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Manorial site west of St Gile's Church and medieval settlement west of Manor Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Blaston, Leicestershire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.551 / 52°33'3"N

Longitude: -0.8163 / 0°48'58"W

OS Eastings: 480354.841049

OS Northings: 295456.526792

OS Grid: SP803954

Mapcode National: GBR CT0.4FF

Mapcode Global: VHDQN.S4SQ

Entry Name: Manorial site west of St Gile's Church and medieval settlement west of Manor Farm

Scheduled Date: 16 November 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018351

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30240

County: Leicestershire

Civil Parish: Blaston

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Six Saints circa Holt

Church of England Diocese: Leicester

Details

The monument consists of a medieval manorial complex and associated early
settlement remains at Blaston within two separate areas of protection. The
first area is located immediately west of St Gile's Church on the western edge
of the village. The second area is immediately west of Manor Farm in the
centre of the village.

In the Domesday survey of 1086 Blaston was described as consisting of two
lordships held by Robert de Todeni under three different tenures. The eastern
and western halves of the village, and presumably the manors, were
subsequently divided between the parishes of St Giles and St Michael which
were based upon the two chapels founded within the village in the late 12th
century. The presence of two such chapels in close proximity suggests a
settlement of some wealth in the medieval period. However, Blaston apparently
never achieved any great size, and by 1798 there were recorded as being only
12 houses within the village.

In the first area the remains take the form of a series of earthworks and
buried features of a manorial complex. An area of conjoining linear
depressions immediately west of St Gile's Church defining a rectangular area
approximately 20m by 30m are considered to represent the location of a
substantial structure, probably the manor house. In the centre of the northern
edge of the field containing the monument is a linear mound approximately 29m
in length, 8.4m wide and a maximum of 1.5m in height aligned on a north-south
axis. This is thought to represent the remains of a medieval rabbit warren.
Immediately to the east and running parallel with the mound are a series of up
to five low linear earthwork banks a maximum of 3.5m in width and 0.4m in
height. To the east of these are a further series of up to eight linear banks
on a similar axis. These are interpreted as garden remains associated with the
site of a house, possibly an orchard. A sub-circular depression a maximum of
23m in diameter and 1m in depth in the centre of the field represents a pond.
A further rectilinear depression a maximum of 46m in length, 24m in width and
1m in depth which runs parallel with the northern bank of the river is also a
pond, probably for rearing fish. A small linear depression at the south
western corner of the larger pond is thought to be a water channel or leat
feeding into the river, as is a broad roughly `T'-shaped linear depression
linking the north eastern corner of the larger pond to the south western side
of the smaller pond. An earlier course of the river is indicated by a scarp
running parallel with the southern edge of the larger pond. A series of
trackways believed to be contemporary with the other earthwork remains survive
as shallow curvilinear depressions up to 60m in length and 6m in width in the
north western corner of the field.

In 1193 the lordship of Blaston was granted to Hugo de Nevill by Richard I,
the Nevills retaining manorial rights in the parish of St Giles until at
least 1565. Documentary sources in the form of an entry in the Lincoln
Bishop's Register dated to 1311 suggest that the earthworks represent the site
of the manor house owned by the Nevill family. Specific mention is also made
of an adjacent orchard. An engraving dated 1792 clearly shows a structure, now
no longer extant, in close proximity to St Giles and this is thought to have
represented the surviving remains of an originally much larger building. The
hall itself was probably largely demolished by Ralph de Notingham in around
1359. A document of 1798 makes reference to the chaplain of St Giles having
used masonry from the `old hall-house' for his new parsonage.

The remains of St Michael's Chapel lie in the second area of protection 400m
east of the manorial complex. St Michael's Chapel, a Grade II Listed Building,
is built of ashlar stone with walls approximately 10m in length, 6m in width
and surviving to a maximum height of 3m at the eastern end. A trackway
surviving as a linear depression running parallel with the eastern boundary of
the field provided access to St Michael's. The chapel was founded between 1188
and 1189 in the reign of Richard I as a chapelry of Hallaton. A series of
settlement remains surviving as earthworks immediately north west of the
chapel are considered to represent areas of abandonment caused by the
contraction of the village. A linear bank up to 4m in width and a maximum of
0.5m in height bisects the field in which the monument is situated and runs
for approximately 120m on a NNW-SSE axis. This is interpreted as a field track
or raised causeway, subsequently used as a field boundary. In the north
western and north eastern corners of the field several contiguous linear banks
define a series of rectangular enclosures representing medieval building
platforms, boundaries and raised trackways. In the north western corner of the
field parallel linear banks up to 30m in length orientated on an WSW-ENE axis
overlie and run perpendicular to an area of medieval cultivation in the form
of ridge and furrow.

All trackways, fences and feeding troughs are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath them 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.
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 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 such as barns, enclosed crofts and
small enclosed paddocks. They frequently include the parish church within
their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages include one
or more manorial centres. 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, open arable fields. These large fields were divided into strips which
were allocated to individual tenants. The cultivation of these strips with
heavy ploughs produced long, wide ridges and the resultant `ridge and furrow'
where it survives is the most obvious physical indication of the open field
system. 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 building of fishponds began in the medieval period and peaked in the 12th
century. The difficulty of obtaining fresh meat in winter and the value placed
on fish in terms of its protein content and as a status food may have been
factors which favoured the development of fishponds. The practice of
constructing such ponds declined after the 16th century. The main species of
fish kept were eel, tench, pickerel, bream, perch and roach. Most fishponds
were located close to villages, manors or monasteries. Archaeologically
fishponds are important in providing evidence of site economy.

A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of
rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and
skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren
construction dates from the 12th century, following the introduction of
rabbits into England from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number of
purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds. The mounds are usually
surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels or are situated on
sloping ground to facilitate drainage. Although relatively common, warrens are
important for their associations with other classes of monument, and like
fishponds, also provide evidence of site economy. All well preserved medieval
examples are considered worthy of protection.

The remains of the manorial site and other areas of abandoned medieval
settlement at Blaston survive particularly well in the form of a series of
substantial earthworks. Both areas have remained largely undisturbed with the
result that the preservation of buried deposits will also be good. As a result
of the survival of historical documentation relating to the site and
archaeological survey the remains are very well understood and provide a good
opportunity for understanding the economy, usage and decline of a manorial
site, its relationship to contemporary settlement, and the mechanisms
underlying abandonment in other areas of the village.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Malcolm, , Blaston St. Giles, S.E., (1792)
Nichols, J, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, (1798)
Malcolm, , 'The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester. Vol II' in The Chapel of Blaston St. Michael, (1792)
Other
Farnham, G.F., Leicestershire Medieval Village Notes, 1933,
Hartley, R F, (1982)
Leicestershire Museums Service, Site Summary Sheet: 89 NW.N,
Listing Report: SP 89 NW - 3/9,
RCHME, NMR Short Report: UID 346160,
Title: Map of Blaston St.Giles
Source Date: 1841
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: Map of Blaston St.Giles
Source Date: 1841
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Source: Historic England

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