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Scargill fortified house, medieval settlement and associated field system

A Scheduled Monument in Scargill, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.4911 / 54°29'28"N

Longitude: -1.9212 / 1°55'16"W

OS Eastings: 405203.975896

OS Northings: 510644.735214

OS Grid: NZ052106

Mapcode National: GBR HJ0H.WT

Mapcode Global: WHB4S.GCDW

Entry Name: Scargill fortified house, medieval settlement and associated field system

Scheduled Date: 24 May 1951

Last Amended: 6 October 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017320

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32730

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Scargill

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Barningham St Michael and All Angels

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


The monument includes the remains of a fortified house, a settlement and part
of a field system of medieval date, situated in the fields surrounding Castle
Farm and Scargill Farm. The monument is divided into four separate areas of
protection. The fortified house is a Listed Building Grade II*. The medieval
chapel, 350m east of the monument, is the subject of a separate scheduling.
The fortified house and its attached enclosure, which are contained within the
first area of protection, stand among modern farm buildings 50m south east of
Castle Farm. The house was constructed during the 13th century and partially
rebuilt during the 15th century. It was the seat of the Scargill family and it
is thought that Edward II was entertained at the house during a visit to
Scargill in 1323. The most obvious surviving ruin is the gatehouse, standing
to full height with the remains of four adjacent ranges placed around a main
courtyard lying to its east. An outer courtyard is attached to the south side
of the south range. The gatehouse, constructed of large squared sandstone
blocks, is a roughly square building measuring 9m across. It stands three
storeys high, and retains part of a tiled roof. There are arched entrances
through the east and west walls, now partially blocked, which lead into an
entrance passageway; the roof of this passage is supported by three medieval
moulded wooden beams. A doorway opens from the northern wall of the entrance
passageway and leads into a spiral stair turret from which a semicircular
stairwell gives access to the upper storeys of the gatehouse. There are
rectangular windows through the east and west walls of the gatehouse at first
floor level and a fireplace in the south wall. On the second floor there are
also rectangular windows in the east and west walls. Part of an original
chimney projects from the south side of the gatehouse at first floor level.
The gatehouse gave access to a rectangular courtyard, now used as the farmyard
for the present farm. On all four sides of the courtyard there are the remains
of rectangular ranges of buildings; the ranges are visible as lengths of
walling standing from about six courses high to more than 20 courses high;
other parts of the ranges are not visible above ground level but they survive
below the ground as buried foundations. The western wall of the west range,
from which the gatehouse projects, survives above ground level for its full
length; it is visible as a fragment of wall running north from the gatehouse,
and as a length of wall, 11m long standing to its original height of about 26
courses, extending south from the gatehouse. The latter section also contains
a square headed window. At its southern end, this length of wall has been
reduced to its lower courses by stone robbing and it clearly runs southwards
beyond the south wall of the courtyard. The north, east and south walls of
this range are considered to survive below the present surface of the ground
as buried features. The south range of the fortified house survives largely
below ground level as buried foundations, with the exception of a length of
its north wall. There are the remains of a square-headed doorway, now blocked,
in this section of wall. The east range of the fortified house survives
largely as buried lower courses; those forming its east wall were visible
until the mid-1980s when they were buried beneath the concrete of the present
farmyard. The southern part of the west wall, and the south end wall of this
range, stand to about 20 courses high; the jambs of a doorway are visible in
the latter. The south eastern corner of this range also survives as a standing
structure, as does a short length of the east wall at the south and north
ends. The medieval wall at the south end contains the lower parts of a pair of
door jambs interpreted as a doorway which once gave access to further
structures immediately east of the east range; the visible foundations of a
wall in this area are interpreted as part of an associated structure; however,
the position and full extent of these buildings is not yet understood and
further remains may survive beyond the area of protection. The length of
medieval wall at the north end of this range contains the lower part of a
fireplace 3.5m wide, suggesting that the ground floor of the east range may
have contained the kitchen. The foundations of the north range of the
fortified house are considered to survive as buried features beneath a range
of later buildings, the latter set slightly further south than their
A level platform 44m by 38m attached to the south side of the fortified house
is interpreted as an outer courtyard. It is defined by the foundations of a
stone wall at the north and east sides and by a slight scarp on the south and
west. A rectilinear enclosure, slightly hollowed, 20m wide and 70m long
extends from the outer courtyard to the south west. The enclosure is defined
by stony banks 2m wide standing up to 1m high; a low bank 0.4m high divides
the enclosure into two compartments. Immediately east of this enclosure there
are the remains of part of a medieval field system visible as broad rig and
furrow 5.0m wide and 0.3m high.
The remains of part of a dispersed medieval settlement are visible as a line
of three discrete groups of earthworks situated to the west of the fortified
house. The first and most northerly part of the settlement, which is contained
within the second area of protection, lies 150m north west of the fortified
house, in the field immediately west of Castle Farm. This part of the
settlement is visible as the foundations of a group of rectangular buildings
and associated yards and enclosures, standing on average up to 0.5m high. One
of the buildings, interpreted as a long house, measures 10m by 6m wide and is
divided into two separate rooms; it has a rectangular enclosure immediately to
its south. Immediately to the north of the enclosures there is a length of
ditch 6m wide and 1m deep flanked by an earthen bank on the west side 1.5m
high and up to 5m wide. The ditch and bank terminate in an oval depression
containing standing water. This feature is interpreted as a pond with an
associated overflow channel. To the east of it there are traces of further
scarps and low banks up to 0.4m high which represent further remains of the
The second part of the settlement is situated in the field immediately west of
Scargill Farm and is contained within the third area of protection. It is
visible as the foundations of a line of rectangular enclosures standing to a
maximum height of 0.5m, thought to represent the remains of at least two
buildings. A circular feature, 2m in diameter, attached to the south side of
the most easterly building is interpreted as an oven.
The third, and most southerly, part of the settlement, contained within the
fourth area of protection, is situated on a raised plateau immediately north
of Scargill Farm. Here, the remains of the settlement are visible as a series
of rectangular enclosures defined by low banks and scarps 0.5m high. Part of
an associated field system is visible at the monument. An area of broad ridge
and furrow cultivation, situated in the field immediately south of the
fortified house, contains ridges orientated north to south which are 6m wide
and stand 0.3m high. A further part of the field system is visible in the
field immediately west of Scargill Farm, south of part of the settlement. Here
it is visible as ridge and furrow cultivation orientated north to south and
defined by two prominent hollow ways; the ridges are 9m wide and 0.3m high.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all gates and
gate posts, stone field walls, fences and telegraph poles, all modern walls on
the line of, or which cross over, the buried foundations of the original
ranges of the fortified house, the range of buildings on the north side of the
courtyard, the two modern stone sheds situated in the north west corner of the
courtyard and between the south and the east range of the fortified house, the
concrete floor of the courtyard, the metal animal pens and all feeding
troughs; however, the ground beneath all these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most
powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic
and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic
additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military
aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with
individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture
often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification
varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers,
gunports and crenellated parapets.
Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic
and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later
houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often
receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some
fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables,
brew houses, granaries and barns were located.
Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between
the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as
the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I
and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further
back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland
areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses
which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with
fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant
surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

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
evolved gradually during the past 1500 years or more.
The Craven Block local region, including the Askrigg block, encompasses the
high moorland south of Stainmore. Away from the `specialist nucleations' of
post-medieval date (the clusters of houses associated with mining and the
railways), dispersed settlement includes both seasonal and permanent
farmsteads, as well as specialist sheep and cattle ranches. The latter were
normally outlying dependencies of larger settlements or estate centres located
in adjacent regions. In these upland environments, dating settlements can be
In some areas of medieval England, settlement was dispersed across the
landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement in an
area, usually a township or parish, is defined by the lack of a single
nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the presence instead of small
settlement units spread across the area. These small settlements normally have
a degree of interconnection with their close neighbours, for example, in
relation to shared common land or road systems. Dispersed settlements varied
enormously from region to region, but where they survive as earthworks their
distinguishing features include roads and other minor tracks, platforms on
which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and
small enclosed paddocks. In areas where stone was used for building, the
outline of building foundations may still be clearly visible. Communal areas
of the settlement frequently include features such as bakehouses, pinfolds and
ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement are found in both the South
Eastern and Northern and Western Provinces of England. They are found in
upland and also some lowland areas. Where found, 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.
A medieval irregular open field system is a collection of unenclosed open
arable fields. These large fields were subdivided into strips which were
allocated to individual tenants. The cultivation of these strips produced long
ridges, and the resultant `ridge and furrow' is the most obvious physical
indication of the open field system. Well preserved ridge and furrow,
especially in its original context adjacent to settlement earthworks, is both
an important source of information about medieval agrarian life and a
distinctive contribution to the character of the historic landscape.
Despite the loss of significant fabric, and the instability of that which does
survive, the fortified house at Scargill retains important evidence of its
original form. Those parts which have been levelled, and survive as buried
features, retain significant archaeological deposits which complete our
knowledge of the ground plan of the settlement. The associated dispersed
settlement is well preserved and a good example of its type which, taken
together with the sample of the surrounding field system, will add to our
knowledge of the diversity of medieval settlement in England.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ryder, J, Medieval Buildings of Yorkshire, (1982), 118-9
DSMR 1957,
NZ01SE 09,
RCHME, SAM Survey: Scargill Castle, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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