Ancient Monuments

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Bescaby shrunken medieval village

A Scheduled Monument in Sproxton, Leicestershire

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Latitude: 52.8273 / 52°49'38"N

Longitude: -0.7823 / 0°46'56"W

OS Eastings: 482144.875344

OS Northings: 326227.628713

OS Grid: SK821262

Mapcode National: GBR CPL.M1Z

Mapcode Global: WHFJV.Y6NB

Entry Name: Bescaby shrunken medieval village

Scheduled Date: 11 July 1957

Last Amended: 10 September 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010928

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17016

County: Leicestershire

Civil Parish: Sproxton

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Stonesby

Church of England Diocese: Leicester


The monument consists of the extensive earthwork remains of the shrunken
medieval village at Bescaby and the associated features of a moat and a

The village earthworks are situated to the east of the present village of
Bescaby and consist of the clearly defined remains of house platforms and
garden plots arranged on either side of an east-west orientated hollow way.
At the eastern end of the monument is a large waterfilled moat measuring
approximately 90 x 50m in maximum dimension, with the arms of the moat varying
in width from 25m on the eastern and southern sides to 10m on the northern and
western sides. There is no causeway across the moat and no apparent trace of
structures on the island. A channel at the western end of the moat links this
with a fishpond approximately 80m long.

Documentary sources indicate that the village was in existence around 1194. At
this time it would have extended further south of the line formed by the moat,
channel and fishpond but earthworks in these areas no longer survive. The
village remained unshifted until at least the 14th century and it is
considered that increased emphasis on sheep farming in the medieval economy
contributed to its demise.

The metalled access road which runs across part of the site is excluded from
the scheduling, although the land beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 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.

Bescaby is one of the best preserved medieval shifted villages in upland
Leicestershire, with extensive earthworks and an associated water management
complex. It is a good example of how fluctuations in the wool prices led to
changes in landuse in Leicestershire in the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bourne, J, Place-names of Leicestershire and Rutland, (1981), 31
Hartley, R F, The Medieval Earthworks of North-East Leicestershire, (1987), 6,20
DMVRG, A Provisional list of Deserted Medieval Villages in Leics, Transactions of the Leics Arch and Hist Society, (1963)

Source: Historic England

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