Womersley medieval settlement remains and Victorian ice house in Icehouse Park


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017824

Date first listed: 28-Sep-1998


Ordnance survey map of Womersley medieval settlement remains and Victorian ice house in Icehouse Park
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This copy shows the entry on 19-Jan-2019 at 22:55:50.


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

County: North Yorkshire

District: Selby (District Authority)

Parish: Womersley

National Grid Reference: SE 52807 19086


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 Pennine Slope sub-Province of the Central Province, which embraces the varied scarp and vale topography flanking the higher portions of the southern Pennines, where narrow escarpments of limestone and sandstone and softer shale vales give a distinct north-south grain to the landscape. Dispersed settlement increases from extremely low to medium densities in the south east of the sub-Province to high densities at the north west. With the exception of Sherwood Forest, the region is well stocked with nucleated settlements, some old but others the result of 18th- and 19th- century industrial developments. Anglo-Saxon `wood' names are common among placenames, and the area was well wooded in 1086. The Permian Limestone Ridge local region is an area of great diversity. A long, narrow outcrop of limestone is cut by a succession of rivers and streams flowing eastwards. There are wide contrasts in the amounts of both nucleated and dispersed settlement. At the time of Domesday Book only the northern part of the region contained recorded settlements, while the place-names of the southern part indicate woodland in Anglo-Saxon times.

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. 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 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. The earthwork and buried remains within Icehouse Park are well preserved and retain a range of features of the medieval settlement of Womersley. These will include the foundations of small houses and other buildings, rubbish pits, yard surfaces, and spreads of deposits such as smithing wastes which will add to the understanding of medieval village life. The importance of the monument is heightened by the surviving documentary references to the village, manor and lords of Womersley. Ice houses were built between the late 17th century and the early part of the 20th century to store ice throughout the year for domestic and medicinal purposes, and sometimes to act as cold stores for game and other food. They were typically part of the estates of large country houses and vary considerably in design. They normally consisted of a chamber, usually at least partially buried, with a north facing entrance. The chamber also usually had a loading hatch at the top and a drain for waste water at the bottom. Above-ground ice houses are also known and tended to be specially constructed insulated buildings. Early supplies of ice were collected in the winter from nearby ponds, but from the 19th century better quality ice became commercially available as imports and from ice works. The ice house in Icehouse Park is a fairly typical example of a small subterranean design.


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


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of part of the medieval village of Womersley, located within an area of parkland laid out in 1867 and which also includes an ice house. Womersley was recorded as Wilmeresleia in the Domesday Book of 1086 and lay in the Wapentake of Osgoldcross (one of the medieval administrative districts established by the Danes). Fourteen villagers, four smallholders, a church and priest are also recorded, with the manor of Womersley valued at five pounds. The area appears to have escaped William I's Harrying of the North, which devastated much of Yorkshire in 1069-70, and in 1086 was one of the possessions of Ilbert de Lacy. By the early 12th century it was in the hands of Otes de Tilley, passing through marriage to the de Newmarch family in 1183. In 1264 Womersley was granted to Richard Folyot. Womersley was a relatively large medieval village with 85 people over the age of 14 recorded for the 1379 poll tax compared with an average of 46 for villages in the Wapentake. This figure compares with 88 householders recorded for the 1672-3 hearth tax. The core of the medieval village is thought to be centred around St Martin's Church which is mainly 13th century in date, but contains earlier fragments, and is located to the east of Icehouse Park. The modern village is now effectively a ribbon development following the main road which makes a number of sharp turns along its course. This demonstrates that the former street plan was more complex and included a number of back lanes. The earthworks preserved in Icehouse Park include one of these back lanes together with a row of tofts (levelled areas for buildings) with their associated crofts (garden enclosures). The lane curves as a hollow way up the hillside south westwards from just south of where the modern road crosses Beck Bridge. It then runs westwards as a narrow terrace cut into the hillside to curve back downhill to ford Womersley Beck and leave the area of the scheduling at its western end. The lane is believed to have rejoined the Pontefract Road at the later entrance to the Victorian park, Pontefract Gate. Along the north, downhill side of the lane, within the area of the scheduling, there are a number of house platforms, typically approximately 10m across. These are set in a series of about ten rectangular enclosures or crofts which extend between the lane and the dried up formerly meandering course of Womersley Beck to the north. The westernmost house platform is also the largest, being about 17m square, with an additional 12m wide levelled area extending westwards. Where the lane runs downhill towards Beck Bridge there are at least two further building platforms on the south side of the lane. These also have associated croft enclosures which extend uphill to a bank that runs from the easternmost corner of Icehouse Park to just beyond where the lane forms a terrace along the hillside. This is the boundary bank to the medieval open fields, which would have originally surrounded the village. Beyond the western end of the bank, the ridge and furrow of the open fields runs right up to the scarp above the southern side of the lane. The ridge and furrow is broad (about 10-12m between furrows), straight in plan and cut to the south by later field boundaries. To the south of the lane, towards the western side of the monument there is the substantial remains of the Victorian ice house which gives the field its name. This is a mainly subterranean brick built structure covered by a low mound of earth about 5m in diameter, sheltered by parkland trees. The entrance way to the north has been infilled, but part of the entrance passage roof has collapsed, allowing a view of the interior. Running obliquely downhill from the ice house north easterly to Womersley Beck there is a straight, well- graded trackway or sledge route. Excluded from the scheduling is all modern fencing, although the ground beneath 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: 30131

Legacy System: RSM


Photo in pamphlet, The Wood Hall Moated Manor Project, (1995)

End of official listing