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Shrunken medieval village at Milton Ernest, Bedfordshire

A Scheduled Monument in Milton Ernest, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.1925 / 52°11'32"N

Longitude: -0.5063 / 0°30'22"W

OS Eastings: 502195.6608

OS Northings: 255967.165

OS Grid: TL021559

Mapcode National: GBR G1B.JSV

Mapcode Global: VHFQ1.55N2

Entry Name: Shrunken medieval village at Milton Ernest, Bedfordshire

Scheduled Date: 8 November 1991

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009554

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13613

County: Bedford

Civil Parish: Milton Ernest

Built-Up Area: Milton Ernest

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Milton Ernest

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument is composed of two areas of earthworks which lie on the eastern
side of the village of Milton Ernest. At Flewton End a holloway 10m wide and
over 1.5m deep runs north-west for 420m and remains of house platforms can
be clearly identified to the west of the roadway. This is part of the
remains of the shrunken medieval village, and medieval pottery can be found
in the ploughed areas to the east of the holloway. About 400m south of
Flewton End, within a long field measuring about 200m by 320m which lies to
the south of Manor Farm, are the remains of the earthworks of a second part
of the original medieval village. Here a roadway runs west to east across
the site, and banks and ditches define tracks together with plot and field
boundaries. Alongside the tracks, house platforms can also be seen. Around
the area of the original village the remains of the extensive ridge and
furrow field system which surrounded the village are still apparent over
large areas particularly to the east.
These two sites formed part of the original medieval village of Milton
Ernest which stood at the centre of an extensive agricultural area, and was
twice its present size in 14th century. Changes in agricultural activity and
population decline caused the village to shrink in later periods.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 10 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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
primarily devoted to farming, 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 as well as acting as the focus
of ecclesiastical, and often manorial, authority within each medieval parish.
Although the sites of many of these villages have been occupied continuously
down to the present day, many have declined considerably in size and are now
occupied by farmsteads or hamlets. This decline may have taken place gradually
throughout the lifetime of the village or more rapidly, particularly during
the 14th and 15th centuries when many other villages were wholly deserted. The
reasons for diminishing size were varied but often reflected declining
economic viability or population fluctuations as a result of widespread
epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their decline, large
parts of these villages are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and
contain well-preserved archaeological deposits. Over 3000 shrunken medieval
villages are recorded nationally. 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.

The earthworks at Milton Ernest are particularly well preserved and offer
considerable archaeological potential for the investigation of the economic
and social decline of the medieval village.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hutchings, J B, Milton Ernest - A Field Survey, (1969)
Also map from aerial photos, Simco, A., SMR BD 3297 R & F, (1978)

Source: Historic England

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