Medieval monastic grange and site of medieval settlement at Ninevah


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018864

Date first listed: 14-Jul-1958

Date of most recent amendment: 19-Mar-1999


Ordnance survey map of Medieval monastic grange and site of medieval settlement at Ninevah
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Harrogate (District Authority)

Parish: Markington with Wallerthwaite

National Grid Reference: SE 27773 67481


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

Reasons for Designation

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution. This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers (secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms, bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange. Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands. On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological survival are identified as nationally important.

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 dispersals, 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 Vale of York local region is a rich agricultural lowland dominated by a dense pattern of villages and hamlets founded in the Middle Ages, about one in four of which have since been deserted. It contains low and very low densities of dispersed settlements, some of which are isolated medieval moated manor houses. The landscape was formally dominated by communal townfields which were mainly enclosed in the 18th 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 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 survive also as visible remains as well as below ground deposits. In the central province of England, villages were the most distinctive aspect of rural 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 which were cultivated with heavy ploughs pulled by oxen-teams which produced long, wide ridges. 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 contibution to the character of the historic landscape. Remains of the monastic grange and the earlier village at Ninevah survive well. Significant information about the original form and function of the village and the grange will be preserved. The monument preserves evidence of the change of landuse in the medieval period from settlement to agriculture and as such offers important scope for the study of the impact of the monasteries on the economic and social life of the wider region.


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


The monument includes the remains of the medieval settlement of Herleshow and a later monastic grange belonging to Fountains Abbey at Ninevah Farm. It is located on undulating land 7km south of Fountains Abbey and occupies two fields north and south of Ninevah and the small paddock to the east. The village of Herleshow was part of an estate passed as an original gift to the new Cistercian monastery founded at Fountains in 1132, and confirmed by King Stephen in 1135. The village was at some point deserted, probably forcibly, in favour of the establishment of one of the home granges attached to the abbey. This may have occurred in the mid-13th century as a grant dated 1259 refers to a dispute between the Abbott of Fountains and one William de Merkynfeld concerning the enclosure of the grange at Herleshow. At this time a substantial bank and ditch was built around the village site and the field to the south which was incorporated into the grange complex enclosure with associated structures. The grange continued in use as an extramural farm up to the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. The settlement of Herleshow to the north of Ninevah includes two raised and level enclosures divided by a hollow way extending to the north. To the west of the hollow way there are remains of at least three rectangular buildings surviving as low earthworks along the northern side of the enclosure. A further two building platforms are located in the enclosure to the east. To the south of these enclosures is a marshy area draining to the east with evidence of some stone channelling which would have managed water flow. South of this area, in the field east of Ninevah, are the remains of small enclosures and yards and at least two small rectangular buildings. To the west of the outer bank and ditch are wide cultivation terraces and to the east are faint traces of ridge and furrow. These areas are thought to be remnants of the village field system and are included in the scheduling. Some of the upstanding earthworks within the bank and ditch are remnants of individual houses with associated yards. The marshy area was, during the lifetime of the village, probably the site of a pond which was consolidated when the grange was built to provide a managed supply of water. The construction of the grange involved the destruction of some of the village and the erection of some new buildings, the main focus again being to the north. The most prominent earthwork associated with the grange is the enclosing bank and ditch. They survive on the western side as a low bank 0.3m high with a partly infilled outer ditch 0.5m wide. Along the northern and western sides of the field the earthworks are more substantial with the bank being up to 6m wide and 2m high. There is an original entrance through the northern bank where the hollow way originally continued north as a track to the abbey, although no traces of this now remain outside the scheduling. The enclosing earthwork was constructed to form a stock control as well as to define the area both physically and symbolically. The enclosure of the north field implies that at some point it was used as pasture. The remains in the field to the south of Ninevah include along the western side a substantial bank and external ditch surviving to the west of the top of slope. The bank is up to 1m high and 6m wide and the ditch is 0.6m deep and 5.5m wide. At the southern end the bank and ditch turns and extends eastward down the slope to enclose the southern end of a hollow. At the eastern side the bank and ditch no longer survive but their line is preserved in the field boundary which extends north at the top of the rise east of the hollow. At the bottom of the hollow is a waterlogged area which, in the medieval period, may have been a managed water source. At the south western end of the field are at least two building platforms built on terraces cut into the sheltered lower slope. These are the remains of buildings associated with animal husbandry offering, for example, shelter or storage of fodder. There are also traces of field boundaries in parts of the field. It is unclear whether these building remains and boundaries are part of the village or the later grange. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these include all fences, gates, walls, and electricity poles, although the ground beneath 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: 31340

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Beresford, M, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Lost Villages Of Yorkshire, (1953), 234-236
Beresford, M, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Lost Villages Of Yorkshire, (1953), 234-236

End of official listing