The medieval settlement at Wormleighton


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Stratford-on-Avon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 44419 54169

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 Inner Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province, an area characterised by large numbers of nucleated settlements, both surviving and deserted, many of which are thought to have been established in Anglo-Saxon times. Most of the sub-Province's thinly scattered dispersed settlements were created in post-medieval times, but some of the local regions are characterised by higher proportions of dispersed dwellings and hamlets, which probably mark the patchy survival of older landscapes. The Stour-Avon-Soar Clay Vales local region is dominated by village and hamlet settlements. It was once characterised by large townfields under communal cultivation, traces which survive as ridge and furrow earthworks. It contains the sites of many depopulated villages and hamlets, perhaps up to one third of the total number of such settlements which existed in the Middle Ages.

The medieval settlement at Wormleighton includes well preserved remains of a variety of settlement features. In addition there are a series of important documentary sources, ranging from the Anglo-Saxon to the post-medieval periods. Relatively few settlements have detailed Anglo-Saxon documentation providing information about the earliest phases of their development, whilst the survival of information about the medieval village, and particularly about the cause and conditions of the desertion of the medieval settlement at Wormleighton provide an important opportunity to understand the development of the settlement over time.

The earthworks, which are clearly defined, have not suffered any major recent disturbance and will preserve remains of the domestic dwellings and the ancillary and agricultural buildings, including remains of buildings of differing status which will include information about the relative wealth and activities of the members of the community. In addition the survival of remains from different periods will illuminate the development of the village from pre-Norman times until its reuse following the desertion of the village as much as changing building techniques and the technological development of agriculture and patterns of subsistence. Artefactual remains will provide evidence for the social history of the site, including evidence about its occupants and their daily activities, giving a range of dating evidence, as well as insights into the range of social activities and trading contacts of the inhabitants of the settlement throughout its history.

In addition, there are several post medieval manorial features including the fishponds, enclosures and a possible dovecote. These with other structures, associated with the 1519 redevelopment of the manor, will illuminate the organisation and exploitation of the demesne lands of a manorial complex very late in its development. Being constructed as part of a complete redevelopment of the site, by a new and wealthy owner, they will be expected to incorporate many fashionable features and technological advances, and will also reflect something of the aspirations of the rising country gentry.


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval settlement of Wormleighton, including the remains of the moated site of the manor house, the building platforms and allotments of the medieval village, with its associated hollow ways, field boundaries, enclosures, and medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains. The settlement is located on south facing slopes below the present parish church. Also included are the remains of the post-medieval fishpond complex and a series of post-medieval enclosures which were superimposed on the site of the settlement.

In the western part of the monument, lying at the head of the street, are the remains of a double moat defining two islands which mark the site of the medieval manor house and associated buildings. The moat is 1m to 2m deep, except at the south western angle where it is 3m to 4m deep, and is 10m wide. The north easternmost island of the moat, which measured approximately 100m by 40m, has been cut by the Oxford Canal which occupies part of the eastern arm of the moat, approximately one third of the island now survives. The remainder of the moat which formerly survived as an earthwork across the canal to the north west has since been removed by cultivation and is not included in the scheduling. The second island measures approximately 65m by 55m, orientated north east to south west. There are the remains of an external bank, measuring up to 6m wide and 0.75m to 1.5m high, on the south eastern and north eastern arms. The uneven surface of the island indicates that the buried remains of buildings will survive on the islands.

The settlement includes an area of house enclosures (tofts), allotments and gardens (crofts), used for the cultivation of vegetables and fruit. The narrow green, or wide main street, is orientated east to west and measures approximately 8m to 12m wide. Houses were laid out on either side of the street which led from the site of the church towards a ford over the former stream. The stream flowed along part of the route now occupied by the Oxford Canal and was destroyed during the construction of the canal. The building platforms are best preserved on the northern side of the street, where seven are clearly visible, measuring between 15m and 20m wide and approximately 20m long. The tofts and crofts are defined by boundary ditches, measuring up to 1m deep and 1m to 2m wide. These delineate regular enclosures, approximately 30m long and as wide as the house platforms which lie behind the house sites. The arrangement of tofts and crofts in the south western part of the settlement is obscured by the later fishpond complex and post medieval enclosures.

Lying just below the parish church are the remains of approximately six small irregular house platforms. These irregular house sites, measuring approximately 10m by 20m are orientated east to west, and are laid out along the lane which separates them from the site of the parish church. The platforms are terraced into the hillside and defined by small banks up to 1m high. They are believed to represent the earliest focus of the settlement at Wormleighton, close to the church on the crest of the hill and established prior to the laying out of the larger, more regular, plots to the south west. The fishpond complex is believed to have been constructed over the site of the settlement. The stew ponds, orientated east to west, cover an area measuring 150m to 170m long and 20m to 30m wide, and are defined by external banks. Each pond was linked to the next by a leat, and they were fed from the large pond to the south east. This pond located in the south east of the monument measures 120m by 80m, orientated east to west. It is 1m to 2m deep and is defined by external banks which are approximately 1m high. There is a small, sub-circular, well defined island in the middle of the pond which measures approximately 5m in diameter. The island is too small for any but the flimsiest of buildings, however, such islands were often constructed in fishponds to encourage the nesting of water fowl, and thus provide another resource at the site. The bed of the pond contains medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains, suggesting that the bed of the pond has been cultivated, either prior to its construction, or between periods of use when the pond was drained between seasons of fish breeding. The relationship between the ponds and the water source to the east, has been obscured by the construction of the modern water treatment plant, although early estate maps depict a channel leading from a pond, in the vicinity of the present pond at the base of the quarry to the northern angle of the large fishpond.

A further large `L' shaped ditch, measuring 4m to 6m wide and 1m to 3m deep, with arms measuring 40m and 90m long, lies to the north west of the stew ponds, disturbing the lay out of the northern tofts. This is believed to be a water management feature linked to the fishponds. This is linked by leats to the course of former water channels to the north east and when water-filled, must have presented a semi-moated appearance defining a small building platform on the north and east. The building platform has a small raised sub- circular area at its centre which may mark the site of a dovecote. In the easternmost part of the monument close to the edge of the quarry are the remains of a large platform approximately 20m long and 10m wide, and the remains of two terraces cut into the hillside. These may represent further elements of the post-medieval use of the site.

The entire settlement area is surrounded by medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains which formed part of the open field system farmed by the settlement. A sample of these is included in the scheduling in the north eastern part of the monument to preserve their relationship to the settlement remains.

Wormleighton is first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon document of AD 956, in which the village boundaries, largely coinciding with modern parish boundaries, are confirmed. The village is recorded in the Domesday Survey as being held by three people, suggesting three manors or estates and a large population, estimated at between 200 and 250 people. The village continued to expand in the 12th and 13th centuries, but began to decline in the later 14th and 15th centuries. The remaining village was depopulated in the 1490s by William Coope, who turned the site over to sheep pasture. Documents record that 12 messuages and three cottages were destroyed, making 60 people homeless. The estate was bought for 200 pounds in 1506 by John Spencer, who in 1519 abandoned the original manor house, and built a new stone manor house on the hill top, adjacent to the church. It was probably Spencer who laid out the fishponds over part of the site of the village. These are recorded on estate maps dated 1634 and 1734.

Post and wire fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath 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.

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Books and journals
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire, (1908), 235
Thorpe, , The Lord and the Landscape, (1965), 38-77
Title: Spenser estate map Source Date: 1634 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: WRO
Title: Spenser estate map Source Date: 1734 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: WRO
Watching brief with history & maps, Warwickshire county archaeological field serv, Archaeological observation of repairs to the oxford canal at Wor, (1996)


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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