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Manorial settlement, fishponds and field system, 200m south west of Layton House

A Scheduled Monument in Sedgefield, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.6362 / 54°38'10"N

Longitude: -1.4171 / 1°25'1"W

OS Eastings: 437722.868558

OS Northings: 526943.955912

OS Grid: NZ377269

Mapcode National: GBR LGKT.0T

Mapcode Global: WHD6J.6QGN

Entry Name: Manorial settlement, fishponds and field system, 200m south west of Layton House

Scheduled Date: 8 January 1969

Last Amended: 7 June 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019532

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32731

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Sedgefield

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Upper Skerne

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument includes the remains of parts of a manorial settlement, a series
of fishponds and a field system of medieval date situated on a level site
immediately south of the A177 dual carriageway. The monument, which was part
of the more extensive medieval manor of Layton, has been identified as the
site of a manor house held by the Amundevill Family in 1348. In 1608 when a
survey of the manor of Layton was undertaken, the field containing the
monument was labelled `Hye Garths'.
The manorial settlement is visible as the remains of a polygonal shaped
enclosure, lying in the middle of the monument centred on NZ 3770 2690. It is
44m east to west by 60m north to south, within a ditch 6m wide and 1.2m deep
on the north and west sides, and slight banks and scarps on the other sides.
Within the enclosure there are the remains of a series of rectangular
features, including at least four raised platforms interpreted as the sites of
buildings. A further rectangular platform situated immediately east of the
enclosure is thought to be the site of another building.
The manorial settlement has been superimposed upon an earlier, larger
rectangular enclosure, the second of a series of four, interpreted as part of
a field system associated with the medieval settlement of Layton; this
settlement lay to the north of the manorial earthworks near the site of the
present farm. At the northern end of this earlier enclosure there are the
partial remains of a series of at least three rectangular hollows interpreted
as fishponds; the widening of the A177 in 1978 removed parts of two of the
fishponds and that which remains intact measures 26m by 13m; partial
excavation of this area during the roadworks identified the remains of part of
a fishpond. Botanical information and medieval pottery were collected from the
deposits and the pottery indicated that the pond was last in use during the
late 14th and 15th century. A further fishpond, visible as a rectangular
hollow 20m by 10m, is situated some 50m west of the manorial settlement.
Bounding the manorial settlement on the east there are the prominent remains
of parts of two hollow ways. Further to the east there are parts of two of the
earlier enclosures; both were truncated by the A177 widening; partial
excavation of the areas affected revealed evidence for medieval or post-
medieval cultivation within them. The more westerly of the two enclosures
contains the remains of slight scarps and hollows, while that to the east
contains a series of rectangular scarps and platforms interpreted as the site
of further buildings and paddocks associated with the manorial settlement; an
area in the south western part of this enclosure has been affected by
limestone quarrying.
To the west of the manorial complex lies the fourth of the earlier enclosures;
it contains the slight remains of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation.
Immediately to the north west, there is part of the formerly more extensive
open field system, which was truncated on the north by road widening. The
remains of broad ridge and furrow cultivation 6.3m wide and standing to 0.4m
high between furrows 2m wide is clearly visible.
The fences surrounding the small enclosure on the north side of the monument
and the telegraph poles which cross the monument are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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 past 1500 years or more.
The East Durham Plateau local region is a limestone upland partly covered by
glacial clays. The upper part of the plateau was almost devoid of settlement
until the creation of the late 19th century mining communities, but ancient
villages occupy the varied soils of the western sub-Provincial boundary, and
can be found along the north-south routes just inland from the coast. Towards
the southern edge and the Tees Valley, there has been significant settlement

Medieval manorial settlements, comprising small groups of houses with
associated gardens, yards and paddock, supported communities devoted primarily
to agriculture, and acted as the foci for manorial administration. Although
the sites of many of these settlements have been occupied continuously down to
the present day, many others declined in size or were abandoned at some time
during the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly during the 14th
and 15th centuries. The reasons for desertion were varied but often reflected
declining economic viability, changes in landuse such as enclosure or
emparkment, or population fluctuations as a result of widespread epidemics
such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their abandonment, these
settlements are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain
well-preserved archaeological deposits, providing information on the diversity
of medieval settlement patterns and farming economy, and on the structure and
changing fortunes of manorial communities.
A fishpond is an artificially created pool of slow moving freshwater
constructed for the cultivating, breeding and storing of fish to provide a
constant and sustainable supply of food. They may be dug into the ground,
embanked above ground level or formed by placing a dam across a narrow valley.
Groups of up to 12 ponds variously arranged in a single line or in a cluster
and joined by leats have been recorded. The tradition for constructing and
using fishponds in England began during the medieval period and peaked in the
12th century. They were largely built by the wealthy sectors of society, with
monastic institutions and royal residences often having large and complex
fishponds. The practice of constructing fishponds declined after the
Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. Most fishponds fell out of
use in the post-medieval period, although some were reused as ornamental
features in 19th and 20th century landscape parks or gardens. Fishponds are
widely scattered through England and extend into Scotland and Wales. Although
approximately 2000 examples are recorded nationally, this is thought to be
only a small proportion of those in existence in medieval times. Despite being
relatively common, fishponds are important for their associations with other
classes of medieval monuments and in providing evidence of site economy.
Medieval villages were supported by a communal system of agriculture based on
large, unenclosed open arable fields. These large fields were divided into
strips 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. 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 manorial settlement 200m south west of Layton House is reasonably well
preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. Taken together with
the fishponds and the remains of adjacent field system, it will add to our
understanding of the diversity of medieval rural settlement in the region.
Excavation would provide information on the relationship of the settlement to
the surrounding and underlying enclosures.

Source: Historic England


1:2500, Topping, P, Durham SAM Project: Layton DMV, (1991)
NZ32NE 02,

Source: Historic England

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