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Medieval Settlement of West Cotton

A Scheduled Monument in Stanwick, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.3422 / 52°20'31"N

Longitude: -0.5685 / 0°34'6"W

OS Eastings: 497616.548571

OS Northings: 272535.094422

OS Grid: SP976725

Mapcode National: GBR DY6.12Y

Mapcode Global: VHFP7.3D99

Entry Name: Medieval Settlement of West Cotton

Scheduled Date: 10 October 1986

Last Amended: 23 May 2014

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1003636

English Heritage Legacy ID: NN 199

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Stanwick

Built-Up Area: Stanwick

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Raunds St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The earthworks and buried archaeological remains of the medieval village of West Cotton, including a mid-late Anglo-Saxon and medieval settlement abandoned before 1450. The settlement overlies the north end of an extensive prehistoric ceremonial complex.

Source: Historic England


The scheduled monument includes the earthworks and buried archaeological remains of the medieval village of West Cotton, including a mid to late Anglo-Saxon and medieval settlement abandoned before 1450. The settlement included a probable manorial complex (fully excavated) and later peasant tenements, as well as ancillary buildings and the buried and upstanding remains of two other farmsteads or possible manorial sites. The monument also includes a system of water management for the Saxon and early medieval mill and the north end of an extensive prehistoric ceremonial complex, overlain by the medieval settlement.

The late Saxon and medieval village of West Cotton was sited on a peninsular of gravel terrace near the confluence of a channel of the Nene and a tributary stream, Cotton Brook, and overlay the north end of a prehistoric ceremonial complex that extended south for 2kms. A Neolithic Long Mound and Long Enclosure were found within the area excavated between 1985 and 1989, as well as a triple-ditched Bronze Age round barrow. Two unexcavated ring ditches lie within the scheduled area.

The planned settlement occupies a roughly square area, bounded to the east and south-east by Cotton Lane, apparently diverted from a straight course to form a right-angle at the south-east corner of the site. Cotton Brook formed the southern extent, its slight meanders defined by a later field boundary, and also seems to have fed the artificial leat system that served the mill and bounded the settlement to west and north. Within these boundaries, an apparently metrically laid-out site was established in the second half of the C10, clearly seen in the regular arrangement of plots within the excavated area to the west of the site. A track from Cotton Lane to the east, clearly defined on geophysical plots, gave access to the settlement, opening into a yard with the Saxon hall and early medieval manorial complexes sited to the north, and around which later service buildings and peasant tenements were added. All timber and stone structures here were fully excavated, demonstrating a high level of preservation of evidence of both stone and timber built structures, revealing floor levels and internal divisions. Later agricultural ranges for storage and processing included stone lined pits, malt houses and malt ovens, bakehouse and kitchen ranges with benches and ovens, all arranged around the central triangular yard.

A large barn at the south-east end of the range to the east of the yard extends into the unexcavated area. This barn, converted into the domestic range of a peasant tenement at the end of the C13, was one of a number of agricultural buildings, present before the mid-C13, that are seen as possibly associated with a new, or relocated, domestic manorial complex to the east, facing onto Cotton Lane. This survives as an earthwork, surveyed and planned; it measures about 25m x 20m and consists of structures to the north and west facing onto a sunken yard, the domestic range probably to the west, and is thought to have been constructed between the late-C12 and mid-C13. It was abandoned towards the end of the lifespan of the settlement in the early to mid-C15. This complex is immediately to the west of Cotton Lane and to the north of the track, which geophysical surveys show entering the settlement at a right-angle before making a dogleg turn to the north-west. The surveys also indicate other structures, possible ancillary buildings, between the track and the complex, overlying two prehistoric ring ditches. To the south of the surveyed complex, in the corner between the access track and Cotton Lane, is another probable farmstead complex, although less clearly defined than that surveyed to the north. To the north-west of this a linear feature, possibly a ditched boundary or narrow track, branches east from the settlement access track to run parallel with the south boundary of the settlement, to the north of which are possible structures and boundaries, within the area defined as the southern holding. The site boundaries, including the banked flood defences, the complex phases of mill leats, and their relationship with the former Cotton Brook, remain largely unexamined.

The area of settlement altogether forms an irregular square shape, cut through and divided into two triangles by the Raunds by-pass in the late-C20, a road running slightly east of north, and to the west of centre of the site. To the west the scheduled area is bounded on its east side by the verge of the road; the length of this line, the broad base of the triangle, is about 190m. To the north-west the boundary dips inwards to follow the curve of the mill leat, curving out again to take in the pond identified at the corner; from base to apex is about 97m. To the south-west the boundary is straight, and from apex to base is about 141m. On the east side of the road, the scheduled area is bounded to the west by the road verge for a distance of about 230m, its south point meeting the course of Cotton Brook at its junction with the verge. The meandering course of the brook forms the south boundary, and the field boundary to the east closes the triangle. Where the scheduling boundary is created by fences or other markers, the line falls on the inside. All fence posts, gates or other modern intrusions are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath them is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The medieval village site at West Cotton is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: that part of the settlement excavated in advance of road construction clearly demonstrates that structural and other remains will survive in the unexcavated portion of the site, and will present the evolution of the form and plan of the settlement and its individual buildings. The site boundaries to the west, including the complex phases of mill leats, and their relationship with the former Cotton Brook, survive largely unexamined;
* Potential: the stratified archaeological deposits will add to a fuller understanding of the settlement's physical, social and economic evolution, and its place within the local rural economy. The material evidence of both occupation and abandonment may inform our understanding of local, regional and national settlement dynamics, and their underlying social, political and economic forces. The complex phases of mill leats are likely to retain waterlogged deposits containing well preserved botanical and faunal evidence of the local environment and agriculture;
* Documentation: the archaeological documentation is detailed, and illuminates the process of evolution and abandonment of the settlement. In conjunction with documentary evidence, it provides significant evidence for the evolution of feudal and tenurial relationships.;
* Group value: the close relationship between the Cottons is also important within the wider settlement context, including the scheduled site of North Raunds Saxon and medieval settlement and its more extensive excavated site, as well as Thorpe End Iron Age, Saxon and medieval settlement, also scheduled, and as part of the important Raunds Area Project;
* Diversity: the site contains a complex range and of features and structures that demonstrate the evolving use of materials, and the adaptive use of buildings over time. The diversity of features representing the processing of agricultural produce in particular illustrates the production, consumption and economic life of the community.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire: Volume I, (1975)
Allison, K J, Beresford, M W, Hurst, J G, The Deserted Villages of Northamptonshire, (1966)
Astill, G, Grant, A, The Countryside of Medieval England, (1988)
Aston, M, Austin, D, Dyer, C(eds), The Rural Settlements of Medieval England: Studies dedicated to Maurice Beresford and John Hurst, (1989)
Chapman, A, West Cotton, Raunds: A study of medieval settlement dynamics AD 450-1450, (2010)
Christie, N, Stamper, P (eds), Medieval Rural Settlement: Britain and Ireland AD 800-1600, (2012)
Everson, , Green in Dyer (ed), , Medieval Villages Revisited, (2010)
Hall, D, Turning the Plough. Midland Open Fields;landscape character and proposals for management, (2001)
Hall, , Partida, , Rockingham Forest: An Atlas of the Medieval and Early-Modern Landscape , (2009)
Hall, D, The Open Fields of Northamptonshire, (1995)
Lewis, C, Mitchell-Fox, P, Dyer, C , Village, Hamlet and Field: Changing Medieval Settlements in Central England, (1997)
Partida, T, Hall, D, Foard, G, An Atlas of Northamptonshire The Medieval and Early-Modern Landscape, (2013)
Roberts, B K, Wrathmell, S, An Atlas of Rural Settlement in England, (2003)
Taylor, C C, Fieldwork in Medieval Archaeology, (1974)
Williamson, T., Partida, T, Champion. The Making and Unmaking of the English Midland Landscape, (2013)
Rockingham Forest Trust Heritage Resource Centre. , accessed from
Northamptonshire Historic Environment Record (HER),

Source: Historic England

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