Medieval settlement and associated field system and post-medieval chapel, adjacent to Manor House Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019065

Date first listed: 07-Jul-2000


Ordnance survey map of Medieval settlement and associated field system and post-medieval chapel, adjacent to Manor House Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Hambleton (District Authority)

Parish: High Worsall

National Grid Reference: NZ 38573 09394


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. The Northern Vale of York local region has been identified on two criteria. First, it contains low numbers of nucleations when compared with the rest of the sub-Province: village depopulation may partly account for this. Secondly, there are greater densities of dispersed settlement than is normal for the sub-Province, a phenomenon which cannot yet be fully explained.

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 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. These large fields were subdivided into strips (known as landes) 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 landes were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal headlands at the plough turning points and lateral grass balks. 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 enclosure. High Worsall medieval settlement and associated field system, and post- medieval chapel retains important archaeological remains, both earthwork and buried. These demonstrate the transition from the early pre-Norman Conquest irregular village to a more formal planned settlement following the invasion. Recent excavation and survey work has shown that significant evidence of the social and economic history of the settlement and its ultimate decline and abandonment will be preserved.


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


The monument includes substantial earthwork and buried remains of the small medieval village of High Worsall, parts of its surrounding field system and a post-medieval ruined chapel and graveyard. It is located on elevated ground on the south east bank of the River Tees and occupies the whole of the field, known as Chapel Garth, which is east of Manor House Farm and parts of the surrounding fields. The most prominent earthworks lie in the north of Chapel Garth field and also extend into the southern part of the field to the north. Further less prominent earthworks occupy the remainder of Chapel Garth field. In the northern part of the field to the south of Chapel Garth, the remains of the village have been reduced by agricultural activity and are no longer visible as earthworks, although buried remains can be clearly seen on aerial photographs. The village developed in the late 10th and 11th centuries as an irregular collection of properties grouped together around a network of trackways and lanes. This was then replaced by a planned village built after the `Harrying of the North' in 1069/70 when a rebellion by the native population against the Norman invasion was suppressed with great ferocity, causing widespread devastation throughout the land. Throughout the region regular planned settlements were built to replace existing ones. By 1086 the first known documentary reference to High Worsall appears in the Domesday Book, where it was called Wercshel. The village is mentioned in 1204 when a chapel is recorded as being present and again in 1285 when it was apparently thriving. However, by the 14th century High Worsall, in common with other villages in the area, suffered a decline in fortune due to bad harvests, disease and raids by the Scots. By the end of the century it was almost completely deserted. The exact date and pattern of desertion is currently uncertain, but in 1354 the lord of the manor created a deer park. This may have led to the final clearance and abandonment of the site to allow for its incorporation into the park. The nearby settlement of Low Worsall may have absorbed the remaining population. The ruined chapel, which was dedicated to St John, lies in the centre of Chapel Garth, surrounded by a small fenced graveyard. It stands on a large earthen platform partly overlying the later village street and may stand on the site of the medieval church. It is a small, stone built single cell building measuring approximately 10m by 6m, and only the walls are upstanding, to a maximum height of approximately 2m. The surrounding graveyard, which has a number of erect headstones, measures 55m by 40m. At the time of the construction of the chapel in the 18th century it is documented that there were some six buildings at High Worsall, but these are likely to have been on the site of the current farm complex and may not have been old. The chapel still stood as a roofed structure in 1908 and the graveyard was used into the 20th century, with its latest headstone dated 1957. Recent research has revealed two distinct phases of settlement. The first survives as visible village remains associated with the pre-Norman settlement which lie to the east of the chapel ruins. These include a series of tracks and lanes laid out in an irregular pattern. Within these there are earthwork remains of rectangular buildings and the boundary banks of yards or small fields. The second phase of settlement is substantially different and included two rows of buildings located on the north and south sides of Chapel Garth separated by a large predominately open area which functioned as a village green. This green partly occupies the site of the earlier village. The reorganised settlement has a planned and regular layout. The northern row survives as substantial earthworks which include a set of regular enclosures known as tofts and crofts typical of a planned medieval settlement. The tofts enclosed dwellings and other buildings which survive as rectangular building platforms and would have fronted onto the village green, with the enclosed croft to the rear being used for domestic horticulture and stock keeping. The boundaries of these crofts survive as low earthen banks up to 0.5m high defining areas up to 15m east to west by 5m north to south. The north row extends for approximately 150m from the north east to south west and includes five tofts. To the front of the north row of tofts lies a wide village street up to 40m wide which may have originated as part of the first phase of the village. The southern row of tofts has been reduced by agricultural activity and no longer survives as upstanding earthworks. However, buried remains are clearly visible on aerial photographs and indicate a similar arrangement to the north row. One of the building platforms on the north row was partly excavated in 1997 and revealed the remains of a collapsed house. This house originally had a flagged floor and stone and clay walls with a simple timber frame and a thatched roof. To the south west of the chapel, just at the top of the break of slope, further excavations in 1997 revealed the footings for a substantial timber framed building. A silver coin and pin, metal work and pottery were also recovered, all of which indicate the presence of a high status building thought to be the remains of a manor house associated with the medieval village. The remains of the field system survive as two blocks of ridge and furrow, providing evidence of medieval ploughing and cultivation, on the slope to the south west of the chapel. Further areas of ridge and furrow survive to the north of the village remains. Within this latter area of the field system is an earthwork platform measuring 20m long by 8m wide which is probably the remains of an agricultural building. All gates and fences 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: 31359

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Grifiths, M, Medieval Villages of the Tees Lowlands, (1976)
Grifiths, M, Medieval Villages of the Tees Lowlands, (1976)
Taylor, T, Time Team the Site Reports, (1976), 52-57
Taylor, T, Time Team the Site Reports, (1998), 52-57

End of official listing