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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 134
Date assigned Wednesday, April 25, 1956
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. The earthwork and buried remains of the abandoned medieval settlement of Hungry Bentley are particularly well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. The remains provide a clear picture of the village layout and how it fitted into the wider agricultural landscape. Taken as a whole the medieval settlement of Hungry Bentley will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the development and demise of medieval settlement in the area. DETAILS The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of the abandoned medieval settlement of Hungry Bentley and part of the associated open field system. The site is situated to the east of Bentley Brook on a steep west facing slope and would have afforded commanding views both north and south along the valley. Hungry Bentley is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 where it is recorded that `Beneleie' belonged to Henry De Ferieres, had land enough for one plough and was worth 11 shillings. The manor was later owned by the Blounts, Lords Mountjoy and, at a later date, the Brownes. It is known that, at least by the late 16th century, there was a family of the name Bentley living in Bentley Hall. Edward Bentley of Hungry Bentley was tried at the Old Bailey on a charge of high treason and convicted in 1586. It is unclear why the settlement was deserted but the Black Death, a change from arable to pastoral agriculture and a deteriorating climate may all have been contributory factors. The monument survives as a series of earthworks and buried remains which are clearly visible on the surface. A principal feature of the settlement is a central sunken track which runs from east to west for approximately 170m before turning to the south and merging with a field hedge. The track is directly aligned with Bentley Hall, a moated hall which lies approximately 500m south of the area of protection. The eastern end of the sunken track is truncated by a shallow ditch. To the north and south of the track are a series of sub-rectangular enclosures of varying dimensions which are defined by low banks and ditches. On the northern side of the track and at its eastern end is a large rectangular enclosure or toft which measures approximately 100m by 35m. At the eastern end of this enclosure is a smaller rectangular feature which measures approximately 15m 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 created by the remains of walls. Approximately 5m to the west of the building is another low bank which runs parallel to it. This may indicate an annex to the building or a boundary separating the building from the rest of the enclosure. Internal features in the other enclosures to the north and south of the sunken track indicate the sites of at least five other building platforms but these are less clearly defined. At the western end of the settlement a further series of rectangular enclosures abut the sunken track. Again these are defined by low banks and ditches and are of varying sizes. Most contain ridge and furrow, or cultivation strips, which are contemporary with the settlement. A post medieval quarry and the remains of an associated road leading away to the north is evident at the northern edge of these enclosures. This activity has disturbed the medieval remains in this area. Two large, rectangular enclosures, measuring approximately 105m by 65m, lie at the extreme west end of the monument. These are slightly terraced into the natural slope. The northernmost of the two contains clearly defined ridge and furrow but the southernmost is remarkable for its featureless interior. This enclosure was probably used for the grazing of animals. To the south west of Bentley Fields Farm, in what was the Old Orchard, a further four, banked enclosures containing ridge and furrow are evident but these have been degraded by post-medieval ploughing. Ridge and furrow, which is the collective name for cultivation strips, are the remains of the open field system of agriculture and are generally 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. Furlongs, or groups of cultivation strips are marked by banks known as headlands which run at right angles to the strips themselves. All modern fencing is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. SELECTED SOURCES Book Reference - Author: (ed) Page, W - Title: The Victoria Histories of the Counties of England Derbyshire - Date: 1905 - Volume: one - Page References: 339 - Type: DESC TEXT Book Reference - Author: Lysons, D and Lysons, S - Title: Magna Britannia; a concise topological account of several counts - Date: 1817 - Page References: 201-202 - Type: DESC TEXT

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1956. Scheduling Notification: Medieval settlement, including open field system, immediately west of Bentley Fields Farm. List entry no. 1018618. SM Cat. No. 134.



Grid reference Centred SK 1787 3862 (446m by 229m)
Map sheet SK13NE

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Record last edited

Sep 26 2013 9:39AM

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