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Lacra Old Kirk medieval dispersed settlement and associated lynchets 800m and 830m NNE of Bankfield House

A Scheduled Monument in Whicham, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.2218 / 54°13'18"N

Longitude: -3.3083 / 3°18'29"W

OS Eastings: 314792.8753

OS Northings: 481466.6805

OS Grid: SD147814

Mapcode National: GBR 5MBM.KC

Mapcode Global: WH722.44WT

Entry Name: Lacra Old Kirk medieval dispersed settlement and associated lynchets 800m and 830m NNE of Bankfield House

Scheduled Date: 25 October 1972

Last Amended: 24 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021188

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35026

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Whicham

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Whicham St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Lacra Old Kirk
medieval dispersed settlement and three associated lynchets located on the
hillside 800m and 830m NNE of Bankfield House. It is divided into two
separate areas of protection, one of which includes a sub-rectangular
enclosure containing two conjoined building platforms, the other of which
contains the three lynchets. The sub-rectangular enclosure is bounded by a
stone and earth bank on its north west and part of its north east sides,
while elsewhere modern stone walls are considered to mark the position of
the enclosure's original boundary. The conjoined building platforms lie in
the eastern part of the enclosure and measure 50m by 22m overall with an
external scarp up to 1.2m high. A lowering of this scarp on the north west
side of one of the building platforms suggests the position of an
entrance. The interiors of both platforms are covered by a series of
turf-covered stony banks which appear to have been partly robbed, possibly
to provide material for the nearby modern walls. Elsewhere within the
enclosure there are traces of ridge and furrow ploughing between the
enclosure bank and the building platforms. This ploughing respects the
north eastern arm of the enclosure bank. About 100m to the east are three
curving terraces interpreted as medieval strip lynchets which would have
been used for agricultural purposes.

All modern field boundaries 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.
This monument lies in the Lancashire Lowlands sub-Province of the Northern and
Western Province, an area extending from the moorlands of the western Pennines
to the coastal plain with its villages and hamlets. The southern part of the
sub-Province supports high densities of dispersed settlements, but there are
much lower densities further north, in the Craven Lowlands, the Ribble Valley
and the areas around Morecambe Bay. In the Middle Ages the larger, lowland
settlements were supported by `core' arable lands, communally cultivated, with
enclosed fields around them. The uplands contained sheep and cattle farms and
seasonally occupied `shieling' settlements.

Extending beyond the strict bounds of Lancashire this southern sector of
Cumbria has lost the high mountains of the Lake District. Framed by a
series of strong ridges, trending north to south, the valleys of the
Duddon, Crake, Leven and Kent, result in rolling valley landscapes where
countrysides are lower, more kindly, and with more wood than further
north. These give way, often with startling speed, to the rough pastures
of silted estuaries and the marginal sands of the shallow seas. The
scatter of towns and villages is probably largely post-Norman, imposed by
conquerors over earlier levels of scattered farmsteads and hamlets. As
late as the year 685 it was possible for the monks of Lindisfarne to
receive a grant of `Cartmel, with all the Britons belonging to it',
emphasising the Celtic roots of the cultural landscapes of this region.

In some areas of medieval England settlement was dispersed across the
landscape rather than nucleated into villages. Such dispersed settlement
in an area, usually a township or parish, is defined by a lack of a single
(or principal) nucleated settlement focus such as a village and the
presence instead of small settlement units (small hamlets or farmsteads)
spread across the area. These small settlements usually have a degree of
interconnection with their close neighbours, for example, in relation to
shared common land or road systems. Dispersed settlements varied
enormously from region to region, but where they survive as earthworks
their distinguishing features include roads and other minor tracks,
platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns,
enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. In areas where stone was used
for building, the outlines of building foundations may still be clearly
visible. Communal areas of the settlement frequently include features such
as bakehouses, pinfolds and ponds. Areas of dispersed medieval settlement
are found in both the South Eastern Province and the Northern and Western
Province of England. They are found in upland and also in some lowland
areas. Where found their archaeological remains are one of the most
important sources for understanding about rural life in the five or more
centuries following the Norman Conquest.

Lynchets are a feature of the agricultural landscape caused by ploughing
and are found along the edges of a field or are located along the contours
within the field unit. Field boundaries, such as banks or walls, become
enlarged and overlain by hillwash material loosened by the cultivation
process, which builds up against them under the action of gravity. This
accumulation of earth is known as a positive lynchet. A corresponding
erosion from the downslope side of the boundary forms a negative lynchet.
Together the positive and negative lynchets form a terrace or a series of
terraces on a hillside and thus provide distinctive traces of medieval and
earlier agricultural activity. Medieval lynchets can be recognised in the
long rectangular fields, the so-called strip lynchets, laid out on sloping
terrain in post-Roman and medieval times.

Despite some stone robbing, Lacra Old Kirk medieval dispersed settlement
800m and 830m NNE of Bankfield House survives reasonably well. It is a
good example of this class of monument and is a rare example in north west
England of a medieval dispersed settlement which still exhibits good
survival of an associated series of strip lynchets.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Eccleston, J, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Old Ser.' in Ancient Remains At Lacra And Kirksanton, (1874), 279-80
Survey Report. ID No. 37320, RCHME, Old Kirk, (1999)
Survey Report. ID No. 37320, RCHME, Old Kirk, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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