Lacra Old Kirk medieval dispersed settlement and associated lynchets 800m and 830m NNE of Bankfield House


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Lacra Old Kirk medieval dispersed settlement and associated lynchets 800m and 830m NNE of Bankfield House
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Copeland (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SD 14790 81458, SD 14915 81427

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. This monument lies in the Lancashire Lowlands sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, an area extending from the moorlands of the western Pennines to the coastal plain with its villages and hamlets. The southern part of the sub-Province supports high densities of dispersed settlements, but there are much lower densities further north, in the Craven Lowlands, the Ribble Valley and the areas around Morecambe Bay. In the Middle Ages the larger, lowland settlements were supported by `core' arable lands, communally cultivated, with enclosed fields around them. The uplands contained sheep and cattle farms and seasonally occupied `shieling' settlements.

Extending beyond the strict bounds of Lancashire this southern sector of Cumbria has lost the high mountains of the Lake District. Framed by a series of strong ridges, trending north to south, the valleys of the Duddon, Crake, Leven and Kent, result in rolling valley landscapes where countrysides are lower, more kindly, and with more wood than further north. These give way, often with startling speed, to the rough pastures of silted estuaries and the marginal sands of the shallow seas. The scatter of towns and villages is probably largely post-Norman, imposed by conquerors over earlier levels of scattered farmsteads and hamlets. As late as the year 685 it was possible for the monks of Lindisfarne to receive a grant of `Cartmel, with all the Britons belonging to it', emphasising the Celtic roots of the cultural landscapes of this region.

In some areas of medieval England settlement was dispersed across the landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in an area, usually a township or parish, is defined by a lack of a single (or principal) nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads) spread across the area. These small settlements usually have a degree of interconnection with their close neighbours, for example, in relation to shared common land or road systems. Dispersed settlements varied enormously from region to region, but where they survive as earthworks their distinguishing features include roads and other minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas where stone was used for building, the outlines of building foundations may still be clearly visible. Communal areas of the settlement frequently include features such as bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement are found in both the South Eastern Province and the Northern and Western Province of England. They are found in upland and also in some lowland areas. Where found their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources for understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.

Lynchets are a feature of the agricultural landscape caused by ploughing and are found along the edges of a field or are located along the contours within the field unit. Field boundaries, such as banks or walls, become enlarged and overlain by hillwash material loosened by the cultivation process, which builds up against them under the action of gravity. This accumulation of earth is known as a positive lynchet. A corresponding erosion from the downslope side of the boundary forms a negative lynchet. Together the positive and negative lynchets form a terrace or a series of terraces on a hillside and thus provide distinctive traces of medieval and earlier agricultural activity. Medieval lynchets can be recognised in the long rectangular fields, the so-called strip lynchets, laid out on sloping terrain in post-Roman and medieval times.

Despite some stone robbing, Lacra Old Kirk medieval dispersed settlement 800m and 830m NNE of Bankfield House survives reasonably well. It is a good example of this class of monument and is a rare example in north west England of a medieval dispersed settlement which still exhibits good survival of an associated series of strip lynchets.


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Lacra Old Kirk medieval dispersed settlement and three associated lynchets located on the hillside 800m and 830m NNE of Bankfield House. It is divided into two separate areas of protection, one of which includes a sub-rectangular enclosure containing two conjoined building platforms, the other of which contains the three lynchets. The sub-rectangular enclosure is bounded by a stone and earth bank on its north west and part of its north east sides, while elsewhere modern stone walls are considered to mark the position of the enclosure's original boundary. The conjoined building platforms lie in the eastern part of the enclosure and measure 50m by 22m overall with an external scarp up to 1.2m high. A lowering of this scarp on the north west side of one of the building platforms suggests the position of an entrance. The interiors of both platforms are covered by a series of turf-covered stony banks which appear to have been partly robbed, possibly to provide material for the nearby modern walls. Elsewhere within the enclosure there are traces of ridge and furrow ploughing between the enclosure bank and the building platforms. This ploughing respects the north eastern arm of the enclosure bank. About 100m to the east are three curving terraces interpreted as medieval strip lynchets which would have been used for agricultural purposes.

All modern field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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.

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Books and journals
Eccleston, J, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Old Ser.' in Ancient Remains At Lacra And Kirksanton, (1874), 279-80
Survey Report. ID No. 37320, RCHME, Old Kirk, (1999)
Survey Report. ID No. 37320, RCHME, Old Kirk, (1999)


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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