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

4.4 Chronology and process

In the absence of a documentary record, archaeological dating (see Test Pitting results) of the first phases of these new settlements offers a useful, if imprecise, chronology of events: for settlement growth might just as easily have preceded, as accompanied or followed territory reorganisation and included time lapses of unknown duration. Despite these reservations, the results from Whittlewood seem illuminating. An original estate centred on Wick Dive, it might be argued, was split in half by the creation of the manor of Wick Hamon around the middle of the 10th century (see St Kenelm at Wicken historical report). The Lillingstones may have been divided around AD 975, the earliest date of abundant ceramics (see Lillingstone Lovell 2003) found in Lillingstone Lovell. And on the same grounds, Akeley (see test pitting results from Akeley 2001 and Akeley 2002) appears to have begun life around the year 1000. The closeness of these dates, given the problems of pinning down very precisely the periods of manufacture for many of the pottery fabrics on which they are based, provides scope for alternative readings of the evidence. Advocates of the 'great replanning' hypothesis might be convinced that this provides reasonable support for the total and rapid reorganisation of the social, administrative and economic landscape (Brown and Foard 1998; Foard et al. 2005). But equally, each of the new villagescapes may have been individually created with little regard for wider developments in the landscape, events that may have been separated from each other by as much as a century, in a process which finds closer analogy with the creation of the smaller estates from which they emerged.

In favour of the piecemeal and evolutionary trajectory towards the creation of Whittlewood's settlements, and against a wholesale and revolutionary phase transition, can be placed other evidence. There is little to support the notion of large-scale centrifugal population movement, whether forced or undertaken voluntarily, which led to the abandonment of the earlier pattern of dispersed farmsteads, and the development of nucleated villages; although it may be noted that this did happen in some places such as Church End, Leckhampstead. Rather the principal settlements appear to have grown outwards as a result of internal growth from small pre-village nuclei, precipitated perhaps by some level of in-migration. There is little to suggest that these new settlements were planned in their first phases. There is no evidence for tenements being laid out in regular rows along single streets or street grids. Nor are there signs that, when first established, the open fields which later surrounded these villages were laid out on a massive scale conforming to an overarching master plan (contra Hall 1995). Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that the newly created boundaries between individual territories, where they did not follow those inherited from the estate structure, may initially have been ill-defined and only formalised and fixed at a later date. This might explain, for example, the crenellated boundaries of Potterspury and Yardley Gobion, and Leckhampstead and Foscott which followed the headlands surrounding the furlongs of their respective open fields. Whatever the routes taken to the formation of the settlement territories of Whittlewood, by the mid-11th century the process was largely complete and individual settlements had already begun to respond in a variety of ways to their narrow horizons and the opportunities and limitations for resource management that these imposed (Teague and Sankaran 1978; Thorn and Thorn 1979; Caldwell 1978).


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