Ancient Monuments

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West Backworth medieval settlement, 300m south east of West Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Valley, North Tyneside

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Latitude: 55.0436 / 55°2'36"N

Longitude: -1.5428 / 1°32'34"W

OS Eastings: 429311.509325

OS Northings: 572217.445616

OS Grid: NZ293722

Mapcode National: GBR KBN3.ST

Mapcode Global: WHC3D.8HKC

Entry Name: West Backworth medieval settlement, 300m south east of West Farm

Scheduled Date: 24 September 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016974

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32067

County: North Tyneside

Electoral Ward/Division: Valley

Built-Up Area: Backworth

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Tyne and Wear

Church of England Parish: Earsdon and Backworth

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of West Backworth medieval village, 300m
south east of West Farm, Backworth. The monument includes both medieval
earthwork and below ground remains and the remains of post-medieval activity
which overlie them in places. The surviving medieval remains include two rows
of allotments (or crofts) aligned east-west along a hollow way. The hollow way
bisects the field in which the monument is situated.
The eastern section of the hollow way is 16m wide and 1.5m deep and leads to a
post-medieval dammed pond. The section of the hollow way to the west of the
pond is identified from aerial photographs and is the same width as the
eastern section. The building platforms (or tofts) lying within the crofts
are visible as level ground, which in the eastern half of the field is 1m-2m
above the level of the hollow way. A further building platform in the south
east corner of the field is 1m above the level of the other building platforms
and 12m long by 8m wide. An unrecorded excavation 20m south east of the pond
has exposed surviving stonework in the north west corner of a 40m by 50m
The predominant post-medieval feature is the 5m wide ridge and furrow
cultivation, which is orientated north-south and overlies all the medieval
features. Post-dating this cultivation is the pond and causewayed track. The
pond is approximately 10m in diameter and has been formed by the construction
of a dam on its north side. The dam consists of an earthern bank 0.5m high by
5m wide and contains material of post-medieval date. The other post-
cultivation feature is the causewayed trackway extending along the western
half of the southern edge of the field. This trackway is 0.5m high and 4m
The earliest reference to the existence of both West and East Backworth was in
AD 1189. In 1241 the two villages comprised a single manor which was granted
to Tynemouth Priory. In the subsidy of 1296 the two villages were assessed
separately, West Backworth providing four taxpayers. The manor was devasted by
Scots raiding in 1323. During the 15th century all the freeholds of both
villages were extinguished, the lands went out of cultivation, and were
subsequently divided into ten husbandlands. By the 16th century West Backworth
was deserted and its site was incorporated into the field system of East
Backworth which now forms the present day village.
The electricity pylons are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them 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 last 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the Wear-Tweed sub-Province of the Central Province, an
area long characterised, except for the western margins, by nucleated
settlements both surviving and deserted. Variations within the sub-Province
reflect land ownership as well as terrain: on some estates in Northumberland
there was much dispersal of farmsteads and consequent village and hamlet
depopulation after the Middle Ages, whereas Durham saw greater stability
because of ecclesiastical control. An overlay of mining settlements adds
complexity to the coalfield areas.
The North east Coalfield local region is characterised by extremely high
densities of settlements. Large numbers of mining and other industrial
villages and towns were established in the 18th and 19th centuries within the
earlier rural settlement pattern of medieval farmsteads, halls and planned

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 central province of England, villages were
the most distinctive aspect of medieval life, and their archaeological remains
are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the
five or more centuries following the Norman conquest.
West Backworth medieval village is well preserved and the best example of an
abandoned medieval village in Tyne and Wear. The wet conditions and the
evidence of the unrecorded excavation indicate that significant information on
the form and history of the village will be preserved beneath the present
ground surface. The overlying ridge and furrow cultivation illustrates the
abandonment of the village and its subsequent incorporation into the field
system of the surviving Backworth village. The ridge and furrow cultivation is
interesting and unusual as an example of open field agriculture laid out in or
after the 15th century.

Source: Historic England


Wrathmell, S, Deserted and Shrunken Villages in Southern Northumberland, 1975, PhD thesis

Source: Historic England

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