Great house 50m west of St Mary Magdalene's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018945

Date first listed: 07-Jan-1972

Date of most recent amendment: 14-Mar-2000


Ordnance survey map of Great house 50m west of St Mary Magdalene's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Hartlepool (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Hart

National Grid Reference: NZ 46993 35080


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

Reasons for Designation

Medieval great houses were the residences of high-status non-Royal households. They had domestic rather than military functions and show little or no sign of fortification, even of a purely cosmetic nature. Great houses share several of the characteristics of royal palaces, and in particular shared similar characteristics of size, sophistication, and decoration of the architecture. Great houses usually consist of a group of buildings, including a great hall, service rooms, one or more kitchens, several suites of chambers for the owners, the household and its guests, and a gatehouse. Other ancillary buildings are known to have been present but very rarely survive. Earlier examples typically comprised a collection of separate buildings, but through the 14th and 15th century there was increasing integration of the buildings into a few larger buildings. By the later medieval period, such complexes were commonly laid out around one or more formal courtyards; in the 16th century this would occasionally be contrived so that the elevations were symmetrical. Many great houses are still notable for the high quality of their architecture and for the opulence of their furnishings. Several examples contain substantially intact buildings, others consist of ruins or complexes of earthworks. Great houses are found throughout England, although there is a concentration in the south and Midlands. Further north, great houses were more heavily fortified, reflecting more unsettled political and social conditions, but their domestic purpose and status were still predominant. Fewer than 250 examples of great houses have been identified. As a rare monument class which provide an important insight into the lives of medieval aristocratic or gentry households, all examples will be 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, possesing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more. The East Durham Plateau local region is a limestone upland partly covered by glacial clays. The upper part of the plateau was almost devoid of settlement until the creation of the late 19th century mining communities, but ancient villages occupy the varied soils of the western sub-Provincial boundary, and can be found along the north-south routes just inland from the coast. Towards the southern edge and the Tees Valley where this great house lies, there has been significant settlement depopulation. Despite the fact that with the exception of the `de Brus Wall', the monument has been levelled and survives below ground as a buried foundations, the great house at Hart retains significant archaeological deposits. As a rare monument type and the documented holding of an important national figure, it will contribute greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the evolution of late Saxon and medieval manorial complexes. It will also contribute to our understanding of the medieval settlement pattern of the Tees Valley.


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


The monument includes the buried and fragmentary upstanding remains of a manorial complex of late Saxon and medieval date, and part of a post-medieval farm, situated on a low narrow ridge immediately west of Hart parish church. This type of medieval building complex is also known as a great house. The complex was owned from the 12th to the 16th centuries by the de Brus and Clifford Lords. The south wall of one of the medieval buildings, known as the `de Brus Wall', is a Listed Building Grade II. The associated fishponds, situated in the field immediately to the north of the monument, are the subject of a separate scheduling. The manor of Hart and Harterness was granted by the king to Robert de Brus after the Norman Conquest. Documents indicate that the extent of this manor was larger in pre-Conquest times. Throughout its history, the right of disposal of the manor was a source of dispute between the Crown and the Bishop of Durham. The manor subsequently descended through the Brus family most notably to Robert de Brus VII; after the latter's assumption to the Scottish throne in 1306, Edward I granted the manor to Robert de Clifford in whose family it remained until 1580, with only brief interruption by claims from a number of bishops. In 1580 the manor was sold to Robert Petrie and John Morley and then to the Lumley family who, with the exception of a brief period of administration by Parliament from 1644-1660, retained it until 1770. In 1770 the estate was sold to the Milbank family. The plan of the complex was uncovered by excavation between 1965-7 and 1972-3, when it was shown to have had a series of phases of occupation. The first phase is represented by evidence for Anglo-Saxon occupation; this was visible as the gullies, post-holes, trenches and pits of timber buildings and enclosures, associated with pottery dating from the 10th to 12th centuries. Although the exact nature of this occupation is uncertain, it is contemporary with the earliest phase of the adjacent parish church. During excavation in 1972, a length of ditch 400m to the west was uncovered; this ditch, situated to the west of the monument, was aligned with the south wall of the churchyard and was interpreted as part of a large, rectangular pre-Conquest enclosure which contained both the church and the Saxon settlement. The length of ditch, which was infilled and built over, was a maximum of 2.5m wide and 0.9m deep and had contained timber uprights. The medieval stone manor complex evolved from its timber predecessor during a re-organisation of the complex in the second phase of occupation which ended in the middle of the 13th century. Its original layout, as revealed by excavation, comprised two rectangular stone buildings with a series of enclosures in between, although further remains are known to exist to the east beneath the present churchyard. The first building is situated at the extreme eastern side of the monument, where it partially underlies the western boundary of the churchyard. The second building is situated at the south western side of the monument, is L-shaped in plan and is interpreted as a hall with wing chambers. Excavation revealed that the area between these two buildings was occupied by a regular pattern of trenches interpreted as small garden plots. Several large pits were also present in this area. During the late 13th and early 14th centuries the basic layout of the manorial complex was established; it comprised three main buildings. The south wall of the first, situated in the south western part of the monument, is visible as an upstanding length of wall with a fragment of the south end of the west wall of the building attached. The wall, known as the `de Brus Wall' is 12.2m long, 0.5m thick and stands to a maximum height of 5.5m. It is constructed of good quality stonework and there are three corbels on the exterior face which indicate the level of a first floor. There are three windows at first floor level; the most westerly is a pointed trefoil thought to be 13th or 14th century in date. Immediately to the east there is a second window, rectangular in shape with internal splays, of 16th or 17th century date. The western side of the third window, which is situated further east, indicates that this is an original medieval opening. There is a doorway at the western end of the wall which is a later insertion replacing an earlier door in the same position. A plinth course 1.10m above ground level runs around the exterior face of the wall. The buried foundations of the remainder of this building survive below ground level. Immediately to the north of this building lie the buried foundations of the main hall of the 13th and 14th century manor. This is a large rectangular building orientated north to south, with two small chambers attached to its north end interpreted as a chapel and parlour. Immediately to its east a third building was uncovered by excavation and was visible as a large, buttressed, rectangular building interpreted as an aisled hall of three bays. The area to the north of this building and to the east of the first building was occupied by an open, cobbled space interpreted as a courtyard, which became partially enclosed by walls in the 14th century; this 14th century modification was part of a wider expansion which occurred in the first half of the 14th century and included the refurbishment of the main hall, including the creation of an upper storey, and the eastward extension of the aisled hall. During this phase a ditch 10.8m wide and 3.7m deep was dug across the neck of the ridge immediately to the west of the manor house; it is thought that this was to give added defence to the manorial complex. Excavation of part of this ditch in 1967 showed that it had become infilled with silt by the 15th century. The complex was further modified during the mid-15th century when the aisled hall was extended by the addition of a rectangular building at its east end. At the same time the main hall was abandoned and it is thought that the aisled hall then functioned as the main hall of the manor house. During the 16th century the focus of the manor moved to the area immediately south of the monument which has subsequently been levelled and built over. The area of the medieval manorial complex became part of the manor's post-medieval farm which was constructed to the west of the monument, and contained a variety of farm buildings including yards, barns and dairies. The farm and its outbuildings remained in use until 1952 when they were largely dismantled; the east and north wall of the farm remain standing and the former serves as the western wall of the graveyard. The fences around the school field, all kerbs and the surfaces of all roads, drives and pathways, all lamp posts, all gates and gate posts 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: 32743

Legacy System: RSM



End of official listing