| MEDIEVAL (AD 1066 - 1540)
By the end
of the Anglo-Saxon period, England was under the rule of a
unified monarchy. This mixed Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian
state came to a sudden end in 1066, when the Normans invaded
England, defeated King Harold Godwinson at the Battle of
Hastings, and imposed their authority on the country.
Traditionally, the Norman Conquest begins the period known to
historians as the Middle Ages.
There is a wide range
of written sources available for this period. As far as the
Wolds is concerned, these documents include : the Domesday
survey of 1086, a wealth of monastic records, and manorial
records for individual settlements (largely unpublished; held
in national and county record offices).
commonest type of settlement in the medieval countryside was
the village. The settlement pattern of medieval England was
built upon the roots of the past, but it also grew and evolved
with new additions to the landscape.
twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as population levels
expanded, new settlements were founded and existing ones grew
in size. However, this situation did not last. In the
fourteenth century, factors such as climatic deterioration
(and, in consequence, poor harvests) and the Black Death
resulted in a major population decline; consequently, many
settlements contracted in size or were abandoned altogether.
The settlement pattern of today is based more upon this
landscape than that of its earlier medieval precursors, which
would have presented a much more crowded and animated scene.
The archaeological investigation of medieval
settlement developed in the l940s as the use of documentary
evidence was supplemented by the study of the physical remains
themselves. Past studies of the medieval period had
concentrated on the grand ruins of the religious houses and
castles, with the general life of the majority of the common
people being ignored in favour of that of the privileged few.
However, with the publication of Beresford's Lost Villages of
England (1954), which effectively demonstrated that large
numbers of deserted settlements existed across the country, it
became clear that a great resource was there to be tapped.
Deserted villages provided an opportunity to
investigate settlements without the hindrance of later
accretions, which often cover or destroy much of the medieval
evidence. One problem with this approach, however, is that the
settlements investigated are those which, for one reason or
another, failed, and we are, therefore, not seeing settlements
which possessed the necessary functions to survive.
settlement pattern was not solely composed of villages. These
were a single unit iii a varied landscape of hamlets,
individual farmsteads, manor houses, market and urban centres,
castles, and religious foundations.
the Yorkshire Wolds during the medieval period was
concentrated on the most suitable agricultural soils. Two
settlement zones stand out:
(1) The Great Wold
Valley - villages such as Helperthorpe, Weaverthorpe,
Butterwick, Foxholes, Burton Flemming and Rudston.
Along the east-facing dip-slope of the Wolds, on what is known
as the clay-wold flank - villages such as Carnaby, Haisthorpe,
Thornholme, Burton Agnes, and Nafferton, all sited so as to
take advantage of both heavier and lighter agricultural soils.
The villages were surrounded by their arable lands,
but documentary evidence indicates that considerable areas of
the western Wolds, in particular, were dominated by extensive,
open, sheep pastures, as, indeed, they continued to be up to
the nineteenth century. At the same time, there is evidence
from the eastern Wolds of wheat replacing barley on the
The Yorkshire Wolds is rich in
medieval sites, and is particularly well-known for its
deserted villages, such as those at Wharram Percy and Cottam.
Much of the Wolds landscape was also formerly covered by
extensive earthworks - ridge and furrow - of the medieval open
field system of farming. This can still be traced on aerial
photographs, as cropmarks and soil stains, where modern
cultivation has resulted in its corrugated effect being