Little Odell abandoned medieval village


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Field on junction between Odell Road in the parish of Harrold and the High Street in the parish of Odell


Ordnance survey map of Little Odell abandoned medieval village
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Field on junction between Odell Road in the parish of Harrold and the High Street in the parish of Odell
Bedford (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Abandoned medieval village.

Reasons for Designation

The abandoned medieval village of Little Odell is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: for the well preserved earthworks depicting the form and plan of the settlement; * Diversity: for the range and complexity of features, such as the hollow ways, crofts and tofts with building platforms, which indicate a plan of the settlement and retain significant stratified deposits providing details of the continuity and change in the evolution of the settlement; * Potential: for the stratified archaeological deposits which retain considerable potential to increase our understanding of the physical characteristics of the buildings and settlement. Buried artefacts will also have the potential to increase our knowledge and understanding of the social and economic functioning of the settlement within the wider medieval landscape; * Group value: for its group value with the numerous Grade II listed buildings dating to the late C17 and early C18 situated to the east, including 207, 208, 212 and 215 High Street.


The village was a significant component of the rural landscape in most areas of medieval England comprising a small group of houses (known as tofts which may include house platforms surviving as earthworks), gardens (crofts or closes which are typically defined by banks and ditches), yards, streets, paddocks, often with a green, a manor and a church, and with a community devoted primarily to agriculture. The Introduction to Heritage Assets on Medieval Settlements (October 2018) explains that most villages were established in the C9 and C10, but modified following the Norman invasion to have planned layouts comprising tofts and crofts running back from a main road, often linked with a back lane around the rear of the crofts, and typically having a church and manor house in larger compartments at the end of the village.

Little Odell, together with Great Odell to the east (unscheduled), represents one of two early medieval settlements with associated field system in the parish of Odell. The two settlements are probably associated with the two separate manors listed in the Domesday Survey. Little Odell is recorded in the Hundred Rolls of 1278 as having ten tenants. The two manors were unified before the C13, possibly contributing to a decline in the status of the settlement at Little Odell. It had ceased to exist as a viable settlement by the date of Jeffrey’s Country Map of 1765.

In the early 1950s, during excavation of a trench for an electricity cable, two burials containing the remains of three adult males were discovered within the western part of the site. Both burials were associated with C13 pottery and were reported as ‘medieval burials’. It is possible that a church or chapel with burial rights once existed in Little Odell before the two manors were unified but there is no evidence for this, and the ‘confused pile’ of bones suggests that they may not have been formal Christian graveyard burials. Excavations of the north-west corner of the site in 2004 encountered well-preserved sub-surface archaeological remains across six trenches which survive immediately below the base of the topsoil. They represent walls of stone and earth, floors, pits, postholes and hollow ways. Analysis of stratified pottery from the trial excavation, which mostly dates to the C12 and C13, suggests the remains represent part of the early medieval settlement of Little Odell.


Abandoned medieval village.

PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the site includes the earthworks and buried archaeological remains of the abandoned medieval village at Little Odell, including building platforms, hollow ways and associated features.

DESCRIPTION: the site is located to the north-east of the village of Harrold and east of Little Odell, centred on SP 9555 5741. It lies on a south-facing slope overlooking the valley of the River Great Ouse, and is generally made up of uneven ground currently in use as rough pasture. The site contains well preserved earthworks denoting the former medieval settlement of Little Odell. These earthworks constitute the visible remnants of hollow ways, putative house platforms, and depressions which may represent pits or ponds. A linear hollow way, running from the south-west corner of the site, is visible on the ground as a linear earthwork defined by slight banks to the north and the south. It is widest and deepest at the south-west end and gradually becomes shallower. The hollow way runs close to the southern edge of the site and is approximately 120m long, varying in width from 6m to 3.10m, and in depth from 0.48m to 0.05m. The hollow way delineates the southern edge of the property plots and probably functioned as a pathway as well as marking the separation between fields and properties.

Originating from the north-eastern side of the hollow way (SP 9564 5739) is another smaller hollow way oriented along a NNW-SSE axis. It is irregular but broadly linear in plan and measures 70m in length. The width varies from 3.26m to 7.0m, and the depth from 0.20m to 0.35m. The hollow way may be a surviving remnant of a medieval property boundary.

An oval depression, 7.05m by 6.65m and 0.37m deep, is located 9.20m north of the larger hollow way at SP 9557 5739. The feature may represent the site of a pit or, more probably, a pond. Its western edge was partially excavated, revealing an irregular, almost stepped side.

To the west of the centre of the site is a cluster of features associated with buildings/ structures (SP 9553 5741). Slightly raised platforms, surviving as earthworks, which are at variance with the underlying natural topography, probably represent a partially denuded terraced construction platform. Excavation to the north-east of this revealed an earth and stone wall or wall foundation, aligned east to west. To the south of this feature a probable internal surface, comprising a compact layer of silty clay with sand, was identified. To the north-east of this, another wall or wall foundation revealed during excavation is comprised of large irregular limestone blocks. A group of pits was also identified in this area.

A further group of pits was identified to the west of the site. A very large pit, interpreted as a quarry and corresponding with a large visible hollow way at SP 9552 5740, has five smaller pits cut into its upper fill. The large pit is at least 7.4m long and at least 0.50m deep.

Midway along the northern edge of the site, three crofts and tofts are visible on the ground as earthworks defined by raised rectangular platforms. The Lidar survey shows what may be another three house platforms situated along the north-east boundary of the site at SP 9560 5740.

EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: the area of protection includes the site of the abandoned medieval village. It is defined by a stone wall to the north, a wooden post and rail fence to the north-east, a field boundary to the east, and a ditch and tree line to the south and west.

Any post and wire fences, tree protection fences, wooden fences, modern tracks, drives and concrete surfaces are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.


Land East of Odell Road, Harrold, Beds: Archaeological Field Evaluation, Earthwork Survey and Trial Excavation, Albion Archaeology, April 2004
'Parishes: Odell', in A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3, ed. William Page (London, 1912), pp. 69-76. British History Online [accessed 26 February 2018].


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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