Manorial site west of St Gile's Church and medieval settlement west of Manor Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018351

Date first listed: 16-Nov-1998


Ordnance survey map of Manorial site west of St Gile's Church and medieval settlement west of Manor Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Leicestershire

District: Harborough (District Authority)

Parish: Blaston

National Grid Reference: SP 80208 95455, SP 80522 95455


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 East Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province, an area characterised in the Middle Ages by large numbers of nucleated settlements. The sites of many of these settlements are now occupied by modern villages, but others have been partially or wholly deserted and are marked by earthwork remains. Most of these settlements were first documented in the 11th century, in Domesday Book. The southern part of the sub-Province has greater variety of settlement, with dispersed farmsteads and hamlets intermixed with the villages. Whilst some of the dispersed settlements are post-medieval, others may represent much older farming landscapes. The Soar Valley and Nene Plateau local region comprises the low hill country of the Soar Valley and, to the south east, a low plateau dissected by the tributaries of the Nene and Welland. Nucleated villages and hamlets dominate the region, but gaps are found within the pattern in Rockingham Forest, in Rutland and in High Leicestershire where they are linked to the location of woodland in and before the 11th century.

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 vary 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 include the parish church within their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages include one or more manorial centres. 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, open arable fields. These large fields were divided into strips which were allocated to individual tenants. The cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs produced long, wide ridges and the resultant `ridge and furrow' where it survives is the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. 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 building of fishponds began in the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. The difficulty of obtaining fresh meat in winter and the value placed on fish in terms of its protein content and as a status food may have been factors which favoured the development of fishponds. The practice of constructing such ponds declined after the 16th century. The main species of fish kept were eel, tench, pickerel, bream, perch and roach. Most fishponds were located close to villages, manors or monasteries. Archaeologically fishponds are important in providing evidence of site economy.

A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren construction dates from the 12th century, following the introduction of rabbits into England from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number of purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds. The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels or are situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. Although relatively common, warrens are important for their associations with other classes of monument, and like fishponds, also provide evidence of site economy. All well preserved medieval examples are considered worthy of protection.

The remains of the manorial site and other areas of abandoned medieval settlement at Blaston survive particularly well in the form of a series of substantial earthworks. Both areas have remained largely undisturbed with the result that the preservation of buried deposits will also be good. As a result of the survival of historical documentation relating to the site and archaeological survey the remains are very well understood and provide a good opportunity for understanding the economy, usage and decline of a manorial site, its relationship to contemporary settlement, and the mechanisms underlying abandonment in other areas of the village.


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


The monument consists of a medieval manorial complex and associated early settlement remains at Blaston within two separate areas of protection. The first area is located immediately west of St Gile's Church on the western edge of the village. The second area is immediately west of Manor Farm in the centre of the village.

In the Domesday survey of 1086 Blaston was described as consisting of two lordships held by Robert de Todeni under three different tenures. The eastern and western halves of the village, and presumably the manors, were subsequently divided between the parishes of St Giles and St Michael which were based upon the two chapels founded within the village in the late 12th century. The presence of two such chapels in close proximity suggests a settlement of some wealth in the medieval period. However, Blaston apparently never achieved any great size, and by 1798 there were recorded as being only 12 houses within the village.

In the first area the remains take the form of a series of earthworks and buried features of a manorial complex. An area of conjoining linear depressions immediately west of St Gile's Church defining a rectangular area approximately 20m by 30m are considered to represent the location of a substantial structure, probably the manor house. In the centre of the northern edge of the field containing the monument is a linear mound approximately 29m in length, 8.4m wide and a maximum of 1.5m in height aligned on a north-south axis. This is thought to represent the remains of a medieval rabbit warren. Immediately to the east and running parallel with the mound are a series of up to five low linear earthwork banks a maximum of 3.5m in width and 0.4m in height. To the east of these are a further series of up to eight linear banks on a similar axis. These are interpreted as garden remains associated with the site of a house, possibly an orchard. A sub-circular depression a maximum of 23m in diameter and 1m in depth in the centre of the field represents a pond. A further rectilinear depression a maximum of 46m in length, 24m in width and 1m in depth which runs parallel with the northern bank of the river is also a pond, probably for rearing fish. A small linear depression at the south western corner of the larger pond is thought to be a water channel or leat feeding into the river, as is a broad roughly `T'-shaped linear depression linking the north eastern corner of the larger pond to the south western side of the smaller pond. An earlier course of the river is indicated by a scarp running parallel with the southern edge of the larger pond. A series of trackways believed to be contemporary with the other earthwork remains survive as shallow curvilinear depressions up to 60m in length and 6m in width in the north western corner of the field.

In 1193 the lordship of Blaston was granted to Hugo de Nevill by Richard I, the Nevills retaining manorial rights in the parish of St Giles until at least 1565. Documentary sources in the form of an entry in the Lincoln Bishop's Register dated to 1311 suggest that the earthworks represent the site of the manor house owned by the Nevill family. Specific mention is also made of an adjacent orchard. An engraving dated 1792 clearly shows a structure, now no longer extant, in close proximity to St Giles and this is thought to have represented the surviving remains of an originally much larger building. The hall itself was probably largely demolished by Ralph de Notingham in around 1359. A document of 1798 makes reference to the chaplain of St Giles having used masonry from the `old hall-house' for his new parsonage.

The remains of St Michael's Chapel lie in the second area of protection 400m east of the manorial complex. St Michael's Chapel, a Grade II Listed Building, is built of ashlar stone with walls approximately 10m in length, 6m in width and surviving to a maximum height of 3m at the eastern end. A trackway surviving as a linear depression running parallel with the eastern boundary of the field provided access to St Michael's. The chapel was founded between 1188 and 1189 in the reign of Richard I as a chapelry of Hallaton. A series of settlement remains surviving as earthworks immediately north west of the chapel are considered to represent areas of abandonment caused by the contraction of the village. A linear bank up to 4m in width and a maximum of 0.5m in height bisects the field in which the monument is situated and runs for approximately 120m on a NNW-SSE axis. This is interpreted as a field track or raised causeway, subsequently used as a field boundary. In the north western and north eastern corners of the field several contiguous linear banks define a series of rectangular enclosures representing medieval building platforms, boundaries and raised trackways. In the north western corner of the field parallel linear banks up to 30m in length orientated on an WSW-ENE axis overlie and run perpendicular to an area of medieval cultivation in the form of ridge and furrow.

All trackways, fences and feeding troughs are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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: 30240

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Malcolm, , Blaston St. Giles, S.E., (1792)
Nichols, J, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, (1798)
Malcolm, , 'The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester. Vol II' in The Chapel of Blaston St. Michael, (1792)
Farnham, G.F., Leicestershire Medieval Village Notes, 1933,
Hartley, R F, (1982)
Leicestershire Museums Service, Site Summary Sheet: 89 NW.N,
Listing Report: SP 89 NW - 3/9,
RCHME, NMR Short Report: UID 346160,
Title: Map of Blaston St.Giles Source Date: 1841 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Map of Blaston St.Giles Source Date: 1841 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing