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Swaythorpe medieval settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Kilham, East Riding of Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.1066 / 54°6'23"N

Longitude: -0.4139 / 0°24'50"W

OS Eastings: 503795.233738

OS Northings: 469021.953194

OS Grid: TA037690

Mapcode National: GBR TNKY.5N

Mapcode Global: WHGCZ.M13M

Entry Name: Swaythorpe medieval settlement

Scheduled Date: 29 October 1954

Last Amended: 14 December 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017067

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32637

County: East Riding of Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Kilham

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Riding of Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Kilham All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes buried and earthwork remains of the medieval village of
Swaythorpe and the surrounding ridge and furrow which forms the surviving part
of its open field system. It is located on the north side of the modern
Swaythorpe farm complex.
The area of Swaythorpe is believed to have a long history of settlement. Crop
marks visible from aerial photographs to the north west of the monument are
thought to be related to prehistoric settlement remains. In 1998
archaeological work outside the area of the monument to the south of the
modern farm buildings, uncovered evidence of 3rd to 4th AD century Romano-
British occupation. The first documentary evidence of the village is the
Domesday Book of 1087 which recorded that Swaythorpe was held by Forni in 1066
when it included arable land sufficient for nine plough teams. Domesday goes
on to record that after the Norman Conquest it was held by Odo Arblaster, who
is thought to have been William the Conqueror's most important military
technician. By 1115-1118 Arblaster's lands in Lincolnshire are known to have
passed to Amfrey de Chauncy and this transfer probably included Swaythorpe,
because in 1356 overlordship of the settlement passed from Thomas Chauncy to
William of Melton who added it to his manor of Kilham. In 1170 a small grant
of land in the settlement was made to St Peter's Hospital in York, with a
further small grant being made by 1210. By the end of the 13th century,
Swaythorpe is thought to have been a small and impoverished settlement. It was
combined with Octon 1km to the north west for tax purposes in the Lay Subsidy
of 1297 and the surviving tax records show that there were only four people
with assets in excess of 9 shillings in the two settlements at that time. The
Lay Subsidy of 1334 paints a similar picture, but Swaythorpe did, however,
support its own chapel, mentioned in 1348 as being dedicated to St Leonard.
The Poll Tax of 1377 which listed all people over the age of 14, no matter how
poor, only listed 48 people for Swaythorpe and Octon combined, compared to an
average of 75 per settlement in the surrounding area. Although it is not known
when the settlement became depopulated, it is thought that it was in terminal
decline by this time. There is no reference to the chapel after 1388 and two
waste tenements were detailed in 1421. On his death in 1481, Sir Walter
Griffith held a small area of land in Swaythorpe as part of the Burton Agnes
Estate. His descendants acquired more land in the township over the following
140 years and in 1621 the area was described as `a sheep pasture called
In the early 1960s a local archaeological society excavated a 3m by 15m trench
within the village earthworks and uncovered two sections of chalk block
walling bonded with gravel and marl. Staxton Ware pottery dated to 1250-1350
and a number of iron objects were also uncovered associated with the walls and
adjacent floor surfaces.
The medieval village is believed to have been centred on a circular pond known
as Hemp Dyke which lies at a `T' junction between two streets, now seen as
hollow ways, in the southern part of the monument. The main street appears to
lie north-south, heading towards Octon to the north and Tog Dale and thence to
Kilham to the south, with the second street running westwards. Plots divided
by boundary banks front onto both of these hollow ways. These are known as
tofts and include the earthworks of building platforms for houses,
outbuildings and other structures. Immediately to the east of the pond,
dominating the centre of the village, there is a large enclosure just over 50m
square containing four substantial building platforms, with earthworks
standing up to 1m high, which is interpreted as the site of a manor house. The
smaller plots immediately to the north and south are considered to be annexes
to this enclosure as they lack evidence of building platforms. They were
possibly used for gardening or to contain livestock. The next enclosure to the
north has only a 20m wide frontage onto the main street. Its western half has
three small building platforms arranged around a central courtyard area. To
the rear of these, in the eastern part of the toft and linked to the main
street by a narrow trackway, there is a circular mound 15m in diameter which
is thought to have been the site of a windmill. To the north there are two
further tofts, both about 30m wide with single house platforms adjacent to the
main street. The earthworks of these house platforms are typical examples of
medieval peasant long houses. These were single storey two roomed buildings
with human habitation at one end and livestock housed at the other end. Facing
these two tofts across the street to the west there is a higher status toft,
40m wide and extending 80m westwards. It includes three building platforms in
the eastern part of the toft with the substantial earthwork remains of a
structure 8m across in the north western corner. This toft is thought to have
been laid out a bit later than most of the village because it is not part of a
row of tofts and appears to overlie a section of ridge and furrow. To the
north of the tofts on the eastern side of the street, beyond the modern fence
line, there is another circular pond known as Chapel Well. Between this and
the line of the main street, there is a raised area 20m east-west and 5m
north-south standing about 0.2m above the surrounding ground surface. This has
been identified as the remains of St Lawrence's Chapel and, along with the
area of its surrounding yard, is included in the scheduling. Further tofts lie
either side of the hollow way that runs west from Hemp Dyke. On its north side
there are seven tofts, each about 20m wide and extending 80m northwards,
typically with a single building platform for a long house on the street
frontage. The earthworks of the easternmost four of these tofts are very
subtle and it is considered that these were abandoned early, either to form a
village green or possibly an annex to the large toft immediately to the north.
On the south side of the western street there are five more tofts, the far,
southern ends of which have been disturbed by later land use and which lie
outside of the scheduling. The easternmost three tofts are 15m to 20m wide and
appear similar in nature to those to the north. The western pair of tofts have
40m wide frontages and retain the earthworks of a number of buildings. The
eastern of these two plots is similar to the small courtyard farmsteads
thought to have developed in the later 15th century, and it may thus have been
one of the last to have been abandoned. There is some evidence from aerial
photographs that these two tofts, together with the western three tofts to the
north of the hollow way, overlie ridge and furrow and were thus a later
addition to the village layout. It is thought that the medieval village
extended a short distance beyond the southern boundary of the monument,
probably with a handful of tofts fronting onto the main street. These remains
have been subsequently overlain by the buildings forming the modern farm or
reduced in height by changes in land use.
The aerial photographs also show that Swaythorpe was originally surrounded by
ridge and furrow, two areas of which, to the east and west of the village
earthworks, survive as upstanding earthworks. These areas are included in the
scheduling. The ridge and furrow to the east is orientated east-west and is
cut by the modern lane to the farm. It is also overlain by the earthworks of a
small 20m square enclosure which lies alongside the lane and which may have
been a later stock pen. On the west side of the village there are parts of
three furlongs, or sets, of ridge and furrow. One set orientated east-west,
extended 180m to the west of the main street to the north of the tofts
fronting onto the western street. This was partly overlain by the large toft
on the western side of the main street. The second furlong extended south from
the first and appears to have been cut by the western street and, as noted
above, may have been overlain by later tofts. The western three strips to the
north of the street are intensively pock marked by small quarrying hollows and
spoil heaps. This is thought to be the result of medieval quarrying for chalk
blocks to provide foundation material for buildings in the village. The third
furlong is also orientated north-south and lies immediately to the west. The
ridge and furrow here is narrower than the rest, being typically 10m between
ridges rather than 13m-15m. Parts are also pockmarked by quarrying, some of
which may have been to supply the post-medieval limekilns just beyond the
western edge of the monument.
All fence posts 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 last 1500 years or more.
The Yorkshire Wolds local region is a soft, rolling, chalk landscape with deep
valleys. Dispersed farmsteads, usually impressive creations of the late 18th
and 19th centuries, are present in small numbers. The earlier pattern of
medieval nucleated settlements - villages and hamlets - still dominates the
archaeological landscape as either deserted settlement sites or sites still
occupied by rural communities.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, generally sited at
the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land,
meadow and woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but where 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 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.
Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on
large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were divided 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 the resultant `ridge and furrow' where it survives, is
the most obvious physical indication of the open field system. Individual
strips were laid out in groups known as furlongs defined by terminal headlands
at the plough turning points and lateral grass baulks. 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.
The earthworks of medieval Swaythorpe and associated ridge and furrow are very
well preserved and include a wide range of identifiable features that rarely
survive together. The monument retains good evidence of the complex changes
that beset this small Wolds settlement. The earthworks indicate good survival
of buried remains, including rubbish pits, building foundations and floor
levels. Together with the documentary evidence, the archaeological remains
will provide a valuable insight into medieval rural life.

Source: Historic England


Record forms, Sites and Monuments Record, 4013, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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