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Ashwell medieval settlement remains, watermill and gardens at Old Hall

List Entry Summary

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.

Name: Ashwell medieval settlement remains, watermill and gardens at Old Hall

List entry Number: 1017212


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.


District: Rutland

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Ashwell

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 29-Oct-1999

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 30263

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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. 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, and 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 watermill uses the gravitational force of water to turn a paddled wheel, the energy thus generated enabling the operation of varying kinds of machinery. The waterwheel can be set directly into a stream, more usually however an artificial channel or leat is diverted from the main watercourse and its flow to the wheel regulated by sluices. Where the natural flow is inadequate, a millpond may be constructed to increase the body of water (and thus the flow) behind the wheel. By the time of the Domesday Survey an estimated 6000 mills were in existence, and the number increased steadily over the next three centuries. During the medieval period, mills, usually used for corn grinding, were an important source of income to the lord of the manor who usually leased the mill and its land to the miller. With the advent of steam power in the 18th century, water power eventually became obsolete. As a common feature of the rural landscape, watermills played an important role in the development of technology and economy. Many of those of particularly early date will merit protection.

Ashwell medieval settlement remains and manorial garden, the mill and millponds and the adjacent field systems at the Old Hall, survive particularly well as a series of earthworks and buried deposits. Both areas of protection 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 nature and layout of the settlement. Waterlogging in the area of the moat and millponds suggests a high potential for the survival of organic remains which will provide an insight into the economy of the site, and the environment in which it was constructed. Together with contemporary documents relating to village, this will provide a good opportunity to understand the mechanisms behind the development, decline and eventual abandonment of areas of the settlement.


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


The monument includes remains of part of the medieval settlement of Ashwell, a watermill, millponds and gardens associated with the medieval manor house. The remains are within two areas of protection situated approximately 80m south west and 250m north east of the Old Hall. Part of the village of Ashwell to the south remains inhabited.

The first area of protection 80m south west of the Old Hall includes the remains of the manorial gardens laid out around a `U'-shaped moat which represents the principal garden feature. The moat is up to 0.6m in depth and measures a maximum of 50m east to west and 75m north to south. The southern and western arms are up to 18m in width whilst the northern arm is 38m wide. A leat linking the north western side of the moat to a stream running parallel with the northern arm is defined by a narrow depression. The moated platform measures 30m north-south and 35m east-west and is joined at its north eastern corner by a raised causeway. A second rectangular platform immediately to the south east contains evidence of structures in the form of low linear banks.

To the north, within the second area of protection, are an extensive series of house platforms, short lengths of hollow ways and trackways, and agricultural enclosures which are principally aligned on a NNE-SSW axis. The longest section of hollow way is approximately 70m in length, 8m in width and passes between two platforms, both of which have low mounds representing building foundations, the bases of which are visible as short lengths of dressed stone. A series of rectangular enclosures up to 90m in length and 25m in width immediately north of the house platforms represent their associated gardens and paddocks. Beyond the paddocks is an extensive area of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation, comprising fields which are on at least two alignments and have been cut by later ditches. Two adjoining rectangular millponds are situated between the north western side of the enclosures and ridge and furrow, and the southern side of the stream. Together, the ponds cover an area approximately 350m by 85m, with their long axes running parallel to the stream. The ponds are sub-divided about half way along their length by a dam which survives as a low bank. They are embanked on their north western side and cut into the natural slope on their south eastern side, whilst a series of platforms at their north eastern end adjacent to a dog-leg in the stream indicate the position of the watermill.

Documentary sources indicate that immediately prior to the Norman Conquest in 1066 the manor of Exewelle (Ashwell) was held by Earl Harold. By the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086 the manor had passed to the Tuchet family in whose ownership it remained until 1515. It is likely that the majority of abandonment of the settlement took place prior to this time, largely because of changes in agricultural practices.

All fences and the modern surfaces of all tracks 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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Rutland: Volume II, (1935)
Hartley, R F, (1981)
Leicestershire County Council, SK 81 SE E,
RCHME, NAR Printout: SK 81 SE 8,
RCHME, NMR Printout: SK 81 SE 8,

National Grid Reference: SK 86479 13833, SK 86634 13987


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This copy shows the entry on 25-Sep-2018 at 06:08:22.

End of official listing