Gainsthorpe medieval rural settlement, including village remains, paddocks and a manorial complex with a fishpond and two dovecotes


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

North Lincolnshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 95406 01124

Reasons for Designation

The village, comprising a small group of houses, gardens, 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. Villages provided some services to the local community and acted as the main focal point of ecclesiastical, and often of manorial, administration within each parish. Although the sites of many of these villages have been occupied continuously down to the present day, many others declined in size or were abandoned throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. As a result over 2000 deserted medieval villages are recorded nationally. The reasons for desertion were varied but often reflected declining economic viability, changes in land use such as enclosure or emparkment, or population fluctuations as a result of widespread epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their abandonment these villages are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits. Because they are a common and long-lived monument type in most parts of England, they provide important information on the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming economy between the regions and through time.

Gainsthorpe is one of the best preserved and visually impressive deserted medieval rural settlements in England. The visible remains are exceptionally well-defined and provide a clear indication of a wide variety of features which include domestic and ancillary buildings, trackways, enclosures, dovecotes and a fishpond. Apart from the inclusion of modern field drains and a stock-pond, and some small-scale quarrying on the north side, the site has suffered very little disturbance since it was abandoned and retains well-preserved archaeological remains throughout.


The monument comprises part of Gainsthorpe medieval rural settlement and includes some of the remains of the deserted village site, two paddocks, and the site of the manor with a fishpond and two dovecotes. According to descriptions written in 1697 and 1699 by the diarist Abraham de la Pryme, the visible remains formerly extended into neighbouring fields where they will now survive as buried features. These additional remains are not included in the scheduling as their extent and state of preservation is not sufficiently understood. The settlement is located 350m west of Ermine Street Roman road. Its visible remains, which chiefly comprise the grassed over footings of boundary and building walls, indicate the houses, ancillary buildings and yards of between six and ten properties, one of which is interpreted as a manorial complex. The properties are divided by a system of sunken trackways and are broadly similar in that they each consist of a large enclosure sub-divided by internal walls, with one or more of the smaller yards containing a complex of buildings. In many cases, gateways and doorways are clearly visible. In some cases, two or more properties appear to have been combined into a single larger complex, probably as a result of piecemeal desertion. The manorial site lies at the south west corner of the monument and includes at least two adjacent courtyards, enclosed by building ranges, which are interpreted as the homestead and home farm of the manor. To west and east of these courtyards can be seen the foundations of two circular buildings, with diameters of c.6m, which have been interpreted as dovecotes. South of the western example is a rectangular fishpond measuring c.13m x 5m x 1m deep. Extending north to south along the north west edge of the monument are two further enclosures interpreted as small fields or paddocks. The medieval rural settlement of Gainsthorpe has not been excavated and so its origins are unclear. However, it is recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 when land was held there by one Ullgar. The period of desertion is also as yet unknown, though it must have been prior to de la Pryme's visit in the late 17th century. Interestingly, it was the first deserted medieval village to be photographed from the air, in 1925 by O G S Crawford. The monument has been in State care since 1974. All boundary fencing, gates, English Heritage fittings and fixtures and a water-pump are excluded from the scheduling though the ground underneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Diary of Abraham de la Pryme, (1699), 127-8
In SMR, Hatt, Andy (Humberside Archaeological Unit), 1:500 topographical field survey, (1982)
In SMR, Hatt, Andy (Humberside Archaeological Unit), 1:500 topographical field survey, (1982)
Plate I, Crawford, O G S, Gainsthorpe DMV, Antiquity, (1925)
Plate I, Crawford, O G S, Gainsthorpe DMV, Antiquity, (1925)
Title: 25" Ordnance Survey sheet (SE 9501) Source Date: 1963 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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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