Foston medieval settlement and moated monastic grange
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1019388
Date first listed: 03-Apr-1936
Date of most recent amendment: 03-Jul-2000
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: North Yorkshire
District: Ryedale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SE 69493 65051, SE 69732 65231, SE 69832 65037
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 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 formerly dominated by communal townfields which were
mainly enclosed in the 18th century.
Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, generally sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but where 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 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 in the case of Foston was the moated monastic grange at the west end of the village. 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. A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community, 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 Cistercians but was soon imitated by other orders. 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 its buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular counterparts. Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of 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 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. The medieval settlement remains at Foston are of particular note for their association with St Mary's Abbey in York, being those of a village owned and run by one of the foremost monasteries in medieval England. The tofts, many with substantial building platforms, will include buried evidence for the layouts of peasant farmsteads, including houses, outbuildings, rubbish pits and yard surfaces. Along with the buried remains of the moated grange and the earthworks of the village's openfield system, Foston retains important information which aids our understanding of medieval village life. The buried Iron Age settlement remains at Foston are also of significance. Very few such sites have been confirmed on the heavy clay lands of the Vale of York.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes buried and earthwork remains of the medieval settlement
of Foston, which includes a moated monastic grange, along with parts of the
village's medieval openfield system. It also includes the buried remains of an
Iron Age settlement which was occupied from the fourth century BC to the first
century AD. The monument lies around the modern settlement of Foston.
The Domesday Book records that Foston was the main settlement of a large manor
which also had jurisdiction over land in Terrington, Thornton le Clay,
Huntington and Flaxton. Originally held by Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, it had
passed to Count Alan the Red by 1087. The manor had arable land for four
plough teams and woodland pasture three furlongs by three furlongs. It also
had rights over a church and 12 villeins, farmers who held arable land enough
for six plough teams. By 1167 Foston had been granted to St Mary's Abbey in
York by Count Stephen of Albemarle. The moated site at the west end of the
village was constructed in the 12th century as the centre of the monastic
grange. The abbey is also thought to have rebuilt the church in Foston about
the same time, as All Saints Church still retains early 12th century fabric
including an ornate south door. Foston was listed as being part of the Liberty
of St Mary for the 1297 Lay Subsidy, a tax levied by Edward I. The settlement
and manor passed to the Crown in 1539 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries,
and was leased twice, to Sir Ralph Bagnal and Lady Mary Cotton in 1546 and to
Richard Stalham in 1577, before being sold to Thomas Bamburgh in 1591. Sir
John Hotham, husband of a descendant of Bamburgh's, enclosed the medieval
openfields in 1639-40.
The medieval village of Foston was a simple twin rowed settlement with
properties fronting onto an east west street which is now the modern road. All
Saints Church on the north side of the road lay at the eastern end of the
medieval settlement, and on the south side at the western end there is the
large moated site of a medieval manor house which formed the core of the
monastic grange. This is believed to have been replaced after the Dissolution
by Foston Hall, 200m to the east of the church which was in turn rebuilt in
1823. The medieval village was surrounded by openfields, parts of which can
still be seen retaining the characteristic ridge and furrow left by medieval
ploughing. In addition, in the flat valley bottom on the north side of the
village there was an area of pasture which was accessed by a droveway around
the eastern end of the church.
The moated grange site was incorporated into an arable field in 1984-5
following a rescue excavation by the Central Excavation Unit. Depressions
marking the lines of infilled moat ditches can still be identified and these,
along with other infilled depressions, will retain important archaeological
deposits preserved below the plough soil. The principal moated island is set
in the eastern end of a larger moated enclosure. This island is nearly square,
70m east west and 60m north south, and was surrounded by a 2m deep ditch up to
9m wide, flanked by low banks. The main hall was sited centrally on this
island. It was entirely stone built and measured 6m by 12m with an external
stair to an upper floor. It had a garden to the south and timber outbuildings
to the north and east. In the second half of the 15th century a badly built
10m by 4m wing was added to the north side of the hall and it is thought that
by this time the grange was leased to a tenant farmer. After the Dissolution,
the buildings appear to have been systematically demolished and the reusable
materials removed. The outer moated enclosure is roughly rectangular, 280m
east west and 170m north-south and was subdivided by shallow ditches which
also connected the inner and outer moats. In the south eastern corner of the
outer enclosure, just south east of the inner moat and adjacent to the modern
lane, there is a 60m by 10m water filled pond that was not incorporated into
the arable field.
To the east of the moated grange, fronting onto the south side of the main
road and extending just over 60m southwards, there are the substantial
earthworks of at least three tofts, the sites of medieval houses and
associated outbuildings. To the rear there is a section of the village's
medieval openfield system represented by the northern 60m of a field of ridge
and furrow. Fronting on to the north side of the road there is a further row
of at least 16 tofts defined by building platforms or by slight boundary banks
or ditches. The best preserved are the six opposite the moated site at the
west end of the village. The eastern half of the row is overlain by modern
housing with the northern 20m of each toft surviving as earthworks beyond the
northern boundary of the modern properties. To the north of these eastern
tofts, running down the hillside to the drain at the foot of the slope, there
are a series of strips of ridge and furrow. Each strip is typically made up of
four ridges, separated from the next by a narrower bank which in nearly every
case is a continuation of the boundary between neighbouring tofts. These
preserve evidence that land use was not uniform. Some strips have more
pronounced ridge and furrow than others, with the strip behind one toft having
no ridge and furrow at all. In one case a toft has been partly extended over
the southern end of the ridge and furrow, whereas the two strips to the west
have been lengthened to partly overlie their tofts. To the west of these, a
trackway diverges from the main road westwards from opposite the north east
corner of the moated site. It runs to the rear of the tofts north of the
moated site, forming a back lane and dividing the tofts from further ridge and
furrow which runs down the hillside. This ridge and furrow is divided into
broader strips and does not correspond directly with adjacent tofts. At the
east end of the village, around the northern side of the churchyard, there are
further earthworks. These include a droveway for livestock between the road
and the valley bottom, the low bank for a small enclosure and a couple of
levelled areas terraced into the slope. To the east and north of this area
there is further well preserved ridge and furrow.
The excavation in 1984-5 of part of the moated grange uncovered the buried
remains of part of an Iron Age settlement. This included the remains of nine
superimposed circular timber structures, all with eastern entrances,
associated with fourth century BC to first century AD pottery.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all modern
fences, walls, styles and gates, water troughs and the platforms that they
stand on, and all telegraph poles; although the ground beneath these features
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: 32641
Legacy System: RSM
APs held by SMR, SE 66 NE,
Excavation archive summary, Julian Bennett, Events Report, CAS Project 290, (1985)
Sketch plan held by SMR, Foston Moat, (1984)
Typescript report held by SMR, Malton Archaeological Partnership, Quarry Hill, Foston Desktop Evaluation, (1994)
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing