Medieval settlement at Withybrook


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of Medieval settlement at Withybrook
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Rugby (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 43308 84276, SP 43477 84372, SP 43491 84006, SP 43755 84220

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 the rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.

The medieval settlement at Withybrook survives well, in several places without any major recent disturbance, and preserves good earthwork and buried remains of a variety of settlement features such as the toft and croft sites, the moated site and fishponds and mill. A number of documentary sources, dating from the Domesday Survey to the post-medieval periods provide information about the size and manorial history of the settlement. These documents combine with the physical remains to provide an outline of the development of the settlement, which would form the basis of any detailed research into the site.

The earthwork and buried remains will preserve artefactual and other evidence which will illuminate the development of the village. The buried remains of a range of buildings of different status and from different periods will provide information about the relative wealth and activities of members of the community as well as changing methods and forms of housing and building techniques. Ridge and furrow cultivation remains and environmental evidence will illustrate the development of the technologies of agriculture and changing patterns of subsistence. Artefactual evidence will add to our knowledge of the development and technologies of every day items.

In addition, the low lying waterlogged area around the brook is expected to preserve organic deposits such as pollen grains, seeds and beetle remains which will provide environmental evidence, which will illuminate the natural environment and climate locally in the periods between the height of expansion and the collapse of the population. This will allow consideration of the causes of changes in population in the Midlands during the 12th to 15th centuries.


The monument includes the earthwork, buried and standing remains of the medieval settlement and non conformist chapel at Withybrook, within four areas of protection and located largely to the north west of the stream on rising ground in and around the streets and buildings of the existing village.

Withybrook has undergone considerable alterations throughout history. Its original nucleus may have lain 500m to the south west in the now abandoned settlement of Hopsford, which is the subject of a separate scheduling. Withybrook is not recorded as a separate settlement until the 12th century, although it is possible that its lands were included in the Domesday assessment of Monks Kirby. The parish church, All Saints, had been built by the 12th century and was originally a chapel of Monks Kirby. A mill and mill pool are recorded between 1188 and 1191 and again in 1229, before being conveyed to Sir John Spencer in 1594. Coombe Abbey also held land and a fishpond in the village during the 12th century. By 1327 there were at least 14 households, and by the early 17th century Withybrook was responsible for two-thirds of the taxes payable by the parish. The hearth tax suggests that 33 households were located in the village at this time. An estate map of 1748 records a network of small enclosures around the village, and the tithe award map of 1844 refers to the moat next to the church. The earthwork remains reflect this changing development of the settlement.

The first area of protection includes the remains of the moated site lying immediately to the west of the church, the fishponds and mill site lying to the south and east of the church, and the remains of medieval house sites and gardens lying to the north of the church as well as the cemetery and remains of the demolished chapel to the south of Overstone Road.

The moated site is sub-rectangular, measuring approximately 50m east to west by 87m north to south. The island measures approximately 30m by 25m, and the moat survives as a shallow ditch measuring approximately 8m wide and up to 1m deep. Although the moat is largely dry, it is subject to periodic flooding and remains waterlogged in its south western angle. A spring located to the north east of the moat probably supplied water to the moat. The remains of a shallow leat survive leading towards the spring from the north eastern angle of the moat. To the north of the moat, located on rising ground a building platform measuring approximately 40m by 30m is defined on its west, north and east by shallow hollow ways measuring up to 1m deep and 6m wide. The platform is defined on its southern side by a low earthen bank and the northern arm of the moat. It is believed to include the remains of ancillary buildings associated with the moated site.

Further upslope to the north of the church and the moated site are the remains of the medieval settlement including a number of building platforms and gardens sites, (tofts and crofts), arranged in an irregular grid, defined by shallow ditches or hollow ways measuring up to 2m deep. These acted both as boundaries and communication routes between the house sites.

The remains of a large complex of fishponds and mill ponds and associated water management features are located along the brook. These include a large earthen dam, orientated north to south across the western end of the valley. The height of the dam varies between 1.5m and 4m and measures up to 12m wide. The mill is located adjacent to the stream which defines its north eastern side. The two remaining sides of the triangular building platform are defined by wet ditches or leats. At least two additional building platforms are located on the higher ground to either side of the stream and a number of hollow ways lead towards the stream.

The non-conformist chapel, laterly occupied by the Congregationalist church, was located to the south east of Overstone Road. It was constructed in the early 19th century and demolished in the 1980s. The chapel burial ground includes the remains of a substantial part of the population of the village and approximately 40 burial monuments and the foundations of the chapel are visible.

The second area of protection is located to the north west of Withybrook Hall Farm and includes at least three additional toft and croft sites aligned along the main street, defined by hollow ways measuring and up to 1.5m deep. The third area of protection lies to the west of Main Street, its westernmost half includes a sample of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains, orientated north west to south east. In the easternmost part of the area are a number of enclosures defined by hollow ways and ditches measuring up to 1m deep and 2.5m wide, and believed to be stock enclosures.

The fourth area of protection, located between Overstone Road and Main Street, includes the remains of the village pinfold which was located in the angle between the two roads. Also included is a further house site defined by a large square building platform cut into the rising ground measuring approximately 30m by 30m and approached by a deep hollow way measuring up to 2m deep and 3m wide leading towards Overstone Road.

All modern paths and surfaces and modern 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:
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Books and journals
Hooke, D, Early Settlements on the East Warwickshire Watershed, (1976), 106-112
Mytum, H, 'Annaul report' in Moated Site At Withybrook, , Vol. 13, (1986), 18
Various SMR officers, Various unpublished note in SMR, including plans and maps


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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