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Medieval settlement at Withybrook

A Scheduled Monument in Withybrook, Warwickshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4543 / 52°27'15"N

Longitude: -1.3611 / 1°21'39"W

OS Eastings: 443512.31605

OS Northings: 284234.238621

OS Grid: SP435842

Mapcode National: GBR 7N4.4PF

Mapcode Global: VHCT9.CK9V

Entry Name: Medieval settlement at Withybrook

Scheduled Date: 7 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016849

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30068

County: Warwickshire

Civil Parish: Withybrook

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Warwickshire

Church of England Parish: Withybrook All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Coventry

Details

The monument includes the earthwork, buried and standing remains of the
medieval settlement and non conformist chapel at Withybrook, within four areas
of protection and located largely to the north west of the stream on rising
ground in and around the streets and buildings of the existing village.

Withybrook has undergone considerable alterations throughout history. Its
original nucleus may have lain 500m to the south west in the now abandoned
settlement of Hopsford, which is the subject of a separate scheduling.
Withybrook is not recorded as a separate settlement until the 12th century,
although it is possible that its lands were included in the Domesday
assessment of Monks Kirby. The parish church, All Saints, had been built by
the 12th century and was originally a chapel of Monks Kirby. A mill and mill
pool are recorded between 1188 and 1191 and again in 1229, before being
conveyed to Sir John Spencer in 1594. Coombe Abbey also held land and a
fishpond in the village during the 12th century. By 1327 there were at least
14 households, and by the early 17th century Withybrook was responsible for
two-thirds of the taxes payable by the parish. The hearth tax suggests that 33
households were located in the village at this time. An estate map of 1748
records a network of small enclosures around the village, and the tithe award
map of 1844 refers to the moat next to the church. The earthwork remains
reflect this changing development of the settlement.

The first area of protection includes the remains of the moated site lying
immediately to the west of the church, the fishponds and mill site lying to
the south and east of the church, and the remains of medieval house sites and
gardens lying to the north of the church as well as the cemetery and remains
of the demolished chapel to the south of Overstone Road.

The moated site is sub-rectangular, measuring approximately 50m east to west
by 87m north to south. The island measures approximately 30m by 25m, and the
moat survives as a shallow ditch measuring approximately 8m wide and up to 1m
deep. Although the moat is largely dry, it is subject to periodic flooding and
remains waterlogged in its south western angle. A spring located to the north
east of the moat probably supplied water to the moat. The remains of a shallow
leat survive leading towards the spring from the north eastern angle of the
moat. To the north of the moat, located on rising ground a building platform
measuring approximately 40m by 30m is defined on its west, north and east by
shallow hollow ways measuring up to 1m deep and 6m wide. The platform is
defined on its southern side by a low earthen bank and the northern arm of the
moat. It is believed to include the remains of ancillary buildings associated
with the moated site.

Further upslope to the north of the church and the moated site are the
remains of the medieval settlement including a number of building platforms
and gardens sites, (tofts and crofts), arranged in an irregular grid, defined
by shallow ditches or hollow ways measuring up to 2m deep. These acted both
as boundaries and communication routes between the house sites.

The remains of a large complex of fishponds and mill ponds and associated
water management features are located along the brook. These include a large
earthen dam, orientated north to south across the western end of the valley.
The height of the dam varies between 1.5m and 4m and measures up to 12m wide.
The mill is located adjacent to the stream which defines its north eastern
side. The two remaining sides of the triangular building platform are defined
by wet ditches or leats. At least two additional building platforms are
located on the higher ground to either side of the stream and a number of
hollow ways lead towards the stream.

The non-conformist chapel, laterly occupied by the Congregationalist church,
was located to the south east of Overstone Road. It was constructed in the
early 19th century and demolished in the 1980s. The chapel burial ground
includes the remains of a substantial part of the population of the village
and approximately 40 burial monuments and the foundations of the chapel are
visible.

The second area of protection is located to the north west of Withybrook Hall
Farm and includes at least three additional toft and croft sites aligned along
the main street, defined by hollow ways measuring and up to 1.5m deep. The
third area of protection lies to the west of Main Street, its westernmost half
includes a sample of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains, orientated
north west to south east. In the easternmost part of the area are a number of
enclosures defined by hollow ways and ditches measuring up to 1m deep and 2.5m
wide, and believed to be stock enclosures.

The fourth area of protection, located between Overstone Road and Main Street,
includes the remains of the village pinfold which was located in the angle
between the two roads. Also included is a further house site defined by a
large square building platform cut into the rising ground measuring
approximately 30m by 30m and approached by a deep hollow way measuring up to
2m deep and 3m wide leading towards Overstone Road.

All modern paths and surfaces and modern post and wire fences are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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.

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 survive also as
visible remains as well as below ground deposits. In the central province of
England, villages were the most distinctive aspect of rural life, and their
archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding
about the rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman
Conquest.

The medieval settlement at Withybrook survives well, in several places without
any major recent disturbance, and preserves good earthwork and buried remains
of a variety of settlement features such as the toft and croft sites, the
moated site and fishponds and mill. A number of documentary sources, dating
from the Domesday Survey to the post-medieval periods provide information
about the size and manorial history of the settlement. These documents combine
with the physical remains to provide an outline of the development of the
settlement, which would form the basis of any detailed research into the site.

The earthwork and buried remains will preserve artefactual and other evidence
which will illuminate the development of the village. The buried remains of a
range of buildings of different status and from different periods will provide
information about the relative wealth and activities of members of the
community as well as changing methods and forms of housing and building
techniques. Ridge and furrow cultivation remains and environmental evidence
will illustrate the development of the technologies of agriculture and
changing patterns of subsistence. Artefactual evidence will add to our
knowledge of the development and technologies of every day items.

In addition, the low lying waterlogged area around the brook is expected to
preserve organic deposits such as pollen grains, seeds and beetle remains
which will provide environmental evidence, which will illuminate the natural
environment and climate locally in the periods between the height of expansion
and the collapse of the population. This will allow consideration of the
causes of changes in population in the Midlands during the 12th to 15th
centuries.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Hooke, D, Early Settlements on the East Warwickshire Watershed, (1976), 106-112
Mytum, H, 'Annaul report' in Moated Site At Withybrook, , Vol. 13, (1986), 18
Other
Various SMR officers, Various unpublished note in SMR, including plans and maps

Source: Historic England

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