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Abandoned medieval village of Onley

A Scheduled Monument in Barby, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.3316 / 52°19'53"N

Longitude: -1.2495 / 1°14'58"W

OS Eastings: 451234.671465

OS Northings: 270653.130052

OS Grid: SP512706

Mapcode National: GBR 8QZ.WCR

Mapcode Global: VHCTY.9N8G

Entry Name: Abandoned medieval village of Onley

Scheduled Date: 17 January 1955

Last Amended: 6 August 2014

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1003900

English Heritage Legacy ID: NN 110

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Barby

Built-Up Area: Onley

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Grandborough St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Coventry


Abandoned medieval village of Onley, first documented in 1272.

Source: Historic England


The abandoned medieval settlement of Onley lies within the parish of Barby, close to the county boundary between Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. The settlement is situated on the flat, north western part of the parish, at c88m OD. It covers an area of c28 hectares. The monument includes the earthwork and buried archaeological remains of the medieval village of Onley including hollow ways, tofts, crofts, fishponds and ridge and furrow.

The remains lie on either side of a small south-west flowing stream, the north-east part of which is now in a culvert and visible only in wet weather. In the southernmost field a series of rectangular scarped closes lie on either side of an irregular hollow way or main street which, in places, is over-ploughed by later narrow ridge and furrow. South of this hollow way a second runs west to the stream. At the northern end, the main street curves north-west to meet the stream. From the curve in the hollow way another runs east. Towards the northern edge two short hollow ways run to the north-west, over the current line of the stream and are still visible west of the stream.

To the north-west of the main hollow way are at least six long embanked closes, former crofts and tofts, but all are over-ploughed by later ridge and furrow and the house sites are difficult to distinguish although recent aerial photographs (English Heritage 2013) indicate the high level of survival and archaeological potential of these remains. To the south-east of the hollow way is a further series of closes, these do not appear to have been ploughed but no definite platforms are visible. Further south-east narrow-rig covers the area but a narrow, long low scarp suggests there may have been crofts here at one time.

To the north of the east to west aligned hollow way, in the north-east quadrant of the scheduled area, is another series of closes, most of which have faint traces of later ploughing within them. These closes are bounded on the north by another hollow way which is the largest feature on the site, being up to 2.5m deep in places. Though the hollow way has certainly been used as a street it is also the line of the original stream and must have been used as a watercourse when the village was occupied, as the water to the fishponds to the east is believed to have run along it. Immediately north of this hollow way is a long rectangular area bounded on the north by a narrow ditch beyond which is an area of narrow-rig ploughing. This area has been completely ploughed over at some time, but light scarps indicate that it was formerly divided into crofts of various sizes.

To the east are two fishponds of irregular shape, separated by a degraded dam up to 1m high at the west but c1.5 m high at the east. The ponds are cut into the adjacent ground and the scarps along their east sides are up to 2m high. The southernmost pond has traces of later ploughing within it and the adjacent medieval ridge and furrow to the east appears to overlie its eastern edge.

On the north-west of the stream is a large area of land covered with narrow ridge and furrow and bounded on the north-west by a broad ditch or hollow way. In this area, distorted by the later ploughing, are traces of long narrow closes edged by low scarps. These closes appear more regular than elsewhere on the site and might be regarded as a late addition to the village.

A ruinous cottage documented during the archaeological survey of 1981 (RCHME) is now only evident as low banks with protruding stone and brick. This, although recorded as being mainly of C19 date with some late C18 features, may have been a rebuilding of one of the shepherd's cottages recorded in the early C18. A few sherds of C14 pottery have been found along the bed of the stream.

The area of the scheduling is defined on all four sides by modern field boundaries and is cut north-east to south-west by a stream defined on both sides by field boundaries. Paddocks enclosed by electric fencing align with the western bank of the stream. A double fence of post and wire construction cuts across the easternmost field from south-east to north-west. All fences and gates are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.

There is considerable potential for undesignated (but potentially nationally important) heritage assets to survive outside the scheduled area of Onley medieval settlement, particularly around the site of Onley Grounds Farm. These may take the form of standing structures or buried deposits but are considered to be most appropriately managed through the National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) and are not therefore included within the scheduled area. The remains of well preserved ridge and furrow survive outside the scheduled area, in the immediate vicinity of Onley Grounds Farm and north-east of the scheduled area, to the east of the dismantled railway. Both these areas are physically detached from the main settlement remains and have not therefore been included but they do add significant character to the area.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The medieval village site at Onley, first documented in 1272, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: for the well defined settlement earthworks and the associated ridge and furrow depicting the form and plan of the settlement and its associated agricultural practices;

* 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;

* Documentation: for the high level of historical and archaeological documentation pertaining to the settlement’s evolution;

* Group value: for its proximity to other related contemporary scheduled monuments, including the medieval village of Fawcliff at Braunston Cleves (NHLE 1006618);

* Diversity: for the range and complexity of features such as building platforms, crofts, trackways, moated manorial centre and ridge and furrow which, taken as a whole, provide a clear plan of the settlement and retain significant stratified deposits which serve to provide details of the continuity and change in the evolution of the settlement.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
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)
Christie, N, Stamper, P (eds), Medieval Rural Settlement: Britain and Ireland AD 800-1600, (2012)
Dyer, C, Jones, R, Deserted Villages Revisited, (2010)
Hall, D, Turning the Plough. Midland Open Fields;landscape character and proposals for management, (2001)
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, , Wrathmell, , An Atlas of Rural Settlement in England, (2000)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Northamptonshire III, (1981)
Williamson, T., Partida, T, Champion. The Making and Unmaking of the English Midland Landscape, (2013)
Hall, D, 'Northamptonshire Records Society' in The Open Fields of Northamptonshire, (1995)
Northamptonshire Historic Environment Record (HER),

Source: Historic England

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