Smardale South Demesne medieval village


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018244

Date first listed: 29-Sep-1949

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Sep-1998


Ordnance survey map of Smardale South Demesne medieval village
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Eden (District Authority)

Parish: Waitby

National Grid Reference: NY 73064 07227


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 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 Lake District local region is characterised by a series of mountain blocks separated by deep valleys, providing great variation in local terrains. Settlement is sparse, but villages and hamlets occasionally appear in the valleys. Higher up, above the level of medieval fields enclosed by the stone walls known a head-dykes, are traces of medieval and earlier settlements in farmlands since abandoned.

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 feature includes roads and minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. They frequently included parish churches 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 provinces of England medieval villages occurred infrequently amid areas of otherwise dispersed settlement and good examples are therefore proportionally infrequent. Thus the archaeological remains are one of the most important sources for understanding rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest. Smardale South Demesne medieval village survives well and is a rare example in north west England of an early medieval village which was abandoned by the 12th century. It is a good example of this class of monument in the Lake District local region and will add greatly to our understanding of the wider settlement and economy during the medieval period.


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


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Smardale South Demesne medieval village, which is located on the top of a limestone ridge east of Scandal Beck 1.2km south west of Smardale Hall. The plan of the village is of a type familiar to this part of Cumbria in which two parallel lines of houses with associated crofts (gardens or stock enclosures) face onto a village green or street. Although space is limited on the ridge, the village consists of a small but regular two-row arrangement of three crofts or plots either side of a central roadway. Within or immediately adjacent to these plots are remains of at least six buildings. The boundary walls of the plots measure up to 1.2m high by 3m wide. There is an associated stone boundary wall a short distance to the north of the village. In the eastern row the southern plot contains remains of a collapsed and robbed rectangular building measuring 15m by 5m along its western side abutting the central roadway and, in its centre, the turf-covered stone walls of a partly robbed rectangular structure measuring approximately 10m by 6m with an entrance on its eastern side. The central plot, like the southern, has remains of a building of similar size between the roadway and the enclosure; a later rectangular enclosure with walls of slighter construction and having entrances in its north and south walls has been built on the west of this central plot and extends into the roadway. The northern plot is subdivided and contains a rectangular building measuring approximately 10m by 6m in its southern part. In the western row the northern plot has a sunken interior, while adjacent to the outside of its western side are remains of a building measuring approximately 10m by 5m. The central plot is subdivided and contains the remains of a building about 8m square against its western wall and a raised sub-rectangular platform suitable for a building in its south east corner. The southernmost enclosure has a sunken interior but it is possible that a rectangular building may have stood on the slightly domed flat on its western edge. The two plots in the western row which have sunken interiors are interpreted as stock enclosures or former ponds. A short distance to the north of the village there are remains of an associated stone boundary wall or field bank, running westwards from a large rock scar and across a shallow valley in which the west row of the village lies, to the crest of a slight ridge. Although the date of the earliest settlement of Smardale South Demense village is presently unknown, occupation is thought to have commenced during the early medieval period, from the fifth century onwards, and continued until approximately the early 12th century when it was abandoned upon the foundation of the present Smardale village.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27817

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Roberts, B K, 'Archaeological Journal' in Some Relict Landscapes in Westmorland: A Reconsideration, , Vol. 150, (1993), 433-55
RCHME, Westmorland, (1936)
SMR No. 2771, Cumbria SMR, Waitby British Settlement on Smardale Demense, (1987)

End of official listing