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Authority English Heritage
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 453
Date assigned Friday, July 2, 1999
Date last amended


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. Place names 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 areas of the medieval settlement of Lee by Bradbourne, immediately north and 240m south of Lea Cottage Farm, are well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. The earthworks, earthwork surveys and aerial photographs provide a clear picture of the village layout and how it fitted within the wider agricultural landscape. Taken as a whole, the medieval settlement remains of Lee by Bradbourne will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the development and decline of medieval settlement in the area. DETAILS The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of the abandoned areas of the medieval settlement of Lee by Bradbourne. The site is situated on a steep, east facing slope overlooking Bradbourne Brook and is in two separate areas of protection. The earliest documented occupation of the settlement dates to 1215 but with no tax returns registered after 1517 it would appear that it was abandoned by this time. The enclosure of land in the 15th and 16th centuries for sheep- farming may well have contributed to the depopulation of the settlement. On the whole there was very little abandonment of settlement in the Peak District at this time but in 1649 parliamentary surveyors did record that some villages or hamlets had gone. Although few settlements are named, it is possible that Lee by Bradbourne was a victim of this transition from arable to pastoral agriculture. The monument survives as a series of earthworks and buried remains to the south and west of Lea Hall, and to the north, north east and north west of Lea Cottage Farm. The earthworks indicate that the settlement was laid out in a linear design along a natural contour. Some terracing into the natural slope may have been carried out in order to provide flat surfaces on which to construct building platforms. A combination of earthwork surveys and aerial photographs provide a clear picture of the settlement layout and form. The settlement is situated on the eastern side of a sunken trackway which approaches the village from the north east but turns south to enter the village at its northern end. The trackway forms the main street through the village. The alignment of the trackway is marked by field boundary hedges. The trackway, which is approximately 10m wide and survives to a depth of up to 1m, continues south for approximately 300m and is crossed by Bent Lane, the present road leading from Tissington to Bradbourne. At the northern end of the village are two rectangular crofts or enclosures. Both lie to the east of the main village street but the sunken track turns to the east just north of the enclosures and so forms the northern boundary of the northernmost enclosure. The enclosures, aligned east to west, are defined by low banks and shallow ditches, and measure approximately 75m east to west. The northernmost is 35m wide and that to the south is 70m wide. Internal features indicate that the two enclosures were used for different purposes. In the northern enclosure the remains of ridge and furrow indicates its use for arable agriculture. In the southern enclosure is a rectangular earthwork measuring approximately 20m by 40m. Abutted to this on its northern side is a smaller feature which measures 10m by 10m. Both are slightly terraced into the slope, defined by low banks and interpreted as the sites of medieval buildings or tofts. The low banks represent the buried remains of walls. The presence of tofts within the enclosure indicates its use as a small holding. The buildings are partly separated from the western side of the croft by a wide gully which runs north to south across approximately two thirds of the enclosure. The gully, which is interpreted as another trackway, extends beyond the southern enclosure and continues south of Bent Lane for approximately 120m. At its southern end the trackway curves to the west and links with the main village street. To the south of Bent Lane the remains of a number of crofts and tofts are evident to the east of both trackways. The best preserved examples are situated to the east of the easternmost hollow way and are most clearly visible from aerial photographs. Here, a series of six crofts, some of which contain tofts, can be seen extending between Bent Lane and Lee Cottage Farm. The overall form of the tofts and crofts to the east of the main village street are less clearly defined but significant archaeological remains are easily identified on the ground as earthworks. To the south east of these settlement remains, and linked by a shallow ditch and low bank, is a large rectangular enclosure. This measures approximately 100m by 150m, and is defined on its south western, south eastern and north eastern sides by a bank which survives to a height of approximately 0.5m, and on its north western side by a similar bank and shallow ditch. In the south east corner of the enclosure is a sunken rectangular feature which measures approximately 20m by 12m. This is linked to a number of narrow gullies situated both to the north and south of the feature. One of the gullies leads from the southern corner of the sunken area in the direction of Bradbourne Brook but the overall layout of the gully network is difficult to define. The sunken feature is interpreted as a fishpond, and the gullies part of the water management system which supported it. Further settlement remains lie to the south and south west of Lea Hall. Originally the medieval settlement would have extended between the two areas of protection but those remains in the area of the farm complex will have been obscured by later developments. In the area to the south and south west of Lea Hall two very distinct crofts are separated by a steep slope. In the south east corner of the eastern croft are the remains of a building platform. There is evidence to suggest that more platforms lie to the north of this platform, although the earthworks are not as clearly defined. A track, which is believed to be a packhorse track, runs roughly north to south through the whole settlement. To the north of Lea Cottage Farm part of the track continues to be used, and is marked on the Ordnance Survey map as the main access route to both Lea Cottage and Lea Hall Farms. To the south of Lea Hall the grass covered track is not marked on the map, but it runs in a south easterly direction through the monument and continues for at least 500m beyond the edge of the scheduling. The rubble remains of a bridge mark its crossing point over the river. Although not marked on the map this section of the track is defined on the ground as a public right of way. To the north east, north west and south of Lee Cottage Farm, and surrounding the medieval settlement remains on all but the steepest slopes, are the well preserved remains of part of the medieval open field system. The surviving remains are visible as parts of six 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, feeding troughs and road surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included. SELECTED SOURCES Book Reference - Author: Beresford, M. - Title: The Lost Villages of England - Date: 1954 - Page References: 346 - Type: DESC TEXT Book Reference - Author: Cameron K - Title: The Place Names of Derbyshire - Date: 1959 - Page References: 386 - Type: DESC TEXT - Description: part II Book Reference - Author: Page W - Title: The Victoria History of the County of Derby - Date: 1907 - Volume: 2 - Page References: 175 - Type: DESC TEXT Article Reference - Title: Lee by Bradbourne medieval settlement - Date: 1985 - Type: AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH - Description: D. Riley 2395/38, 40, 46. 2/11/85 Article Reference - Title: Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report - Date: 1986 - Page References: 24 - Type: DESC TEXT - Description: Annual Report 1 1986

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1999. Scheduling Description: Medieval settlement, including fishpond and open field system, immediately north and 240m south of Lea Cottage Farm. List entry no. 1019405. SM Cat. No. 453.



Grid reference Centred SK 1942 5194 (659m by 726m)
Map sheet SK15SE

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Record last edited

Aug 27 2013 2:08PM

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