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Latitude: 52.7167 / 52°43'0"N
Longitude: -0.7185 / 0°43'6"W
OS Eastings: 486657.409246
OS Northings: 313998.379818
OS Grid: SK866139
Mapcode National: GBR CR0.R4W
Mapcode Global: WHFK8.YZ05
Entry Name: Ashwell medieval settlement remains, watermill and gardens at Old Hall
Scheduled Date: 29 October 1999
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1017212
English Heritage Legacy ID: 30263
Civil Parish: Ashwell
Traditional County: Rutland
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Rutland
Church of England Parish: Ashwell St Mary
Church of England Diocese: Peterborough
The monument includes remains of part of the medieval settlement of Ashwell, a
watermill, millponds and gardens associated with the medieval manor house.
The remains are within two areas of protection situated approximately 80m
south west and 250m north east of the Old Hall. Part of the village of Ashwell
to the south remains inhabited.
The first area of protection 80m south west of the Old Hall includes the
remains of the manorial gardens laid out around a `U'-shaped moat which
represents the principal garden feature. The moat is up to 0.6m in depth and
measures a maximum of 50m east to west and 75m north to south. The southern
and western arms are up to 18m in width whilst the northern arm is 38m wide. A
leat linking the north western side of the moat to a stream running parallel
with the northern arm is defined by a narrow depression. The moated platform
measures 30m north-south and 35m east-west and is joined at its north eastern
corner by a raised causeway. A second rectangular platform immediately to the
south east contains evidence of structures in the form of low linear banks.
To the north, within the second area of protection, are an extensive series of
house platforms, short lengths of hollow ways and trackways, and agricultural
enclosures which are principally aligned on a NNE-SSW axis. The longest
section of hollow way is approximately 70m in length, 8m in width and passes
between two platforms, both of which have low mounds representing building
foundations, the bases of which are visible as short lengths of dressed stone.
A series of rectangular enclosures up to 90m in length and 25m in width
immediately north of the house platforms represent their associated gardens
and paddocks. Beyond the paddocks is an extensive area of medieval ridge and
furrow cultivation, comprising fields which are on at least two alignments and
have been cut by later ditches. Two adjoining rectangular millponds are
situated between the north western side of the enclosures and ridge and
furrow, and the southern side of the stream. Together, the ponds cover an area
approximately 350m by 85m, with their long axes running parallel to the
stream. The ponds are sub-divided about half way along their length by a dam
which survives as a low bank. They are embanked on their north western side
and cut into the natural slope on their south eastern side, whilst a series of
platforms at their north eastern end adjacent to a dog-leg in the stream
indicate the position of the watermill.
Documentary sources indicate that immediately prior to the Norman Conquest in
1066 the manor of Exewelle (Ashwell) was held by Earl Harold. By the time of
the Domesday Survey of 1086 the manor had passed to the Tuchet family in whose
ownership it remained until 1515. It is likely that the majority of
abandonment of the settlement took place prior to this time, largely because
of changes in agricultural practices.
All fences and the modern surfaces of all tracks and pathways 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
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 East Midlands sub-Province of the Central Province,
an area characterised in the Middle Ages by large numbers of nucleated
settlements. The sites of many of these settlements are now occupied by modern
villages, but others have been partially or wholly deserted and are marked by
earthwork remains. Most of these settlements were first documented in the 11th
century, in Domesday Book. The southern part of the sub-Province has greater
variety of settlement, with dispersed farmsteads and hamlets intermixed with
the villages. Whilst some of the dispersed settlements are post-medieval,
others may represent much older farming landscapes.
The Soar Valley and Nene Plateau local region comprises the low hill country
of the Soar Valley and, to the south east, a low plateau dissected by the
tributaries of the Nene and Welland. Nucleated villages and hamlets dominate
the region, but gaps are found within the pattern in Rockingham Forest, in
Rutland and in High Leicestershire where they are linked to the location of
woodland in and before the 11th century.
Medieval villages were the organised agricultural communities, sited at the
centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land,
meadow and woodland. Village plans vary enormously, but when they survive as
earthworks their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks,
platforms on which stood houses and other buildings, and small enclosed
paddocks. 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 or lands were laid out in groups known as furlongs, and 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.
A watermill uses the gravitational force of water to turn a paddled wheel, the
energy thus generated enabling the operation of varying kinds of machinery.
The waterwheel can be set directly into a stream, more usually however an
artificial channel or leat is diverted from the main watercourse and its flow
to the wheel regulated by sluices. Where the natural flow is inadequate, a
millpond may be constructed to increase the body of water (and thus the flow)
behind the wheel. By the time of the Domesday Survey an estimated 6000 mills
were in existence, and the number increased steadily over the next three
centuries. During the medieval period, mills, usually used for corn grinding,
were an important source of income to the lord of the manor who usually leased
the mill and its land to the miller. With the advent of steam power in the
18th century, water power eventually became obsolete. As a common feature of
the rural landscape, watermills played an important role in the development of
technology and economy. Many of those of particularly early date will merit
Ashwell medieval settlement remains and manorial garden, the mill and
millponds and the adjacent field systems at the Old Hall, survive particularly
well as a series of earthworks and buried deposits. Both areas of protection
have remained largely undisturbed since their abandonment with the result that
the survival of archaeological deposits relating to their occupation and use
is likely to be good. The deposits will contain information about the nature
and layout of the settlement. Waterlogging in the area of the moat and
millponds suggests a high potential for the survival of organic remains which
will provide an insight into the economy of the site, and the environment in
which it was constructed. Together with contemporary documents relating to
village, this will provide a good opportunity to understand the mechanisms
behind the development, decline and eventual abandonment of areas of the
Source: Historic England
Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Rutland: Volume II, (1935)
Hartley, R F, (1981)
Leicestershire County Council, SK 81 SE E,
RCHME, NAR Printout: SK 81 SE 8,
RCHME, NMR Printout: SK 81 SE 8,
Source: Historic England
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