Ancient Monuments

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Medieval farmstead and irregular open field system at High Burntoft Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Elwick, Hartlepool

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Latitude: 54.6445 / 54°38'40"N

Longitude: -1.3106 / 1°18'38"W

OS Eastings: 444586.894506

OS Northings: 527922.77607

OS Grid: NZ445279

Mapcode National: GBR MG9Q.1W

Mapcode Global: WHD6K.VJ2B

Entry Name: Medieval farmstead and irregular open field system at High Burntoft Farm

Scheduled Date: 13 November 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015207

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28535

County: Hartlepool

Civil Parish: Elwick

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Elwick Hall

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument includes the remains of a farmstead of medieval date and an
associated field system, situated on the eastern side of the North Burn
valley. It is thought that more than one phase of occupation is represented by
these remains. The core of the monument is visible as a square enclosure 140m
across divided into four unequal parts by earthen banks and hollow ways. The
south western part of this enclosure is visible as a raised platform 60m
square and is considered to represent the remains of an original small
settlement, now partly occupied by a ruined farm. The northern half of the
square enclosure contains two small enclosures or crofts, each of which
measure on average 75m by 65m, separated by a hollow way 9m wide which runs
from the site of the farmstead northwards into the surrounding fields. The
crofts have been used as cultivated plots and the prominent remains of ridge and
furrow cultivation on average 5m wide and standing 0.3m high is visible within
them. Within the north eastern croft are the remains of four sub-rectangular
or elongated hollows 20m long and varying between 10m-15m wide; these features
are interpreted as fishponds, a common feature of medieval settlements. To the
east of these crofts, aerial photographs have revealed the existence of slight
earthworks representing the remains of a line of additional crofts. The crofts
in this area were subsequently abandoned and later ridge and furrow is visible
running across them indicating that the area was reused as a cultivated field.
A prominent hollow way up to 15m wide runs from the eastern side of the
monument across this field of ridge and furrow in a northerly direction; this
feature is clearly later in date.

Beyond the immediate environs of the farmstead and associated crofts,
extensive areas of well preserved ridge and furrow, contained within smaller
parcels called furlongs, form a coherent block of the field system associated
with the settlement. The furlongs, which are orientated east to west and north
to south, are defined by earthen banks and lynchets on average 3m wide which
form furlong boundaries and headlands. The ridge and furrow which is contained
within them measures on average 0.6m high and 6m wide.

The placename Burntoft is mentioned in the Boldon Book of 1183 as `Bruntoft'
and the origin of the name toft is thought to be Old Norse indicating the site
of a building.

All gates and gateposts, wood and wire fences and stone walls which cross or are contained within the area of the scheduling
as well as all of the modern farm buildings are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath them is included.

This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 15/01/2015

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Farmsteads, normally occupied by only one or two families and comprising small
groups of buildings with attached yards, gardens and enclosures, were a
characteristic feature of the medieval rural landscape. They occur throughout
the country, the intensity of their distribution determined by local
topography and the nature of the agricultural system prevalent within the
region. In some areas of dispersed settlement they were the predominant
settlement form; elsewhere they existed alongside, or were components of, more
nucleated settlement patterns. The sites of many farmsteads have been
occupied down to the present day but others were abandoned as a result of, for
example, declining economic viability, enclosure or emparkment, or epidemics
like the Black Death. In the northern border areas, recurring cross-border
raids and military activities also disrupted agricultural life and led to
abandonments. Farmsteads are a common and long-lived monument type; the
archaeological deposits on those which were abandoned are often well-preserved
and provide important information on regional and national settlement patterns
and farming economies, and on changes in these through time.

Medieval rural settlement in England is marked by considerable diversity in
both form and size. Preserving the archaeology of such diversity is a matter
of national importance. The broad pattern of diversity in England can be
divided into three main provinces which can in turn be divided into sub-
provinces and local regions.

The medieval settlement and field system at High Burntoft is well preserved
and retains significant archaeological remains. Dispersed settlements are
unusual in this region where the characteristic settlement pattern comprises
large nucleated villages. Therefore this monument will add to our
understanding of the use and development of the medieval agricultural
landscape in this area of England.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Archaeological Services, Durham University, Archaeological Survey and Evaluation at Annigate, Wynyard, (1996), 17&11

Archaeological Services Durham University, (1996)
Cleveland Archaeology Services, 1994/11,
NZ 42 NE 00,
Title: Earthwork Survey of High Burntoft
Source Date: 1996

Source: Historic England

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