Medieval settlement of Priors Hardwick
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1016567
Date first listed: 19-Mar-1999
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Stratford-on-Avon (District Authority)
Parish: Priors Hardwick
National Grid Reference: SP 47115 55797, SP 47296 56086, SP 47435 55731
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 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.
Medieval villages were organised agricultural 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 enclosed 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 survive also as visible remains as well as below ground deposits. In the central province of England, villages were the most distinctive aspect of rural 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. Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into strips (known as landes) which were allocated to individual tenants. The cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs pulled by oxen-teams produced long, wide ridges, and the resultant `ridge and furrow' where it survives is the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. Individual strips or landes were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal headlands at the plough turning-points and lateral grass balks. Furlongs were in turn grouped into large open fields. Well-preserved ridge and furrow, especially in its original context adjacent to village earthworks, is both an important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive contibution to the character of the historic landscape. It is usually now covered by the hedges or walls of subsequent field enclosure. The medieval settlement at Priors Hardwick survives well, with little recent disturbance, preserving the earthwork and buried remains of a variety of settlement features. These are complemented by a series of documentary sources, ranging from the Anglo-Saxon to the post-medieval periods, providing an outline of the development of the settlement over time. Relatively few settlements have surviving Anglo-Saxon documentation providing information about the earliest phases of their development. It is believed that the settlement's buildings were partly constructed from stone, which is relatively rare among villages in Warwickshire. The remains of a variety of buildings of different status, ranging from the manor to common village housing, will provide information about the relative wealth and activities of the members of the community. Changing methods and forms of housing and building techniques will also be illustrated, as well as the development of the technologies of agriculture and changing patterns of subsistence in the associated fields. Artefactual evidence will add to our knowledge about the sources of materials and technologies for the production of every day items. The relationship of the medieval village to the later re-populated 17th or 18th century village is also of interest.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval
settlement of Priors Hardwick, within three areas of protection. The
settlement includes the remains of the house sites, gardens and allotments
of the medieval village, and its associated hollow ways, field boundaries and
enclosures, as well as medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains.
A settlement at Priors Hardwick is first recorded as one of 24 vills given by
Earl Leofric to found the monastery at Coventry. The grant was confirmed by
Edward the Confessor in 1024, and the settlement remained listed among the
priory estates in the Domesday Survey. The estate rendered rents worth 11
pounds 8 shillings and 4 pence at the Dissolution and was granted to Sir
Edward Knightly, passing to Lord Spencer in 1633. The population of the
village was falling during the 16th century, and it is believed that
desertion, in favour of sheep pastures, soon followed. The present village
contains buildings largely of the 18th century and results from a later re-
growth of the settlement on a different alignment.
Within the first area of protection are a number of irregular enclosures
defined by deep ditches and platforms. The ditches are up to 2m deep and 4m to
5m wide and represent both hollow ways and property boundaries, although some
may have been water-filled and may have acted as leats to fishponds. The
uneven surfaces of the platforms indicate that the buried remains of buildings
survive. These are believed to include a manor house and its associated
agricultural and ancillary buildings.
Within the second area are further earthwork remains of house enclosures (or
tofts) and allotments and gardens (crofts) defined by banks and ditches, which
represent the remains of the eastern extent of the settlement. Six linear
enclosures, each between 20m and 30m wide, are defined by shallow ditches and
aligned north west to south east. The enclosures are also sub-divided by
transverse ditches to form an irregular grid of enclosed platforms. Within the
enclosures are the remains of at least five building platforms between 7m and
9m wide, and 10m to 20m long. Close to Home Farm are the remains of a pond
which is still in use and has been dug out in modern times. The southern and
eastern extent of the settlement is defined by the survival of the medieval
ridge and furrow cultivation remains surrounding the settlement earthworks. A
sample of the ridge and furrow is included in the scheduling in order to
preserve the relationship between the village and its field system.
The third area of protection includes several further tofts and crofts,
defined by banks and ditches. The regularity of these remains suggest that the
layout of this part of the settlement was planned. Linear banks and ditches,
measuring 0.5m deep and up to 1m wide, oriented north west to south east run
from the lane, dividing the area into approximately ten linear enclosures
aligned up the slope of the hill. Houses were sited within these enclosures
and several building platforms survive, with those located next to the lane
opposite Hill Farm being best preserved. The enclosures measure between 15m
and 20m wide and vary in length, with transverse banks and ditches sub-
dividing some of the plots upslope from the lane. Further platforms, within
the sub-divided plots, suggest that the buried remains of buildings survive
higher up the hill. A cottage or small farmstead survived, at the eastern edge
of the field, parallel with the more recent vicarage buildings up to the
beginning of the 20th century. The building platforms, foundations and ponds
associated with this last remnant of the medieval village survive and are
included in the scheduling. Towards the western edge of the field is a
pronounced hollow way running north west to south east, up the hill from the
lane, forming part of a public footpath and is, in places, 2m to 3m deep and
7m to 10m wide. Half way up the hill, it divides in order to pass either side
of a large platform, which measures at least 30m long north to south, and 8m
wide. The platform's uneven surface indicates that the remains of buildings
survive below ground. The hollow way formed a route between the village on the
hillside, the church and manor at the foot of the hill, and the village fields
and quarries which lay at the top of the hill.
All modern surfaces and 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.
Legacy System number: 30046
Legacy System: RSM
unpublished notes in SMR, SMR officers, Various notes,
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