Ousethorpe medieval settlement, moat and mill 310m south of Ousethorpe Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018406

Date first listed: 23-Oct-1998


Ordnance survey map of Ousethorpe medieval settlement, moat and mill 310m south of Ousethorpe Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Millington

District: East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Pocklington

National Grid Reference: SE 81323 51187


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 Humber-Tees sub-Province of the Central Province which comprises a great fertile lowland, with many local variations caused by slight differences in terrain, but generally dominated by market towns, villages and hamlets. The dispersed farmsteads between these are mainly of post-medieval date, created by movement out of the villages and onto newly consolidated holdings following enclosure. Some, however, are more ancient disposals, the result of manors, granges and other farmsteads being moved out of villages in the Middle Ages; others have become isolated by the process of village depopulation, which has had a substantial impact in the sub-Province. The South-east Vale of York local region is distinguished by the presence of rather lower densities of nucleated settlements from the rest of the Vale, together with very low and extremely low densities of medieval moated sites. It also had less woodland in 1086, and contains slightly higher densities of medieval moated sites. These contrasts are reinforced by the former presence of fen and large areas of common pasture.

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. Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches, often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some cases moated islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic or seigneurial residences with the provision of a moat primarily as a status symbol rather than as a means of defence. The peak period of moat building was between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern England. However moated sites were built throughout the medieval period and are widely scattered throughout England, demonstrating a wide diversity of forms and sizes. They are a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. A watermill uses the gravitational force of water to turn a paddled wheel, the energy thus generated enabling the operation of varying kinds of machinery. The waterwheel could be set directly into a stream or may be spring fed or use tidal waters. More usually an artificial channel, a leat, diverts water from the main watercourse with its flow regulated by the use of sluices and sometimes also with the use of one or more mill ponds. Depending on the height that the water is supplied to the wheel, it is described as an overshot, breast shot or undershot wheel. The spent water is then returned to the stream via a tailrace. Early medieval mills could have their wheels set either vertically or horizontally and there were an estimated 6000 mills in existence by the time of the Domesday Survey, increasing in numbers over the next three centuries. During the medieval period, mills, usually for corn grinding, were a status symbol and an important source of income for the lord of the manor. As a common feature of the medieval landscape, watermills played an important role in the development of technology and economy. Many of those retaining significant original features or of particularly early date will merit protection. The importance of the monument at Ousethorpe is heightened by the survival of three main components of medieval rural settlement in close proximity to each other. The earthworks of the moated site, mill and most of the settlement are well preserved. Further buried archaeological remains, including the footing of buildings, rubbish pits, and yard surfaces will survive, providing important information about the life and economy of the medieval settlement.


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


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval settlement of Ousethorpe with an associated moated site and watermill, located on the west side of the Ridings Beck 310m south of Ousethorpe Farm. The township of Ousethorpe was recorded in the Domesday Book as Torp when it was part of Pocklington Manor and held by the Crown. Although it now lies within Millington parish, it remained part of Pocklington parish until at least the mid-19th century. A fulling mill (designed to process woollen cloth) is recorded in the township in 1241. A small scale excavation of the north western corner of the moated site by W J Varley in 1962 uncovered evidence of a chalk walled house which remained in use until the 16th century. The excavation also uncovered Saxon-Norman pottery and a much earlier pit dating to the Iron Age. Two sets of oblique aerial photographs show the layout of the village quite clearly. In overall form, the village appears to be of two row design with the rows facing each other across a small central green, with the modern road to the west possibly marking the course of a back lane. At the north end of the monument from where the fence line diverges from the line of the road, there is a linear depression marking a trackway which runs eastwards down the hill to the stream. To the north of this, cut by the modern road, there is a raised level area which is identified as a building platform. Another slightly sunken trackway runs southwards from this point towards the moated site. This is most clearly defined on its eastern side by a series of raised level areas marking the locations of medieval houses each lying within a strip of ground, a toft, which extends down the slope to the stream. The boundaries between these tofts are marked in some cases by narrow banks, and elsewhere by slight linear depressions. On the east side of the green there is evidence for nine tofts, each about 20m wide. The earthworks on the west side of the green are on more level ground and are not as pronounced. About seven toft boundaries, represented by shallow linear depressions, can be identified. There are also indications of a trackway on the west side of the green, but the building platforms appear to be set back by around 10m, with a distinct depression about 15m across at the east end of one toft. This is considered to be a small fold yard. At the south end of the green and the eastern row of tofts, there is a roughly square moated site approximately 120m across with an external bank on the north, south and west sides. The moated site is built into gently sloping ground, down to the stream to the east. The western moat arm is about 8m wide and up to 2m deep with a 0.5m high external bank. The north and south moat arms run down slope and would never have held standing water. The eastern side of the moated site is formed by a 12m wide level terrace. There is a set of earthworks in the north western corner of the area enclosed by the moats about 15m across. These were created by the excavation in 1962 which was not backfilled, but marks the location of the chalk walled house. Extending from the south eastern corner of the moated site there are the earthworks of a small watermill identified as being those of the medieval fulling mill. These include an overspill channel, the depression for the wheel pit flanked by mounds standing up to 1.5m high and an embanked tailrace which runs southwards for over 150m before entering Pocklington Beck. Earthwork mounds around the wheel pit are considered to be the remains of the mill building which will have contained the water-powered machinery which was used to beat woollen cloth in water to thicken and improve it. The earthworks indicate that the mill wheel would have been powered by a fall of water of at least 1m. Some of this water could have come from the western moat arm but the course of a leat can be traced from the north east corner of the moated site, northwards to an embanked area some 40m by 10m which has since been partly cut into by Ridings Beck, but would have originally been an artificial millpond. It is thought that this pond would have been supplied from the stream further north, but that the remains of the connecting leat have been removed by stream erosion. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern fences, stiles gates and telegraph poles, 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: 30146

Legacy System: RSM


SMR, 8126,

End of official listing