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Dolphenby medieval settlement and part of its associated open field system

A Scheduled Monument in Langwathby, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.6769 / 54°40'36"N

Longitude: -2.663 / 2°39'46"W

OS Eastings: 357345.835374

OS Northings: 531521.281708

OS Grid: NY573315

Mapcode National: GBR 9GVC.87

Mapcode Global: WH92B.2P5Y

Entry Name: Dolphenby medieval settlement and part of its associated open field system

Scheduled Date: 17 June 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016756

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32819

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Langwathby

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Edenhall St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Dolphenby medieval
village, together with part of its associated medieval open field system. It
is located on gently sloping ground above the flood plain south of the River
Eden approximately midway between Dolphenby Farm and St Cuthbert's Church at
Edenhall. Although the date of the first settlement at Dolphenby is unknown,
the village is first mentioned in documentary sources in 1202. However, the
proximity of numerous other villages in and adjacent to the Eden valley which
incorporate the element `by' may imply that Dolphenby was part of an earlier
stratum of Scandinavian settlement in this area. The date of abandonment of
Dolphenby is also unknown.
The plan of the medieval village at Dolphenby is of a type familiar to this
part of Cumbria and it contains morphological features found in many northern
villages. Essentially a line of at least five houses, most having visible
remains of small enclosures or garden areas (crofts) at their rear, flank
the north side of a village green, while the remains of two houses separated
by a small sunken rectangular enclosure interpreted as a stock pen flank the
eastern side of the green. A narrow hollow way or street, also flanked by
building platforms behind which are small crofts, approaches the village green
from the south east.
The concentration of a medieval population within a village, with precious
animals normally wintered in byres or stock pens, meant that for much of the
year the animals were either taken for the summer months to remote upland
shielings, or regularly walked out of the village to graze upon adjacent
common pasture. The track the cattle took was known as the driftway or outgang
and often began at the village green and opened outwards as a great enclosed
funnel. Here at Dolphenby this outgang is clearly visible funnelling out from
the village green towards higher ground further west. As medieval villages
expanded there was a tendency to place newer buildings either on arable land
adjacent to the outgang or actually within the outgang itself, and at
Dolphenby examples of this expansion can be clearly seen with building
platforms with enclosures to their rear flanking the north side of the
outgang, while a building platform and remains of a building lie on the south
side of the outgang with faint traces of two rectangular enclosures lying
nearby within the outgang. A further example of this medieval expansion
survives in the form of a rectangular enclosure lying at a point where the
village green begins to broaden out into the outgang.
On all sides of the village except the west are the earthworks of parts of the
associated medieval communal open field system where the crops were grown.
These earthworks consist of the well-preserved remains of broad ridge and
furrow produced by oxen-drawn ploughing teams, and survive best to the east
and north east of the village, where they are clearly visible aligned north
west-south east. Narrower and slightly less well-pronounced remains of ridge
and furrow lie both north and south of the outgang.
All modern walls, fenceposts, gateposts and a cattle watering trough are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is

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 Cumbria-Solway sub-Province of the Northern and
Western Province, an area characterised by dispersed hamlets and farmsteads,
but with some larger nucleated settlements in well-defined agriculturally
favoured areas, established after the Norman Conquest. Traces of seasonal
settlements, or shielings, dominate the high, wet and windy uplands, where
surrounding communities grazed their livestock during the summer months.
The Eden Valley local region is a rich agricultural lowland ringed by mountain
pastures. It is densely settled with small market towns, villages, hamlets and
isolated farmsteads. Medieval castles and monasteries, a multitude of
earthwork sites and the distinctive mix of Celtic, Scottish, English,
Scandinavian and Norman place-names all testify to the ancient and long
sustained occupation of this important region.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre
of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and
woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but when they survive as earthworks
their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks, platforms
on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and
small enclosed paddocks. They frequently included the parish church within
their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages included
one or more manorial centres which may also survive as visible remains as well
as below ground deposits. In the Northern and Western Province of England
medieval villages occurred infrequently amid areas of otherwise dispersed
settlement and good examples are therefore proportionally infrequent. Thus
their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources for
understanding rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman
Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on
large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into
strips (known as lands) which were allocated to individual tenants. The
cultivation of these strips with heavy ploughs pulled by oxen-teams produced
long, wide ridges, and where it survives the resultant `ridge and furrow' is
the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. Individual
strips or lands were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal
headlands at the plough turning points and lateral grass banks. Furlongs were
in turn grouped into large open fields. Well-preserved ridge and furrow,
especially in its original context adjacent to village earthworks, is both an
important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a distinctive
contribution to the character of the historic landscape. It is usually now
covered by the hedges or walls of subsequent field enclosure.
Despite being partly destroyed by later ploughing, a substantial proportion of
the earthworks of Dolphenby medieval village and its associated open field
system survive well. It is a good example of this class of monument in the
Eden Valley local region and will add greatly to our understanding of the
wider settlement and economy during the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Roberts, B, Dolphenby, (1988)
Roberts, B K, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Five Westmorland Settlements: A Comparative Study, , Vol. 93, (1993), 142
SMR No. 974, Cumbria County Council, Dolphenby, (1984)
SMR No. 974, Cumbria SMR, Dolphenby, (1984)

Source: Historic England

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