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South Middleton medieval village and open field system

A Scheduled Monument in Wallington Demesne, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.1509 / 55°9'3"N

Longitude: -1.9125 / 1°54'45"W

OS Eastings: 405670.556811

OS Northings: 584061.847297

OS Grid: NZ056840

Mapcode National: GBR H82W.QC

Mapcode Global: WHB1H.LSGN

Entry Name: South Middleton medieval village and open field system

Scheduled Date: 18 January 1966

Last Amended: 29 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017738

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28558

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Wallington Demesne

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Hartburn with Meldon

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle

Details

The monument includes the abandoned remains of the medieval village of South
Middleton and part of its surviving open field system, situated on the right
bank of the River Wansbeck. It is divided into two separate areas of
protection. The village was first recorded in documents dating to the 13th
century when it is known that the manor of South Middleton was part of the
Lordship of Bolbec. The manor passed to the Fenwick family in 1609, by which
time the population of the village had fallen. Subsequent documents record a
continual fall in the population and by 1762 the village was totally
deserted. Its three surviving farms were dispersed to other parts of the
estate. The medieval plan of the village is a type well known in this part of
Northumberland in which two parallel lines of houses face onto a broad
rectangular village green with narrow crofts or garden areas to the rear. This
type of village in northern England is thought to be the result of deliberate
planning by Norman rulers attempting to exert control over a rebellious region
during the 11th and 12th centuries.
At Middleton, the south row of the village is well preserved and there are the
remains of at least 12 enclosures or tofts defined by low banks standing up to
0.3m high. Within the majority of the tofts the prominent remains of a raised
rectangular platform are visible, marking the foundations of at least one
medieval timber long house. To the rear of each toft, there are the well
defined remains of a linear croft or garden area, each bounded from its
neighbour by a bank on average 0.4m high. The crofts are bounded at their
southern ends by a prominent earthen bank which runs the whole length of the
village; the bank served to divide the crofts from the surrounding open
fields. The south row of the village fronts onto a broad, rectangular open
space interpreted as the former village green which contains the fragmentary
remains of slight earthen banks and hollows.
A second line of tofts is visible some 80m to 90m north of, and parallel with
the first line of tofts, also fronting onto the village green. This row is
visible as a series of at least seven rectangular enclosures interpreted as
long houses. This street line is thought to be a secondary feature as there
are the remains of an earlier row of houses lying between it and the south
row. The earlier line of houses, interpreted as the original north row of the
village, is visible as the remains of at least three rectangular long houses
with a series of long crofts to their rear. The long crofts are bounded at
their northern ends by a continuous earthen perimeter bank, similar to that at
the rear of the south row; this bank similarly separated the crofts from the
surrounding village fields. At the eastern end of the monument there is a
large, complete medieval furlong or field with its headlands intact and to the
north, south and west there are parts of several other furlongs and their
headlands. All of the medieval furlongs contain the well preserved remains of
ridge and furrow cultivation which on average measures 0.6m between furrows
and stands to a maximum height of 0.4m.
The two stone sheep shelters, all fences which cross the monument and all
bridges are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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 Northumbrian Plain local region is an extensive, undulating lowland. Its
landscape bears many signs of agrarian improvement and reconstruction in the
18th and 19th centuries, including rectangular fields and post-medieval
dispersed farmsteads. The earthworks of deserted and shrunken village
settlements and the ridge and furrow of former arable townfields indicate the
pattern of medieval, `pre-improvement' agrarian and settlement structures.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre
of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow or
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. As part of the manorial system most villages include
one or more manorial centres which may also survive as village 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 subdivided 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 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. It is usually now
covered by the hedges and walls of subsequent field enclosure.
The medieval village of South Middleton is well preserved and retains
significant archaeological deposits. The village is a good example of its type
and the identification of an earlier street line enhances its importance.
Taken together with the remains of its open field system it will add greatly
to our knowledge and understanding of the development of medieval settlement
in the region.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Other
McCord N, G/014294/31, (1961)
NZ08SE 23,

Source: Historic England

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