Deserted medieval village, moated site, and early medieval timber building at Castle Eden, 200m south of The Castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015842

Date first listed: 08-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Deserted medieval village, moated site, and early medieval timber building at Castle Eden, 200m south of The Castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Castle Eden

National Grid Reference: NZ 42717 38621


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

Reasons for Designation

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more.

This monument lies in the Humber-Tees sub-Province of the Central Province which comprises a great fertile lowland, with many local variations caused by slight differences in terrain, but generally dominated by market towns, villages and hamlets. The dispersed farmsteads between these are mainly of post-medieval date, created by movement out of the villages and on to newly consolidated holdings following enclosure. Some, however, are more ancient dispersals, the result of manors, granges and other farmsteads being moved out of villages in the Middle Ages; others have become isolated by the process of village depopulation, which has had a substantial impact in the sub-Province.

The East Durham Plateau local region is a limestone upland partly covered by glacial clays. The upper part of the plateau was almost devoid of settlement until the creation of the late 19th century mining communities, but ancient villages occupy the varied soils of the western sub-Provincial boundary, and can be found along the north-south routes just inland from the coast. Towards the southern edge, and the Tees Valley, there has been significant settlement depopulation.

Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches, often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some cases the islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built was between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern parts of England. However, moated sites were built throughout the medieval period, are widely scattered throughout England and exhibit a high level of diversity in their form and sizes. They form a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains. Medieval manorial settlements, comprising small groups of houses with associated gardens, yards and paddocks, supported communities devoted primarily to agriculture, and acted as the foci for manorial administration. Although the sites of many of these settlements have been occupied continuously down to the present day, many others declined in size or were abandoned at some time during the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. 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 settlements are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits, providing information on the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming economy, and on the structure and changing fortunes of manorial communities.

Despite the fact that there are few surface indications, the medieval complex at Castle Eden survives well as a series of buried features below the surface of the ground. The existence of an earlier medieval settlement, subsequently replaced by a nucleated village during the Middle Ages, adds to the importance of the monument and will contribute to our understanding of the early and later medieval settlement in the region.


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


The monument includes the remains of the medieval village of Castle Eden, a large moated site, and an early medieval timber building revealed by excavation in 1974. Excavation also uncovered an area of cultivation, thought to represent the remains of early fields in the area. The complex is situated on the south side of the Castle Eden Dene, in a field immediately north of the reconstructed 12th century church and cemetery of St James. This field was also the location of a fine Anglo-Saxon vessel known as a claw beaker discovered in 1775 by workmen removing a hedge. An early medieval settlement at Castle Eden is mentioned in an 11th century document in which it is referred to as `Iodene Australem'. This manor formed the focus of a compact estate comprising several other small townships. The manor became the property of the church during the 12th century and the medieval village which developed is mentioned in several later documents. Most of the surface remains of the village were removed by emparkment in the 18th century but they are known through excavation to survive below ground level as buried features. The earliest known settlement remains at the monument are situated close to the original 12th century church. Excavation here uncovered the foundation trench of a timber building and an associated post hole; these structural features were associated with some of the earliest pottery discovered at the site and are thought to be the remains of a timber building of 12th century or earlier date.

After the Norman Conquest the settlement was reorganized and the focus shifted slightly to the north east where the remains of a planned medieval village were partly uncovered in 1974. This settlement consisted of a surfaced track running north from the medieval church with several timber structures containing fireplaces aligned along its eastern side; these structures are interpreted as the remains of a row of medieval houses; pottery discovered in these houses indicated that they were still occupied in the 14th and 15th centuries. Immediately to the rear of these houses an area of ploughing was uncovered, thought to be slightly later in date. It is considered that a row of similar houses survives below ground on the western side of the metalled trackway.

At the extreme northern end of the monument, a substantial ditch, 10.8m wide and at least 1.4m deep was uncovered, which had clearly once been water filled; a piece of medieval pottery from a jug thought to be of 12th or 13th century date was discovered within the infilled ditch. This feature was associated with the levelled remains of a large timber building retaining cobbled floors and the remains of fireplaces. The large quantity of medieval pottery which was found in association with this building suggests that it had been removed by the late 15th or early 16th century. It has been suggested that these features are the remains of the original castle, possibly a moated site, at Castle Eden which is mentioned in an early 12th century document.

The surface of the modern metalled drive is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath this feature 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: 28549

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Austin, D, 'Durham Archaeological Journal' in The Medieval Settlement and Landscape of Castle Eden, , Vol. 3, (1987), 57-78
Austin, D, 'Durham Archaeological Journal' in The Medieval Settlement and Landscape of Castle Eden, , Vol. 3, (1987), 57-78
Austin, D, 'Durham Archaeological Journal' in The Medieval Settlement and Landscape of Castle Eden, , Vol. 3, (1987), 57-78
DSMR 165,
NZ43NW 06,

End of official listing