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Medieval settlement, including open field system, immediately west of Bentley Fields Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Hungry Bentley, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 52.9449 / 52°56'41"N

Longitude: -1.7359 / 1°44'9"W

OS Eastings: 417844.332857

OS Northings: 338647.284428

OS Grid: SK178386

Mapcode National: GBR 49N.CYH

Mapcode Global: WHCFK.97MP

Entry Name: Medieval settlement, including open field system, immediately west of Bentley Fields Farm

Scheduled Date: 25 April 1956

Last Amended: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018618

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29935

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Hungry Bentley

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Alkmonton St John

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of the abandoned
medieval settlement of Hungry Bentley and part of the associated open field
system. The site is situated to the east of Bentley Brook on a steep west
facing slope and would have afforded commanding views both north and south
along the valley.
Hungry Bentley is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 where it is
recorded that `Beneleie' belonged to Henry De Ferieres, had land enough for
one plough and was worth 11 shillings. The manor was later owned by the
Blounts, Lords Mountjoy and, at a later date, the Brownes. It is known that,
at least by the late 16th century, there was a family of the name Bentley
living in Bentley Hall. Edward Bentley of Hungry Bentley was tried at the Old
Bailey on a charge of high treason and convicted in 1586.
It is unclear why the settlement was deserted but the Black Death, a change
from arable to pastoral agriculture and a deteriorating climate may all have
been contributory factors.
The monument survives as a series of earthworks and buried remains which are
clearly visible on the surface. A principal feature of the settlement is a
central sunken track which runs from east to west for approximately 170m
before turning to the south and merging with a field hedge. The track is
directly aligned with Bentley Hall, a moated hall which lies approximately
500m south of the area of protection.
The eastern end of the sunken track is truncated by a shallow ditch. To the
north and south of the track are a series of sub-rectangular enclosures of
varying dimensions which are defined by low banks and ditches. On the northern
side of the track and at its eastern end is a large rectangular enclosure or
toft which measures approximately 100m by 35m. At the eastern end of this
enclosure is a smaller rectangular feature which measures approximately 15m by
10m and is defined by low banks. This is interpreted as the site of a medieval
building or croft. The low banks defining the building are created by the
remains of walls. Approximately 5m to the west of the building is another low
bank which runs parallel to it. This may indicate an annex to the building or
a boundary separating the building from the rest of the enclosure. Internal
features in the other enclosures to the north and south of the sunken track
indicate the sites of at least five other building platforms but these are
less clearly defined.
At the western end of the settlement a further series of rectangular
enclosures abut the sunken track. Again these are defined by low banks and
ditches and are of varying sizes. Most contain ridge and furrow, or
cultivation strips, which are contemporary with the settlement. A post
medieval quarry and the remains of an associated road leading away to the
north is evident at the northern edge of these enclosures. This activity has
disturbed the medieval remains in this area.
Two large, rectangular enclosures, measuring approximately 105m by 65m, lie
at the extreme west end of the monument. These are slightly terraced into the
natural slope. The northernmost of the two contains clearly defined ridge and
furrow but the southernmost is remarkable for its featureless interior. This
enclosure was probably used for the grazing of animals.
To the south west of Bentley Fields Farm, in what was the Old Orchard, a
further four, banked enclosures containing ridge and furrow are evident but
these have been degraded by post-medieval ploughing.
Ridge and furrow, which is the collective name for cultivation strips, are the
remains of the open field system of agriculture and are generally curved in
the shape of an elongated reverse `S'. This shape developed over the years
from the need to swing the plough team out at the end of a strip to enable it
to turn and to continue ploughing in the opposite direction. Furlongs, or
groups of cultivation strips are marked by banks known as headlands which run
at right angles to the strips themselves.
All modern fencing is excluded from the scheduling, 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 West Midland Plateau sub-Province of the Northern
and Western Province, which is marked by a series of low plateaux and
escarpments, often with rather sandy soils, and great clay vales containing
alluvial and gravel terraces. Still well wooded in 1086, the area embraced
forests such as Kinver, Feckenham, Cannock and Arden. Compared with the land
to the east, the area had significantly lower numbers of nucleations and, with
the exception of the Severn valley, carried a mixture of medium to very high
densities of dispersed settlement. This included diverse hamlets, common-edge
scatters of small farms and cottages, and isolated larger farmsteads,
generally moated, many being of medieval foundation.
The Upper Trent and Dove local region is marked by varied terrain. The
alluvial tracts and terraces of the Trent and Dove mask a core clay lowland,
with Needwood Forest forming the watershed, while to the north and south are
the rising lands of Cannock Chase and the southern Pennines. It has low
densities of nucleated settlement, and medium and high densities of dispersed
settlement. Placenames indicate much woodland in the early Middle Ages.

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 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. They frequently include the parish church
within their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages
include 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 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 or walls of subsequent field enclosure.
The earthwork and buried remains of the abandoned medieval settlement of
Hungry Bentley are particularly well preserved and retain significant
archaeological deposits. The remains provide a clear picture of the village
layout and how it fitted into the wider agricultural landscape. Taken as a
whole the medieval settlement of Hungry Bentley will add greatly to our
knowledge and understanding of the development and demise of medieval
settlement in the area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Lysons, Reverend D, Lysons, S, Magna Britannia. A concise topographical account of several coun, (1817), 201-202
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Derbyshire, (1905), 339

Source: Historic England

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