South Middleton medieval village and open field system


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017738

Date first listed: 18-Jan-1966

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Jan-1998


Ordnance survey map of South Middleton medieval village and open field system
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 14-Dec-2018 at 07:18:27.


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

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Wallington Demesne

National Grid Reference: NZ 05321 83960, NZ 05751 84104


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 Northumbrian Plain local region is an extensive, undulating lowland. Its landscape bears many signs of agrarian improvement and reconstruction in the 18th and 19th centuries, including rectangular fields and post-medieval dispersed farmsteads. The earthworks of deserted and shrunken village settlements and the ridge and furrow of former arable townfields indicate the pattern of medieval, `pre-improvement' agrarian and settlement structures.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow or woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but when 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 small enclosed paddocks. As part of the manorial system most villages include one or more manorial centres which may also survive as village 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. Medieval villages 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 defined by terminal headlands at the plough-turning points and lateral grass baulks. 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. It is usually now covered by the hedges and walls of subsequent field enclosure. The medieval village of South Middleton is well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. The village is a good example of its type and the identification of an earlier street line enhances its importance. Taken together with the remains of its open field system it will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the development of medieval settlement in the region.


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


The monument includes the abandoned remains of the medieval village of South Middleton and part of its surviving open field system, situated on the right bank of the River Wansbeck. It is divided into two separate areas of protection. The village was first recorded in documents dating to the 13th century when it is known that the manor of South Middleton was part of the Lordship of Bolbec. The manor passed to the Fenwick family in 1609, by which time the population of the village had fallen. Subsequent documents record a continual fall in the population and by 1762 the village was totally deserted. Its three surviving farms were dispersed to other parts of the estate. The medieval plan of the village is a type well known in this part of Northumberland in which two parallel lines of houses face onto a broad rectangular village green with narrow crofts or garden areas to the rear. This type of village in northern England is thought to be the result of deliberate planning by Norman rulers attempting to exert control over a rebellious region during the 11th and 12th centuries. At Middleton, the south row of the village is well preserved and there are the remains of at least 12 enclosures or tofts defined by low banks standing up to 0.3m high. Within the majority of the tofts the prominent remains of a raised rectangular platform are visible, marking the foundations of at least one medieval timber long house. To the rear of each toft, there are the well defined remains of a linear croft or garden area, each bounded from its neighbour by a bank on average 0.4m high. The crofts are bounded at their southern ends by a prominent earthen bank which runs the whole length of the village; the bank served to divide the crofts from the surrounding open fields. The south row of the village fronts onto a broad, rectangular open space interpreted as the former village green which contains the fragmentary remains of slight earthen banks and hollows. A second line of tofts is visible some 80m to 90m north of, and parallel with the first line of tofts, also fronting onto the village green. This row is visible as a series of at least seven rectangular enclosures interpreted as long houses. This street line is thought to be a secondary feature as there are the remains of an earlier row of houses lying between it and the south row. The earlier line of houses, interpreted as the original north row of the village, is visible as the remains of at least three rectangular long houses with a series of long crofts to their rear. The long crofts are bounded at their northern ends by a continuous earthen perimeter bank, similar to that at the rear of the south row; this bank similarly separated the crofts from the surrounding village fields. At the eastern end of the monument there is a large, complete medieval furlong or field with its headlands intact and to the north, south and west there are parts of several other furlongs and their headlands. All of the medieval furlongs contain the well preserved remains of ridge and furrow cultivation which on average measures 0.6m between furrows and stands to a maximum height of 0.4m. The two stone sheep shelters, all fences which cross the monument and all bridges 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: 28558

Legacy System: RSM


McCord N, G/014294/31, (1961)
NZ08SE 23,

End of official listing