Medieval settlement at Coughton Court

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017171

Date first listed: 07-Jul-1999

Map

Ordnance survey map of Medieval settlement at Coughton Court
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Warwickshire

District: Stratford-on-Avon (District Authority)

Parish: Coughton

National Grid Reference: SP 08368 60621

Summary

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 West Midland Plateau local region comprises low plateaux surrounding the shallow basin of the Tame valley. It is dominated by dispersed settlements present in high and very high densities. Its ancient forest landscapes, with their intricate mosaics of old enclosed fields and woodland blocks, have usually been considered the result of medieval colonisation, but must also contain more ancient elements.

In some areas of medieval England settlement was dispersed across the landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in an area, usually a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single (or principal) nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across the area. These small settlements normally have a degree of interconnection with their close neighbours, for example, in relation to shared common land or road systems. Dispersed settlements varied enormously from region to region, but where they survive as earthworks their distinguishing features include roads and other minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas where stone was used for building, the outline of building foundations may still be clearly visible. Communal areas of the settlements frequently include features such as bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement are found in both the South Eastern and Northern and Western Provinces of England. They are found in upland and also some lowland areas. Where found, 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 at Coughton Court survives as a well documented complex of earthwork and buried remains. The crofts and house sites will preserve evidence about the occupations of their tenants, the standards of living, the methods of construction of buildings and artefacts and the sources of materials used in every day items. The crofts will in particular provide evidence about the use of the private areas of land by individual tenants in comparison to the activities undertaken on common land and public space such as the great fields and greens of the settlement. Documents record much of the history of the village until the 17th century, including the names and occupations of tenants and their disputes and concerns about the daily rural routine. These documents help to illustrate the use of the site and will combine with archaeological features to provide an important record of rural settlement.

Excavations have confirmed that the remains of the infilled moat and the buried remains of former building ranges survive well to the rear of the post- medieval house. Similar remains will survive elsewhere on the manorial complex. This formed an integral part of the medieval settlement and will preserve evidence, including artefacts and environmental deposits sealed beneath later infilling, about the living standards and daily activities of its inhabitants and about relationship between the manor and the village, whilst evidence of the development of the manorial complex and earlier phases of Coughton Court will be preserved in the buried building remains of both the manor and its ancillary buildings. These physical remains are augmented by good documentary evidence which helps to illuminate the economic and social role of the manor within the wider context of the settlement.

The churchyard at Coughton, which has been closed to burial for 100 years, and is free of modern disturbance, is believed to preserve the skeletal remains of the inhabitants of the medieval settlement from at least the decades before the Black Death (c.1349) until modern times. These will provide information about the dietary conditions, age and health of the rural population, and will allow statistical analysis of the changes in the population of medieval Coughton. In addition, the survival of burial goods and artefacts such as coffin fittings will provide information about funerary practices in the settlement throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods. Although the church underwent significant rebuilding during the 15th century, the remains of earlier phases of church buildings will survive beneath the present church and churchyard. These will provide evidence about building techniques and materials as well as information about ritual practices and decorative schemes.

The medieval settlement at Coughton is associated with another at Mill Ford Farm, which is the subject of a separate scheduling. They formed part of the same manor and parish and their occupants would have interacted regularly. The survival of settlement remains from associated dispersed hamlets on the edge of a great Royal Forest will preserve evidence about the social and economic organisation of one of the less well represented and least understood forms of medieval settlement.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval settlement of Coughton Court, the site of the moated medieval manor house, the churchyard of St Peters Church, a medieval standing cross, Listed Grade II, an area of fishponds and associated water management features and a wayside cross also Listed Grade II.

The remains of the medieval settlement at Coughton Court form part of a spread of medieval settlement remains within the parish which took the form of hamlets lying to the south west and south east of the manor house and church located on the edge of the medieval Royal Forest of Arden, on an acknowledged route through the forest. The settlement at Coughton Court lay to the south west of the manor house and developed at the crossroads between Roman Ryknield Street, which runs north to south, and Coughton Lane, which runs east to west. Regular house plots, or tofts, each approximately 15m to 20m in width and including a series of irregular building platforms of domestic dwellings, outbuildings and animal sheds are visible, aligned parallel to Coughton Lane in an east to west direction. The boundary ditches, measuring up to 1m deep and 1m to 2m wide, of four crofts or allotments, survive to the north of the house sites and delineate regular enclosures which were used for cultivation and which may have also included stock pens for animals. The rear boundary of these crofts has been obscured by the development of the path leading to St Peters Church. The crofts are arranged in a formal manner along the edge of the road and are of uniform size suggesting that elements of the settlement were planned. To the north of the house platforms lying along Ryknield Street, and aligned north to south, are the sub-rectangular building platforms of two further house sites. The northernmost platform is `L' shaped and measures approximately 30m north to south by 30m east to west. The southernmost of these is roughly `T' shaped and measures approximately 40m north to south by 30m east to west and has been identified as the site of the vicarage between 1695 and 1746, although a building may have occupied the site from the medieval period. Four houses stood on the site of the medieval settlement in 1695 but had been demolished by 1746. These represented the final phase of occupation of the site and were probably removed as part of the landscaping of the grounds of Coughton Court. In addition all of the above house and allotment sites appear to have been laid out over pre-existing ridge and furrow cultivation remains, which were orientated north to south, suggesting that the village was either re-planned or re-located, from an earlier site, and was laid out on land which had formerly been used as arable land. The manor of Coughton is recorded in the Domesday Survey, when it already possessed a mill. Its medieval manor house was moated and occupied the site now occupied by the post-medieval house. By 1354 it is documented as including mills, dovecotes and fisheries. The manor became the home of the Throckmorton family from the early 15th century and subsequently underwent several phases of extension. Early maps show the position of the moat, the house and outbuildings, including a barn, dovecote and slaughter house and the gardens of the medieval manor prior to the infilling of the moat and alterations and landscaping to the house and gardens. The building platforms of these out buildings survive as low earthworks to the north east of the manor house. Excavations in advance of garden works undertaken in 1991 have confirmed that the infilled moat survives in situ to the rear of Coughton Court, where the north and east arms of the moat were identified. The excavations also confirmed the survival of the foundations of a demolished eastern range of buildings relating to an earlier phase of development. St Peters Church originated between the Anglo-Saxon period and the Middle Ages and, although the present church dates largely from the rebuilding by Sir Robert Throckmorton in 1468 to 1518, an earlier structure is believed to exist beneath the present church. Earlier building material is present in the base of the tower, and the font includes work of both eighth and 13th century date, whilst the list of vicars is continuous from 1339. The churchyard served as the burial place for the majority of the medieval population of the settlement, including the Lords of the manor, both of the Throckmorton family and possibly of earlier lords.

Documents confirm that the manor had extensive rights in the River Arrow and that stews and ponds were constructed for the increased production of fish for the manor during the medieval period. There were fisheries at Coughton by 1354 and throughout the 14th century the Lord was in dispute with the villagers over his rights there. In 1614 a rental of the manor house mentions stews and ponds at Coughton and a map of 1695 refers to `Westmest & New Poole'. These sources are believed to refer to the extensive complex of fishponds and water management features which survive to the east of Coughton Court and those which survive as modified features in the gardens of the post-medieval house. Westminster Pool survives as an ornamental pond measuring 150m by 50m orientated north to south. To the south of Westminster Pool is the site of another pond which may have been the New Pool. This has been drained and landscaped and is not included in the scheduling. To the north east of the ponds a sluice diverts water from the River Arrow, and controls the flow through an artificial channel forming the core of an extensive complex of mills and fisheries. The channel runs parallel to the river and is separated from it by two large linear islands. The northernmost island measures approximately 200m north to south by up to 50m east to west. The southern island measures approximately 80m north to south by up to 30m east to west. These islands are bisected by a second channel running east to west. Both islands have a linear bank running north to south along their centre which is 1m to 2m high and 1m to 3m wide. The main channel widens to a pond approximately 20m across at the point where it meets the second channel. A third, smaller, island occupies the westernmost section of the pond close to the area described as the Mill Holmes.

An enclosed area of rough ground called the Mill Holmes lies to the east of Westminster Pool between it and the artificial channel. This enclosure has a stream running from north to south across it and a raised causeway 0.75m high and 1m-2m wide and a platform measuring approximately 3m by 6m, orientated east to west in the northern half of the enclosure. A further hollow way or leat, 1m deep and 1m to 2m wide, runs from north to south from the area of the raised platform towards the pond on the main channel. It is believed that the ponds, sluice, channels, islands and the enclosed Mill Holmes are the site of the fisheries and also the mill described by the documentary sources.

To the east of the River Arrow are further earthwork remains consisting of a series of linear banks and ditches running parallel with the river and measuring between 1m and 2m wide and 1m and 2m high which may represent further water management features such as flood prevention banks associated with the mill and intended to protect the open fields which lay to the east of the river.

To the north of the banks is a hollow way which represents a former road leading from the river at right angles and running towards the east. The hollow way measures between 2m and 4m wide and up to 1.5m deep and survives for approximately 100m, beyond which it has been removed by modern ploughing. The road is believed to have been connected to a second hollow way which runs parallel to the east bank of the river. The hollow ways represent an abandoned road which ran from Coughton Lane near the ford, along the river and then turned east and eventually led towards Warwick. The Warwick Road is documented from the mid-14th century traversing the open fields of the village.

To the south of the Warwick Road are ridge and furrow cultivation remains, which are the remnants of the open arable fields belonging to Coughton in the medieval period. The majority of the field system has been removed by modern ploughing but a sample of surviving earthworks is included in the scheduling in order to preserve their relationship with the settlement.

To the south of the ridge and furrow cultivation remains on the east bank of the River Arrow are the earthwork remains of a large irregular building platform and a series of shallow irregular banks and ditches representing small garden or stock enclosures, known as Homestall in 1695.

To the south of the area known as Homestall are the earthwork remains of a further irregular building platform close to the river bank believed to be the site of `Upper Mill'. A mill is documented at Coughton from the Domesday Survey, and by 1370 two mills are recorded. From 1500 the mills are referred to as Upper and Lower, or Over and Nether Mills. The mill is shown as disused on the first edition six inch Ordnance Survey map of 1886.

The scheduling includes two medieval crosses, one a standing cross located in St Peters churchyard and the other a wayside cross near the crossroads of Ryknield Street and Coughton Lane. The churchyard cross consists of a square socket stone, two steps, and Tuscan column with sundial and ball finial. The base is medieval while the column and sundial are 17th century in date. The wayside cross, known as Coughton Cross, consists of a square socket stone with chamfered corners and the stump of a shaft on three steps. It is surrounded by wrought iron railings of 18th/early 19th century date. According to local tradition travellers entering and leaving the Royal Forest offered prayers and thanksgiving at the cross.

A number of Listed Buildings within the area of protection are excluded from the scheduling: these are Coughton Court stables (Listed Grade II*), the coach house, three chest tombs within St Peters churchyard and two stretches of the churchyard wall, which are Listed Grade II. The ground beneath all of these structures is, however, included. All modern paths, surfaces, walls and fences, the post-medieval great house known as Coughton Court and St Peter's Church are also excluded from the scheduling, although again the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 30030

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Hooke, D, Coughton Court, (1981), 12-13
Other
excavation interim report., Evans, J, Coughton Court, (1991)
Hooke, D, Coughton CourtSettlment site and water features., 1997, Unpublished notes
unpublished excavation records, Warwickshire field archaeology service., Coughton Court., (1971)
Various SMR Officers, Unpublished notes in SMR files,

End of official listing