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Hellaby: a deserted medieval village and well, enclosure, ridge and furrow and post medieval long house

A Scheduled Monument in Hellaby, Rotherham

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.4242 / 53°25'27"N

Longitude: -1.2411 / 1°14'27"W

OS Eastings: 450529.369283

OS Northings: 392201.777171

OS Grid: SK505922

Mapcode National: GBR MXSV.37

Mapcode Global: WHDDL.X668

Entry Name: Hellaby: a deserted medieval village and well, enclosure, ridge and furrow and post medieval long house

Scheduled Date: 10 January 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009393

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23201

County: Rotherham

Civil Parish: Hellaby

Built-Up Area: Hellaby

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): South Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Bramley St Francis

Church of England Diocese: Sheffield

Details

Hellaby deserted medieval village is situated on the Upper Coal Measure
Sandstones west of Maltby. The monument includes an area, north, south and
west of present day Hellaby Hall, which incorporates the remains of medieval
and post-medieval buildings, a well, a sample of remains of ridge and furrow
ploughing and a square ditched enclosure. Further remains are believed to
exist outside the area, particularly to the south in the area now occupied by
demolished farm buildings and cottages. These have not been included in the
scheduling, however, as their extent and state of preservation is not yet
fully understood.
In 1991, Hellaby was the subject of a resistivity survey and partial
excavation carried out by the South Yorkshire Archaeological Unit. Although
not exhaustive, these investigations indicate a small medieval settlement
focussing on an area near the junction of Hellaby Lane with Bawtry Road and
visible as a series of low earthworks which include building platforms and the
remains of ridge and furrow ploughing. The resistivity survey provided a
rough plan of part of the site by showing the locations of buried walls and
infilled ditches through differences in their electrical resistivity. A
number of ditches relating to field and property boundaries were located this
way, in addition to five buildings. Following the survey, selected areas were
sampled by trench excavation and more extensive excavations of two of the
buildings were undertaken. In addition to remains from the medieval and post-
medieval periods, evidence of prehistoric ploughing was found in this way.
Although much of the evidence of agricultural use, including the ridge and
furrow, was found to date to the later Middle Ages, a number of features
relate to an earlier field system which has not yet been precisely dated. It
is possible that, included in this system, is a square ditched feature on the
north side of the monument. This feature is visible both on the ground and on
aerial photographs of the site, and has been interpreted as an enclosure. A
number of ditch boundaries were found associated with the ridge and furrow of
which several contained examples of three main types of pottery generally
datable to the period from the late 12th century to the 15th century.
Fragments of tenth century pottery were also recovered and indicate that the
village may have originated in the period of Scandinavian settlement. The
pottery evidence indicates that the ditches went out of use before or around
AD 1400. Evidence of regular recutting prior to this, and association with
post holes left by buildings or fences, shows that their positions remained
unchanged over an extended period of time and that they can therefore be
interpreted as property boundaries marking the divisions between individual
house plots and their associated crofts. Five buildings have been located
relating to these crofts and are believed to have been dwellings. Two at the
south east corner of the monument, known as Buildings 1 and 2, have been
partially excavated and the latter found to be of post medieval date. These
two structures lie close together in the same croft. This and the fact that
Building 1 shows evidence of having been robbed heavily of its stone,
indicates that Building 2 was built out of its remains and that Building 1 was
deliberately dismantled for the purpose.
At the time of its demolition, Building 1 was a rectangular structure
measuring over 14m long by 8m wide. It had an internal hallway with a door at
the south end. The presence of post-pads indicates that it was a timber
framed building whose walls were 40cm thick and consisted largely of roughly
faced sandstone blocks packed with rubble. A projection existed on the west
side and was a late addition, possibly representing an external chimney. Two
small stone ovens were also built on this side, above the earlier wall
foundations. They opened eastwards into the building where a scorched rubble
floor has preserved earlier burnt layers which were found to contain a small
amount of lead and the base of a third oven built into an internal wall. North
of this wall a fourth oven was found sunk into the floor and has been
interpreted as a corn dryer. Pot sherds recovered from the ovens indicates
occupation in the late 12th to 14th centuries. A well was also found
within the building. This was lined with limestone blocks to a depth of 1.4m
and contained butchered animal bones and pot sherds. The latter indicate that
the well went out of use in the late medieval period at the time the building
was abandoned. An earlier medieval land boundary ditch was found beneath
Building 1. This may have been backfilled when the building was constructed
and replaced by a smaller ditch to the west. North east of Building l lay
Building 2. This was a long house measuring 20m by 5.2m-6m with an external
chimney at the south west corner. A door lay immediately east of the chimney
and was approached by a path of limestone blocks laid on packed rubble. The
remains of the path included stone robbed from Building 1. Marks on these
stones, and a series of continuous grooves in the tops of some of the
surviving walls of Building 1, indicate that the site had been ploughed at
some stage after abandonment, probably before or contemporary with the
construction of Building 2. The walls of the latter were built of free-
standing sandstone blocks packed with rubble. The interior was divided into
three compartments by two internal walls. These had post pads at each end,
indicating a cruck or post-built wooden structure. The middle compartment
contained hearths and an oven while the east compartment was served by two
boot-scrapers which indicate that both these areas were for domestic use. The
west compartment was rebuilt after a period of neglect and was used for coal
storage at some point. Pottery from Building 2 indicates that it was occupied
in the 17th and early 18th centuries. It is not yet known when it was
abandoned or when it was finally demolished, but the accumulation of debris
over the internal features suggests that the period between the two events was
quite long, and it has been suggested that the building may have survived into
the early 19th century.
Little is yet known about the remaining buildings except that, from the
pottery evidence associated with them, they have been found to be broadly
contemporary with Building 1. Building 3 lies north of Building 2 and is
represented by a line of post holes associated with a yard to the south and a
boundary ditch to the north. A corn drying oven has been located north of the
post holes and indicates that they form the south wall of the structure.
Building 4 is represented by the footings of a wall found west of the ditch to
the west of Building 1 and also survives as a series of earthworks. Building 5
lies at the north end of the village and has so far been located only by three
post holes and a number of small finds. In addition to medieval pottery
fragments, the latter include a fragment of slag in vitrified clay and
numerous copper alloy ornaments, including a buckle. These are probably
indicative of a metal working area.
There is little documentary evidence for Hellaby to illustrate either its
origins or its decline. At face value, the place name appears to be of
possible tenth century date, incorporating as it does a Norse personal name
with the Norse -by ending which indicates a farmstead. However, in areas of
the Dane law, Scandinavian personal names continued in use for far longer than
the period of Viking settlement, and, without additional evidence, this is not
necessarily a reliable indicator. The first written evidence is in Domesday
Book where, in 1086, thirteen villeins are recorded as being tenants on the
land between Hellaby and Maltby. The Poll Tax returns of 1379 indicate the
existence of two families, but there may have been others who were exempt or
had evaded the tax. By the time of the Parish Registers of 1538, no one was
named as coming from Hellaby and it seems that the village had been deserted
by this time. Indeed, sufficient time had elapsed for soil to build up over
the site of the village between the abandonment of Building 1 and the
construction of Building 2 in c.1600. Desertion probably occurred, therefore,
in the 15th century, though for what reason is not yet known.
Excluded from the scheduling are the boundary fence which crosses the site and
also the surface of the path, the ground underneath these features is,
however, included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The village, comprising a small group of houses, gardens, yards, streets,
paddocks, often with a green, a manor and a church, and with a community
devoted primarily to agriculture, was a significant component of the rural
landscape in most areas of medieval England, much as it is today. Villages
provided some services to the local community and acted as the main focal
point of ecclesiastical, and often of manorial, administration within each
parish. Although the sites of many of these villages have been occupied
continuously down to the present day, many others declined in size or were
abandoned throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly
during the 14th and 15th centuries. As a result over 2000 deserted medieval
villages are recorded nationally. The reasons for desertion were varied but
often reflected declining economic viability, changes in land use such as
enclosure or emparkment, or population fluctuations as a result of widespread
epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their abandonment
these villages are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain
well-preserved archaeological deposits. Because they are a common and
long-lived monument type in most parts of England, they provide important
information on the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming
economy between the regions and through time.

Although they represent a substantial proportion of recorded deserted medieval
villages, small villages consisting of the houses of no more than a few
families are not well represented in the archaeological record. Hellaby is a
rare example of such a village which has been partially excavated and found to
retain substantial remains relating to this class of monument.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
Draft report, Holbrey, R P, Results of a two stage evaluation project ... of ... Hellaby, (1991)
Hellaby pottery report, (1991)
In SMR record, Hellaby DMV,

Source: Historic England

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