Southorpe medieval settlement and cultivation remains


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Southorpe medieval settlement and cultivation remains
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Lindsey (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SK 89660 95204

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 last 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Trent sub-Province of the Central Province, where the broad Trent valley swings in a great arc across midland England. Underlain by heavy clays, it is given variety by superficial glacial and alluvial deposits. Although treated as a single sub-Province, it has many subtle variations. Generally, it is characterised by a great number of villages and hamlets which cluster thickly along scarp-foot and scarp-tail zones, locations suitable for exploiting the contrasting terrains. Throughout the sub-Province there are very low and extremely low densities of dispersed farmsteads, some of which are ancient, but most of which are 18th-century and later movement of farms out of earlier villages.

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 also survive as visible remains as well as below ground deposits. Villages were the most distinctive aspect of medieval life in central England, 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 settlements were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into strips (known as lands) 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 lands were laid out in groups known as furlongs, which were in turn grouped into large open fields. Well preserved ridge and furrow, especially in its original context adjacent to settlement earthworks, is both an important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive contribution to the character of the historic landscape.

The medieval settlement of Southorpe, and the remains of its open field system, survive well as a series of substantial earthworks. As a result of detailed archaeological survey and historical research they are quite well understood. The remains of house plots and hollow ways will preserve valuable evidence for domestic and economic activities on the site, giving an insight into the lifestyle of the inhabitants. Despite partial levelling of the moated site in modern times, archaeological deposits of medieval date survive largely intact. The buried remains of manorial buildings here, together with those of the associated church and churchyard, will demonstrate how these components functioned as vital parts of the local and regional community. The association of the village remains with those of its open fields will also preserve evidence for the economy of the settlement and its place in the wider medieval landscape.


The monument includes the remains of the medieval settlement of Southorpe, situated approximately 2km south of Northorpe on the eastern edge of the Trent Valley. Recorded in the Domesday Book as one of two `Torps', it first appears under its present name in a document of the 12th century in which reference is made to the church at Southorpe. From the mid-14th to early 15th centuries the manor was held by the D'Arcy family until the mid-16th century when it was in the hands of the Conyers family. The population of Southorpe remained small throughout the medieval period and finally declined during the 15th century with the conversion of arable to sheep pasture. The church remained standing until the early 16th century, and the most recent buildings to occupy the site of the moated manor were taken down in 1966.

The settlement remains are centred in two areas, linked by a hollow way, on either side of the small valley of an east-flowing tributary of the River Eau. The remains take the form of substantial earthworks, standing to a height of about 1m, with underlying archaeological deposits. The principal settlement remains, including the site of the manor and church, occupy the higher ground on the north side of the valley. Adjacent to part of the northern edge of these settlement remains is a hollow way aligned approximately east-west; at its western end it is met by another hollow way running north-south. Extending both east and west from the angle of these two former streets is a series of small ditched enclosures representing house plots, which are thought to have surrounded and then encroached upon a village green. A triangular plot to the east of these enclosures is thought to represent the latest extent of the green prior to the desertion of the settlement; beyond it the hollow way continues eastward with the remains of another enclosure on its northern side.

Immediately south of the northernmost block of settlement remains is a further series of enclosures, also extending east-west across the slope: at its eastern end is a moated site, at its western end a raised platform thought to represent the site of the church and churchyard, and between them a small group of fishponds. These features represent the remains of the manorial complex which dominated the settlement during the Middle Ages. The moated site, although partly levelled during clearance activities in 1966, survives as a substantial earthwork. Buried remains within the moated island will include the foundations of the medieval manor house and associated structures. The moat itself, formerly at least 2m deep, has been partly infilled and is now visible as a depression 0.5m deep. A later raised trackway separates the moated site from a small group of fishponds lying in a rectangular enclosure adjacent to the west. Two rectangular ponds, surviving to a depth of about 1m, are arranged in a north-south line with a small tank at the southern end. West of the fishponds is a smaller raised enclosure within which are the earth-covered foundations of a stone building aligned east-west; these are thought to represent the remains of the Church of St Martin, first recorded in the 12th century and dismantled in the early 16th century.

Immediately to the east, west and south of the northern settlement and manorial complex are the earthwork remains of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation. Those immediately south of the fishponds and church site lie within a large rectangular enclosure partly bounded by a linear bank; this enclosure is thought to have been incorporated within the manorial complex. Running along its western side is the hollow way which links the northern group of settlement remains with those on the south side of the stream. At its southern end this hollow way is joined at right angles by another, which runs east-west parallel to the stream. Rectangular ditched enclosures on both sides of this hollow way represent house plots, those on the south side having been laid out over earlier arable fields. Ridge and furrow cultivation remains still survive adjacent to the south of these features, representing, together with the ridge and furrow north of the stream, the only surviving fragments of a once extensive area of cultivation remains surrounding the medieval settlement of Southorpe.

All fences and gates 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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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.

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