Medieval settlement remains 300m south east and 150m north of Wistow Hall
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1018578
Date first listed: 02-Dec-1998
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Harborough (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SP 64174 95999, SP 64364 95523
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 Inner Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province,
an area characterised by large numbers of nucleated settlements, both
surviving and deserted, many of which are thought to have been established in
Anglo-Saxon times. Most of the sub-Province's thinly scattered dispersed
settlements were created in post-medieval times, but some of the local regions
are characterised by higher proportions of dispersed dwellings and hamlets,
which probably mark the patchy survival of older landscapes.
The Stour-Avon-Soar Clay Vales local region is dominated by village and hamlet
settlements. It was once characterised by large townfields under communal
cultivation, traces which survive as ridge and furrow earthworks. It contains
the sites of many depopulated villages and hamlets, perhaps up to one third of
the total number of such settlements which existed in the Middle Ages.
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 include the parish church within their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages include 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 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. 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 remains of the medieval settlement of Wistow survive particularly well as a series of substantial earthworks. They remain largely undisturbed with the result that the preservation of archaeological deposits is likely to be good and will provide an insight into the economy, development and eventual decline of the settlement. The diversity of the archaeological remains compliment the existing documentary evidence and together provide a rare historical sequence for the village which will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the nature of medieval settlement in the area.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the remains of the medieval settlement of Wistow within
two separate areas of protection.
Within the first area of protection, the remains take the form of a series of
earthworks and buried features located in relation to a hollow way comprising
the principal thoroughfare through the former settlement. The hollow way
consists of a linear depression approximately 10m in width and 2m in depth
which runs on a north-south axis from the southern bank of the ornamental
lake. The hollow way continues south from the lake for approximately 90m
before reaching the top of a ridge and becoming an embanked, raised trackway
up to 15m in width which runs south for a further 140m. A second trackway
bisects the hollow way at the point it changes, and runs ENE for 200m and WNW
for 100m before being truncated by a later garden feature. A series of tofts
and crofts either side of the northern end of the hollow way are represented
by mounds and linear banks comprising house platforms and adjacent paddocks
and gardens. Immediately south of the settlement are extensive remains of
medieval agriculture in the form of ridge and furrow cultivation. A series of
faint headlands and embanked trackways divide the fields into at least five
The second area of protection, some 450m to the north west, includes a series
of earthworks and buried features comprising agricultural enclosures and
trackways contemporary with the main settlement. Two parallel sunken trackways
up to 10m in width and 60m apart run north from the southern field boundary
for approximately 50m. Conjoining linear depressions between the trackways
delineate up to five sub-rectangular enclosures, the largest of which is a
maximum of 40m square.
In the Domesday survey of 1086 the manor of Wistanestowe was held by Robert De
Spencer and was valued at 50 shillings, with a population of 22. Poll tax
returns for 1377 list 69 taxpayers, from which time further documentary
sources indicate that the settlement went into gradual decline. It is probable
that the end was finally brought about by emparking from the late 17th century
onwards. A surviving map dated to 1632 clearly depicts the streetplan of the
settlement and the location of several houses. The layout of the village
depicted here corresponds closely with the surviving earthworks.
All fences, feed troughs and electrical pylons are excluded from the
scheduling 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: 30246
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Nichols, J, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, (1795)
Throsby, J, Select Views of Leicestershire, (1790)
'Transactions of the Leics Archaeological and Historical Society' in Provisional List of the Deserted Medieval Villages in Leics, , Vol. Vol 39, (1964)
Brooks, T, (1997)
Hartley, R F, (1981)
Holyoak, V, (1997)
Title: Plan of Wistow Source Date: 1632 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
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