Medieval settlement of Widford immediately east of Manor Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020970

Date first listed: 24-Feb-2004


Ordnance survey map of Medieval settlement of Widford immediately east of Manor Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Oxfordshire

District: West Oxfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Swinbrook and Widford

National Grid Reference: SP 27286 12086


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 South Midlands local region is large, and capable of further subdivision. Strongly banded from south west to north east, it comprises a broad succession of clay vales and limestone or marlstone ridges, complicated by local drifts which create many subtle variations in terrain. The region is in general dominated by nucleated villages of medieval origin, with isolated farmsteads, mostly of post-medieval date, set in the spaces between them. Depopulated village sites are common, and moated sites are present on the claylands.

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 distinctive 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 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. Widford is a good example of a nucleated medieval settlement, within the South Midlands local region, and survives well as a series of visible earthworks centred immediately west of the Church of St Oswald. Evidence provided by aerial photographs, field survey, observations over time, partial excavation within the church and documented history have shown that the settlement contains largely undisturbed archaeological remains relating to the development, occupation and economy of the village from its original establishment up to and beyond its final abandonment. In addition, the church lies on the site of an earlier Roman building and archaeological evidence for earlier Roman activity is known to survive elsewhere beneath much of the village. This may provide information about earlier settlement and the nature of change in the post-Roman period.


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


The monument includes the known surviving extent of the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval settlement of Widford as well as an earlier Romano-British bath house located toward the eastern side of the settlement, beneath St Oswald's Church. It is situated at the intersection of the valley of the River Windrush and a smaller dry valley (running north to south) called Dean Bottom. The settlement lies on the north side of the Windrush on a slight terrace, just above the normal level of winter flooding. The earthworks marking the location of the settlement cover an area roughly 240m from east to west and 160m from north to south, within the fields to the east of Manor Farm. The earthworks define a series of platforms measuring from roughly 20 sq m to over 100m across separated by hollow ways which mark the individual buildings and plots, the majority of which lie to the north and west of the Church of St Oswald. The area of settlement formerly extended to the north and west, however quarrying and later agricultural activity in these areas have removed some of the remains, and they are not, therefore, included in the scheduling. St Oswald's Church was owned by the Priory of St Oswald at Gloucester in 1086 and, although most of the present fabric is 12th century in date or later, there may well have been an earlier church on the site. Local tradition suggests that it may have been built to mark a resting place of St Oswald's body on its journey south from Northumbria to Gloucester in AD 642. The church, which is Listed Grade II*, contains a number of important 13th and 14th century wall paintings which were uncovered during restoration work in 1904 and later conserved. During restoration of the church evidence for an earlier Roman structure beneath it was discovered. This included a black and red lozenge patterned tessellated floor along with fragments of box flue tile, indicating the presence of a heated floor. These and further finds within the graveyard suggest that the building was a bath house, probably fed by the spring in the pond immediately to the north. Water channels which originally led under the church are visible as earthworks to the north but were later rerouted around the churchyard. Further earthwork fragments some distance to the north suggest that the main Roman building to which the bath belonged may well have been situated further north, somewhere in the vicinity of the present 17th century Manor Farm House. However, the nature and location of these remains are not fully understood and this area is not included in the scheduling. The name Widford derives from an Anglo-Saxon geographical place name meaning `the ford by the willow trees'. Its earliest known spelling was as `Withig ford' and Widford is mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086. The name suggests that the ford here was an important river crossing point before the establishment of the settlement which later took its name from the location. The northern portion of the churchyard is in use for burial and totally excluded from the scheduling, both above and below ground. St Oswald's Church and all post and wire 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: 30828

Legacy System: RSM


PRN 1480, SMRO, Roman Villa, site of., (1993)
PRN1105 & 5728, SMRO, Widford Deserted Medieval Settlement, (1994)
PRN1105, SMRO, Widford Shrunken Village, (1993)
PRN4054, SMRO, St Oswald's Church, (1993)

End of official listing