Knaptoft medieval settlement and manorial complex including church, three fishponds and windmill mound


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
East, south and south-west of Hall Farm, Knaptoft.


Ordnance survey map of Knaptoft medieval settlement and manorial complex including church, three fishponds and windmill mound
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
East, south and south-west of Hall Farm, Knaptoft.
Harborough (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Medieval settlement and manorial complex including church, fishponds, ridge and furrow and a windmill mound, first documented in the Domesday Book of 1086.

Reasons for Designation

Knaptoft medieval settlement and manorial complex, including the church, ridge and furrow, fishponds and windmill mound, first documented in Domesday survey 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 tofts, crofts, trackways, manorial centre, windmill mound, fishponds 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, 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, Wrathmell and Roberts (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.

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 focused 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, Wrathmell and Roberts 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.

Recent attention on the evidence for medieval agricultural practices, typically found in the hinterland of the settlements, has highlighted the vulnerability of the earthwork remains of ‘ridge and furrow’. Aerial photography is particularly useful in identifying its survival in the county and has contributed much to our understanding of the resource and the threats to it. Analysis of the attrition and survival of the Midlands’ open fields were published in ‘Turning the Plough’ by David Hall, currently being revised by English Heritage. 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.

A settlement at Knaptoft was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. The parish church was first documented in 1143 and a survey of 1301 records a manor house with gardens and fish ponds. The manor was acquired by the Turpin family in the late C15 and was enclosed by 1507. By 1524 only the lord of the manor and five agricultural labourers lived in the village. It is believed the Tudor hall, which survives as a ruin, was built between 1525 and 1530.

At least parts of the Tudor hall appear to have remained in occupation well into the C19 although elements were converted to farm buildings during this time. A new farmhouse and a three-sided range of farm buildings were built on the site in 1843, and probably resulted in the demolition of much of the Tudor hall, with some brickwork being reused. The current farmhouse, built in 1931 replaced that built in 1843. In 1967 further farm buildings were demolished leaving an east-west range connected to the former Tudor porch and a two-storey barn with diaper brickwork.

Tradition suggests that the Tudor manor and the church were destroyed by Cromwell's troops in 1645 following the battle of Naseby but an illustration by John Nichols in 1792 shows the manor house as largely complete and depicts elements which survive today.

Aerial photographs, recent work by Paul Everson and Graham Brown (Dyer and Jones (eds) 2010) and field assessment has shown that the settlement earthworks are more extensive than previously thought. Archaeological evaluation trenches excavated in preparation of a proposed development (Allen Archaeology, 2011), adjacent to the standing fabric of the Tudor hall, have revealed the footings of further walls pertaining to the Hall.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The medieval settlement and manorial complex at Knaptoft is situated 11km south of Leicester and includes the earthwork, buried and standing remains of an abandoned medieval village, manorial centre, church, ridge and furrow and a windmill mound. Also included are the buried remains of Knaptoft Hall and the associated post medieval formal garden earthworks.

DESCRIPTION The area of protection slopes gently to the south, extends for c667m east to west and c350m north to south at its widest, and includes the standing remains of the church, ground beneath the remains of Knaptoft Hall and that beneath part of a modern agricultural building. The scheduling incorporates two previously separate scheduled areas, that of the windmill mound to the east and of the medieval settlement (NHLE 1008817).

The monument lies to the south of an access road leading to Knaptoft Hall Farm. Situated approximately midway along the northern boundary are the standing remains of the largely C13 church which was consolidated in the C20 and is currently both listed at Grade II and scheduled. The original plan consisted of a nave with a north tower and chancel: the walls of the tower survive up to a height of c1.5m and are substantial in places. In the field to the south east of the church earthworks depict what appear to be a nucleated and discreet group of settlement tofts and crofts at the head of the minor valley c300m south east of the church. These are 'enclosed' by a sunken track around the north-east and north-west sides and a natural stream on the south eastern and south western sides. The sunken track survives to a depth of approximately 2m and leads northwards from the corner of the ‘enclosed’ tofts and crofts to link with the existing farm access track. To the north east of the settlement lie the earthwork remains of ridge and furrow, providing a physical link between the settlement and the windmill mound at the extreme east of the scheduled area. The circular mill mound measures c20m in diameter and c0.5m high with a pronounced circular depression in the centre.

To the west and north-west of the sunken track and settlement remains are earthworks forming a coherent group of sub-rectangular enclosures. These remains are less easily defined in the field but aerial photographs suggest they are agricultural enclosures at least one of which displays evidence of a furlong of ridge and furrow defined on the southern side by a head land. The sunken track curves to the west serving the area of enclosures but appears to have been truncated by the post medieval garden earthworks further to the west.

The garden earthworks lie in the field immediately south of the church and the remains of Knaptoft Hall. Here the earthworks form a pattern of terraces and rectangular compartment boundaries defining the extensive remains of the post-medieval formal garden laid out, presumably by the Turpin family, to accompany Knaptoft Hall. The garden earthworks have been cut by areas of quarrying into the hillside but remain intelligible. At the southern boundary of the field are two large sub-rectangular fishponds fed by the natural stream (both still water filled), the easternmost of which has a central island. The 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of 1886 marks these as 'Old Fishponds' indicating some antiquity. The ponds are now used commercially for leisure angling and although some dredging will have taken place to maintain the fishponds the shape and size of these are as shown on the early maps.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING From the eastern end, the area of protection runs from the field boundary north of the windmill mound, along the south edge of the access track to Hall Farm. At the point at which it meets the parking area the line skirts around the car park before continuing to the west, cutting across the small field containing the church, and continues beneath the C20 agricultural buildings to the western edge of the farm yard just north of the barn containing the standing remains of Knaptoft Hall. The line then turns to the south 2m west of the C19 barn; this 2m buffer zone is considered necessary for the support and preservation of the monument. At the southern edge of the paved yard the line of the scheduled area runs to the east before turning south along the eastern edge of Hall Farm House until it meets with a field boundary fence. Here it follows the field boundary fence to the west then south, then west again to skirt around the C20 agricultural building complex. The line then follows a straight line to the west until it meets with another field boundary fence. It follows the boundary to the south-west before running south, following the field boundary, to the south-west corner of the ponds. The line then follows the field boundary fence south of the ponds to the east before turning north and east again continuing along the field boundaries. At the southern tip of the area of protection the line turns to the north-east, again following the fence line to the southern edge of the field containing the mill mound. The line then turns to the east following this boundary before heading north to meets the edge of the farm access track.

EXCLUSIONS All agricultural buildings, including the ranges which incorporate the remains of Knaptoft Hall (assessed for listing separately), modern fences and path surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these is included.


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

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Books and journals
Dyer, C, Jones, R, Deserted Villages Revisited, (2010)
Hilton, RH, The Victoria History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume II, (1954), 194-5
Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland, (1984), 195
Allen Archaeology Ltd, Historic Building Survey: Knaptoft Hall Farm, Knaptoft, Leicestershire, May 2012, Historic Building Survey: Knaptoft Hall Farm, Knaptoft, Leicestershire.

Allen Archaeology, Archaeological Evaluation Report: Trial Trenching on land at Knaptoft Hall Farm, Knaptoft, Leicestershire, December 2011,


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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