Medieval settlement of Dalton upon Tees and associated field system


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Richmondshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 29593 07754, NZ 29663 08216, NZ 29844 07901

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 Yorkshire Dales local region is broadly an extension of the lowlands into the hill mass of the Pennines, but increasing environmental constraints have ensured that each dale has developed particular and often wholly local characteristics. The villages and hamlets on the valley side terraces of the lower and middle dales appear to be of medieval foundation, while the surrounding farmstead sites vary greatly in date, from early medieval to 19th 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 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. At Dalton upon Tees, in addition to the main settlement, there is also a moated site. Moated sites consist of wide ditches, often or seasonally water- filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some cases the islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical military defence. The peak period for the construction of moats was between about 1250 and 1350 but they were built throughout the medieval period and exhibit a high level of diversity in form and size. 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. In addition to field systems other medieval agricultural activities were practised such as fishponds. These were artificial pools of slow moving water in which fish were bred and stored in order to provide a constant supply of fresh fish for consumption and trade. Fishponds were maintained by a water management system to regulate water flow. In addition to the ponds there would be buildings for use by fishermen for storing equipment or fish curing. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds in England began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. Large and complex systems were often associated with the wealthy sectors of society such as monastic institutions and the aristocracy. Small and simple examples are commonly found at villages throughout England. The medieval settlement of Dalton upon Tees retains important archaeological remains, both earthwork and buried. The extensive and well-preserved archaeological remains of the village demonstrate clearly the formal planned settlement introduced by the Normans in the years after the Conquest. Significant evidence of the social and economic history of the settlement and its ultimate decline and abandonment will be preserved.


The monument includes extensive earthwork and buried remains of the medieval village of Dalton upon Tees, including a moated site, a set of fishponds and parts of the surrounding medieval field system. It is located on elevated ground on the south bank of the River Tees, in fields around the present village. The monument is divided into three separate areas of protection. One area occupies the fields between the current village and the River Tees and contains the remains of the moated site and the core of the settlement. The second area occupies a field to the east of the current village and contains remains of the field system. The third area occupies two fields south of the Northallerton Road and contains the fishponds and further remains of the field system. In the medieval period Dalton upon Tees was a settlement included within the township of Croft and as such lay within the Bishopric of the Palatinate of Durham. The form of the surviving village remains indicate that it was 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 and it is likely that this was the case at Dalton upon Tees. The settlement was located 3km south of a major river crossing at Croft and lay just to the north of the main routeway heading south from the river crossing. Little is currently known about the history of the settlement, which in 1221 was known as Dalton super Tese. By the 14th century Dalton upon Tees, in common with other villages in the area suffered a decline in fortune due to bad harvests, disease and raids by the Scots, although the exact date and pattern of desertion is currently uncertain. The current village lies to the south of the core of the medieval settlement. It is mostly post-medieval in date and appears to have developed around a green straddling the north-south routeway. It is not yet known how the current village developed from the earlier medieval settlement. The medieval settlement took the form of a north to south aligned row of buildings fronting onto a wide sunken street lying to the east, which functioned as a village green. The buildings stood within regular enclosures known as tofts. These had larger enclosures called crofts extending to the rear, the whole being known as a tenement. The tofts contained dwellings and other buildings in a small enclosure or yard with the croft to the rear being used for domestic horticulture and stock keeping. Remains of these buildings survive as a series of earthworks forming rectangular building platforms, measuring up to 10m by 4m. The boundaries of the tofts and crofts survive as low earthen banks up to 0.5m high. The row of tenements extends for approximately 150m. This form of settlement has a very regular layout typical of the planned medieval settlement. The medieval village street is up to 20m wide and the eastern side is defined by an upward rising sharp slope. The moated site lies 40m to the east of the street. This includes a raised platform measuring 25m sq surrounded by a water filled ditch. The encircling ditch is 4m wide along the sides and widens out at the corners. The entrance to the central area was via a causeway on the western side. The moated site lay on the edge of the village and probably supported one of the more prestigious dwellings in the settlement. Such moated sites were usually occupied by high status families and their location can be evidence of wealthy citizens moving to a more prominent position away from the main settlement. To the east and south east of the moat and to the west of the crofts are some remains of the medieval field system. These take the form of blocks of linear, parallel earthworks known as ridge and furrow. Within these areas, as well as the ridge and furrow, are surviving features such as tracks, headlands and balks which divided the fields into sections. In the second area to the south east of the current village there are further blocks of ridge and furrow. The earthworks are well defined with prominent rounded profiles with a span between the ridges of up to 6m. The blocks of ridge and furrow are divided by wide sunken trackways which allowed access through the fields. These are up to 5m wide and 1.5m deep. The complex of fishponds are similar to a moated site in form. At the core of the complex is a rectangular platform measuring 15m by 16m surrounded by a ditch 3m wide. There is a narrow causeway on the western side of the ditch which allowed access to the platform. Immediately to the north east and connected by a slight channel there is a depression measuring 14m sq which is the remains of a second pond or feeder tank for the main ditch. To the north of this there is shallow elongated depression aligned south east to north west. It is thought that this functioned as a settling pond which regulated the water supply to the main fish ponds to the south via a channel controlled by sluices. The whole complex is enclosed by earthen banks forming a wide enclosure. Elsewhere within the enclosure there may have been other structures associated with fish processing. The ditched platform was partly excavated in 1971. These works showed that the surface of the platform had been roughly surfaced, but no structures were found. Pieces of pottery recovered from the excavations showed that the platform was constructed in the early 14th century. The excavations also showed that the entrance causeway was revetted by stone on the north side. Following this it was concluded that, due to the absence of structural remains on the platform and the nature of the ponds, the site may have been a small complex of fishponds. The central platform could have supported small timber structures associated with the fishponds which have left little trace. Elsewhere it has been suggested that similar moated platforms provided secure locations for the rearing of fowl or similar activities which required an efficient boundary such as a moat to keep vermin away. To the west and north of the fishponds and in the field to the south there are further areas of ridge and furrow earthworks. At the north of the field in which the fishponds lie there are low earthwork banks which are the remains of divisions within the fields. A number of features are excluded from the monument; these include all fences, gates, signs, telegraph poles, the surface of tracks, yards and hard standings, however the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Cale, K J, Survey Report of Yorkshire, (1991)
Grifiths, M, Deserted Medieval Villages of the Lower Tees Valley, (1991)
Le Patourel, H.E J, 'Monograph Series No 5' in The Moated Sites of Yorkshire, (1973), 118
Le Patourel, H.E J, 'Monograph Series No 5' in The Moated Sites of Yorkshire, (1973), 118
ANY 140 04, (1980)
ANY 140 04/05, (1984)
ANY140 04/05, (1984)


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

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