Medieval village and field system remains immediately east of Haycroft

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018821

Date first listed: 15-Feb-1999

Map

Ordnance survey map of Medieval village and field system remains immediately east of Haycroft
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 15-Oct-2018 at 09:17:58.

Location

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

District: Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Spurstow

National Grid Reference: SJ 55531 57178

Summary

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 Cheshire Plain sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, a gently rolling plain of red marl covered by ice-carried clays, sands and gravels. It is diversified by occasional sandstone escarpments, notably the Central Cheshire Ridge east of the Dee valley. It has lower densities of nucleated settlements than surrounding areas, and high concentrations of dispersed farmsteads and small hamlets. In the Wirral and the lower Dee and Weaver valleys, the settlement mix is different, with low and medium densities of dispersed farmsteads intermixed with more frequent villages. Domesday Book records a thin scatter of settlement in the Wirral, the Dee lowlands and the central and southern plain in 1086, with much woodland.

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 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 system of communal agriculture based on large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were divided 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 the resultant `ridge and furrow', where it survives, 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 baulks. 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 and walls of subsequent field enclosure. The remains of the abandoned part of the village of Spurstow together with a small part of the associated ridge and furrow cultivation to the north of the site offer an important insight into the structure of a medieval settlement. The outlines of house tofts and their associated enclosures can be traced on aerial photographs and the earthworks will reveal important evidence for the life and work of a farming community during the later medieval period. Waterlogged deposits may survive in the lower-lying ground and these will contain further information in the form of organic material, particularly plant remains, which can further our knowledge of the farming practices.

History

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

Details

The monument includes the earthwork remains of a medieval settlement which lie to the east of Haycroft farm. The remains appear to be concentrated to the north east and south west of a former watercourse which ran down a shallow valley to the north west of the present village of Spurstow. These remains were probably part of the village of Spurstow which has shrunk or slightly relocated in the post-medieval period. The village mentioned in the Domesday survey was an important parish for the production of salt as well as a saline spa in the 18th century. The earthworks include the platforms for about six houses with adjoining enclosures. A raised feature running north-south across the settlement is a causeway which has been built up in more recent times to provide dry access. It follows the line of a former field boundary. Each house platform is between 25m and 40m square with a ditch 2m wide to define it. Each of these platforms would have been occupied by one or more medieval buildings . The settlement may have fronted the present lane running south east from the farm. This was a former route from Ridley Green to Beeston Moss and Beeston Castle. There are traces of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation in the northern part of the site and these run up to but not into the area of house platforms. The ridge and furrow is interpreted as the remains of the field system associated with the medieval village.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 30388

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Morgan, P, Domesday Book, Cheshire, (1978)
Williams, S, West Cheshire from the Air, (1997), 55

End of official listing