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Deserted medieval village, moated site, and early medieval timber building at Castle Eden, 200m south of The Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Castle Eden, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.7408 / 54°44'27"N

Longitude: -1.3381 / 1°20'17"W

OS Eastings: 442713.855684

OS Northings: 538631.764481

OS Grid: NZ427386

Mapcode National: GBR MF3M.3B

Mapcode Global: WHD65.F32F

Entry Name: Deserted medieval village, moated site, and early medieval timber building at Castle Eden, 200m south of The Castle

Scheduled Date: 8 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015842

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28549

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Castle Eden

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Blackhall

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument includes the remains of the medieval village of Castle Eden, a
large moated site, and an early medieval timber building revealed by
excavation in 1974. Excavation also uncovered an area of cultivation, thought
to represent the remains of early fields in the area. The complex is situated
on the south side of the Castle Eden Dene, in a field immediately north of the
reconstructed 12th century church and cemetery of St James. This field was
also the location of a fine Anglo-Saxon vessel known as a claw beaker
discovered in 1775 by workmen removing a hedge. An early medieval settlement
at Castle Eden is mentioned in an 11th century document in which it is
referred to as `Iodene Australem'. This manor formed the focus of a compact
estate comprising several other small townships. The manor became the property
of the church during the 12th century and the medieval village which developed
is mentioned in several later documents. Most of the surface remains of the
village were removed by emparkment in the 18th century but they are known
through excavation to survive below ground level as buried features. The
earliest known settlement remains at the monument are situated close to the
original 12th century church. Excavation here uncovered the foundation trench
of a timber building and an associated post hole; these structural features
were associated with some of the earliest pottery discovered at the site and
are thought to be the remains of a timber building of 12th century or earlier

After the Norman Conquest the settlement was reorganized and the focus shifted
slightly to the north east where the remains of a planned medieval village
were partly uncovered in 1974. This settlement consisted of a surfaced track
running north from the medieval church with several timber structures
containing fireplaces aligned along its eastern side; these structures are
interpreted as the remains of a row of medieval houses; pottery discovered in
these houses indicated that they were still occupied in the 14th and 15th
centuries. Immediately to the rear of these houses an area of ploughing was
uncovered, thought to be slightly later in date. It is considered that a row
of similar houses survives below ground on the western side of the metalled

At the extreme northern end of the monument, a substantial ditch, 10.8m wide
and at least 1.4m deep was uncovered, which had clearly once been water
filled; a piece of medieval pottery from a jug thought to be of 12th or 13th
century date was discovered within the infilled ditch. This feature was
associated with the levelled remains of a large timber building retaining
cobbled floors and the remains of fireplaces. The large quantity of medieval
pottery which was found in association with this building suggests that it had
been removed by the late 15th or early 16th century. It has been suggested
that these features are the remains of the original castle, possibly a moated
site, at Castle Eden which is mentioned in an early 12th century document.

The surface of the modern metalled drive is excluded from the scheduling
although the ground beneath this feature is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more.

This monument lies in the Humber-Tees sub-Province of the Central Province
which comprises a great fertile lowland, with many local variations caused by
slight differences in terrain, but generally dominated by market towns,
villages and hamlets. The dispersed farmsteads between these are mainly of
post-medieval date, created by movement out of the villages and on to newly
consolidated holdings following enclosure. Some, however, are more ancient
dispersals, the result of manors, granges and other farmsteads being moved out
of villages in the Middle Ages; others have become isolated by the process of
village depopulation, which has had a substantial impact in the sub-Province.

The East Durham Plateau local region is a limestone upland partly covered by
glacial clays. The upper part of the plateau was almost devoid of settlement
until the creation of the late 19th century mining communities, but ancient
villages occupy the varied soils of the western sub-Provincial boundary, and
can be found along the north-south routes just inland from the coast. Towards
the southern edge, and the Tees Valley, there has been significant settlement

Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches,
often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more
islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some
cases the islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites
served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the
provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical
military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built was
between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in
central and eastern parts of England. However, moated sites were built
throughout the medieval period, are widely scattered throughout England and
exhibit a high level of diversity in their form and sizes. They form a
significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding
of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples
provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains.
Medieval manorial settlements, comprising small groups of houses with
associated gardens, yards and paddocks, supported communities devoted
primarily to agriculture, and acted as the foci for manorial administration.
Although the sites of many of these settlements have been occupied
continuously down to the present day, many others declined in size or were
abandoned at some time during the medieval and post-medieval periods,
particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. 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 settlements are frequently undisturbed by later occupation
and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits, providing information on
the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming economy, and on the
structure and changing fortunes of manorial communities.

Despite the fact that there are few surface indications, the medieval complex
at Castle Eden survives well as a series of buried features below the surface
of the ground. The existence of an earlier medieval settlement, subsequently
replaced by a nucleated village during the Middle Ages, adds to the importance
of the monument and will contribute to our understanding of the early and
later medieval settlement in the region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Austin, D, 'Durham Archaeological Journal' in The Medieval Settlement and Landscape of Castle Eden, , Vol. 3, (1987), 57-78
Austin, D, 'Durham Archaeological Journal' in The Medieval Settlement and Landscape of Castle Eden, , Vol. 3, (1987), 57-78
Austin, D, 'Durham Archaeological Journal' in The Medieval Settlement and Landscape of Castle Eden, , Vol. 3, (1987), 57-78
DSMR 165,
NZ43NW 06,

Source: Historic England

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