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The medieval settlement at Wormleighton

A Scheduled Monument in Wormleighton, Warwickshire

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Latitude: 52.1839 / 52°11'1"N

Longitude: -1.3513 / 1°21'4"W

OS Eastings: 444444.767342

OS Northings: 254157.325166

OS Grid: SP444541

Mapcode National: GBR 7RG.15S

Mapcode Global: VHCVN.JCGP

Entry Name: The medieval settlement at Wormleighton

Scheduled Date: 5 September 1958

Last Amended: 16 April 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016438

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30042

County: Warwickshire

Civil Parish: Wormleighton

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Warwickshire

Church of England Parish: Wormleighton St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Coventry


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the medieval
settlement of Wormleighton, including the remains of the moated site of the
manor house, the building platforms and allotments of the medieval village,
with its associated hollow ways, field boundaries, enclosures, and medieval
ridge and furrow cultivation remains. The settlement is located on south
facing slopes below the present parish church. Also included are the remains
of the post-medieval fishpond complex and a series of post-medieval enclosures
which were superimposed on the site of the settlement.

In the western part of the monument, lying at the head of the street, are the
remains of a double moat defining two islands which mark the site of the
medieval manor house and associated buildings. The moat is 1m to 2m deep,
except at the south western angle where it is 3m to 4m deep, and is 10m wide.
The north easternmost island of the moat, which measured approximately 100m by
40m, has been cut by the Oxford Canal which occupies part of the eastern arm
of the moat, approximately one third of the island now survives. The remainder
of the moat which formerly survived as an earthwork across the canal to the
north west has since been removed by cultivation and is not included in the
scheduling. The second island measures approximately 65m by 55m, orientated
north east to south west. There are the remains of an external bank, measuring
up to 6m wide and 0.75m to 1.5m high, on the south eastern and north eastern
arms. The uneven surface of the island indicates that the buried remains of
buildings will survive on the islands.

The settlement includes an area of house enclosures (tofts), allotments and
gardens (crofts), used for the cultivation of vegetables and fruit. The narrow
green, or wide main street, is orientated east to west and measures
approximately 8m to 12m wide. Houses were laid out on either side of the
street which led from the site of the church towards a ford over the former
stream. The stream flowed along part of the route now occupied by the Oxford
Canal and was destroyed during the construction of the canal. The building
platforms are best preserved on the northern side of the street, where seven
are clearly visible, measuring between 15m and 20m wide and approximately 20m
long. The tofts and crofts are defined by boundary ditches, measuring up to 1m
deep and 1m to 2m wide. These delineate regular enclosures, approximately 30m
long and as wide as the house platforms which lie behind the house sites. The
arrangement of tofts and crofts in the south western part of the settlement is
obscured by the later fishpond complex and post medieval enclosures.

Lying just below the parish church are the remains of approximately six small
irregular house platforms. These irregular house sites, measuring
approximately 10m by 20m are orientated east to west, and are laid out along
the lane which separates them from the site of the parish church. The
platforms are terraced into the hillside and defined by small banks up to 1m
high. They are believed to represent the earliest focus of the settlement at
Wormleighton, close to the church on the crest of the hill and established
prior to the laying out of the larger, more regular, plots to the south west.
The fishpond complex is believed to have been constructed over the site of the
settlement. The stew ponds, orientated east to west, cover an area measuring
150m to 170m long and 20m to 30m wide, and are defined by external banks. Each
pond was linked to the next by a leat, and they were fed from the large pond
to the south east. This pond located in the south east of the monument
measures 120m by 80m, orientated east to west. It is 1m to 2m deep and is
defined by external banks which are approximately 1m high. There is a small,
sub-circular, well defined island in the middle of the pond which measures
approximately 5m in diameter. The island is too small for any but the
flimsiest of buildings, however, such islands were often constructed in
fishponds to encourage the nesting of water fowl, and thus provide another
resource at the site. The bed of the pond contains medieval ridge and furrow
cultivation remains, suggesting that the bed of the pond has been cultivated,
either prior to its construction, or between periods of use when the pond was
drained between seasons of fish breeding. The relationship between the ponds
and the water source to the east, has been obscured by the construction
of the modern water treatment plant, although early estate maps depict a
channel leading from a pond, in the vicinity of the present pond at the base
of the quarry to the northern angle of the large fishpond.

A further large `L' shaped ditch, measuring 4m to 6m wide and 1m to 3m deep,
with arms measuring 40m and 90m long, lies to the north west of the stew
ponds, disturbing the lay out of the northern tofts. This is believed to be a
water management feature linked to the fishponds. This is linked by leats to
the course of former water channels to the north east and when water-filled,
must have presented a semi-moated appearance defining a small building
platform on the north and east. The building platform has a small raised sub-
circular area at its centre which may mark the site of a dovecote. In the
easternmost part of the monument close to the edge of the quarry are the
remains of a large platform approximately 20m long and 10m wide, and the
remains of two terraces cut into the hillside. These may represent further
elements of the post-medieval use of the site.

The entire settlement area is surrounded by medieval ridge and furrow
cultivation remains which formed part of the open field system farmed by the
settlement. A sample of these is included in the scheduling in the north
eastern part of the monument to preserve their relationship to the settlement

Wormleighton is first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon document of AD 956, in which
the village boundaries, largely coinciding with modern parish boundaries, are
confirmed. The village is recorded in the Domesday Survey as being held by
three people, suggesting three manors or estates and a large population,
estimated at between 200 and 250 people. The village continued to expand in
the 12th and 13th centuries, but began to decline in the later 14th and 15th
centuries. The remaining village was depopulated in the 1490s by William
Coope, who turned the site over to sheep pasture. Documents record that 12
messuages and three cottages were destroyed, making 60 people homeless. The
estate was bought for 200 pounds in 1506 by John Spencer, who in 1519
abandoned the original manor house, and built a new stone manor house on the
hill top, adjacent to the church. It was probably Spencer who laid out the
fishponds over part of the site of the village. These are recorded on estate
maps dated 1634 and 1734.

Post and wire fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath these features 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 Inner Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province,
an area characterised by large numbers of nucleated settlements, both
surviving and deserted, many of which are thought to have been established in
Anglo-Saxon times. Most of the sub-Province's thinly scattered dispersed
settlements were created in post-medieval times, but some of the local regions
are characterised by higher proportions of dispersed dwellings and hamlets,
which probably mark the patchy survival of older landscapes.
The Stour-Avon-Soar Clay Vales local region is dominated by village and hamlet
settlements. It was once characterised by large townfields under communal
cultivation, traces which survive as ridge and furrow earthworks. It contains
the sites of many depopulated villages and hamlets, perhaps up to one third of
the total number of such settlements which existed in the Middle Ages.

The medieval settlement at Wormleighton includes well preserved remains of a
variety of settlement features. In addition there are a series of important
documentary sources, ranging from the Anglo-Saxon to the post-medieval
periods. Relatively few settlements have detailed Anglo-Saxon documentation
providing information about the earliest phases of their development, whilst
the survival of information about the medieval village, and particularly about
the cause and conditions of the desertion of the medieval settlement at
Wormleighton provide an important opportunity to understand the development of
the settlement over time.

The earthworks, which are clearly defined, have not suffered any major recent
disturbance and will preserve remains of the domestic dwellings and the
ancillary and agricultural buildings, including remains of buildings of
differing status which will include information about the relative wealth and
activities of the members of the community. In addition the survival
of remains from different periods will illuminate the development of the
village from pre-Norman times until its reuse following the desertion of the
village as much as changing building techniques and the technological
development of agriculture and patterns of subsistence. Artefactual remains
will provide evidence for the social history of the site, including evidence
about its occupants and their daily activities, giving a range of dating
evidence, as well as insights into the range of social activities and trading
contacts of the inhabitants of the settlement throughout its history.

In addition, there are several post medieval manorial features including the
fishponds, enclosures and a possible dovecote. These with other structures,
associated with the 1519 redevelopment of the manor, will illuminate the
organisation and exploitation of the demesne lands of a manorial complex very
late in its development. Being constructed as part of a complete redevelopment
of the site, by a new and wealthy owner, they will be expected to incorporate
many fashionable features and technological advances, and will also reflect
something of the aspirations of the rising country gentry.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire, (1908), 235
Thorpe, , The Lord and the Landscape, (1965), 38-77
Title: Spenser estate map
Source Date: 1634
Title: Spenser estate map
Source Date: 1734
Watching brief with history & maps, Warwickshire county archaeological field serv, Archaeological observation of repairs to the oxford canal at Wor, (1996)

Source: Historic England

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