

There has been some debate over the site of the Manor House, both a location adjacent to the church, within the walled garden and another opposite the church have been proposed as potential locations. Archaeological evaluation prior to a new housing development was however carried out in the walled garden (Shaw M, et al 1995) but no evidence of medieval features was recovered. Timmins (1992) suggests the site of the earthworks opposite the church may be an even earlier manor.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The monument includes the earthwork and buried archaeological remains of the medieval village of Stanford-on-Avon. The abandoned village of Stanford (now known as Stanford-on-Avon) lies, as the modern name suggests, alongside the River Avon, on river gravel at 100m above OD, predominantly within areas of permanent pasture. The area of assessment is contained on the west by the River Avon, to the south by a tributary of the river, to the east by the road east of the dismantled railway and to the north by the edge of the earthwork remains, c.130m south-west of the Monument dedicated to Lieutenant Percy Piltcher (NHLE 1287174).

DESCRIPTION The village survives as a series of earthwork and buried remains which can be traced around the currently occupied areas of the village; primarily along a roughly north-east to south-west aligned road, of which the present road, adjacent to the church and which runs north, is a modern successor. South of Home Farm the alignment is not as clear but a hollow way can be traced in the earthworks running south-east from the bend in the modern road. This survives to a depth of c.0.5m and has tofts and crofts defined by low banks and scarps running at right angles to it. Ridge and furrow survives within many of the crofts. North of the Old Rectory is a series of degraded house platforms, marking the site of tofts, each set within small rectangular paddocks with crofts behind. All of the crofts have ridge and furrow within them and two hollow ways pass between them (at grid reference SP5902379156 - SP5935578990 and SP5901478965 - SP5923778848) with subsidiary lanes branching off to the north and south. To the west of the existing north to south road are the earthwork remains of ridge and furrow which run at right angles to the road, up to the edge of the river. East and south-east of the Old Rectory is another group of narrow closes, all with ridge and furrow within them. These are understood to be the back paddocks of houses which stood on the site of the rectory and along the road to the south of the Old Rectory. Immediately south of the church and west of Home Farm is, what is believed to be the site of the manor house, which is evident as two large sub-rectangular closes, one measuring c.70m by 38m, bounded by low scarps and shallow ditches, and a number of banks. The ditches survive up to c.0.7m deep and the banks up to c.0.4m high.

Ridge and furrow survives in various places around the village, the best preserved examples being either side of the dismantled railway along the eastern edge of the area of assessment; here the ridges survive to a height of c. 0.5m. Aerial photographic evidence (English Heritage 2013) and the Royal Commission survey (1981) illustrate how the furlongs of the medieval agricultural fields were overlain by the railway embankment. Within the large area of pasture, north of the Old Rectory and east of the road, ridge and furrow again survives to this height.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The extent of the scheduled monument is defined along the north-west side by the eastern edge of the lake/river. The area of protection follows this line south until it meets the north-east of the walled kitchen garden. Here the line turns to the east, cutting across the north to south road through the settlement. The line then curves around the north, east and southern edge of the garden associated with Stanford House and the garden boundaries of other dwellings within the village. From the western boundary of Home Farm the edge of the scheduled area runs west along the southern edge of the road through the village and then follows the river south, turning east along a field boundary just south of the drainage ditch. The line then skirts around the garden boundaries of Edghill Cottage and two other dwellings before cutting across to the railway embankment and around a small yard used for the storage of farm machinery. Then the line follows the road around to encompass the well preserved ridge and furrow before cutting back across the railway embankment and following the embankment north. From here the line turns to the east following a field boundary before deviating off to include the earthworks surviving just north of the boundary fence. The line follows the edge of the road until it meets the bridge, river and the western edge of the area of protection.

EXCLUSIONS A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these include all fences, modern path and road surfaces, the railway embankment and the notice boards, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

There is considerable potential for nationally important (but undesignated) heritage assets to survive within the currently occupied areas of Stanford on Avon settlement. These may take the form of standing structures or buried deposits but are considered to be most appropriately managed through the National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) and are not therefore included in the scheduled area.


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

Legacy System number:
NN 145
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)
Bridges, J, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire, (1791)
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)
Lewis, C, Mitchell-Fox, P, Dyer, C , Village, Hamlet and Field: Changing Medieval Settlements in Central England, (1997)
Partida, T, Hall, D, Foard, G, An Atlas of Northamptonshire The Medieval and Early-Modern Landscape, (2013)
Roberts, , Wrathmell, , An Atlas of Rural Settlement in England, (2000)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Northamptonshire III, (1981)
Williamson, T., Partida, T, Champion. The Making and Unmaking of the English Midland Landscape, (2013)
Hall, D, 'Northamptonshire Records Society' in The Open Fields of Northamptonshire, (1995)
Shaw M.; Soden I.; Masters P.. , Stanford-On-Avon, Northamptonshire, Archaeological , 1995,
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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