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
primarily devoted to farming, 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 as well as acting as the focus
of ecclesiastical, and often manorial, authority within each medieval parish.
Although the sites of many of these villages have been occupied continuously
down to the present day, many have declined considerably in size and are now
occupied by farmsteads or hamlets. This decline may have taken place gradually
throughout the lifetime of the village or more rapidly, particularly during
the 14th and 15th centuries when many other villages were wholly deserted. The
reasons for diminishing size were varied but often reflected declining
economic viability or population fluctuations as a result of widespread
epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their decline, large
parts of these villages are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and
contain well-preserved archaeological deposits. Over 3000 shrunken medieval
villages are recorded nationally. 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.
Woughton Shrunken medieval village is a good example of this class of
monument. It survives well as extensive and clearly defined earthworks in an
area of permanent pasture and has good potential for the survival of
archaeological remains. The site falls in the area designated as the Ouzel
Valley Country Park and is provided with on-site interpretative material by
the Milton Keynes Archaeological Unit.
The monument includes two areas representing the earthwork remains of the once
extensive village of Woughton, stretching from the Grand Union Canal in the
west to the River Ouzel in the east. The earthworks, which are all that
remain visible of the deserted area of the village, survive as a linear spread
of archaeological features orientated south-west to north-east and covering a
maximum distance of 800m metres. The main elements include a substantial
hollow way 300m long, 8m wide and 1.3m deep. It is orientated east-west and
represents the site of the former Meadows Lane, the main village street.
Roughly midway along its length, secondary lanes run north and south from a
crossroads. On either side of the main street are a series of rectangular
enclosures and platforms separated by shallow ditches. These are the remains
of the small garden crofts, house platforms and back alleys and are perhaps
the best preserved area of village earthworks. They survive in this eastern
area set within an extensive and well defined open field system. The ridge
and furrow here averaging 8m wide and 0.4m high and showing the characteristic
and distinctive reversed S-curve of such early ploughland. Further west,
towards the canal, there is further evidence of the earlier medieval village,
where it is possible to recognise the westward continuation of Meadows Lane,
again flanked by cottage platforms and crofts, with banks up to 0.5m high.
In the vicinity of the canal the village remains become less distinct;
however, excavations beyond the canal, in the area now occupied by the marina
have demonstrated the continuation of the village in this area, recovering the
remains of a small L-shaped farm and outbuildings.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.