Medieval village of Fawcliff, Braunston Cleves


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
200m east of Braunston Fields Farm, NN11 7AH


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

Location Description:
200m east of Braunston Fields Farm, NN11 7AH
West Northamptonshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


The site includes the earthworks and buried archaeological remains of the medieval village of Braunston Cleves or Fawcliff including hollow ways, building platforms and ridge and furrow.

Reasons for Designation

The medieval village site at Braunston Cleves is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: for the well defined settlement earthworks and the associated ridge and furrow which depict 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 historical and archaeological documentation pertaining to the settlement’s evolution;

* Group value: for its close proximity to other related contemporary scheduled monuments. Combined, the sites provide a diverse range of settlement plans and different evolutionary histories all of which have the archaeological potential to aid our understanding of settlement density, development and abandonment both within Northamptonshire and on a national scale;

* Diversity: for the range and complexity of features such as building platforms, crofts and trackways 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 (known as tofts which may include house platforms surviving as earthworks), gardens (crofts or closes which are typically defined by banks and ditches), yards, streets, paddocks, often with a green, a manor and a church, and with a community devoted primarily to agriculture, was a significant component of the rural landscape in most areas of 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, but modified following the Norman invasion to have planned layouts comprising 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 continue to be occupied to the present day, some 2000 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 this 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 seen 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 history of the village of Braunston Cleves or Fawcliff is largely unknown but is believed to be part of the C11 manor of Braunston belonging to William Trussbott which was divided between his three daughters. One third passed to Agatha Meinfelin who, dying without issue, bequeathed her possessions to Delapre Abbey in Northampton and to the priory of Newstead near Stamford. A charter of Edward III confirming the possessions of Delapre Abbey mentions a place called Fawcliff in Braunston and this seems to have been the original name of the village. Nothing is known of the abandonment of the village and certainly by the early C18 Bridges could state that it had been 'destroyed some ages since' (1791, 26). Sometime before 1828, drainage work on the site resulted in the discovery of 'extensive foundations'. The earthwork remains were surveyed by the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments and published in their Inventory of Archaeological Sites in North-West Northamptonshire (1981, 23).


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The monument comprises the earthworks and buried remains of the medieval village of Braunston Cleves which lies in the north of the parish of Braunston on the steep south-west side of Cleve Hill, on Jurassic clay, between 125m and 150m above OD. At the time of assessment in 2013, the monument was under permanent pasture.

DESCRIPTION The earthworks depict a small settlement bounded by a well-defined hollow way running around the east, west and southern sides. A small number of building platforms or tofts are sandwiched between the course of an old stream to the west and by the broad hollow way on the east. The tofts are evident as a series of shallow depressions which are bounded by low scarps and banks standing up to 0.5m high, attached crofts or closes are similarly defined. To the west of the stream and to the south of the site are other ditched enclosures and ditches along some of which the diverted stream flows. Some of these appear to be relatively modern and are recorded in 1981 as having been bounded by hedges until relatively recently and may be connected with the drainage work recorded in 1828.

At the northern end of the monument is a small area of broad curving ridge and furrow which has been bisected by a straight gully. The western side of the monument is defined by a hollow way and running parallel to this is relatively straight, slightly degraded, ridge and furrow which has been cut through at its southern end to form a banked and ditched enclosure.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING The area of scheduling encompasses the whole field of well preserved earthworks and is defined by field boundaries on all sides. All field boundary fences, gates and animal feeding troughs are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.

There is potential for undesignated (but possibly nationally important) heritage assets to survive outside the area of the scheduling. Certainly further remains of ridge and furrow are evident west of the scheduled area but this is degraded and given it is no longer contiguous with the village remains it has not been included in the scheduling.


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

Legacy System number:
NN 198
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)
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, , 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)
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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