Cottam medieval settlement and cultivation terraces
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1017068
Date first listed: 23-Sep-1964
Date of most recent amendment: 14-Dec-1999
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SE 99202 64754
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 last 1500 years or more.
The Yorkshire Wolds local region is a soft, rolling, chalk landscape with deep
valleys. Dispersed farmsteads, usually impressive creations of the late 18th
and 19th centuries, are present in small numbers. The earlier pattern of
medieval nucleated settlements - villages and hamlets - still dominates the
archaeological landscape as either deserted settlement sites or sites still
occupied by rural communities.
Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, generally sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but where 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 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. Cultivation terraces are a distinctive landscape feature of the Yorkshire Wolds. Many are thought to have been established before the collapse in the rural population in the 14th century, and to have been the result of the poorly developed market economy forcing villages to be self sufficient in grain and thus requiring the cultivation of steep hillsides. The medieval earthworks at Cottam are well preserved and retain good evidence of the switch in land use from arable cultivation, supporting a relatively large population, to sheep rearing which resulted in the eventual abandonment of the village. The earthworks also indicate good survival of buried remains including rubbish pits, building foundations and floor levels, which together with the documentary evidence, will provide valuable insights into medieval rural life.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes buried and earthwork remains of the medieval settlement
of Cottam along with a set of contemporary cultivation terraces. It is located
to the west and north of Cottam House and the modern farm.
Cottam is associated with St John of Beverley, who was Bishop of York from
AD 705 and is reputed to have cured two of the inhabitants of the settlement.
Cottam was recorded as Cottun in the Domesday Book of 1087, which notes that
it had arable land for five plough teams and was held as a single manor,
valued at 40 shillings, by St Peter's Church in York from the Archbishop of
York. It was taxed at 34 shillings for the 1334 Lay Subsidy, which was about
average for the area, but given 53% relief in 1354 following the hardships
which were partly caused by the Black Death. In 1377 50 people over the age of
14 were listed for the poll tax in Cottam, compared with 100 in neighbouring
Langtoft. The settlement was last taxed separately in the mid-15th century and
was thereafter usually grouped with Langtoft. Cottam was surveyed in 1569 when
no mention of open fields was made, only the existence of closes, which
implies that the settlement had been largely depopulated by this time. In 1706
there was still a small settlement of nine cottages surviving, but in 1719 the
owners, the Dean and Chapter of York Minster, gave permission for the
demolition of all but four cottages `as soon as conveniently may be'. Shortly
afterwards a rabbit warren was established and by 1743 just one family was
said to live in Cottam. The ruined brick built church dedicated to the Holy
Trinity dates to c.1890 and was built to serve the expanding population of the
outlying farms of the parish. It replaced an earlier church which, because it
originally contained the Norman font now in Langtoft Church, is thought to
have been in existence by the 12th century at the latest.
The medieval village of Cottam was simple in plan, based on a junction between
the former road from Langtoft to Driffield, and a lane to Cottam Grange and
thence onwards towards the Gypsy Race valley to the north. Enclosures defined
by boundary banks lie either side of these trackways. Most are tofts,
enclosures with building platforms for a house and associated outbuildings
along with yards or garden areas; and a few are crofts, enclosures not used
for habitation, but forming gardens or paddocks. The tofts in the southern
part of the monument are quite regular in plan, extending back from the former
road as regular strips. Those in the north, around the 19th century church,
are much more irregular in plan and are thought to represent a different phase
in the development of the settlement. This area is thought to have been the
original focus of the village, centred on the pond and where the road forks
either side of the church, which is probably built on the same site as its
medieval predecessor. To the north, between the two trackways, there are a
series of small irregular embanked enclosures which mainly appear to be
crofts, although there are at least two house platforms fronting onto the
eastern track heading towards Langtoft. To the north of these enclosures, in
the northern corner of the modern field, there are the earthwork remains of
ridge and furrow cultivation, orientated WSW to ENE. On the western side of
the track heading towards Cottam Grange, north of the pond, there is a row of
four regularity sized tofts. Each has a frontage just over 20m wide and extend
35m back westwards. They all retain evidence for internal divisions marked by
low banks, along with small level areas representing building platforms. To
the east of the track to Langtoft, north of the church, there is another small
area of tofts. These are much more irregular and the building platforms,
probably for a row of three or four small cottages, front onto a raised bank
50m long which runs alongside the trackway. To the south of this group,
extending as far as a substantial WSW to ENE bank and ditch which runs through
the northern part of the woodland north of the modern farm, there is a set of
larger irregular enclosures which are interpreted as former paddocks. Across
the trackway from these, south of the pond, there is a set of cultivation
terraces which extend westwards, cut into the steep north facing slope. The
eastern ends of these terraces are overlain by further banks dividing the area
up into more small paddocks. These enclosures either side of the trackway are
considered to be relatively late features and to have been constructed for the
management of sheep in the late medieval to early post-medieval period. They
are thought to overlie earlier remains of the core of the medieval settlement.
Immediately to the south, facing Cottam House on the opposite side of the
trackway, is an enclosure 100m north-south extending 140m back westwards from
the track, which at this point is a deeply cut hollow way. This is interpreted
as the core of a relatively high status medieval farm, possibly a manorial
centre. In the north east corner there are a pair of substantial building
platforms each 15m across which are thought to be for domestic buildings. In
the south eastern third there is a wide sunken area which is identified as a
former fold yard for livestock. The earthworks of two large rectangular
buildings front onto this area and are interpreted as former barns. The one to
the west appears to have been just under 10m wide and 25m long, that to the
north about 8m by 15m. The remaining area of the large enclosure is subdivided
into three paddocks or garden enclosures by low banks. To the south of the
fold yard, fronting onto the western side of the hollow way there are seven
much lower status tofts. Each is a strip about 20m wide extending up to 100m
westwards, divided from the next by a break of slope or embankment. Each has
internal subdivisions of low banks along with building platforms for one to
three small buildings which would have been typically about 5m by 10m. These
would probably have been timber cruck framed buildings, perhaps built on a
foundation of chalk blocks. One of the tofts also has a spread of brick
rubble. These are the remains of a small 19th century brick built smithy.
Facing these tofts on the east side of the hollow way there are some of the
buildings of the modern farm which lie outside the area of the monument. To
their south there is a toft of a different layout. This is about 50m square
with the earthworks of a house and outbuildings arranged around a central
sunken area representing a fold yard. Elsewhere on the Wolds, similar
earthworks have been identified as courtyard farmsteads which developed in the
15th and 16th centuries from simpler earlier forms. Immediately to the south,
the road or trackway to Driffield was truncated by the construction of a World
War II airfield. Map evidence suggests that the southernmost four tofts of the
village were also levelled at this time.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the brick
built church, all modern fences, stiles and gates, water troughs and telegraph
poles, although the ground beneath all 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: 32638
Legacy System: RSM
Record sheets, Sites & Monuments Record, 738, (1998)
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