Scargill fortified house, medieval settlement and associated field system


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017320

Date first listed: 24-May-1951

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Oct-2000


Ordnance survey map of Scargill fortified house, medieval settlement and associated field system
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Scargill

National Grid Reference: NZ 05108 10540, NZ 05175 10684, NZ 05243 10812, NZ 05380 10674


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

Reasons for Designation

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables, brew houses, granaries and barns were located. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

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 evolved gradually during the past 1500 years or more. The Craven Block local region, including the Askrigg block, encompasses the high moorland south of Stainmore. Away from the `specialist nucleations' of post-medieval date (the clusters of houses associated with mining and the railways), dispersed settlement includes both seasonal and permanent farmsteads, as well as specialist sheep and cattle ranches. The latter were normally outlying dependencies of larger settlements or estate centres located in adjacent regions. In these upland environments, dating settlements can be difficult. 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 nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence instead of small settlement units 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 settlement 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. A medieval irregular open field system is a collection of unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into strips which were allocated to individual tenants. The cultivation of these strips produced long ridges, and the resultant `ridge and furrow' is the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. 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. Despite the loss of significant fabric, and the instability of that which does survive, the fortified house at Scargill retains important evidence of its original form. Those parts which have been levelled, and survive as buried features, retain significant archaeological deposits which complete our knowledge of the ground plan of the settlement. The associated dispersed settlement is well preserved and a good example of its type which, taken together with the sample of the surrounding field system, will add to our knowledge of the diversity of medieval settlement in England.


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


The monument includes the remains of a fortified house, a settlement and part of a field system of medieval date, situated in the fields surrounding Castle Farm and Scargill Farm. The monument is divided into four separate areas of protection. The fortified house is a Listed Building Grade II*. The medieval chapel, 350m east of the monument, is the subject of a separate scheduling. The fortified house and its attached enclosure, which are contained within the first area of protection, stand among modern farm buildings 50m south east of Castle Farm. The house was constructed during the 13th century and partially rebuilt during the 15th century. It was the seat of the Scargill family and it is thought that Edward II was entertained at the house during a visit to Scargill in 1323. The most obvious surviving ruin is the gatehouse, standing to full height with the remains of four adjacent ranges placed around a main courtyard lying to its east. An outer courtyard is attached to the south side of the south range. The gatehouse, constructed of large squared sandstone blocks, is a roughly square building measuring 9m across. It stands three storeys high, and retains part of a tiled roof. There are arched entrances through the east and west walls, now partially blocked, which lead into an entrance passageway; the roof of this passage is supported by three medieval moulded wooden beams. A doorway opens from the northern wall of the entrance passageway and leads into a spiral stair turret from which a semicircular stairwell gives access to the upper storeys of the gatehouse. There are rectangular windows through the east and west walls of the gatehouse at first floor level and a fireplace in the south wall. On the second floor there are also rectangular windows in the east and west walls. Part of an original chimney projects from the south side of the gatehouse at first floor level. The gatehouse gave access to a rectangular courtyard, now used as the farmyard for the present farm. On all four sides of the courtyard there are the remains of rectangular ranges of buildings; the ranges are visible as lengths of walling standing from about six courses high to more than 20 courses high; other parts of the ranges are not visible above ground level but they survive below the ground as buried foundations. The western wall of the west range, from which the gatehouse projects, survives above ground level for its full length; it is visible as a fragment of wall running north from the gatehouse, and as a length of wall, 11m long standing to its original height of about 26 courses, extending south from the gatehouse. The latter section also contains a square headed window. At its southern end, this length of wall has been reduced to its lower courses by stone robbing and it clearly runs southwards beyond the south wall of the courtyard. The north, east and south walls of this range are considered to survive below the present surface of the ground as buried features. The south range of the fortified house survives largely below ground level as buried foundations, with the exception of a length of its north wall. There are the remains of a square-headed doorway, now blocked, in this section of wall. The east range of the fortified house survives largely as buried lower courses; those forming its east wall were visible until the mid-1980s when they were buried beneath the concrete of the present farmyard. The southern part of the west wall, and the south end wall of this range, stand to about 20 courses high; the jambs of a doorway are visible in the latter. The south eastern corner of this range also survives as a standing structure, as does a short length of the east wall at the south and north ends. The medieval wall at the south end contains the lower parts of a pair of door jambs interpreted as a doorway which once gave access to further structures immediately east of the east range; the visible foundations of a wall in this area are interpreted as part of an associated structure; however, the position and full extent of these buildings is not yet understood and further remains may survive beyond the area of protection. The length of medieval wall at the north end of this range contains the lower part of a fireplace 3.5m wide, suggesting that the ground floor of the east range may have contained the kitchen. The foundations of the north range of the fortified house are considered to survive as buried features beneath a range of later buildings, the latter set slightly further south than their predecessor. A level platform 44m by 38m attached to the south side of the fortified house is interpreted as an outer courtyard. It is defined by the foundations of a stone wall at the north and east sides and by a slight scarp on the south and west. A rectilinear enclosure, slightly hollowed, 20m wide and 70m long extends from the outer courtyard to the south west. The enclosure is defined by stony banks 2m wide standing up to 1m high; a low bank 0.4m high divides the enclosure into two compartments. Immediately east of this enclosure there are the remains of part of a medieval field system visible as broad rig and furrow 5.0m wide and 0.3m high. The remains of part of a dispersed medieval settlement are visible as a line of three discrete groups of earthworks situated to the west of the fortified house. The first and most northerly part of the settlement, which is contained within the second area of protection, lies 150m north west of the fortified house, in the field immediately west of Castle Farm. This part of the settlement is visible as the foundations of a group of rectangular buildings and associated yards and enclosures, standing on average up to 0.5m high. One of the buildings, interpreted as a long house, measures 10m by 6m wide and is divided into two separate rooms; it has a rectangular enclosure immediately to its south. Immediately to the north of the enclosures there is a length of ditch 6m wide and 1m deep flanked by an earthen bank on the west side 1.5m high and up to 5m wide. The ditch and bank terminate in an oval depression containing standing water. This feature is interpreted as a pond with an associated overflow channel. To the east of it there are traces of further scarps and low banks up to 0.4m high which represent further remains of the settlement. The second part of the settlement is situated in the field immediately west of Scargill Farm and is contained within the third area of protection. It is visible as the foundations of a line of rectangular enclosures standing to a maximum height of 0.5m, thought to represent the remains of at least two buildings. A circular feature, 2m in diameter, attached to the south side of the most easterly building is interpreted as an oven. The third, and most southerly, part of the settlement, contained within the fourth area of protection, is situated on a raised plateau immediately north of Scargill Farm. Here, the remains of the settlement are visible as a series of rectangular enclosures defined by low banks and scarps 0.5m high. Part of an associated field system is visible at the monument. An area of broad ridge and furrow cultivation, situated in the field immediately south of the fortified house, contains ridges orientated north to south which are 6m wide and stand 0.3m high. A further part of the field system is visible in the field immediately west of Scargill Farm, south of part of the settlement. Here it is visible as ridge and furrow cultivation orientated north to south and defined by two prominent hollow ways; the ridges are 9m wide and 0.3m high. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all gates and gate posts, stone field walls, fences and telegraph poles, all modern walls on the line of, or which cross over, the buried foundations of the original ranges of the fortified house, the range of buildings on the north side of the courtyard, the two modern stone sheds situated in the north west corner of the courtyard and between the south and the east range of the fortified house, the concrete floor of the courtyard, the metal animal pens and all feeding troughs; however, 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: 32730

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ryder, J, Medieval Buildings of Yorkshire, (1982), 118-9
DSMR 1957,
NZ01SE 09,
RCHME, SAM Survey: Scargill Castle, (1991)

End of official listing