Sawcliffe medieval village and moated site


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017554

Date first listed: 21-Dec-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Jul-1998


Ordnance survey map of Sawcliffe medieval village and moated site
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This copy shows the entry on 09-Dec-2018 at 20:31:35.


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

District: North Lincolnshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Roxby cum Risby

National Grid Reference: SE 91099 14442


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 Lincolnshire Scarp and Vale sub-Province of the Central Province, which comprises a succession of scarps and vales in which clay vales with alluvial deposits and a chalk ridge, together with associated glacial deposits, form the structural framework of the landscape. There is a very dense scatter of nucleated settlements, many of which are situated in lines along favoured scarp-foot and dip-slope locations. Large numbers of medieval village sites now lie wholly or partially deserted. Densities of dispersed farmsteads are very low. The Scarp and Vale Country local region is divided by the Lincoln Edge from the broad Vale of Trent to the west. Chains of ancient village settlements, some now deserted, are characteristic of the region. They occur where soils change and springs appear. Densities of dispersed farmsteads are uniformly low.

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. Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches, often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some cases moated islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic or seigniorial residences with the provision of a moat primarily as a status symbol rather than as a means of defence. The peak period of moat building was between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern England. However moated sites were built throughout the medieval period and are widely scattered throughout England, demonstrating a wide diversity of forms and sizes. They are a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains. Sawcliffe retains well preserved earthworks of a small medieval settlement together with evidence of early post-medieval activity. The canal and moat ditches, still being seasonally water-filled, will retain waterlogged deposits with well preserved organic remains. The settlement remains include complete ground plans of small houses as well as earthwork evidence for the overall layout of the village. Additional buried remains such as rubbish pits, yard surfaces, and spreads of deposits such as smithing wastes will add to the understanding of medieval village life.


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


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval village of Sawcliffe and the earthworks of a moated site and later house and garden features, all located to the south and west of Sawcliffe Farm. The settlement of Sawcliffe is thought to date from at least the Saxon period, as the construction of a water pipeline laid along the western boundary of the monument in 1994 revealed a quantity of Saxon pottery. Sawcliffe was named in the Domesday Book as Saleclif and was split between three absentee landlords: the Abbot of Peterborough, Roger de Bully and Gilbert de Ghent. These three men also held Risby (now the hamlets of High and Low Risby) and Appleby to the east. Sawcliffe appears to have been badly affected by the Black Death as it was one of those villages granted over 50 per cent relief from taxation in 1354. Sawcliffe is believed to have been reduced to a single farm by 1600. The monument includes two main groups of earthworks. Firstly, there are the remains of the medieval village of Sawcliffe with its main street with house platforms and building remains. Secondly, there is a moated site with other features related to a higher status residence that is thought to have survived the abandonment of the village. The monument includes a number of additional earthwork remains. Towards the centre of the monument there is a rectangular moated island. This measures approximately 80m east-west and 20m north-south and is surrounded by a seasonally water-filled moat with a dry causeway across the east end of the northern moat ditch. The ditch is typically 10m wide with its eastern arm broadened into a pond. Continuing the line of the western moat arm northwards there is a 40m long `U' shaped depression about 10m wide and 0.5m deep. From the north end of this depression there is an 8m wide ditch running eastwards. These two ditches are interpreted as the unfinished remains of a second larger moated island to the north of the first. North east of the moated island, adjacent to and west of one of the buildings of the modern farm, there is a large 40m by 30m level platform which is identified as the building platform of the high status house that survived the abandonment of the settlement. To the south east and slightly downhill from the moated island there is a slightly curving 140m long ditch running eastwards. This is identified as an ornamental canal typical of late Tudor and Jacobean gardens. It is also seasonally water-filled and is about 15m wide and 1.5m deep, with a 10m wide flat bottom. Most of the upcast of this ditch appears to form a broad bank running along the south side. This bank overlies, and thus post-dates, the eastern end of a hollow way that curves across the monument westwards, about 50m south of the south moat ditch. Either side of this hollow way, which was the main street of the village, there are the earthwork remains of house platforms standing up to 0.5m high, many with clearly visible remains of buildings with grassed over stone footings still in situ. Most of these house platforms lie on the south side of the street, forming an almost continuous row extending at least 200m beyond western end of the deep ditch. One of the breaks in this row is for a second hollow way which runs from the main street SSE from a point south of the eastern end of the moated island. Just to the west of this there is a raised trackway that curves from the road and forms the southern boundary of the monument, passing between the moat and the canal. This trackway, which runs towards the modern Sawcliffe Farm, overlies both the main street and a house platform and is therefore of a later date. The monument includes a number of other earthworks. These include at least one small building platform to the north of the canal, an irregular area of hollows to its south and, towards the north west corner of the monument, a slight 7m diameter mound which is considered to be a windmill mound. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the electricity pylon that stands in the south western part of the monument, the water pipeline maintenance access way that lies close to the western boundary due west of the moated island, and all modern fencing, 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: 30120

Legacy System: RSM


SMR record, Humber Archaeological Partnership, 1705, (1997)
SMR record, Humber Archaeological Partnership, 1996, (1997)

End of official listing