Stainsby medieval village and open field system


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016352

Date first listed: 27-Oct-1970

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Dec-1997


Ordnance survey map of Stainsby medieval village and open field system
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Middlesbrough (Unitary Authority)

District: Stockton-on-Tees (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Thornaby

National Grid Reference: NZ 46543 15703


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. The Tees Valley local region is a rich agricultural lowland, with varied soils on glacial and alluvial deposits once supporting dense concentrations of market towns and villages. Depopulation has thinned the numbers of villages, while enclosure in the 17th and 18th centuries has brought scatters of isolated farmsteads to landscapes once dominated by great expanses of open, communally organised townfields.

Medieval villages were organised agricutural communities, sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but when they survive as earthworks their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small paddocks. They frequently included the parish church within their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages included one or more manorial centres which may also survive as visible remains as well as below ground deposits. In the central province of England, villages were the most distinctive aspect of medieval life, and their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman conquest. Most nucleated villages were surrounded by a series of unenclosed fields known as an open field system. Open fields originated before AD 1000 and continued in use throughout the middle ages. However, recent work has shown that some open field systems preserve the fossilized remains of earlier Roman and prehistoric systems within their basic framework. From the late 16th century, the open fields began to be enclosed by banks and hedges into the more familiar fields of the present landscape. Formerly more extensive, open fields generally survive as fragments in association with medieval settlements. They were the product of a communal system of farming in which each tenant held a share of the manor's arable and meadow land. The holdings of each tenant were scattered across the open fields, the basic unit of tenancy being the lande. Landes were parcelled together into larger groups called furlongs, whose length and the number of landes they contained varied greatly. Furlongs were grouped together into fields and an open field system usually included several such fields. Systems of crop rotation were employed, and these might be based on either the field or the furlong. The sides of the furlongs were marked by baulks of unploughed land which often survive as low banks and are known as furlong boundaries. The ends of the furlongs were marked by headlands which survive as prominent earthen banks. Ploughmen used the headlands as spaces on which to turn the teams of oxen or horses which pulled the plough. Headlands were usually ploughed after work on the rest of the furlong had been completed, though sometimes they were left unploughed, and, along with the baulks between furlongs, provided access between furlongs. Such unploughed areas were grazed by livestock. The most characteristic feature of open field systems is ridge and furrow, a form of medieval cultivation produced by the action of a heavy plough with a fixed mouldboard. The deserted medieval village at Stainsby is well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. The village shows evidence of more than one phase of development and, taken together with the remains of its open field system, it will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the development of medieval settlement in the region.


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


The monument includes the deserted remains of the medieval village of Stainsby and part of its surviving open field system, situated on the east bank of the Stainsby Beck. The earliest known reference to a settlement in the area is contained in the Doomsday Book of 1086 when it is recorded as `three carucates at Steinesbi'. The manor was held at the end of the 13th century by Walter de Stainsby and its descent over the following 700 years is well recorded in documents. In 1302 nine inhabitants of `Staynesby' are recorded as being eligible to pay taxes. By 1757 all but one of the farms in the village had been dispersed to other parts of the estate; only Stainsby Grange Farm remained in the village. The village survives as a series of earthworks and buried remains in the fields south and east of Stainsby Grange Farm. The western side of the village is visible as a line of three rectangular enclosures or tofts, oriented north to south, bounded by low earthen banks standing to an average height of 0.5m. The remains of a fourth toft lie at the north end of this row. A World War II Type 22 pillbox also included in the scheduling is situated on the edge of one of these tofts; this was one of several perimeter defence works placed on the monument associated with Thornaby Airfield. The rectangular enclosures measure up to 35m wide and 50m long and are separated from each other by shallow ditches 0.3m to 0.5m deep. Abutting this row of tofts at the east is a second line of rectangular enclosures of a similar size to the first; this row is well defined at its southern end where two enclosures are clearly visible; the remainder of this row has been partly obscured by a post medieval boundary bank. At the eastern end of some of the tofts, traces of slight rectangular platforms indicate the foundations of rectangular long houses. The western limit of the tofts is marked by a linear, hollow feature interpreted as a back lane with a prominent headland to its rear. At the south end of the monument, east of the two rows of rectangular tofts, there are the slight earthwork remains of further rectangular enclosures, oriented north west to south east, and a hollow way. These features were first revealed on aerial photographs as earthworks in 1946 and as soil marks during an episode of ploughing in 1978. There is a line of at least three small enclosures measuring 27m by 22m, and one large rectangular enclosure at its southern end measuring 45 by 30m fronting onto a broad hollow way to the east. These tofts are enclosed on the east by a linear ditch interpreted as a former back lane. This is thought to represent the eastern side of the village but the two sides are not parallel with each other and are thought to represent different phases in the development of the village. To the north of these features there are the remains of prominent earthworks including the continuation of the hollow way northwards and the remains of at least one further toft, visible as an oval platform at its northern end. A large circular depression at the northern end of the hollow way is interpreted as a pond and several linear channels between it and the stream are interpreted as drainage channels. A linear platform adjacent to the stream is thought to represent the site of a mill or a fishery referred to in a document at the end of the 13th century. To the west and east of the village, beyond the two back lanes which mark the rear of the tofts on both sides, there are the well preserved remains of part of the open field system which once surrounded the village on all sides. The surviving remains are visible as parts of three large medieval furlongs, or fields, with intact headlands. Each furlong contains rig and furrow cultivation which survives well and stands to a maximum height of 0.5m. All fences and gate posts which cross the monument, all features associated with the equestrian centre including flood lights, horse troughs and wooden horse boxes, as well as the surfaces of all roads and drives are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all of 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: 28559

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Green, G, Waughman, M, The Deserted Medieval Village of Stainsby, Cleveland, (1996)
TASMR 0451,

End of official listing