Bescaby shrunken medieval village


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010928

Date first listed: 11-Jul-1957

Date of most recent amendment: 10-Sep-1992


Ordnance survey map of Bescaby shrunken medieval village
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This copy shows the entry on 21-Nov-2018 at 09:35:47.


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

County: Leicestershire

District: Melton (District Authority)

Parish: Sproxton

National Grid Reference: SK 82184 26223


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 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.

Bescaby is one of the best preserved medieval shifted villages in upland Leicestershire, with extensive earthworks and an associated water management complex. It is a good example of how fluctuations in the wool prices led to changes in landuse in Leicestershire in the medieval period.


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


The monument consists of the extensive earthwork remains of the shrunken medieval village at Bescaby and the associated features of a moat and a fishpond.

The village earthworks are situated to the east of the present village of Bescaby and consist of the clearly defined remains of house platforms and garden plots arranged on either side of an east-west orientated hollow way. At the eastern end of the monument is a large waterfilled moat measuring approximately 90 x 50m in maximum dimension, with the arms of the moat varying in width from 25m on the eastern and southern sides to 10m on the northern and western sides. There is no causeway across the moat and no apparent trace of structures on the island. A channel at the western end of the moat links this with a fishpond approximately 80m long.

Documentary sources indicate that the village was in existence around 1194. At this time it would have extended further south of the line formed by the moat, channel and fishpond but earthworks in these areas no longer survive. The village remained unshifted until at least the 14th century and it is considered that increased emphasis on sheep farming in the medieval economy contributed to its demise.

The metalled access road which runs across part of the site is excluded from the scheduling, although the land beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 17016

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bourne, J, Place-names of Leicestershire and Rutland, (1981), 31
Hartley, R F, The Medieval Earthworks of North-East Leicestershire, (1987), 6,20
DMVRG, A Provisional list of Deserted Medieval Villages in Leics, Transactions of the Leics Arch and Hist Society, (1963)

End of official listing