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Womersley medieval settlement remains and Victorian ice house in Icehouse Park

A Scheduled Monument in Womersley, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.6654 / 53°39'55"N

Longitude: -1.2021 / 1°12'7"W

OS Eastings: 452816.62549

OS Northings: 419062.764188

OS Grid: SE528190

Mapcode National: GBR NV11.JS

Mapcode Global: WHDCG.H4SC

Entry Name: Womersley medieval settlement remains and Victorian ice house in Icehouse Park

Scheduled Date: 28 September 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017824

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30131

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Womersley

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Womersley St Martin

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of part of the medieval
village of Womersley, located within an area of parkland laid out in 1867 and
which also includes an ice house.
Womersley was recorded as Wilmeresleia in the Domesday Book of 1086 and lay in
the Wapentake of Osgoldcross (one of the medieval administrative districts
established by the Danes). Fourteen villagers, four smallholders, a church and
priest are also recorded, with the manor of Womersley valued at five pounds.
The area appears to have escaped William I's Harrying of the North, which
devastated much of Yorkshire in 1069-70, and in 1086 was one of the
possessions of Ilbert de Lacy. By the early 12th century it was in the hands
of Otes de Tilley, passing through marriage to the de Newmarch family in 1183.
In 1264 Womersley was granted to Richard Folyot. Womersley was a relatively
large medieval village with 85 people over the age of 14 recorded for the 1379
poll tax compared with an average of 46 for villages in the Wapentake. This
figure compares with 88 householders recorded for the 1672-3 hearth tax.
The core of the medieval village is thought to be centred around St Martin's
Church which is mainly 13th century in date, but contains earlier fragments,
and is located to the east of Icehouse Park. The modern village is now
effectively a ribbon development following the main road which makes a number
of sharp turns along its course. This demonstrates that the former street plan
was more complex and included a number of back lanes. The earthworks preserved
in Icehouse Park include one of these back lanes together with a row of tofts
(levelled areas for buildings) with their associated crofts (garden
enclosures). The lane curves as a hollow way up the hillside south westwards
from just south of where the modern road crosses Beck Bridge. It then runs
westwards as a narrow terrace cut into the hillside to curve back downhill to
ford Womersley Beck and leave the area of the scheduling at its western end.
The lane is believed to have rejoined the Pontefract Road at the later
entrance to the Victorian park, Pontefract Gate. Along the north, downhill
side of the lane, within the area of the scheduling, there are a number of
house platforms, typically approximately 10m across. These are set in a series
of about ten rectangular enclosures or crofts which extend between the lane
and the dried up formerly meandering course of Womersley Beck to the north.
The westernmost house platform is also the largest, being about 17m square,
with an additional 12m wide levelled area extending westwards. Where the lane
runs downhill towards Beck Bridge there are at least two further building
platforms on the south side of the lane. These also have associated croft
enclosures which extend uphill to a bank that runs from the easternmost corner
of Icehouse Park to just beyond where the lane forms a terrace along the
hillside. This is the boundary bank to the medieval open fields, which would
have originally surrounded the village. Beyond the western end of the bank,
the ridge and furrow of the open fields runs right up to the scarp above the
southern side of the lane. The ridge and furrow is broad (about 10-12m between
furrows), straight in plan and cut to the south by later field boundaries.
To the south of the lane, towards the western side of the monument there is
the substantial remains of the Victorian ice house which gives the field its
name. This is a mainly subterranean brick built structure covered by a low
mound of earth about 5m in diameter, sheltered by parkland trees. The entrance
way to the north has been infilled, but part of the entrance passage roof has
collapsed, allowing a view of the interior. Running obliquely downhill from
the ice house north easterly to Womersley Beck there is a straight, well-
graded trackway or sledge route.
Excluded from the scheduling is all modern fencing, although the ground
beneath 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.
This monument lies in the Pennine Slope sub-Province of the Central Province,
which embraces the varied scarp and vale topography flanking the higher
portions of the southern Pennines, where narrow escarpments of limestone and
sandstone and softer shale vales give a distinct north-south grain to the
landscape. Dispersed settlement increases from extremely low to medium
densities in the south east of the sub-Province to high densities at the north
west. With the exception of Sherwood Forest, the region is well stocked with
nucleated settlements, some old but others the result of 18th- and 19th-
century industrial developments. Anglo-Saxon `wood' names are common among
placenames, and the area was well wooded in 1086.
The Permian Limestone Ridge local region is an area of great diversity. A
long, narrow outcrop of limestone is cut by a succession of rivers and streams
flowing eastwards. There are wide contrasts in the amounts of both nucleated
and dispersed settlement. At the time of Domesday Book only the northern part
of the region contained recorded settlements, while the place-names of the
southern part indicate woodland in Anglo-Saxon times.

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 earthwork and buried remains within Icehouse Park are well preserved and
retain a range of features of the medieval settlement of Womersley. These will
include the foundations of small houses and other buildings, rubbish pits,
yard surfaces, and spreads of deposits such as smithing wastes which will add
to the understanding of medieval village life. The importance of the monument
is heightened by the surviving documentary references to the village, manor
and lords of Womersley.
Ice houses were built between the late 17th century and the early part of the
20th century to store ice throughout the year for domestic and medicinal
purposes, and sometimes to act as cold stores for game and other food. They
were typically part of the estates of large country houses and vary
considerably in design. They normally consisted of a chamber, usually at least
partially buried, with a north facing entrance. The chamber also usually had a
loading hatch at the top and a drain for waste water at the bottom.
Above-ground ice houses are also known and tended to be specially constructed
insulated buildings. Early supplies of ice were collected in the winter from
nearby ponds, but from the 19th century better quality ice became commercially
available as imports and from ice works. The ice house in Icehouse Park is a
fairly typical example of a small subterranean design.

Source: Historic England


Photo in pamphlet, The Wood Hall Moated Manor Project, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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