Waitby medieval village, part of associated open field system, and site of an associated chapel


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

Eden (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NY 74952 08317, NY 75022 07916, NY 75135 08335, NY 75405 08348

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 past 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Cumbria-Solway sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, an area characterised by dispersed hamlets and farmsteads, but with some larger nucleated settlements in well-defined agriculturally favoured areas, established after the Norman Conquest. Traces of seasonal settlements, or shielings, dominate the high, wet and windy uplands, where surrounding communities grazed their livestock during the summer months. The Eden Valley local region is a rich agricultural lowland ringed by mountain pastures. It is densely settled with small market towns, villages, hamlets and isolated farmsteads. Medieval castles and monasteries, a multitude of earthwork sites and the distinctive mix of Celtic, Scottish, English, Scandinavian and Norman place-names all testify to the ancient and long sustained occupation of this important region.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and 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. 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 northern and western province of England medieval villages occurred infrequently amid areas of otherwise dispersed settlement and good examples are therefore proportionately infrequent. Thus their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources for understanding 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 where it survives the resultant `ridge and furrow' 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 banks. 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 or walls of subsequent field enclosure. Despite being partly overlain by post-medieval settlement, a substantial proportion of the medieval village of Waitby, the remains of its open field system and the earthworks of its medieval chapel survive well. It is a good example of this class of monument in the Eden Valley local region and will add greatly to our understanding of the wider settlement and economy during the medieval period.


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of the northern and western parts of Waitby medieval village together with two separate areas of its associated medieval open field system and the site of an associated medieval chapel. It is protected in four separate areas. Although the date of the earliest settlement at Waitby is unknown the village is first mentioned in documentary sources in the 12th century AD. However, the proximity of numerous other villages incorporating the element `-by' in the village name may imply that Waitby was part of an earlier stratum of Scandinavian settlement strung along the edges of the Asby plateau, with access to arable and meadow on the loams of the lower drumlin country and good pasture on the higher limestone. The village remains in occupation today; the areas of protection include those parts of the medieval village which were abandoned but are still identifiable, including the area of the main medieval settlement remains situated in the fields to the north and west of Wharton House. The plan of the medieval village is of a type familiar to this part of Cumbria in which two parallel lines of houses face onto a broad rectangular village green, with crofts, or garden areas to the rear. Behind the crofts were narrow back lanes beyond which were the open fields where crops were grown. The remains of the chapel lie a short distance to the east of the village. Where not covered by post-medieval buildings, the well-preserved earthwork remains of the medieval village consist of abandoned tofts, that is house plots, and at least 11 associated distinct earthwork enclosures which pre-date the existing and collapsed drystone wall field boundaries of the post-medieval field system. Between some of these enclosure are traces of two - possibly three - narrow tracks giving access to the back lane and communal fields. Earthworks which continue the westward alignment of the front of the post-medieval building of Wharton House represent the building line of medieval houses and the former northern edge of the village green. These earthworks now lie well back from the present central street of the modern village and enable the forward encroachment of post-medieval development onto the village green to be identified. At the rear of the crofts the back lane contained two old wells together with a now largely silted pond. This water supply must have been an important attraction of the site. Immediately to the west, beyond the tarmac lane which was formerly a medieval back lane, there are the earthworks of more medieval houses and crofts. West and north of these features are the well-preserved earthworks of parts of the associated medieval open field system. These consist of an earthwork headrow or turning point for the oxen-drawn medieval ploughing team, a series of north east-south west aligned lyncheted field strips extending westwards for approximately 250m, and a series of well-preserved terraced field strips running for approximately 180m along the contours of the hillslope at right angles to the longer field strips. To the south of this group of field strips, on ground between two roads, there are further well-preserved earthwork remains of the medieval open field system. These include, at the eastern end of this strip of land, an ovoid enclosure subdivided into sub-rectangular smaller units which has been interpreted as allotments or garden plots. Immediately adjacent are another series of terraced field strips aligned NNE-SSW running for approximately 300m-350m along the contours of the hillslope. About 200m east of Wharton House, situated on a local high point crossed by a modern wall, lie the earthwork remains of Waitby medieval chapel which consist of a small flat platform measuring approximately 25m by 20m. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern field boundaries, all gateposts, and all telegraph poles, 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.

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Books and journals
Roberts, B K, 'Archaeological Journal' in Some Relict Landscapes in Westmorland: A Reconsideration, , Vol. 150, (1993), 437-40
Roberts, B K, 'Archaeological Journal' in Some Relict Landscapes in Westmorland: A Reconsideration, , Vol. 150, (1993), 437-40
Roberts, B K, 'Archaeological Journal' in Some Relict Landscapes in Westmorland: A Reconsideration, , Vol. 150, (1993), 437-40
Roberts, B K, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Five Westmorland Settlements: A Comparative Study, , Vol. 93, (1993), 134-5


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.

End of official listing

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