Manorial settlement, fishponds and field system, 200m south west of Layton House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019532

Date first listed: 08-Jan-1969

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Jun-2000


Ordnance survey map of Manorial settlement, fishponds and field system, 200m south west of Layton House
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Sedgefield

National Grid Reference: NZ 37748 26931


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 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, there has been significant settlement depopulation.

Medieval manorial settlements, comprising small groups of houses with associated gardens, yards and paddock, supported communities devoted primarily to agriculture, and acted as the foci for manorial administration. Although the sites of many of these settlements have been occupied continuously down to the present day, many others declined in size or were abandoned at some time during the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. The reasons for desertion were varied but often reflected declining economic viability, changes in landuse such as enclosure or emparkment, or population fluctuations as a result of widespread epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their abandonment, these settlements are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits, providing information on the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming economy, and on the structure and changing fortunes of manorial communities. A fishpond is an artificially created pool of slow moving freshwater constructed for the cultivating, breeding and storing of fish to provide a constant and sustainable supply of food. They may be dug into the ground, embanked above ground level or formed by placing a dam across a narrow valley. Groups of up to 12 ponds variously arranged in a single line or in a cluster and joined by leats have been recorded. The tradition for constructing and using fishponds in England began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. They were largely built by the wealthy sectors of society, with monastic institutions and royal residences often having large and complex fishponds. The practice of constructing fishponds declined after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. Most fishponds fell out of use in the post-medieval period, although some were reused as ornamental features in 19th and 20th century landscape parks or gardens. Fishponds are widely scattered through England and extend into Scotland and Wales. Although approximately 2000 examples are recorded nationally, this is thought to be only a small proportion of those in existence in medieval times. Despite being relatively common, fishponds are important for their associations with other classes of medieval monuments and in providing evidence of site economy. Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were divided into strips 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. 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 manorial settlement 200m south west of Layton House is reasonably well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. Taken together with the fishponds and the remains of adjacent field system, it will add to our understanding of the diversity of medieval rural settlement in the region. Excavation would provide information on the relationship of the settlement to the surrounding and underlying enclosures.


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


The monument includes the remains of parts of a manorial settlement, a series of fishponds and a field system of medieval date situated on a level site immediately south of the A177 dual carriageway. The monument, which was part of the more extensive medieval manor of Layton, has been identified as the site of a manor house held by the Amundevill Family in 1348. In 1608 when a survey of the manor of Layton was undertaken, the field containing the monument was labelled `Hye Garths'. The manorial settlement is visible as the remains of a polygonal shaped enclosure, lying in the middle of the monument centred on NZ 3770 2690. It is 44m east to west by 60m north to south, within a ditch 6m wide and 1.2m deep on the north and west sides, and slight banks and scarps on the other sides. Within the enclosure there are the remains of a series of rectangular features, including at least four raised platforms interpreted as the sites of buildings. A further rectangular platform situated immediately east of the enclosure is thought to be the site of another building. The manorial settlement has been superimposed upon an earlier, larger rectangular enclosure, the second of a series of four, interpreted as part of a field system associated with the medieval settlement of Layton; this settlement lay to the north of the manorial earthworks near the site of the present farm. At the northern end of this earlier enclosure there are the partial remains of a series of at least three rectangular hollows interpreted as fishponds; the widening of the A177 in 1978 removed parts of two of the fishponds and that which remains intact measures 26m by 13m; partial excavation of this area during the roadworks identified the remains of part of a fishpond. Botanical information and medieval pottery were collected from the deposits and the pottery indicated that the pond was last in use during the late 14th and 15th century. A further fishpond, visible as a rectangular hollow 20m by 10m, is situated some 50m west of the manorial settlement. Bounding the manorial settlement on the east there are the prominent remains of parts of two hollow ways. Further to the east there are parts of two of the earlier enclosures; both were truncated by the A177 widening; partial excavation of the areas affected revealed evidence for medieval or post- medieval cultivation within them. The more westerly of the two enclosures contains the remains of slight scarps and hollows, while that to the east contains a series of rectangular scarps and platforms interpreted as the site of further buildings and paddocks associated with the manorial settlement; an area in the south western part of this enclosure has been affected by limestone quarrying. To the west of the manorial complex lies the fourth of the earlier enclosures; it contains the slight remains of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation. Immediately to the north west, there is part of the formerly more extensive open field system, which was truncated on the north by road widening. The remains of broad ridge and furrow cultivation 6.3m wide and standing to 0.4m high between furrows 2m wide is clearly visible. The fences surrounding the small enclosure on the north side of the monument and the telegraph poles which cross the monument 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: 32731

Legacy System: RSM


1:2500, Topping, P, Durham SAM Project: Layton DMV, (1991)
NZ32NE 02,

End of official listing