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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 223
Date assigned Thursday, February 25, 1971
Date last amended Thursday, January 21, 1999


REASONS FOR DESIGNATION 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 last 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the West Midland Plateau sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, which is marked by a series of low plateaux and escarpments, often with rather sandy soils, and great clay vales containing alluvial and gravel terraces. Still well wooded in 1086, the area embraced forests such as Kinver, Feckenham, Cannock and Arden. Compared with the land to the east, the area had significantly lower numbers of nucleations and, with the exception of the Severn valley, carried a mixture of medium to very high densities of dispersed settlement. This included diverse hamlets, common-edge scatters of small farms and cottages, and isolated larger farmsteads, generally moated, many being of medieval foundation. The Upper Trent and Dove local region is marked by varied terrain. The alluvial tracts and terraces of the Trent and Dove mask a core clay lowland, with Needwood Forest forming the watershed, while to the north and south are the rising lands of Cannock Chase and the southern Pennines. It has low densities of nucleated settlement, and medium and high densities of dispersed settlement. Placenames indicate much woodland in the early Middle Ages. 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 include the parish church within their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages include 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 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 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 or walls of subsequent field enclosure. A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship in the pre-Reformation period. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and were generally divided into two main parts, the nave and the chancel. Around 4000 parochial chapels were built between the 12th and 17th centuries. Chapels have always been major features of the landscape. A significant number of surviving examples are identified as being nationally important. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they are often left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about the nature and date of their use up to their abandonment. The earthwork and buried remains of the abandoned medieval settlement of Alkmonton are particularly well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. The earthworks, aerial photographs and documentary evidence provide a clear picture of the village layout and how it fitted within the wider agricultural landscape. Taken as a whole the medieval settlement of Alkmonton will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the development of medieval settlement in the area. DETAILS The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of the abandoned areas of Alkmonton medieval settlement, including the site of the chapel and a section of the associated open field system. The site is situated on naturally undulating ground on a south west facing slope, overlooking Alkmonton Old Hall Farm. Alkmonton is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it is recorded that `Alchementune' was held under Henry de Ferieres, had land for two ploughs, 12 acres of meadow and woodland for pannage. At the time of Domesday it was worth a total of 40 shillings. In 1334 the tax quota for the village was substantial, indicating that the village was as large as any of its neighbours. In the reign of Edward I the manor was held by the family of Bakepuz and later by the Blount family. In 1474 Walter Blount (Lord Mountjoy) bequeathed lands to the ancient hospital of St Leonard, situated between Alkmonton and Bentley, for the maintenance of seven poor men over the age of 55. The pensioners were to have pasture for seven cows in Barton Park, fuel from some of Lord Mountjoys' manors and a gown and hood every third year. Lord Mountjoy also directed that a chapel should be built at Alkmonton, dedicated to St Nicholas and that the master of the hospital should say mass in it yearly, on the festival of St Nicholas. The hospital was abolished during the Reformation in 1547. The monument survives as a series of well preserved earthworks and buried remains. The settlement is arranged around a green from which four sunken trackways radiate. The green lies in the southern corner of the area of protection and extends to the north west and the north east. The exact shape of the green is difficult to determine because the present farm buildings and a trackway overlie its southern side. A sunken trackway joins the green at its north west corner and then runs west for approximately 80m before turning to the north west. Here it appears to follow the modern road (Leapley Lane) which is itself sunken. After approximately 110m the medieval sunken track turns to the north east and runs along the northern boundary of the area of protection where it terminates in an area of ridge and furrow cultivation. This trackway is interpreted as a `back lane' which would have provided access to the fields. The trackway encloses a terraced platform which measures approximately 25m by 50m and survives to a height of approximately 0.5m. This is believed to be the site of the medieval chapel. Cropmarks visible from aerial photographs indicate the position of a long, narrow building on this platform. In 1844 a font was found close to this area and is now in St Johns Church, Alkmonton. A second, larger terraced platform lies to the north of the chapel and is bounded on its northern edge by the lane. This is sub-rectangular in shape and measures approximately 50m by 60m. Further cropmarks indicate the position of structures on this platform. Two more sunken trackways meet the green on its northern edge. Both of these run roughly north to south and are clearly defined by old hedgerows on each side. The northern ends of both of these trackways terminate at the edge of ridge and furrow. Abutting the trackways on each side are a number of sub- rectangular enclosures of varying dimensions which are defined by low banks and ditches. At the north end of the westernmost trackway is a smaller rectangular feature which measures approximately 10m by 10m and is defined by low banks. This is interpreted as the site of a medieval building or croft. The low banks, defining the building, are the remains of walls. The fourth sunken trackway meets the green at its eastern end. This trackway runs roughly north west to south east and is bounded on both sides and at its northern end by a number of sub-rectangular enclosures. Within these enclosures the sites of further building platforms are indicated but these are more difficult to define on the ground. This series of enclosures is bounded on its eastern side by a narrow and steep gully which runs from the northern boundary of the monument to a small depression in the field to the south of the area of protection. The gully is the remains of a former stream and the depression, that of a former pond. The pond is now dry and full of building rubble and other farm debris. A number of terraced enclosures containing evidence of building platforms are situated to the east of the stream gully but evidence of post-medieval quarrying has distorted the layout of these. Two deep channels which survive up to a depth of approximately 1.5m join the stream gully on each side. These run east to west and would have provided drainage channels for the enclosures on each side of the stream. The village remains are surrounded on the north and east by the well preserved remains of part of the open field system. The surviving remains are visible as parts of four medieval furlongs (groups of lands or cultivation strips) marked by headlands. The cultivation strips collectively form ridge and furrow which is curved in the shape of an elongated reverse `S'. This shape developed over the years from the need to swing the plough team out at the end of a strip to enable it to turn and to continue ploughing in the opposite direction. The field remains survive to a height of 0.5m. All modern fences, water and feeding troughs and farm machinery are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included. SELECTED SOURCES Book Reference - Author: Beresford, M - Title: Lost Villages of England - Date: 1954 - Page References: 346 - Type: DESC TEXT Book Reference - Author: Hartley, F - Title: Alkmonton DMV - Date: 1994 - Type: AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH - Description: Leics. SMR 94.04.04 SK 195 375 Book Reference - Author: Hartley, F - Title: Alkmonton DMV - Date: 1994 - Type: AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH - Description: Leics. SMR 94.04.04 SK 195 375 Book Reference - Author: Lysons, D. and Lysons, S - Title: Magna Britannia; a concise topographical account of several coun - Date: 1817 - Page References: 200-201 - Type: DESC TEXT Book Reference - Author: Lysons, D. and Lysons, S. - Title: Magna Britannia; a concise topographical account of several coun - Date: 1817 - Page References: 200-201 - Type: DESC TEXT Article Reference - Author: Auden, Rev. A. M. - Title: Barton Blount and the Civil War - Date: 1921 - Journal Title: Derbyshire Archaeological Journal - Volume: Vol 43 - Page References: 1-18 - Type: DESC TEXT

External Links (1)

Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1971. Scheduling Notification: Medieval settlement, including site of chapel and part of the open field system, immediately north east of Alkmonton Old Hall Farm. List entry no. 1018617. SM Cat. No. 223.



Grid reference Centred SK 1937 3761 (473m by 407m)
Map sheet SK13NE

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Record last edited

Aug 27 2013 2:12PM

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