Deserted medieval settlement and associated fields, Lytes Cary


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

South Somerset (District Authority)
The Charltons
National Grid Reference:
ST 53126 26545

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.

The deserted medieval settlement and field system at Lytes Cary survives as a good example of its class, and will contain archaeological remains relating to the settlement and manor.


The monument includes a deserted medieval settlement and associated fields as defined by a survey in 1980, surviving as earthworks in the pastureland of Lytes Cary park. The earthworks consist of grassed-over banks, hollows and scarps 0.2m-0.7m high forming small square or rectangular fields, paddocks and closes, fed by hollowed tracks and wider ways, with a number of building platforms visible on the ground and more on air photographs. On the north-west of the site are the remains of what was perhaps the former manor of Tucker's Cary. Three of the fields on the flatter central portion exhibit very slight traces of ridge and furrow ploughing. There are five adjoining blocks of fields laid out in distinct topographical zones on a rough north-south/east-west axis. A road runs along the west of the site, and the landscape appears to be aligned with this. On the north-east, flat and gently sloping but higher than the adjoining ground, is a block of three large trapezoidal fields, seemingly orientated on the area occupied by the present Lytes Cary House, and bounded by ditched banks. To the west of these at a lower level is a block divided by ditches or hollow ways into four rectangular fields. Separating these two blocks is a broad terraced droveway leading to a compact group of ditched rectangular platforms which may indicate a farm site. Below this to the west and adjoining the second block is a central field, divided into a larger and smaller portion by a shallow ditch. On the west this field is bounded by a double hollow way or double ditch. Leading down into the central area from the south is a broad hollow way or droveway, running through the fourth block of fields. This block, on the western end of the higher, sloping ground to the south, contains small square or rectangular fields bounded by lynchets, including a 'ladder' of small square fields with a building or enclosure hollow in the lowest. The sites of further buildings are visible in this area on aerial photographs. The fifth field block is in the south-eastern part of the higher ground. At one end, adjoining the central field, is a small oblong field, and above this is a large field crossed by drain gullies. To the east an area of land terraced above this across a hollow way appears to be associated with the area of land occupied by Lytes Cary House. Running along the south of the site on the higher land and bounding the earthworks is a hollow way leading towards the area occupied by the house. At the junction of this and the hollow way between the two southern blocks of fields is a pond. Beyond this and lying to the south of the fifth field block is an area of well-pronounced ridge and furrow, also orientated north-south. Aerial photographs show that this is part of extensive former ridge and furrow around the settlement. On the north-west of the site are features of a different nature. In the lower corner of the lynchet block of fields is a large square enclosure defined by a stone bank up to c.1m high on the south and east, a stone faced scarp on the north, and the present road on the west. This is shown as an enclosure on the Tithe Map of 1809, and post-dates the medieval settlement. Above the scarp and on the north-west of the site is an uneven area of earthworks and hollows, which has been suggested as the site of an old manor house. The visible earthworks mainly result from surface quarrying for limestone, cutting into the fields at one point and therefore likely to post-date their abandonment. However, in the south of the area are banks suggesting a large building (20m x 10m) and yard predating or contemporary with the quarrying. The present Cook's Cary Farm across the road from this is marked 'Lower Lytes Cary' on the Tithe Map of 1809, with the area occupied by the present house marked 'Higher Lytes Cary', indicating that the two areas began as part of a single village. The present houses and buildings of the village around Cook's Cary Farm did not exist in 1809. Excluded from the scheduling are modern fences, posts and telegraph poles, although the ground beneath these features 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset, (1958), 228
Burrow, I, Site Visit Form PRN 53683, (1979)
Deserted Settlement Site:Tucker's C'y, Thackray, D, The National Trust Wessex Region Archaeological Sites Record, (1978)
Title: Charlton Adam & Ch.Mackrell MapB No545 for Inclosure Award Source Date: 1809 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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