Hellaby: a deserted medieval village and well, enclosure, ridge and furrow and post medieval long house


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009393

Date first listed: 10-Jan-1995


Ordnance survey map of Hellaby: a deserted medieval village and well, enclosure, ridge and furrow and post medieval long house
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Rotherham (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Bramley

National Grid Reference: SK 50534 92185


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

Although they represent a substantial proportion of recorded deserted medieval villages, small villages consisting of the houses of no more than a few families are not well represented in the archaeological record. Hellaby is a rare example of such a village which has been partially excavated and found to retain substantial remains relating to this class of monument.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Hellaby deserted medieval village is situated on the Upper Coal Measure Sandstones west of Maltby. The monument includes an area, north, south and west of present day Hellaby Hall, which incorporates the remains of medieval and post-medieval buildings, a well, a sample of remains of ridge and furrow ploughing and a square ditched enclosure. Further remains are believed to exist outside the area, particularly to the south in the area now occupied by demolished farm buildings and cottages. These have not been included in the scheduling, however, as their extent and state of preservation is not yet fully understood. In 1991, Hellaby was the subject of a resistivity survey and partial excavation carried out by the South Yorkshire Archaeological Unit. Although not exhaustive, these investigations indicate a small medieval settlement focussing on an area near the junction of Hellaby Lane with Bawtry Road and visible as a series of low earthworks which include building platforms and the remains of ridge and furrow ploughing. The resistivity survey provided a rough plan of part of the site by showing the locations of buried walls and infilled ditches through differences in their electrical resistivity. A number of ditches relating to field and property boundaries were located this way, in addition to five buildings. Following the survey, selected areas were sampled by trench excavation and more extensive excavations of two of the buildings were undertaken. In addition to remains from the medieval and post- medieval periods, evidence of prehistoric ploughing was found in this way. Although much of the evidence of agricultural use, including the ridge and furrow, was found to date to the later Middle Ages, a number of features relate to an earlier field system which has not yet been precisely dated. It is possible that, included in this system, is a square ditched feature on the north side of the monument. This feature is visible both on the ground and on aerial photographs of the site, and has been interpreted as an enclosure. A number of ditch boundaries were found associated with the ridge and furrow of which several contained examples of three main types of pottery generally datable to the period from the late 12th century to the 15th century. Fragments of tenth century pottery were also recovered and indicate that the village may have originated in the period of Scandinavian settlement. The pottery evidence indicates that the ditches went out of use before or around AD 1400. Evidence of regular recutting prior to this, and association with post holes left by buildings or fences, shows that their positions remained unchanged over an extended period of time and that they can therefore be interpreted as property boundaries marking the divisions between individual house plots and their associated crofts. Five buildings have been located relating to these crofts and are believed to have been dwellings. Two at the south east corner of the monument, known as Buildings 1 and 2, have been partially excavated and the latter found to be of post medieval date. These two structures lie close together in the same croft. This and the fact that Building 1 shows evidence of having been robbed heavily of its stone, indicates that Building 2 was built out of its remains and that Building 1 was deliberately dismantled for the purpose. At the time of its demolition, Building 1 was a rectangular structure measuring over 14m long by 8m wide. It had an internal hallway with a door at the south end. The presence of post-pads indicates that it was a timber framed building whose walls were 40cm thick and consisted largely of roughly faced sandstone blocks packed with rubble. A projection existed on the west side and was a late addition, possibly representing an external chimney. Two small stone ovens were also built on this side, above the earlier wall foundations. They opened eastwards into the building where a scorched rubble floor has preserved earlier burnt layers which were found to contain a small amount of lead and the base of a third oven built into an internal wall. North of this wall a fourth oven was found sunk into the floor and has been interpreted as a corn dryer. Pot sherds recovered from the ovens indicates occupation in the late 12th to 14th centuries. A well was also found within the building. This was lined with limestone blocks to a depth of 1.4m and contained butchered animal bones and pot sherds. The latter indicate that the well went out of use in the late medieval period at the time the building was abandoned. An earlier medieval land boundary ditch was found beneath Building 1. This may have been backfilled when the building was constructed and replaced by a smaller ditch to the west. North east of Building l lay Building 2. This was a long house measuring 20m by 5.2m-6m with an external chimney at the south west corner. A door lay immediately east of the chimney and was approached by a path of limestone blocks laid on packed rubble. The remains of the path included stone robbed from Building 1. Marks on these stones, and a series of continuous grooves in the tops of some of the surviving walls of Building 1, indicate that the site had been ploughed at some stage after abandonment, probably before or contemporary with the construction of Building 2. The walls of the latter were built of free- standing sandstone blocks packed with rubble. The interior was divided into three compartments by two internal walls. These had post pads at each end, indicating a cruck or post-built wooden structure. The middle compartment contained hearths and an oven while the east compartment was served by two boot-scrapers which indicate that both these areas were for domestic use. The west compartment was rebuilt after a period of neglect and was used for coal storage at some point. Pottery from Building 2 indicates that it was occupied in the 17th and early 18th centuries. It is not yet known when it was abandoned or when it was finally demolished, but the accumulation of debris over the internal features suggests that the period between the two events was quite long, and it has been suggested that the building may have survived into the early 19th century. Little is yet known about the remaining buildings except that, from the pottery evidence associated with them, they have been found to be broadly contemporary with Building 1. Building 3 lies north of Building 2 and is represented by a line of post holes associated with a yard to the south and a boundary ditch to the north. A corn drying oven has been located north of the post holes and indicates that they form the south wall of the structure. Building 4 is represented by the footings of a wall found west of the ditch to the west of Building 1 and also survives as a series of earthworks. Building 5 lies at the north end of the village and has so far been located only by three post holes and a number of small finds. In addition to medieval pottery fragments, the latter include a fragment of slag in vitrified clay and numerous copper alloy ornaments, including a buckle. These are probably indicative of a metal working area. There is little documentary evidence for Hellaby to illustrate either its origins or its decline. At face value, the place name appears to be of possible tenth century date, incorporating as it does a Norse personal name with the Norse -by ending which indicates a farmstead. However, in areas of the Dane law, Scandinavian personal names continued in use for far longer than the period of Viking settlement, and, without additional evidence, this is not necessarily a reliable indicator. The first written evidence is in Domesday Book where, in 1086, thirteen villeins are recorded as being tenants on the land between Hellaby and Maltby. The Poll Tax returns of 1379 indicate the existence of two families, but there may have been others who were exempt or had evaded the tax. By the time of the Parish Registers of 1538, no one was named as coming from Hellaby and it seems that the village had been deserted by this time. Indeed, sufficient time had elapsed for soil to build up over the site of the village between the abandonment of Building 1 and the construction of Building 2 in c.1600. Desertion probably occurred, therefore, in the 15th century, though for what reason is not yet known. Excluded from the scheduling are the boundary fence which crosses the site and also the surface of the path, the ground underneath these features is, however, 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: 23201

Legacy System: RSM


Draft report, Holbrey, R P, Results of a two stage evaluation project ... of ... Hellaby, (1991)
Hellaby pottery report, (1991)
In SMR record, Hellaby DMV,

End of official listing