West Backworth medieval settlement, 300m south east of West Farm


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.

North Tyneside (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 29320 72213

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 Wear-Tweed sub-Province of the Central Province, an area long characterised, except for the western margins, by nucleated settlements both surviving and deserted. Variations within the sub-Province reflect land ownership as well as terrain: on some estates in Northumberland there was much dispersal of farmsteads and consequent village and hamlet depopulation after the Middle Ages, whereas Durham saw greater stability because of ecclesiastical control. An overlay of mining settlements adds complexity to the coalfield areas. The North east Coalfield local region is characterised by extremely high densities of settlements. Large numbers of mining and other industrial villages and towns were established in the 18th and 19th centuries within the earlier rural settlement pattern of medieval farmsteads, halls and planned 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. 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. West Backworth medieval village is well preserved and the best example of an abandoned medieval village in Tyne and Wear. The wet conditions and the evidence of the unrecorded excavation indicate that significant information on the form and history of the village will be preserved beneath the present ground surface. The overlying ridge and furrow cultivation illustrates the abandonment of the village and its subsequent incorporation into the field system of the surviving Backworth village. The ridge and furrow cultivation is interesting and unusual as an example of open field agriculture laid out in or after the 15th century.


The monument includes the remains of West Backworth medieval village, 300m south east of West Farm, Backworth. The monument includes both medieval earthwork and below ground remains and the remains of post-medieval activity which overlie them in places. The surviving medieval remains include two rows of allotments (or crofts) aligned east-west along a hollow way. The hollow way bisects the field in which the monument is situated. The eastern section of the hollow way is 16m wide and 1.5m deep and leads to a post-medieval dammed pond. The section of the hollow way to the west of the pond is identified from aerial photographs and is the same width as the eastern section. The building platforms (or tofts) lying within the crofts are visible as level ground, which in the eastern half of the field is 1m-2m above the level of the hollow way. A further building platform in the south east corner of the field is 1m above the level of the other building platforms and 12m long by 8m wide. An unrecorded excavation 20m south east of the pond has exposed surviving stonework in the north west corner of a 40m by 50m enclosure. The predominant post-medieval feature is the 5m wide ridge and furrow cultivation, which is orientated north-south and overlies all the medieval features. Post-dating this cultivation is the pond and causewayed track. The pond is approximately 10m in diameter and has been formed by the construction of a dam on its north side. The dam consists of an earthern bank 0.5m high by 5m wide and contains material of post-medieval date. The other post- cultivation feature is the causewayed trackway extending along the western half of the southern edge of the field. This trackway is 0.5m high and 4m wide. The earliest reference to the existence of both West and East Backworth was in AD 1189. In 1241 the two villages comprised a single manor which was granted to Tynemouth Priory. In the subsidy of 1296 the two villages were assessed separately, West Backworth providing four taxpayers. The manor was devasted by Scots raiding in 1323. During the 15th century all the freeholds of both villages were extinguished, the lands went out of cultivation, and were subsequently divided into ten husbandlands. By the 16th century West Backworth was deserted and its site was incorporated into the field system of East Backworth which now forms the present day village. The electricity pylons are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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:
Legacy System:


Wrathmell, S, Deserted and Shrunken Villages in Southern Northumberland, 1975, PhD thesis


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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