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Old Sulby medieval settlement

A Scheduled Monument in Sulby, Northamptonshire

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Latitude: 52.4279 / 52°25'40"N

Longitude: -1.0381 / 1°2'17"W

OS Eastings: 465499.045842

OS Northings: 281531.845547

OS Grid: SP654815

Mapcode National: GBR 9RF.ND0

Mapcode Global: VHCTN.Y7KN

Entry Name: Old Sulby medieval settlement

Scheduled Date: 26 July 1967

Last Amended: 14 December 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017187

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30073

County: Northamptonshire

Civil Parish: Sulby

Traditional County: Northamptonshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northamptonshire

Church of England Parish: Welford St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Peterborough


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the known extent of
the medieval settlement of Old Sulby. The remains are sited upon land sloping
gently to the south east towards a tributary of the River Avon.
The village name is first recorded in the Domesday survey, with a population
of 13 householders. By 1215 the settlement had been acquired by Sulby Abbey,
and it is later recorded in documents of 1316 and 1334. In 1377, 89 adults
paid the poll tax. By 1428, however, there were less than ten households in
the village, and by the time of the Dissolution, the abbey had large areas
under pasture in the parish, including a close known as Old Sulby. By 1547,
2000 sheep were being grazed in the area, and by the late 17th century only
five householders paid the hearth tax. It is believed that the village itself
was abandoned between 1377 and 1428 and was replaced by a number of scattered
farmsteads. A church dedicated to St Botolph is recorded in the village,
although it was said to have been ruinous long before 1451, and the remainder
was destroyed at the Dissolution.
The earthwork remains of the settlement survive up to 0.75m in height and
include a broad hollow way measuring over 1m deep which crosses the site from
north to south. On either side of the hollow way are the remains of several
earthen building platforms set within embanked enclosures, which represent the
house enclosures (or tofts) and garden sites (crofts) of the settlement.
Behind the house sites are the remains of long enclosures, as wide as the
houses and approximately 60m long. These acted as the allotments for the
householders, and are best preserved on the eastern side of the hollow way at
its southern end. Later medieval ridge and furrow cultivation remains partly
or wholly overlie the majority of the settlement remains suggesting that once
the village was abandoned the fields were used for arable cultivation. At its
southern end the hollow way leads to the river.
A second hollow way crosses the centre of the settlement remains and is
orientated east to west. This second hollow way also has house and garden
remains irregularly arranged along either side. At the point where the two
hollow ways meet is a large sub-rectangular enclosure raised at least 1.5m
above the surrounding ground level, and defined by ditches measuring up to 2m
deep. It is orientated east to west and measures over 40m by 35m. This may
represent the location of the chapel or church recorded in documents. The
settlement remains at Sulby formerly extended further to the south west, and
survive as a scatter of pottery, including sherds of 12th to 14th century
date, and artefacts in the plough soil. A 50m wide sample of these remains is
included in the scheduling.
All modern 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.

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 rural life in the
five or more centuries following the Norman Conquest.
Old Sulby medieval settlement survives as an area of well defined earthworks
and buried features in which evidence for the nature of the settlement will be
The tofts and crofts will contain buried evidence for houses, barns and other
structures, accompanied by a range of boundaries, refuse pits, wells and
drainage channels, all related to the development of the settlement. Buried
artefacts, in association with the buildings will provide insights into the
lifestyle of the inhabitants and assist in dating the development of the
settlement over time. Environmental evidence may also be preserved,
illustrating the economy of the hamlet and providing further information about
its agricultural regime. The church and associated cemetery will preserve
buried human remains which will provide information about the population of
the settlement including their diet, standard of living and life expectancy,
as well as providing information about funerary practices and rituals.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
RCHME, , 'County of Northamptonshire' in Sulby settlement remains, , Vol. iii, (1981), 184-5

Source: Historic England

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