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Medieval village and field system remains immediately east of Haycroft

A Scheduled Monument in Spurstow, Cheshire East

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.1102 / 53°6'36"N

Longitude: -2.6658 / 2°39'57"W

OS Eastings: 355523.848754

OS Northings: 357206.311462

OS Grid: SJ555572

Mapcode National: GBR 7M.80Z1

Mapcode Global: WH9B2.02TZ

Entry Name: Medieval village and field system remains immediately east of Haycroft

Scheduled Date: 15 February 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018821

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30388

County: Cheshire East

Civil Parish: Spurstow

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cheshire

Church of England Parish: Bunbury St Boniface

Church of England Diocese: Chester

Details

The monument includes the earthwork remains of a medieval settlement which lie
to the east of Haycroft farm. The remains appear to be concentrated to the
north east and south west of a former watercourse which ran down a shallow
valley to the north west of the present village of Spurstow. These remains
were probably part of the village of Spurstow which has shrunk or slightly
relocated in the post-medieval period. The village mentioned in the Domesday
survey was an important parish for the production of salt as well as a saline
spa in the 18th century.
The earthworks include the platforms for about six houses with adjoining
enclosures. A raised feature running north-south across the settlement is a
causeway which has been built up in more recent times to provide dry access.
It follows the line of a former field boundary. Each house platform is between
25m and 40m square with a ditch 2m wide to define it. Each of these platforms
would have been occupied by one or more medieval buildings . The settlement
may have fronted the present lane running south east from the farm. This was a
former route from Ridley Green to Beeston Moss and Beeston Castle. There are
traces of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation in the northern part of the
site and these run up to but not into the area of house platforms. The ridge
and furrow is interpreted as the remains of the field system associated with
the medieval village.

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 past 1500 years or more.
This monument lies in the Cheshire Plain sub-Province of the Northern and
Western Province, a gently rolling plain of red marl covered by ice-carried
clays, sands and gravels. It is diversified by occasional sandstone
escarpments, notably the Central Cheshire Ridge east of the Dee valley. It has
lower densities of nucleated settlements than surrounding areas, and high
concentrations of dispersed farmsteads and small hamlets. In the Wirral and
the lower Dee and Weaver valleys, the settlement mix is different, with low
and medium densities of dispersed farmsteads intermixed with more frequent
villages. Domesday Book records a thin scatter of settlement in the Wirral,
the Dee lowlands and the central and southern plain in 1086, with much
woodland.

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 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 system of communal 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 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 remains of the abandoned part of the village of Spurstow together with a
small part of the associated ridge and furrow cultivation to the north of the
site offer an important insight into the structure of a medieval settlement.
The outlines of house tofts and their associated enclosures can be traced on
aerial photographs and the earthworks will reveal important evidence for the
life and work of a farming community during the later medieval period.
Waterlogged deposits may survive in the lower-lying ground and these will
contain further information in the form of organic material, particularly
plant remains, which can further our knowledge of the farming practices.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Morgan, P, Domesday Book, Cheshire, (1978)
Williams, S, West Cheshire from the Air, (1997), 55

Source: Historic England

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