Burton medieval village, associated open field system, fishpond and moated fishpond complex, and early post-medieval village and associated field system


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018825

Date first listed: 29-Oct-1999


Ordnance survey map of Burton medieval village, associated open field system, fishpond and moated fishpond complex, and early post-medieval village and associated field system
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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: Warcop

National Grid Reference: NY 74389 18633


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 Eden Valley local region is a rich agricultural lowland ringed by mountain pastures. It is densely settled with small market towns, villages, hamlets and isolated farmsteads. Medieval castles and monasteries, a multitude of earthwork sites and the distinctive mix of Celtic, Scottish, English, Scandinavian and Norman place-names all testify to the ancient and long sustained occupation of this important region.

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 northern and western province of England medieval villages occurred infrequently amid areas of otherwise dispersed settlement and good examples are therefore proportionally infrequent. Thus their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources for understanding 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 subdivided 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 where it survives the resultant `ridge and furrow' 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 banks. 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 or walls of subsequent field enclosures. Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches, often waterfilled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some cases the islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic and seignorial residences with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical military defence. The peak period during which moats were built was between about 1250 and 1350. They form a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains. A fishpond is an artificially created pool of slow moving freshwater construced for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. They were maintained by a water management system which included inlet and outlet channels carrying water from a river or stream, a series of sluices set into a dam and along the channels and leats, and an overflow leat which controlled fluctuations in the water flow and prevented flooding. The tradition of building fishponds began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century, however, most fell out of use during the post-medieval period. Most fishponds were located close to villages, manors or monasteries or within parks so that a watch could be kept on them to prevent poaching. They are important for their associations with other classes of medieval monuments and in providing evidence of site economy. Early post-medieval settlements in this area are generally similar to earlier medieval settlements, and in the absence of documentary sources precise dating is often difficult. They frequently occupy the same or an adjacent area to that previously occupied by a medieval settlement, and in many cases represent a continuity of use of the medieval site into the post-medieval period. Their associated field systems are generally characterised by a more formal system of land division in which enclosed fields were created and superimposed on areas which were previously farmed as medieval open fields. Despite some damage to the monument sustained during military training exercises, a substantial proportion of Burton medieval village, its associated open field system, the fishpond and moated fishpond complex, and the post-medieval village of Burton and its associated field system survives well. It is a good example of a medieval and post-medieval settlement in the Eden Valley local region and will add greatly to our understanding of the wider settlement and economy during these periods.


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


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Burton medieval village, its associated medieval open field system, a fishpond and a medieval moated fishpond complex, as well as the early post-medieval settlement of Burton and part of its associated field system, which developed within the boundaries of the medieval settlement as the area of the earlier settlement shrank. It is located at the foot of Roman Fell on opposing sides of a shallow valley at the confluence of three minor streams, of which Cringle Beck is the only one named. Although the date of the first settlement at Burton is unknown documentary sources indicate an early family named Burton were lords of the manor of Burton at some time prior to 1283. From 1283 until the early 18th century the de Helton or Hilton family were lords of the manor. Burton remained occupied until 1949 when the land was sold to the Ministry of Defence, after which time all the buildings were gradually destroyed as the army made use of them in training exercises. The plan of the medieval village is of a type familiar to this part of Cumbria in which two parallel lines of houses face onto a village green and central street, with crofts, or garden areas, to the rear. Behind the crofts were narrow back lanes beyond which were the open fields where crops were grown. At the western end of the village green lies the moated fishpond complex, although this is considered to have originally been the site of the earliest medieval manor house at Burton, thus giving the medieval village a highly regular layout with its apparently planned system of tofts and streets suggestive of an ordered tenurial structure, with a manorial overship. Where not covered by now demolished post-medieval buildings or disturbed by military activity, earthwork remains of the medieval village consisting of abandoned tofts, that is house plots, and their associated yards and crofts survive at the south eastern end of the monument together with the back lanes at the rear of the crofts, although the northern back lane is now utilised by a modern track. During the 15th century the moated manor house is considered to have been abandoned and a new manor house built towards the eastern end of the village on a site later occupied by the post-medieval Burton Hall. Immediately north of the site of the new manor house is a sub-rectangular enclosure with boundaries formed by a scarp up to 2.5m high. This enclosure is considered to have been associated with the rebuilt manor house and may have functioned as a paddock or orchard. This phenomenon of the `moving manor house' is well-documented elsewhere in England during the 15th century, as a long period of economic stagnation and disruption caused by a combination of border warfare, bubonic plagues and cattle plagues led to the abandonment or shrinkage of many farmsteads and villages. At an unspecified date after the abandonment of the original manor house the platform of the moated site was remodelled and four rectangular fishponds were constructed, through which water was channelled via underground pipes, a small leat and sluice gates. This arrangement of fishponds provided a regular food source and is considered to have complemented or replaced an earlier fishpond located a short distance to the north and which is marked on present day maps as a disused reservoir. On all sides of the moat except the south east there are the earthworks of the associated medieval open field system. The most prominent earthworks occupy the hillside to the north east of the moat and consist of broad ridge and furrow aligned north east - south west interspersed by three lynchets. On the northern side of the moat there is an area of narrow ridge and furrow considered to be an attempt to improve a poorly drained patch of land. These ridges respect field banks to the west and south and are therefore contemporary with these boundaries or post-date them. Two other blocks of ridge and furrow are situated north west and west of the moat, that south of the single fishpond has straight and parallel ridges 4m wide, while that to the west of the moat has broader ridges which are more curved and uneven. A considerably mutilated area of ridge and furrow lies immediately south of the moat; the ridges average 7.5m wide and are gently curving. An earthwork headland or turning point for the oxen-drawn medieval ploughing team adjacent to the moat suggests that the ridge and furrow here post-dates the moated site. Maps of 17th, 18th and 19th century date indicate that post-medieval Burton consisted of Burton Hall - which was built on the same site as the second medieval manor house and incorporated some of the features of this earlier building, Burton Farm Homestead, also known as The White House, which lay to the south west of Burton Hall, and a cottage with an attached barn to the south of Burton Hall. The maps also show a number of outbuildings and field barns associated with Burton Hall and The White House. With the exception of fragments of a couple a barns, a byre, a sheep dip and a few lengths of walling nothing of the post-medieval buildings of Burton survive above ground level. The main track which approaches from the south west entered Burton Hall farmyard and exited from the east from where it picked up the line of the medieval back lane. A grassy track runs from the western side of Burton Hall through an enclosed field northwards while a hollow track runs from Burton Hall farmyard north eastwards to the fields beyond. Part of the post-medieval associated field system can still be traced; this includes a rectangular enclosure north of the site of Burton Hall which appears to enlarge and formalise the earlier medieval enclosure here. There is a small stock pen in the enclosure's north east corner. To the west, on the opposite side of Cringle Beck, is a sub-rectangular stone-walled enclosure created in the latter half of the 19th century and imposed on the earlier ridge and furrow. Similarly a ruined wall overlies the ridge and furrow south of the moat and appears to replace a hedge boundary between it and the moat. At its eastern end there are traces of a small stock pen considered to have been associated with The White House. On the south eastern side of the site of Burton Hall there is a small paddock or garden which was created in the early years of the 20th century. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these include all modern walls and fences, all military earthworks and structures, and the surfaces of all tracks; the ground beneath all these features, however, 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: 27835

Legacy System: RSM


RCHME, Burton Hall; An Archaeological Survey Report, (1998)
RCHME, Burton Hall; An Archaeological Survey Report, (1998)

End of official listing