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Introduction | Exploring Medieval Village Territories | The Evolution of Post-medieval Village Territories | The Creation of Village Territories | The Development of Medieval Village Territories | Late Medieval Village Territories | Conclusions

4.3 Settlements

Switch On Interactive Map: Settlement Trajectories. GIS data hosted by Archaeology Data Service

The transformation of this landscape of estates to one comprised of inhabited territories took place over a relatively short space of time. Unpinning this process appears to have been a transfer of power away from a small group of landowners with dominion over large territorial blocks to an emerging and larger group of lesser landholders, whose exercise of control was limited to smaller land units. These were carved out of the earlier estates and their boundaries, at least where they were coincident with the external limits of the former territories, were largely dictated by them. The basis of this redistribution of land may have been the allotment of territory to settlements formerly dependent upon the estate head. This may have been the case for Deanshanger and Puxley, although direct evidence is lacking, and for the townships of Boycott, Lamport and Dadford in Stowe. In defining and allotting new land units the existence of some settlement would have been essential to give the incoming lord rent paying tenants and a source of labour, but the lord may well have encouraged more settlements to swell the number of dependents. In many instances, it would appear that the land of each estate was divided equitably among the new units. So, for example, the southern villagescapes of Passenham, Wick Dive, Wick Hamon and Leckhampstead stretched from the Great Ouse river to the clay watershed, ensuring that they held at least some meadow and woodland [View Interactive Map: Settlement Trajectories]. Old estate centres such as Passenham and Leckhampstead continued to function and to grow despite their landholdings being greatly reduced in size, perhaps aided by this retention of a full set of varied natural resources. New settlements now began to prosper, and in addition other centres began to develop in the newly formed territories, promoted by their immediate economic viability.


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