Gumley medieval settlement remains, rabbit warren and field systems, 600m south west of the Church of St Helen
- 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.
- Harborough (District Authority)
- Harborough (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SP 67409 90112
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 East Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province,
an area characterised in the Middle Ages by large numbers of nucleated
settlements. The sites of many of these settlements are now occupied by modern
villages, but others have been partially or wholly deserted and are marked by
earthwork remains. Most of these settlements were first documented in the 11th
century, in Domesday Book. The southern part of the sub-Province has greater
variety of settlement, with dispersed farmsteads and hamlets intermixed with
the villages. Whilst some of the dispersed settlements are post-medieval,
others may represent much older farming landscapes.
The Soar Valley and Nene Plateau local region comprises the low hill country
of the Soar Valley and, to the south east, a low plateau dissected by the
tributaries of the Nene and Welland. Nucleated villages and hamlets dominate
the region, but gaps are found within the pattern in Rockingham Forest, in
Rutland and in High Leicestershire where they are linked to the location of
woodland in and before the 11th century.
Medieval villages were the organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and woodland. Village plans vary enormously, but when they survive as earthworks their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings and small enclosed paddocks. 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.
Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were divided 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 defined by terminal headlands at the plough turning-points. Furlongs were in turn grouped into large open fields. Well preserved ridge and furrow, especially in its original context adjacent to village earthworks, is both an important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive contribution to the character of the historic landscape.
A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren construction dates back to the 12th century, following the introduction of rabbits into England from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number of purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries. The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels to facilitate drainage. A typical warren may contain between one and forty pillow mounds. Many warrens were enclosed by a bank, hedge or wall to contain and protect the stock. Although relatively common, warrens are important for their association with other classes of monument, including various forms of settlement and field systems, and may provide evidence of the economy of estates. All well preserved medieval examples are considered worthy of protection.
Gumley medieval settlement remains, warren and field systems 600m south west of the Church of St Helen survive particularly well as a series of earthworks and buried deposits. The areas of settlement and the rabbit warren have remained largely undisturbed since their abandonment with the result that the survival of archaeological deposits relating to their occupation and use is likely to be good. The deposits will contain information about the dating, layout and economy of the settlement, and in the case of the warren, an insight into its design and function. Together with contemporary documents relating to the site, this will provide a good opportunity to understand the mechanisms underlying the development and eventual contraction of the village.
The monument includes medieval settlement remains, a rabbit warren and field
systems, and is situated 600m south west of the Church of St Helen.
The settlement remains include part of the medieval village of Gumley, further remains of the village survive approximately 1km to the east and are the subject of a separate scheduling. Part of the village between the two monuments is still inhabited.
The remains immediately west of the church are orientated along a hollow way which formerly comprised the northern end of what is now Main Street, the main thoroughfare through the village. The hollow way is a maximum of 26m in width, 3m in depth and runs from the church on a north west-south east axis for 130m before dividing into two parts. The eastern branch curves north east for 80m to run parallel with and gradually converge upon the modern Smeeton-Westerby road, which replaced it. The locations of several buildings standing within and adjacent to this section of hollow way are represented by up to six sub- rectangular embanked platforms which are situated along its sides and within its base, which is extremely broad at this point. The second branch of the hollow way runs north west for 10m up to the modern road, continuing northwards beyond it and represents an earlier course of the Gumley to Saddington road which cuts through an area of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation. A further series of earthwork remains situated south west of the Gumley to Saddington road include a medieval rabbit warren which survives as a series of up to 13 low rectangular mounds which are a maximum of 0.8m in height and vary between 10m and 20m in length. The mounds are separated by narrow drainage channels whilst adjacent low embanked platforms indicate the location of structures associated with the management of the warren. The southern edge of the warren is defined by a boundary bank approximately 1.5m in width and 0.6m in height which runs parallel with the Laughton road for 350m. The warren as a whole is located within a well defined medieval agricultural landscape surviving as extensive ridge and furrow remains. The ridge and furrow is aligned on a north east-south west axis and continues either side of the modern Laughton road. Larger baulks running parallel with the fields and spaced at regular intervals divide the strips into groups of seven or eight.
Gumley, or Godmundesleach in its earliest recorded form, has a long documented history. Charters were signed by the Mercian kings Ethelbald in AD 749 and Offa in AD 772 and 779 at the settlement. At the time of the reign of Edward the Confessor the village had been divided into two lordships. One of these contained 20 acres of meadow and was owned jointly by three Saxon thanes. Following the Norman Conquest it passed to Countess Judith, under whom it was held by Robert de Buci. The second lordship of eight acres was held by Robert de Veci, under whom it was worked by Goisfrid. In 1300 Edward I granted liberty of free warren to Roger Brabazon. In 1421 the two manors came into the ownership of John Griffin, remaining in the hands of his descendants until the 19th century. An estate map dated to the early 19th century indicates that the hollow way finally fell into disuse following the construction of Gumley Hall in 1764, although abandonment of the settlement probably began many centuries before.
All fences, huts, cattle grids, the war memorial and the modern surfaces of all roads and pathways 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:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Liddle, P, Leicestershire Archaeology: The Present State of Knowledge, (1982)
Nichols, J, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, (1798)
Hartley, R F, (1986)
Leicestershire County Council, SP 69 SE AB,
Leicestershire County Council, SP 69 SE AW,
RCHME, NMR Printout: SP 69 SE 34,
Title: Lands of Sir Wm. Edward Craddock Hartopp Bart. Source Date: 1852 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
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