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Medieval settlement and open field system at Old Wingate

A Scheduled Monument in Wheatley Hill, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.7318 / 54°43'54"N

Longitude: -1.4185 / 1°25'6"W

OS Eastings: 437541.248525

OS Northings: 537580.055504

OS Grid: NZ375375

Mapcode National: GBR LFJQ.PK

Mapcode Global: WHD64.5BRC

Entry Name: Medieval settlement and open field system at Old Wingate

Scheduled Date: 7 August 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019912

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34578

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Wheatley Hill

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Wheatley Hill

Church of England Diocese: Durham


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Old Wingate
medieval village, together with part of its associated medieval open field
system. Old Wingate lies on the magnesian limestone plateau of East Durham.
The settlement remains in occupation today and the area of protection includes
those parts which were abandoned as it contracted to its present size, but
which are still evident today. The plan of the medieval settlement of Old
Wingate is of a type familiar to this part of County Durham in which parallel
lines of tofts or houses with crofts or garden areas to the rear face on to a
village green. The green extends east-west through the field to the south of
the present farm. Beyond the tofts and crofts would lie the communal open
fields where the crops were grown. The crofts and tofts at Old Wingate survive
as visible earthworks up to 0.4m high, and have little obvious consistency in
plot width. In places the stone footings of the buildings within the tofts
remain visible. These tofts are arranged either side of a central green,
measuring 12m wide. To the west of the settlement is a large curvilinear bank
that separates the village from the ridge and furrow of the open fields
beyond. The three ridges immediately to the west of the bank measure 8m wide,
beyond this the ridges are uniformly 4m wide. Little is known about the
history of this village.
All fencing and the electricity pylons are excluded from the scheduling
although the ground beneath them 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 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
trackways, platforms on which houses stood and other buildings such as barns,
enclosed crofts and small 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 distinct 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 balks. 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 hedges or walls of subsequent field enclosure.
The medieval village at Old Wingate is well-preserved and retains significant
archaeological deposits. The village is a good example of its type which,
taken together with the remains of its open field system, will add greatly to
our knowledge of medieval settlement in the region.

Source: Historic England

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