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

5.3 Changing settlement patterns and morphologies

5.3.1 Stimuli and responses

As population levels [see Historical reports, Northamptonshire lay subsidy 1301; Oxfordshire lay subsidy 1306-27] grew between the 11th and 13th centuries, communities were faced with the issue of their accommodation within the confines of their individual villagescapes. One option, as we have seen above, was to extend arable land, often taking in land remote from existing centres and thus difficult to work efficiently from them. Two basic solutions to the problem of accommodation thus presented themselves: to continue to extend existing settlement cores and to accept longer journeys to the outer parts of the fields, or to establish new settlements in previously unoccupied areas, effectively opening up a new front from which the less utilised peripheral parts of the territory could be brought into cultivation. However, both involved giving up economically valuable land. The extension of the village core, for example, often meant that settlement encroached upon former arable land (e.g. Oosthuizen 2002). This might be offset by the addition of new furlongs at the edge of the open fields where space was still available for expansion. But this in turn usually meant reducing the area of pasture or woodland. Equally, arable might be surrendered for the development of a new settlement site located away from the original focus (Taylor 1995). But more commonly, these new satellite settlements began life as woodland assarts of low or lesser value. As different communities resolved these issues in varying ways, the result was ever greater complexity in the nature of settlement. Where these once contained dispersed settlement patterns, these might coalesce to form polyfocal centres; where settlement had formerly been nucleated, this might fragment or, more correctly, proliferate, into more dispersed forms; equally, earlier patterns might be preserved.

5.3.2 Trajectories and chronology

This divergence is clearly seen in Whittlewood. It can be split into two separate phases, but since the dating on which this is based relies on pottery manufactured over long periods, this bipartite division, useful though it is, probably overemphasises these two moments, and underplays what was in reality a more complex on-going process. During the first phase, broadly dated to the 12th century, divergent policies leading to both increased dispersion and nucleation can be detected. Settlement proliferation can be seen in Leckhampstead with the creation of a new node at Middle End, and in neighbouring Wick Hamon where the hamlet of Elm Green grew up about one mile (1.5km) south of the village. Initially, Elm Green lacked coherence, individual plots being widely spaced and only loosely articulated by a minor back lane leading to the main valley bottom road. Lacking design, some level of individual enterprise in the breaking of new ground might be postulated here. Settlement at West End in Silverstone was very different in nature, appearing to have been laid out around 1100 as a planned settlement with regular tenements, their curved boundaries suggesting that these were laid out over former arable strips, a settlement which shares much in common with Middle End.

At the same time, it is clear that all the principal settlements of the Whittlewood were growing. There is evidence for expansion around the core of Whittlebury (test pitting in 2001 and 2002) from 1100 prompting encroachment into the interior of the hillfort. Here the first phase of significant growth seems to have been largely unregulated, in contrast to places such as Wick Dive (test pitting in 2003 and 2004) and Akeley (test pitting in 2001 and 2002] where more planned extensions were undertaken during the course of the 12th century. As Akeley grew, so the two original foci around the church and the manor began to coalesce to form a single polyfocal centre, a process which may also have been taking place at Potterspury as settlement extended along the street linking the clustered centre around the church in the east to Blackwell End to the west. In Leckhampstead, however, despite significant and ordered growth at all the main centres, this was undertaken in such a fashion as to preserve the individual identity of each cluster.

The second phase, dated by the appearance of Potterspury wares to the mid-13th century, saw similarly variant trajectories followed within different villagescapes. New discrete settlements continued to form, such as a second satellite at Silverstone, Cattle End, bearing all the hallmarks of an assart settlement. As well as this more sizeable settlement cluster, this phase also saw a number of sizeable farmsteads established away from the main settlement centres, such as the submanor of Stockholt in Akeley, and the high-status enclosure at Heybarne in Lillingstone Dayrell. As with the first phase, this was a moment when further additions were appended to the principal village cores: at Whittlebury (test pitting in 2001 and 2002), for example, where a double row of tenements were laid out along the main street south of the earlier focus, and in Wick Dive where plots began to colonise the northern side of the village street. It was also a moment of more radical change, as witnessed at Lillingstone Lovell where a new manorial complex was constructed at the heart of the village, necessitating some clearance and the relocation of the displaced population in a new row east of the stream. And in Wick Hamon too, the village was reorganised, with a new manor house set on the south-western edge of the settlement and a new row of peasant tofts laid out to the north (Page and Jones 2004). Here changes to the fabric of the village were accompanied by further changes outside, with the construction of a deer pale located over land which had previously been cultivated.


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