CASTLE EDEN SOCIETY
Durham Archaeological Journal 3, 1987, 57 -78
THE MEDIEVAL SETTLEMENT AND LANDSCAPE OF CASTLE EDEN, PETERLEE.
CO. DURHAM: EXCAVATIONS 1974
by D. Austin with a report on the pottery by C. O’Mahoney.
Castle Eden is a small parish on the eastern dip slope of the Magnesian Limestone
Plateau of Co. Durham (fig. 1) and lies today within the new town of Peterlee. Almost the
whole parish is located on very mixed drift deposits which predominate in this area and
which are bedded in varying thicknesses near the base limestone. The parish also occupies
a position on the southern edge of the Durham coalfield, an economic fact which has
altered the settlement and landscape patterns of the area since the late eighteenth century.
In 1758 Rowland Burdon, with resources gained from the new coal wealth, had
purchased the run-down manor of Castle Eden and had set about emparking part of it and
refurbishing the fabric of the existing farming community. His main surviving contribution was
the construction, perhaps on an earlier Jacobean core, of an unlovely and ostentatious
mansion known as 'The Castle' on the southern edge of the beautiful and deeply incised
Castle Eden Dene which forms the northern boundary of the parish. At an appropriate
distance to the south, on the far side of a small tributary dene, the medieval church
was entirely rebuilt on the same site in Georgian style. Even further to the south two
rows of cottages were constructed on either side of the lane to the church and mansion.
Known as ‘The Village’ on earliest maps this complex of estate workers' housing was in
part the successor of the medieval community whose original site was lost before the early
nineteenth century. Tenant farms, however, worked the bulk of the original townfields and
were evenly distributed between fields enclosed by Rowland Burdon.(1) By the mid-nineteenth
century (fig. 2) New Winning Colliery had been opened on the fringe of wood plantations
added by the Burdon Estate. Other pits at Wingate Grange and slightly later at Hesleden
on the western and eastern boundaries of the parish further affected the landscape, but
Castle Eden remained as it is today, substantially a rural community on the fringes of
industrialisation. Even the railway simply passed through, providing a link between the
coal mines and the staithes at Hartlepool.
The changes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries effectively swept away the structure
of the medieval village and surprisingly few indicators survived of its original location.
This is in stark contrast both to the surviving villages of Shotton and Hesleden which
preserved their medieval morphology until the time of the first maps and to the deserted
Hulam whose clear earthworks were only ploughed out in April 1971(2). What did exist, however,
were extensive remains of ridge and furrow especially in the park area created by Burdon.
A lacuna in this field system and the presence of a sunken lane led the Ordnance Survey
and other fieldworkers to suggest that the village originally lay to the west of the Castle.
The present author, however, from medieval documents discussed below and his own fieldwork,
suggested rather that it lay to the south, between the Castle and the Church of St. James.
The field had faint traces of ridge and furrow on one side and a gently undulating
topography elsewhere, but no clearly definable earthworks of a medieval village.
This field was also the recorded location of the famous Castle Eden claw beaker, one of
the finest objects of its type from early Anglo-Saxon England.
In 1974, the opportunity arose to test this hypothesis when Peterlee Development
Corporation indicated that the field might be covered by a possible housing development.
Although this did not, and will not now, materialise, it was felt prudent at the time to
test the archaeological potential of the site. To this end £500 was kindly provided by the
Corporation and £250 by the Department of the Environment, Directorate of Ancient Monuments
and Historic Buildings. This financed three weeks work in the spring of 1974. I should
like to thank Colin Miller, Laurie Addis, Gordon Ewart, Guy Gueritz and Brendan Grimley
for their assistance in the excavation and Cathy O'Mahoney for her excellent work on the
pottery. My warm regards are also extended to Bill Monck of Peterlee Development Corporation
who, as conservation officer for the Dene area, took us under his wing and drank our
The Discovery of the Castle Eden Burial
The account of the find is in the first volume of Robert Surtees' History of Durham
published in 1822.
"The glass was found in 1775, by a workman employed in throwing
down a hedge about a hundred yards to the north of the bridge which leads from the Chapel
to the Castle. The mouth of the vase was applied to a human skull so near the surface,
as to leave the bottom of the vase exposed in the gutter of the hedge. The body had been
deposited horizontally, with the head towards the east, and
had been covered with a heap of common field stones. The labourer represented the skull and
bones as being entire; but he was prevented by the clergy-man of Castle Eden from making
any further research. The ground was, however, again opened soon after by Mr. Burdon's
discretion; and a cavity was discovered beneath the cairn, or heap of stones, large enough
to contain a body of ordinary dimensions with a quantity of deep-coloured soil, the ashes
probably of the bones which had mouldered on the admission of the air. The vase was full of
earth, and when emptied appeared to retain a subtle aromatic smell".(3)
The beaker is now in the British Museum and is too well-known to receive further description
here.(4) It will suffice to say that its presence in Co. Durham used to be considered an
anomaly, but this impression has now been altered by the discovery of claw-beaker fragments
at the Anglo-Saxon site of Thirlings in the Milfield Plain in Northumberland.(5) The presence
of such patently south-eastern objects in Bemicia has yet to be explained, but the impression
of these highly crafted glass vessels as high-status traded goods is difficult to shake loose,
since at Thirlings the context is that of fine timber buildings with southern affinities.
From Surtees' account, the location of the burial was placed squarely in the middle of the
field which was examined in 1974. Clearly, the workman of two hundred years before had been
removing hedgerows and embankments in this field in connection with the park improvement
being conducted at that time. It is possible that these included the missing earthworks of the
deserted medieval village.
The description would also suggest that the burial may have been protected from previous
discovery by the hedgerow bank, although this is not a totally defensible conclusion from
the ambiguous remark about the "gutter of the hedge". If this means the ditch, then the
appearance of the vase's base must have been from a newly eroded surface exposed by the
workman, probably close to the embankment. Surtees finally describes the discovery, beneath
a boulder caim, of 'a cavity', perhaps a cist, in which the body was laid. This is not
inconsistent with the few recorded burials which may belong to the pagan Anglo-Saxon
period elsewhere on the East Durham Plateau.(6) It might be stretching things too far,
however, to suggest that a barrow or cairn, with cist below cut into the old ground surface,
may have been the original funerary monument, since the boulders found in 1775 may also
be the remains of the deserted medieval village lying above the burial (see below).
A single burial of this nature, although thoroughly documented by Surtees, should not be
taken to demonstrate much in the way of settlement development. It may be worth noting
that, apart from Darlington(7) and Norton,(8) these isolated occurrences of classic Anglo-Saxon
pagan material are the rule in Co. Durham. This may suggest widespread survival of native
British populations particularly in the face of pollen evidence from the East Durham
Plateau (9) which shows continuity of agriculture from the Roman into the Dark Age period.
Modern fieldwork and excavation has, however, failed at present to provide good evidence
for contemporary settlements and this must remain a major priority in documenting the
sequences of human occupation in the county.
This lack of evidence persists in fact throughout the Anglo-Saxon period with Hart (10) as
almost the sole rural secular site available for discussion. It is premature, therefore,
to speculate from archaeological evidence alone about the pattern of processes of
settlement change and creation. South of the North York Moors,(11) and to a lesser extent
in the Milfield Basin of Northumberland,(12) the sequences are rather more secure and can be
more readily related to discussion about mid to late Anglo-Saxon settlement shift and the
creation of open field agriculture. For Durham such quality of evidence is not available
until the eleventh or twelfth century when a process of major landscape reorganisation
appears to begin. This is the first revealed in the contemporary documents which, in stark
contrast with the preceding period, become abundant under the administration of the Norman
bishops and priors of Durham.
The medieval documents
For the purposes of this report, however, the search for documentation has not been
attempted much beyond the published sources.(13) Un-published information does undoubtedly
exist, notably in the muniments of the Prior's Kitchen at Durham, and will require
examination if a fuller investigation of this village is ever undertaken.
For the pre-conquest period Castle Eden receives only two mentions: first, from the
anonymous Hisioria de Sancto Cuthberto, with modern place-names in brackets:
In this text, which is conventionally assigned to the eleventh century, Castle Eden is
differentiated from a small manor, known in the post-conquest period as
"In these days Elfred son of Beorhtwulf came fleeing the Vikings over the mountains into the west,
and sought the mercy of St. Cuthben and Bishop Culheard [900-915] to grant him some lands.
Then Bishop Cutheard for love of God and St. Cuthbert, granted him these townships,
Esingtun (Easington), Seletun (Hesledon), Thorep (Thorpe), Horedene (Horden), Iodene
(Little Eden), duas Sceottun (the two Shottons), Iodene Australem (Castle Eden), Holum
(Hulam), Hotun (Hutton Henry), Twinlinatun, Billingham with its dependents and Scurufatun
Little Eden, which lay to the north.(15) They are both, however, part of a compact group of
vills or townships in East Durham, centring on Castle Eden itself, which form a discrete
estate, paralleled by the Wearmouth group to the north (16) and Heorterness (17) to the south
on both of which it marches. These groupings of town-ships may be survivors of an ancient
system of land-holding (18) and it may be no coincidence that the physical centre of this
estate, Castle Eden, was selected by the conquering Norwegian forces, ten years later,
as a point of division:
What this land division effectively did was to divide the three coastal estates between the
Wear and the Tees into two roughly equal parts with the boundary falling at Castle Eden
Dene. Nothing more is heard of the estate in the tenth and eleventh centuries, but it must
be assumed that when Athelstan arrived in 927 and removed Raegnald, only the northern half
of this division was granted back to the church.(20) The king or his representative, perhaps
the Ealdorman of Northumbria, must have retained possession of the southern half, which
consisted largely of Heorterness. It is certainly true that, when Castle Eden emerges into
the light of the twelfth century documents, it is still attached to the estate of
Heorterness, to which it did not originally belong, (21) At this time it is part of the
de Brus fee of Hart, with which it must have been granted in the late eleventh century.(22)
"Raegnald divided the townships of St. Cuthbert and he gave to a certain powerful soldier,
called Scula, one part of the south from the township called Eden to Billingham. The other
part he gave to a certain man called Onalafball, from Eden to the river Wear.(19)
The status of this holding is not clear since the only direct reference is a charter of
Robert de Brus I at some time in the early twelfth century when he grants the chapel of
Eden to the church of St. Cuthbert at Durham, carefully reserving the rights of his own
chaplain so that:
This is the first and sole reference to the castle, the only one in the Durham part
of the de Brus fee, and henceforth it lends itself to the name of the vill and parish.
The chapel of the vill was dedicated, like the modern church, to St. James and provided
with a cemetery, both of which are mentioned in later documents. The Chapelry until the
nineteenth century lay within the parish of Hesleden. Granted with the chapel were two
bovates of land, a donation which alone of all the remaining documents attests a direct
dc Brus hold on the land itself. After this date, during the middle years of the twelfth
century, William de Thorp is the principal grantee, to be succeeded by his heir
Adam de Seton, who was married to his daughter Matilda, and then by his grandson Ivo de
Seton. William acknowledged Robert de Brus II as his mesne lord, but curiously confirmed
the earlier grant of two bovates in a charter which made a further transfer to Durham of
"two other bovates which Lord Warin had bought from me".(24) Of these two bovates with the
tofts and crofts, one was held by William himself lying in two parcels at Halflava and
Threlthorp, and another once held by his man Hagmund. In addition
to this land were 6 acres of cultivable land (wainabilis terra) which seems from other
references to be a block of ground available for assarting in the north-west part of the
township. Such an assart is also granted by William to the church at Durham in another
charter (25) expressly intended to complete the previous four bovates and six acres by
adding various bits and pieces, namely two tofts, one of Robert Curtis and the other of
Elwin Hunne, a pit (delvum) 'under Grimesflat', the meadow of Middlemere, its turbary and
the 4 acres of arable land next to it known as Staniacres (Stoney acres), another turbary
between the Durham and Newcastle roads and the one acre assart of Alewi of Hardwick lying
in three ridges (costerae) near the streams (sihe + rivulus) which was also given
separately in another de Thorp document.(26)
"Whenever I shall stay at Eden, I or my wife, my own chaplain shall serve at the chapel
in my castle and shall receive all the offerings of my family and guests coming to mass,
but when we are absent the priest of the monks shall serve at the chapel and receive all
offerings. The Prior within 4 years of this agreement shall build the chapel of the vill
and have it consecrated."(23)
In addition to these four bovates and their appendages, William gave another two
to Durham with a toft and meadow rights which alternate between three acres in one year
and two in the other, a hint at two-fold rotation.(27) The same charter also allows the
monks pasture for sheep and cattle on his moor and the right to gather heath (broom) and
fuel from the same moor and fencing-wood from his dene for their demesne hall at Lesser
Heseldene. This grant is confirmed by a curious document issued subsequently by Bishop
Hugh de Puiset which suggests that it had in some way been contested.(28) Two other minor
grants complete the William de Thorp benefaction: the first is the meadow of Thacmere
with everything contained within it "as much in dryness and in wetness";(29) and the other
a toft, with the buildings on it, once held by Turkill "lying below the same toft up to
In all, William de Thorp endows Durham with six bovates of land in Castle Eden.
Only two other bovate holdings can be found in the published sources and both of them
can be traced back to William de Thorp. First, a tenement of one toft and one bovate of
24 1/2 acres is granted by Adam de Seton as a dowry to Alan, son of Ulkill on his marriage
to Emma another daughter of William de Thorp.(31) This bovate was held in two blocks, one
in the west (12 acres) and the other in the east (12 1/2 acres) with two acres, probably
Crakemere and Fullech and commons of pasture. It appears to be this bovate which reappears
later as a freehold of the Claxton family returning an annual rent of 16s to the Communar
of Durham Priory in the fifteenth century.(32) The Church's hold on this land was established
in the early fourteenth century on redemption by the Prior of a debt to Leo the Jew of
York sustained by a man known both as Eustace de Eden and Eustace de Newbiggyng.(33) The
second bovate was granted by William do Thorp and confirmed by Robert de Brus II, between
1150 and 1170, to Guisborough Priory in North Yorkshire, a community highly favoured by the
de Brus family.(34) This was followed in 1242 by the sale of the manor of Castle Eden to
Guisborough by Ivo de Seton (35) whose father Adam de Seton had originally leased it to them
c. 1210.(36) This purchase, therefore, gave Guisborough the original manor and a bovate of
land, but it is unclear whether this manor had any land of its own still attached to it
when sold in 1242. Indeed, it is possib le to reconstruct the original holding of William
de Thorp as the manor and 1 carucate of land which by the early fourteenth century is
divided 7:1 between Durham and Guisborough. So large was the Durham interest in fact that
it was regarded as a manor in its own right in the Inveniarium Prioratus Dunelmensis of
the fifteenth century when it is leased to Thomas Wilkynson for 73s.4d. At this time also
Thomas Claxton appears to have carved out a considerable holding in Castle Eden and by the
time of his death he has one messuage, six tofts and 60 acres as a tenant of Durham's
dependent house, Sherburn Hospital.(37) This is all clearly part of a late medieval
reallocation of the original tenements by the Priory and a decision by them not to control
directly tenancies on this manor and vill in contrast for example to the Billingham estate
further south. Such a decision may underlie another contrast between the two: Castle Eden
was deserted and the Billingham villages still remain. The consolidation or engrossment
of holdings may indeed be a prelude to late medieval desertion as it is elsewhere in the
Apart from the reconstructed carucate of the early twelfth century, no other holding is
recorded in known documents and it is likely that this represented the entire resources
of this small manor during the Middle Ages, probably including also the late Anglo-Saxon
period when it first appears in documents. The expression of these resources by the
assessment system known to historians as carucation, is linked primarily to the arable
plough lands which formed the core of the community's agricultural production and diet.
Yet is must be remembered that the holdings of arable land had attached to them customary
rights over other resources such as meadow, permanent pasture, water, trackways,
underwood, turbary and the like as well as customary obligations of service and labour
on the strips and in the household of the mesne lord. The detailed discussion of how Castle
Eden's agricultural production was organised in its landscape follows the excavation report.
The Excavations (figure 3)
With the lack of earthworks to give some flesh to the topographical details of the medieval
documents, the siting of trenches was of the most speculative nature and based on very
slight indicators. As a matter of general policy it was decided to limit the trial
excavation to the exposure in each trench of the first significant archaeological levels
only. The intention was to determine the potential of the site without jeopardising future
area excavations by the dislocation of stratigraphy and horizontal relationships.
The results, therefore, are tentative, but do clearly demonstrate the presence of a
village of the Middle Ages, dated by the predominance of medieval pottery in most deposits
(see report below).
Each Trench produced different results which are described in a possible chronological
The trenches were opened and excavated in alphabetical order so that A was the first and
J the last. The indicators in advance of opening each trench was as follows:
A........ A well-formed, but shallow hollow was the most promising surviving earthwork.
B......... Faint traces of ridge and furrow running east and west were located near a very
low bank with a few
.............hawthorn bushes along it.
C......... A slight hollow running across the field was related to a possible trace of a
sunken track-way at F.
D......... The continuation of the slight hollow.
E.......... Features found in C. required further examination.
C, D & E. Were all close to the slated location of the claw beaker burial.
F......... A potential hollow way was close to the only gate into the field.
G........ One of the closest sites to the church.
H........ A prominent bank ran across the site in this area.
I......... (and one other unrecorded machine trench
10 m to the east). An obvious, shallow, but seemingly natural
...........valley feeding into the small dene to the east.
J........ This was an area close to The Castle.
The detailed reports are presented in a highly speculative chronological sequence
which may be summarised as follows:
1. Prehistoric: cross-ploughing..
2. Early Medieval: possibly timber buildings.
3. High Medieval: trackway, peasant buildings, ditch, moat and castle buildings.
4. Post-medieval: a quarry.
Trench B (figure 4)*
A trench (3m x 1Om) was cut at right angles to the faint ridge and* furrow which tended
north/south along the lie of the slope. A normal plough soil profile varying in depth from
50cm below the ridge to 20cm at the furrow, had a sharp interface with the underlying
yellow clay subsoil. In this surface the stains of two sets of features were discernible.
At the west end were two shallow slots at right angles to each other, while at the cast
end the shallow grooves of plough marks were soil-filled and left a clear pattern of
cross-cultivation. None of the grooves were more than 5cm deep and none contained
archaeological material within it. On the surface of the subsoil, however among sherds
of medieval and post-medieval pottery was a single, much abraded sherd of a large vessel
of probably prehistoric origin.
This, however, represents no more than a vague association and should not be considered
as an indicator of date.
As regards the pattern of ploughing, the most obvious question to be asked is what type
of cultivation caused it. The trend of the barely surviving ridge and furrow is in the
same general direction as the north/south plough grooves. In detail, however, this is not
a precise trend, and this could not be further proved in a trench of only 3m width.
Certainly the east-west grooves can have nothing to do with the present ridge and furrow,
and their disappearance at the west end is due probably to abrasion under the noticeably
deeper ploughing of the central excavated ridge. It should be noted, however, that this
deeper ploughing left no marks in the subsoil. All this seems to mean that the
cross-grooves are the relics of an earlier ploughing system. How much earlier is an
impossible question to answer. The cross grooves may simply represent the headland or
even a ploughing out of a previous strip field system. Cross-ploughing, where excavated
elsewhere in Britain. (38) is usually interpreted as being associated with prehistoric
or 'Celtic' field arrangements.
Clearly large open area excavation may well answer some of these questions and judgement
is certainly reserved by the present author.
Trench G (figure 5)
This trench was opened
by JCB and unfortunately over-cut due to an unexpected change in the nature of the subsoil.
Fortunately, how-ever, two very significant features had been dug deep into the sandy clay.
A straight-sided slot, G2, (maximum 20cm deep and 30cm wide) ran across the trench from
north to south, and careful sectioning did not reveal any traces of timbering although
this cannot be ruled out; 2.4m to the east was a large post hole, G3, (c. 40cm deep).
It was impossible in such a small trench to interpret these features, but they were
directly associated with some of the earliest medieval" sherds on the site. Possibly,
a major, early limber building could be excavated on this site near the church.
Trenches C, D and E (figures 6 and 7)
In the same area, these three trenches provided similar
information about the location and layout of the medieval village. Features common to
the trenches were indications of a partially surfaced track, a broad, deep, ditch and
rubble spreads associated with the destruction phases of medieval houses.
In C the north/south track was marked by small cobbles and ruts in the surface, but in
this trench the glacial sub-soils were very mixed and showed a disconcerting tendency
to band in straight lines. This made the interpretation of features in a narrow trench
more than usually difficult. One example was the way in which the cobbles of the track
survived only where bedded into a seam of clay, while over sandier sub-soils they had
simply been eroded. The track in D (west)
* Matrices for contexts by trench may be found in the microfiche manifested itself only
as vestigial ruts in a sandy loam matrix
The ditch was seen in C (8), but only excavated in D (10). It ran alongside and to the
east of the track. Its dimensions (30m (10ft) wide x l.lm (4ft) deep) are perhaps slightly
large for the ditch of an ordinary village embankment, but open space adjacent (to the
east) relatively free of rubble may have been the site of a slighted bank.
In this context the account of the claw beaker discovery seems relevant since it does
mention a ditch and rubble in this approximate location. Only medieval pottery was
found in the fill of the ditch.
Further to the east of the ditch in both D (east) and E were spreads of magnesian
limestone nibble, familiar medieval building material in this area. In D (east) this
did not immediately resolve itself into any recognisable structural features and in the
absence of area excavation, was not removed. Areas of clay, sand, and sandy loam (D9,
D2 and D12) formed a stone-free, roughly circular area in the centre of the trench, but
nothing could be made of it. In E, how-ever, the removal of the rubble clearly
demonstrated the presence of a building. A section of a wall was associated with a
stone-laid hearth (E6) and other patches of burning (E7 and E8). Building dimensions
cannot be hazarded here, but clearly this structure was on the same general alignment
as the track and ditch and probably had its long axis parallel to the road. Pottery from
these trenches dated the structures from the twelfth to early sixteenth centuries with
the majority of sherds belonging to the fourteenth century onwards.
Trench H (not illustrated)
This was cut across a surviving bank, and was inconclusive. A low earthen embankment
which had a small amount of limestone rubble in association may once have been topped
with a wall.
This trench provided perhaps the most unexpected result of all. Towards the end of the
excavation there was spare time for the JCB and the driver was asked to dig a narrow
speculative trench across the small and shallow valley which ran eastwards into the small
dene. This immediately revealed the sharply cut profile of a broad moat of a familiar
A second JCB trench was immediately cut to confirm this conclusion and the presence of a
medieval sherd in section, well down in the moat, suggested a possible date of twelfth
or thirteenth century. Both trenches revealed anaerobic clay at the base of the moat and
the trenches took enough water to suggest that if dammed the moat would be wet. Because
of the water and lack of lime the moat was not bottomed, but it was 10.8m broad and at
least 1.4m deep.
Trench J (figures 8-9)
A small area (originally 3 x 4m, later 6 x 9m) was cleared close to the ha-ha wall of the
18th century house gardens. Again this was purely speculative, but immediately the
presence of a heavily destroyed medieval building was suggested by extensive spreads of
As part of the destruction process, a hearth (J3) had been set in the rubble, and the
spreads of burnt material (J5 and 6) covered the eastern end of the trench. This was not
associated with any observable structure. The rest of the rubble resolved itself into a
small number of individual areas. In the north-west (J4) and north-east (J16) where larger
limestone blocks lay, two trenches at right-angles to each other were almost certainly
the robbed foundation of a building of unknown dimensions and use. In the south and centre
of the trench, areas of fine cobbling (J12) were interspersed with larger rubble (J7).
These were not investigated below the initial soil removal and it is not clear whether
the cobbles were part of a floor or other surface.
Large quantities of late medieval pottery were found in the rubble and particularly in
the robber trenches. There was enough material to be certain that the building had been
destroyed by the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century and occupation debris spread
Trench A (not illustrated)
Opened first, at a promising hollow, the two small areas opened in this part of the
excavation revealed solely post-medieval activity. This was largely a deep quarry which
was probably exploiting the sandy subsoil. Judging from the finds including a coin of
Charles II, a bellarmine jug, slipwares and a few clay-pipe stems and bowls, the quarry
was being back-filled as a rubbish dump in the modem period, incorporating earlier material
perhaps from clearance of the castle area.
The Pottery (fig. 10)
by C. O'Mahoney
As the pottery from this excavation is small in amount and quite varied in character, and
there is no internal dating, it has only been divided up very broadly. Isolating fabrics
by following the advocated criteria would result in a long list, many 'fabrics' being
represented by a single sherd. Although much work has been done in the years since this
site was excavated, there is still no reliable chronological framework for medieval pottery
in North East England, and if any-thing the dating offered in this report is broader and
even more tentative than it was a decade ago.
Very little Co. Durham pottery bears distinctive inclusions, and great difficulty has been
encountered when trying to define local pottery within the wider regional area. The main
inclusions always appear to be quartz and quartz-related, sometimes with fine mica and red
or black iron ores, and even with the use of scientific techniques little advance has been
made in finding sources. Thin-sectioning of Hartlepool type ware, for instance, has shown
that it does not differ from the mass of North-Eastern pottery (L. Addis, pers. comm.).
Emphasis on fabric and colour has led to a profusion of categories which are difficult to
relate and classification that is hard to repeat. Distinguishing types on the basis of
minute differences in fabric such as the amount, size, sorting and shape of the quartz
grains, does not seem to be very useful in this part of the country, prior to the
excavation of a major kiln complex. In this respect the products of one kiln site may
vary tremendously,(39) and it is difficult to imagine that added tempering was accurately
weighed or counted out, or that in this area, with glacial clays derived from different
sources,(40) naturally occurring inclusions would be consistent in these characteristics.
It also appears that the same or similar basic materials were used over a long period of
lime to make different kinds of pottery, (41) and in this case fabric will be no help in
dating. The present date range? offered for Hartlepool-type ware, for example, e??????
12th (42) to the early 15th century. (43) Under the circumstances this docs not seem
unreasonable, but it is not helpful for the excavator. Possibly it will only be by more
detailed study of forms and manufacturing techniques within broadly similar fabrics that
areas of distribution can be identified and any sequence established for this region.
Since, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, the intention of the excavation was
simply to reveal the uppermost medieval deposits in each trench, most contexts contained
some post-medieval pottery, but, overall, medieval material was in the great majority.
In the following discussion the medieval pottery is therefore examined first by type and then by trench. The basic classes of pottery from this excavation are reduced green-glazed wares, Hartlepool-type ware, and other medieval. The first two are discussed below, and sherds that stand out amongst these and the indeterminate material described under the relevant trench, although their significance is not necessarily under-stood. Post-medieval pottery is in very small quantities arid its presence in the disturbed upper layers is indicated in table 3. One significant deposit, however, in Trench A is discussed further.
Reduced green-glazed wares (Nos. 15, 17, 24, 26)
The distinction between reduced and oxidized sherds and its use as an indicator of date
has been retained here, because it does have some validity, but not all green-glazed
reduced sherds need be late medieval, and certainly some late medieval pottery was
oxidized. It is acknowledged that black or grey interiors in themselves are no sign of
date, as the same forms occur in the same fabrics both reduced and oxidized. However, all
reduced green-glazed sherds are classed together here, regardless of variations in colour,
thickness, and amount of inclusions. Sherds with oxidized surfaces that are thought to be
parts of mostly reduced vessels are also included.
The usually thick-walled, somewhat clumsily made cisterns and jugs with little or no
decoration, which occur mostly in Trench J on this site, can be accepted as late 15th or
early 16th century in date, as they are repeatedly found in these contexts, (44) often in
association with Cistercian ware and Raeren stoneware. A completely different kind of
pottery containing large quartz grains, which is hard and has a pimply surface, and is
sometimes green-glazed and reduced (Thrislington Type 21, (45) Barnard Castle Types 7 & 25,
(46), and probably 12th century in dale, is absent from this site and excluded from this
Some distance from Castle Eden, but relatively close within the area covered by these
wares, which extends from Southern Scotland to Hull, a large quantity of medieval pottery
has been excavated at Barnard Castle. Here reduced green-glazed ware (including a smooth
variety), is found in small amounts in 12th century contexts, where its presence is
treated with some suspicion, and frequently (5% of all pottery from the Inner Ward, 20%
in some groups) in 13th century layers. As elsewhere, the greatest concentration of these
types occurs in the 14th and 15th centuries, but large numbers of sherds in 14th century
levels have been shown to be residual because they join with those in 13th and 12th
century layers. Features of some of these vessels are rouletting on the body and on neck
cordons, stamped decoration and strips of iron in the glaze. Both rod and strap handles,
plain and thumbed bases, occur. There seems to be an assumption that different types of
pottery occur in discrete periods, but there is no reason, for example, given the
above evidence, why reduced and oxidized, smooth and gritty wares should not all be in
use at the same time. As there is little or no competition from fine imports into the
County Durham area wide variation in the locally produced material could be expected.
This would also appear lo be the case in the later Roman period when different types of
pottery occur together, presumably for different purposes.
Hartlepool-type ware (Nos. 2, 5, 9,12, 19,20)
The term Hartlepool-type ware' is used here, and the definition kept quite narrow,
following that originally given by Addis, (47) but including additional forms. 'Tees Valley
ware' is not used, as this appears to incorporate a broader selection of material, and
probably there was more than one production centre and type of pottery being made throughout the
Tees Valley. Hartlepool-type ware from this excavation has been identified by a combination
of distinctive rim forms, colour, the use of cream slip and conspicuous clay pellets in
the fabric, recognised glaze colours and range of decoration, and technical details such
as knife-trimming and thumbing found together on basal angles. The fabric ranges from
fairly soft containing few inclusions, to extremely hard-fired, often containing more
inclusions. Sub-division along these lines and analysis of the relationship of variations
to forms might be useful, but has not been thought worthwhile with the small quantity of
material from this site.
No bifid rims have been found, and this may support the theory that they have a more
southerly distribution, (48) but the sample is not large enough for certainty. Two main
rims forms occur: the 'chamfered' jug and jar rims, (49) and thickened, everted, sometimes
slightly lid-seated jar rims (Nos. 5, 9 and 12).(50) These may have a more easterly, possibly
coastal, distribution, as they are absent from Thrislington and Barnard Castle.
Of interest is a sherd (from B 1/2) of fine thin-walled reduced green-glazed ware with a
lump of red pottery and some unidentifiable material fused into the external green glaze.
The fabric of this broken piece appears similar to Hartlepool-type ware, although it
more very fine inclusions than most sherds.(51)
It is possible that old broken pottery was used to separate vessels in the kiln, but this
piece shows no signs of having been fired twice. The reduced body-sherd probably comes from
the side of a vessel but has very little curvature. A redware vessel may have collapsed
onto a reduced one, and distorted it, but the difference in colour is difficult to explain.
The fabric of the two pieces seems completely different, and that of the reduced sherd is
unlike the reduced lenses that occur in some Hartlcpool-type sherds. Possibly two
different types of pottery were made in the same kiln, and Hartlepool may also be the
source of much reduced green-glazed pottery, which is thought anyway to have been produced
at many centres.(52)
The remaining unclassified medieval pottery comprises a selection of mainly buff, orange
and pink fabrics of varying grittiness and smoothness. Unglazed, splash-glazed, fully
glazed and internally glazed sherds are represented, mostly from jars and jugs. They are
in no way related. Some contain large particles of red ferrous material, an as yet
unexplained feature of much North Eastern pottery.
Because of the random nature of the material no attempt at a vessel count has been made
and amounts are expressed in sherd numbers only. In most cases this does in fact represent
the number of vessels, as only in J 16 and E2 (and A) are sizeable portions of single
Raeren stoneware, Cistercian ware and possible imitation Tudor Green have been classified
with the post-medieval material to form a fourth category in Table 1, which shows sherd
totals and percentages of main types in main trenches. Both Table 1 and Table 3, a
quantification of sherd totals by type in individual contexts, are to be found in the
Unfortunately most portions of rims are extremely short, unevenly made, and often chipped
in places, making it difficult to determine diameters and angles accurately. Rims and
decorative features which cannot be usefully illustrated are described under the relevant
trench. As it is, jug and jar rims have been drawn without lips and handles as the shape
of these is not known. Few reduced green-glazed rims are drawn as the internal profiles of
most have been destroyed, possibly because they were fitted with a lid that was tightly
luted on. No Harllepool-type jug rims are drawn as their forms are well-known and only
small fragments survive.
Discussion of Pottery by Trench
A large variety of unclassified material occurs here, 3 relatively high proportion of
Hartlepool-type ware and a small amount of reduced green-glazed ware.
Amongst the Hartlepool-type ware is the rim of a jar (2) from Bl/2, probably two-handled
as No. 114 at Hart, (53) with external slip and small splashes of glaze internaly. Another
very similar rim and the lip and chamfered rim of a jug from B2 are not illustrated, The
everted jar rim (5) from Bl/2 is also internally splash glazed. From B2 (final cleaning
onto slots) is a hard-fired rod handle, approximately 2cm in diameter, completely covered
with a very thin brown outer skin.
There are a few sherds (in B2) of very light buff/white coloured pottery which does not
occur anywhere else on the site. These include the unusual jar rim (3) with its acute fold.
This contains some fused white inclusions and is possibly related to Thrislington Type
15.(54) Also peculiar to this context are a thin-walled hard brownish-grey sherd with a
pimply surface, a feature of some 12th century pottery in the area,(55) and a base sherd
containing much small rounded quartz, giving it a sandy appearance and feel. Six of the
twelve basal angles found in B2 are internally glazed. Amongst the reduced green-glazed
material from here is one rouletled body-sherd and one with a vertical strip of iron in
the glaze. Some sherds of both Hartlepool-type ware and reduced green-glazed ware have
(1) Rim of large storage jar, darkened pink surfaces, much soft orange-red material in the
fabric, splashes of light yellowish-green glaze on the lop of the rim and internally (Bl/2)
(4) Unglazed lid-sealed jar rim. Light orange surfaces, blue-grey core (B2)
(6) Rim of small jar, light brown surfaces, splashy brown glaze beginning in neck angle
(7) Jar rim, fabric similar to (3), slight reduced core (Bl/2)
Strap handle in soft pinkish-buff fabric, many small inclusions, blotchy copper green
Rim in buff fabric. Squared rim a more normal jug form, but avail-able diameter measurement
suggests a jar (Bl/2)
Only three sherds of reduced green-glazed pottery are found here, all from the section
cutting. None need be late medieval in date. The remainder of the pottery is varied, and
includes fragments of five rilled thin-walled unglazed cooking pots (from the JCB spoil)
which are not found elsewhere on the site. There are also some extremely hard-fired
unglazed sherds that may be early in date. One, grey throughout, with a brown exterior
surface, is almost vitrified and contains many small shiny inclusions. Amongst the pottery
from the fill of the slot, G2, are two hard fired basal angles, one very dark grey and
internally blackened, and another having some hard black and dark grey non-magnetic
coal-like inclusions amongst the usual quartz. There is one splash-glazed jar rim which
is externally sooted, and a small fragment of Hartlepool-type ware. The rest of the pottery
from G2 does not differ significantly from the other pans of this trench, comprising
gritty and smooth, unglazed and partially glazrd sherds, som e possibly from jugs.
However, a fair proportion of it is sooted or blackened.
Four sherds from trowelling natural are also of very hard-fired, soot-blackened cooking
pots, some also containing black inclusions as above.
From the JCB spoil is an unusual rim (8) in a very soft black fabric containing some very
small shiny inclusions. The exterior surface is worn and light grey. It is unlike any
other pottery on the site and is
possibly late Saxon or very early medieval. Also from here is a Hartlepool type ware jar
rim (9) with distinctive salmon pink surfaces, a very abraided small glazed jug rim. part
of a glazed strap in a gritty fabric, and a hard-fired splash-glazed jar rim (10). One
gritty oxidized body sherd has decoration of combed wavy lines, the undulations, being
very sleep and close together.
(This a feature found on some 12th century jugs at Barnard Castle ) There is also a thick
(9mm) gritty grey basal angle, (diameter
approximately 14cm) externally sooted, with a ridge of clay left underneath the external
From the section cutting is an unglazed jar rim (11), a splash-glazed externally sooted
clubbed cooking pot rim, a collared chamfered Hartlepool-type ware jug rim with a thumb
or finger impression near the top, possibly from one side of the lip, and a smooth body
sherd, oxidized internally, which is decorated with simple rouletting.
In general the proportion of hard-fired unglazed sherds in this trench, and those
identifiably used for cooking, the presence of fabrics not found elsewhere, and the small
amount of reduced green-glaxed material, suggests an early date for this area, probably
12th century or earlier.
Trenches C, D and E
These are treated together here as they broadly contain the same proportions of material
(20-34% indeterminate material, 6-16% Hartlepool-type ware, and 46-57% reduced green-glazed).
Some of the reduced pottery (especially in E) is similar to that in Trench J.
Hartlepool-type ware is represented by a hard-fired jar rim (12) from C1, two orange-glazed
sherds with applied scales covered with vertical copper green streaks (from C1 and C8),
and sherds with bright copper green glaze, one with a cordon (from C17).
(13) lid-seated jar rim. Splash of green glaze on top of rim.
Orange-pink surfaces (C4).
(14) base of a small vessel. Buff fabric, slight reduced core, pink exterior surface,
splashes of brown/green/yellow glaze under base and externally (C8).
Joining sherds of a large green-glazed strap handle with one central groove in a smooth
oxidized fabric occur in C8 and C1.
In D6 is a rouletted sherd of Racrcn56 stoneware, both surfaces of which are grey. There
is also a basal angle (18) in a fairly fine pink fabric which has a chestnut brown glaze
internally and partially externally. On the inside near the base is an irregular,
presumably accidental, scored line. This vessel could be fifteenth or sixteenth century in
date. Amongst the unclassified material is a body-sherd with the root of a basket handle,
possible from a urinal, in a hard evenly grilled fabric with orange surfaces. From Dl is
a rim with oxidized surfaces and margins (17), splash-glazed externally, with the start
of a handle springing. The appearance and form of this sherd are very similar to some
reduced green-glazed wares.
The pottery from the only part of the ditch excavated, D10, is all medieval, but does not
differ much from the rest of C, D and E. Of fifteen sherds, nine are reduced and related,
six indeterminate. A completely oxidized jug rim (16) has splashes of yellow glaze on the
outside and an unusual externa1 profile. The glazed jug rim (15) is mostly reduced, but
worn and slightly oxidized iniemally. One base sherd is glazed internally. There is no
pottery here to suggest a particularly early date
From D2 is a thumbed jar rim, splash-glazed externally, and, unusually, reduced internally.
In E2 is a reduced green-glazed basal angle with possibly accidental figure or thumb
impressions 3cm up on the external base wall, and also an abraded green-glazed reduced
sherd decorated with a slight cordon and a curved area of applied finger or thumb impressed
strip, with stab marks either side of this. One reduced vessel has an internal residue,
another has wide horizontal grooves on the exterior and two are double glazed.
Amongst the Hartlepool-type ware sherds is a hard-fired cooking
Pot rim (19), slightly sooted externally. A sagging knife-trimmed basal angle may be part
of the same vessel. From E.4 is the rim of a Hartlepool type ware jar (20) covered with
a smooth brown glaze externally and over the lop.
Also from E2 is a slightly splash glazed jug rim (21) showing heavy wheel-marks, which
appears to be sooted externally and over the top of the rim, and a base (22), which is an
unusual shape for this area. It is completely unglazed and the external surface appears to
be covered with a cream slip. The jug rim (23) is in a fine fabric, oxidized internally
lo 2cm below the rim, reduced below this.
From E5 is a jar rim with the scar of a handle coming from the lop.
The only sherd from here is a heavy rod handle, approximately 3cm in diameter, carelessly
grooved and glazed down the back, in a relatively gritty fabric, with oxidized surfaces
and a reduced core.
Nineteen sherds of pottery from H2 include two very abraded and broken reduced green-glazed
rims, a jar rim with a scar where a handle has been crudely applied on top, a thumbed and
knife-trimmed Hartlepool type ware basal angle, and one sherd of hard-fired gritty unglazed
cooking pot, blackened externally.
From the machining of the second moat section is one sherd from the shoulder of a jug.
Uneven wheel-marks are visible internally and a light green pitted glaze covers the
exterior surface. The interior is yellowish-buff with one small glaze splash; there is a
light grey outer margin to the core. This sherd is virtually un-datable at the present
state of knowledge, although the pitted light green glaze could suggest a 12th or 13th
It is here that the mass of reduced green-glazed pottery occurs. The remaining fragments
are largely from bases and lower portions of vessels. Parts of two bungholes occur in J1,
and many of the other sherds may be from cisterns. Several sherds have internal residues,
including one bunghole sherd and one large portion of base. One sherd has a curious small
hole that has been bored through after firing.
Robber Trench J4 provided only thirteen sherds, of equal amounts of oxidized and reduced
pottery. One very fine light pinkish-buff sherd has a shiny copper green glaze and is
possibly a copy of Tudor Green. (A rim from a dish or bowl in the same material occurs in
J2.) There is one sherd of a very hard-fired splash-glazed jug; small black domes appear
on the surface, apparently caused by over-firing of black inclusions in the fabric.
Robber Trench J16 contained 195 sherds, the majority of which are reduced. Portions of
three main vessels could be identified, comprising 99 -sherds between them. Even within
this group the fabric and style of the reduced green-glazed pottery varies considerably.
There are hard-fired thin-walled sherds with a waxy feel and shiny glaze, others are thick,
crude and rough; some are very black and slightly micaceous. Portions of two grooved
strap handles were found.
A large part of the body of a jug remains, but no rim or base, although a shoulder sherd
with a raised cordon survives. Wheel marks are evident on the moderately thin wall, and
there are iron speckles in the glaze, which does not completely cover the external surface
of the pot, leaving areas which are oxidized dark pink.
A crudely made sagging base, and lower portion of another single vessel is identifiable.
This has an internal residue and a stacking scar underneath the base. Two different glazes
appear to have been used. Part of the body is covered with a thin patchy slightly
bluish-green glaze, flecked with iron, which is overlapped in places by a thick smooth
A third vessel (comprising 38 sherds) makes up most of the in-
determanate material in this trench. It should possibly be classified with the reduced
material as the fabric is partly light grey and partly pink and brown in colour, and very
smooth in texture. The base is 1.1cm thick, and usually raised, falling in the centre, but
in places the walls are only 4mm thick. On some sherds the glaze is brown, bubbled and
spoilt, on others wider bands of brown can be seen covering green. A few sherds have very
lightly scored lines.
A rim with an oxidized interior surface from J16 is illustrated (24). The rim (26) with
light grey interior comes from J8.
Associated with these vessels (in J16) is the rim of a small bottle (25) in a slightly
gritty orange-pink fabric, orange-brown glaze completely covering the top and both surfaces.
It is probably contemporary with the rest of the pottery. There are also fragments of
small wheel-made oxidized globular vessels with greenish-brown external glaze (similar
material is found in Trenches C. D and E). No rims or bases of these remain. In addition
there is the rim of an oxidized splash-glazed lid-seated jar.
The absence of Hartlepool-type ware from J4 and J16 is probably significant. A grooved
rod handle of this occurs in J2 and sherds are found in J1.J2 and J8.
Only a few reduced green-glazed medieval sherds, and some possibly 16th and 17th century
green-glazed sherds, including a bunghole (from A9) were found here, the majority of the
material being black and brown-glazed thin walled hollow wares, some of the latter
decorated with slip.
There are sherds of an 18th century Staffordshire-type posset pot (from A1 and A6) in a
white fabric and yellow glaze, with one treble loop handle springing and two plain handles.
It has not been possible to reconstruct enough of this for illustration, but the form
appears to be identical to No. 709 in Jennings.(57) Instead of lettering around the rim
there is brown slip decoration of ovals placed within the dips of an undulating line.
On the lower half horizontal lines of slip have been combed through vertically.
Fragments of five Bellarmine-type stoneware bottles were also found. Portions of two have
been reconstructed. One (from the top of A6) has a mask with a very lachrymose expression.
The cheeks are very prominent, no mouth is visible, only a moustache and a beard. This does
not directly correspond to any of Holmes" types of masks,(58) but it is narrow and not very
carefully executed, and this together with the multiple ribbing on the rim and the long
neck suggests a late 17th century or early 18th century date. The other
(from A 1/2/5/6/10/11) certainly belongs to the same period. It is ovoid in form and the
mask has been replaced by a decorated circle (of. Thwaile's Cyclops).(59) The fabric and
glaze of all these vessels is very similar to Frechen stoneware and it is possible that
they were imported even at this late date.
In addition there are fragments of a brown-glazed earthenware collander, white
Staffordshire stoneware, tin-glazed earthenware, and miscellaneous redwares.
The variety of fabric and forms represented, particularly in Trench B, and the broad
possible dale range, suggests that a large quantity of pottery remains to be excavated.
So far no highly decorated or exotic products have been found amongst the medieval material
but this may be because of the restricted areas opened. The relatively large proportion
of Hartlepool-type ware suggests that the site was regularly supplied by a major production
centre, and further excavation might be useful for understanding the distribution and
possibly the dating of various forms of this. Notable by its absence is Scarborough ware
although this may be because the sample of pottery is small.
Disregarding the post-medieval material found the following broad date ranges can be
offered for the majority of material in each trench:
B........ C12th C13th C14th
G........ possibly C11th C12th C13th
CDE... C14th Cl5th early C16th (probably some C12th C13th as well)
J......... C14th C15th early C16th
No pottery was found that could be associated with the claw beaker.
A single sherd was found in B2 above the cross-ploughing slots. The sherd is unevenly made,
about 8-9mm thick, and consists of low-fired clay that has cracked like mud. Colour varies
from pale yellow ochre to dirty dark greyish-brown. Inclusions are sparse and range in size
from approximately 6mm, to less than 1mm. Most are rock fragments, although one cluster of
angular quartz is visible. The rock is composed mainly of hard shiny magnetic black
minerals and soft white material, and is probably of igneous origin. Dr. Robert Young of
Saint David's University College, Lampeter, is of the opinion that the sherd dates to the
Iron Age and is similar to certain sherds from West Brandon.60
I would like to thank John Hurst and Alan Vince for their comments on some sherds, and
David Austin for advice on many points.
A number of clay pipe stems were found across the site, but since excavation did not
proceed below disturbed or superficial levels their presence is not strati-graphically
significant. A detailed report is not, there-fore, presented here, but all marked pieces
arc listed below without comment.
1. A1....... Stem marked G.L.
2. A1....... Stem marked COATS
3. A1....... Stem marked JOHN HOLMES in a cartouche
4. A1....... Bowl marked P.M.
5. A 1/2... Bowl marked W.C.
6. A 1/11. Stem marked HENRY HOLMES
7. Dl......... BOWL MARKED R.T.
Other Finds (fig. 11)
There were a small number of metal objects of which most were totally undistinguished apart
from a few which have been chosen for illustration and description here.
Fig. 11, No. 1. C8. Roughly made lead disc with central hole 25mm in diameter. Probably a
sinker for fishing line. Trench C context 8.
Fig. 11, No. 2. D6. Awl with broken tang - overall length 92mm. Trench D context 6.
Fig. 11, No. 3. Single-edged knife with curving blade and broken tang - overall length
A6. Halfpenny of Charles II, 1673. Trench A context 6.
The medieval landscape of Castle Eden (fig. 12)
What has been discussed in this report can only be a first assay at the evidence available
for understanding the medieval and modern development of this small parish, but it is
worth attempting some tentative conclusions if only to raise questions for the next phase
of research at Castle Eden. The method adopted here is a discussion of medieval landscape
and how it may have functioned, even how it may have been created.
The arable fields
From air photographs in the National Monuments Record, it has been possible to reconstruct
the patterns of ridge and furrow as it still existed in the 1940s and 1950s.61 The survival
was extensive and figure 9 illustrates the pattern of roads, the natural drainage, the
furlongs and the direction of the ridges, but it does not claim to be accurate about the
dimensions and numbers of selions, since this will require much detailed transcription.
Three principal areas had already been ploughed out by the time of the earliest photographs
(1946) and in several places ridge direction and furlongs had to be inferred (pecked lines).
The overall pattern is, however, clear: the furlongs are relatively small and well-divided
by lanes or headland balks which tend either east-west or north-south in a fairly regular
fashion and they lie from the lip of Castle Eden Dene in the north to the edge of Hesleden
Dene in the south. To east and west are open spaces without ridge and furrow and these were
probably pasture of one kind or another.
In a classic article on solskifte in England,(62) Professor Goransson identified the Castle
Eden fields as examples of the type, largely it would seem from a late thirteenth or early
fourteenth century charter of Eustace de Eden quit-claiming half a bovate to the Prior of
"... one half part of the land which I held in the vill of Eden, that is, everywhere the
part nearer to the sun (partem propinquiorem soli)......(63)
Goransson interprets this as a reference to a regular cycle of strip allocation in the
furlongs of the open field. This is, however, the only clear reference, although one
earlier document does suggest who evenly divided fields. The grant of a bovate by Adam de
Seton to Alan son of Ulkill in the thirteenth century where the 241/2 acres are divided:
"on the east side of the vill of Eden 121/2 acres and on the west side of the same vill 12
but even earlier in the mid-twelfth century William de Thorp described one bovale:
"of my own fields and it lies at Halflava and Threlthorp"(65)
a description which appears to bear little relation to an open field. At this time indeed
two documents mention
terra wainabilis or cultivable land, one in a context where it is clearly regarded as lying
outside the normal organisation of bovates(66) and the other where it matches with the
moorland and a turbary on the west side of the vill.(67) Such land may have been outfield or
simply pasture available, for assarting or indeed both. In fact one assart is described in
This appears to suggest an enclosed acre of arable which could be at any place in the
parish. Another four acres called Staniacres lay, during the early twelfth century, in one
block on the north side of a bog called Middelmere,(69) quite possibly the mere shown on
figure 12 as the head of the stream running down to the church. This land was effectively
covered by a furlong of selions now considerably greater than four acres.
"one acre of land which Alvi do Herdwic assarted between Cattesti
and Thorndic, and a bank between the cast (side) and Blacrikesflat towards the syke, and another bank on the south
towards the stream and a third bank on the west towards the syke"(68)
There are hints, therefore, from these early documents that the open field was not yet in
place in the first half of the twelfth century and that the core arable organised in
bovates was still being enhanced by enclosures and other assarts on peripheral land
described as wainabilis. By the early thirteenth century a regular two-field solskifte
seemed to have been created, still based on the eight bovates of the early township and
resulting in the open field landscape finally enclosed by Rowland Burdon in the eighteenth
century and mapped on figure 12. All of this, however, can be no more than a working
hypothesis since the evidence is so slender, but there are other signs which point to
important changes in the later twelfth century.
Moors and meadows
Certainly the great tract of land on the rising ground to the west was moor in the early
twelfth century and was to remain such until the enclosure when it was divided among farms
and woodland plantations. In the north-west the Newcastle road appears to have formed the
boundary between the moor and the cultivable land in the twelfth century,(70) while further
south the break with the furlongs is quite sharp except along the Durham road where a group
of small furlongs survived until the present around a fragment of stream bed. To the east
of the arable fields another clear area may also have been moorland, but only one reference
in the twelfth century appears to help. William de Thorp grants to the monks:
It seems likely that this refers to moorland on the Hesleden side (east) of the vill where
it can easily be reached by the monks, and it also shows some of the uses to which such
land was put, with at least light woodland in this eastern part of the denes. The main
function of the moor was, however, commons of pasture mentioned in many documents.
"that they may have at demesne price their pasture on my moor and in all places where I and
my men hold, as much for sheep as for their cattle, and that they may have at their demesne
hall of Lesser Heseldene (Monk Hesleden) heath (broom etc.) and whatever fuel on my moor or
fencing wood (clauslura) in my dene, where I or my reve shall from time to time show them.
The moorland also, probably where streams rose in meres or bogs, had turbaries for the
cutting of peat, but these also served as meadowland, for example Crakemere,(72) Middlemere
(both turbary and meadow),(73) and Thacmere(74) which could be enclosed with banks. One phrase
in relation to Thacmere suggests that its use was varied and seasonal, serving perhaps as
meadow, pasture and turbary in turn:
Thacmere must be located in the vicinity of the modern Thacmires farm, where two suggestive
rectilinear earthworks still existed on the air photograph of 1946.
Other meadows, however, were in use in the vill, appended as rights to the arable bovates,
although again they seem to be separate pieces of land, one lying, for example, 'below a
toft', next to a stream and a path to the village, probably, therefore, in Castle Eden
"...... I give and concede to the said monks whatever is contained within the circuit of
this Thacmere, as much in dryness as in wetness......"
Prior to excavation, there was no firm indication of where the medieval village of Castle
Eden itself may have lain, if indeed any village had ever existed. Almost the only fixed
point was the church of St. James and its cemetery built in the twelfth century. The early
documents do make reference to tofts and crofts with buildings on them, but are unhelpful
about where they are. Two fifteenth century sources, however, refer to the Claxlon holding
of one bovate, and its toft is described as 'versus partem borialem in villa de Eden' and
'ultra torrentem versus aquilonem super Estrawe', both of which taken together might be
translated as a toft 'lying beyond the stream towards the northern part of the village on
Northwards from the church, across the small dene with its fast-flowing stream, lies the
field where the 1974 excavations were conducted, and it would seem likely that the two
documents were written with this place in mind. 'East Row' would fit well the remains of
buildings excavated to the east of the north-south road found in trenches C and D, and
there would be room to the west for a West Row not mentioned in the documents (figure 5).
Such a two-row village would not be unusual in County Durham and would be one of a number
including Shotton, Hesledcn and Hulam, (76)
but its existence and form needs to be confirmed by further excavation.
At the northern end of the excavated road lay the moat and medieval structure revealed in
trenches I and J, and it seems an easy step to interpret this as the remains of the
twelfth century castle. There are problems, however. If the other arm of the moat is
assumed to be the gulley down which the eighteenth century drive passes (marked moat? on
figure 3), then the area enclosed is six or seven acres of relatively flat land. The
natural defences of the sharp drop into the denes to the north and east make it a good
location for an early castle, but its large size precludes it being a simple ringwork, and
if it were a motte and bailey, the motte has entirely disappeared. Yet the main problem is
the failure of the castle to appear in any record after the early twelfth century while
the archaeology clearly shows continued occupation into the fourteenth and fifteenth
Much clearly still needs to be done and this report can really do no more than make a few
suggestions, but it is worth finally putting forward a hypothesis to be tested by a future
generation of archaeological and historical research. In the twelfth century a castle and
church were intruded into a late Anglo-Saxon landscape divided into bovate holdings farmed,
as individual blocks of arable land with names such as Halflaw and Threlthorp, from lofts
and crofts so far un-located, but perhaps dispersed throughout the vill. The majority of
these holdings were acquired by the church of St. Cuthbert at Durham in the mid-twelfth
century at a time when the Priors and Bishops were conducting a great deal of estate
reorganisation.77 As a result a regular open-field system was created on the solskifte
principle and a two-row village laid out between the church and the castle on land which
may have had some previous settlement (see trench G). At the same time a portion of land
in the south-east comer of the township was carved out to provide space for another two
row village, Hesleden, as a bond settlement for the demesne farm at Monk Hesleden to the
east. Certainly a suggestive rectangle of space is filled by the village of Hesleden whose
earthworks appear on an air photo-graph of 1946 just before they were swamped by
redevelopment and its axial road is merely a continuation of a field lane between the
furlongs of Castle Eden. May it be that here were the two bovates and one toft granted by
William de Thorp to the monks of Durham who exercised rights on the eastern moor of Castle
Large-scale changes such as these and the creation of planned landscapes by powerful people
and institutions are well-recognised for the modern period. Such indeed was the impact of
Rowland Burdon after 1758 building a mansion, rebuilding a church, completely altering the
field system and relocating the settlements and farms. It should not be difficult for us
to believe, therefore, that a powerful concern in the twelfth century, such as the recently
feudalised church of St. Cuthbert, should have taken exactly the same piece of landscape
and changed it to suit its own interests and the modem fashion of farming.
Department of Geography,
St David's University College, Lampeter.
I am grateful to Dr B.K. Roberts for his comments on this report.
This report is published with the aid of a grant from English Heritage.
1..... R. Surtees, History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham, vol. 1, 1816,41.
2..... Annual Report of the Medieval Village Research Group 1971,22. '
3..... op.cit. n.1, 42.
4..... G.B. Brown, The Arts in Early England, vol. 4, 1915, 810.
5..... L.E. Webster & J. Cherry (eds.), Med. Arch. 18, 1974, 182-3.
6..... See also Brierton, Copt Hill and Thrislington. A Meaney, A Gazetteer of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites,
7..... R. Miket & M. Pocock, An Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Greenbank, Darlington, Medieval Archaeology 10.
8..... Cleveland County Archaeology Society, Recent Excavations in Cleveland, 1985,27-36.
9..... D.D. Bartley, C. Chambers & B. Hart-Jones, The vegetational history of parts of south and east Durham,
.........New Phytologist 77 1976, 437-68.
10.... D. Austin, Recent fieldwork and excavation at Hart, Co.Durham, 1965-75, Archaeologia Aeliana,
.........5th series 4 1976 69-132.
11.... e.g. B.N. Eagles, The Anglo-Saxon Settlement of Humberside 1979(B.A.R.68).
12.... I. Smith, Patterns of settlement and land use of the late Anglian period in the Tweed Basin, in M. Faull,
.........Studies in Late Anglo-Saxon Settlement, 1984, 177-196.
13.... Sources used are as follows with abbreviated forms for subsequent references:
.........W. Greenwell (ed.). Register Prioratus Dunelmensis (R P D ) 1972.
.........This edition includes the Invenlorium Prioratus Dunelmensis (I.P.D.) and a group of charters related
.........to the holdings in the vill of the Bishops and Priors of Durham (D.C), now housed in the University of Durham
.........Department of Palaeography and Diplomatic (UDDPD), for whose assistance I am grateful.W. Brown (ed.),
.........Guisborough Charlulary (G C) volume 2 1894.T. Arnold (ed.), Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia, vol. II, 1885,
.........which contains the anonymous Historia de Sanaa Culhberlo (H.S.C.).Unpublished set of Inquisition
.........Post Mortem in UDDPD, reference Halmote Court M. 66. (H.C.).
14.... H.S.C., 208 with emendation of Scurnfatun to Scurufatun due to probable transcription error.
15.... D. Austin (forthcoming). The deserted medieval village of Horden.
16.... H.S.C, 211.
17.... D. Austin, Archaeologia Aeliana 5th series, 4, 1976, 71-75.
18.... For the literature on this subject see D. Austin (forthcoming) in E. Grant (ed.) Central Places and Archaeology
19.... H.S.C, 209.
20.... H.S.C. 211. 7
21.... G.C. no. 1151.
22.... For Han see Austin op. cit. n.11, 69-132.
23.... D.C. 131.
24.... UDDPD, Dean & Chapter 3.8. Spec. 17.
25.... UDDPD, D & C. 3.8. Spec. 7.
26.... UDDPD, D & C. 3.8. Spec. 6.
27.... UDDPD, D & C. 3.8. Spec. 2.
28.... UDDPD, D&C. 3.1. Pont. 22.
29.... UDDPD, D&C. 3.8. Spec. 4.
30.... UDDPD, D&C. 3.8. Spec. 5.
31.... UDDPD, D&C. 3.8. Spec. 11.
33.... I.P.D., UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 12; 3.8. Spec. 28; 3.8. Spec. 19. Thomas Claxton seems also to hold another
.........bovate and 3 messuages in Castle Eden probably part of the original William de Thorp grant; UDDPD,
.........D&C. 3.8. Spec. 27 and 3.8. Spec. 21.
35.... G.C. no. 1163 and confirmed by Robert de Brus IV. G.C. no. 1170. Incidentally this appears to be the last
.........vestigial de Brus or even Clifford interest in the vill or manor.
37.... UDDPD. Church commission, H.C.M. 66 f.40.
38.... J.G. Evans, in D.D.A. Simpson, Economy and Settlement in Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Britain and
.........Europe, 1971, 27-74.
39.... For example, Colstoun. C.M. Brooks Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 110, 1978-80,
.........364-403, esp. 366. and lan M. Bells' thin section analysis, 394-5.
40.... Natural Environment Research Council Institute of Geological Sciences, British Regional Geology,
.........Northern England, H.M.S.O-, 1971,85-89.
41.... L. Addis in D. Austin, Thrislinglon, forthcoming Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph.
42.... K. Barren, Yorkshire Archaeol. J. 57, 1985, 68.
43.... S. Mills, unpublished report on pottery from Lumley Street, Hartlepool.
44.... M. EUison, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series 9, 1981, 100 & 108. Also C. O'Mahoney m D. Austin and
.........P. Boland, Barnard Castle, forthcoming.
45.... L. Addis, op. cil. n.41.
46.... C. O'Mahoney, op. cil. n.44.
47.... L. Addis in D. Austin, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5lh series 4, 1976,103.
48.... K. Barren, op. cit. n.42, Form I.
49.... K. Ban-elt, op. cit. n.42. Form III.
50.... K. Barren, op. cit. n.42, 63. Fig. 9, No. 12, 64. Fig. 10, No. 39, and H. Patterson, Yorkshire Archaeol. J. 57, 1985,
........70, Fig. 12, No. 8.
51.... Possibly corresponds to Mills (op. cit. n.43) Type C.
52.... L. Addis in P.A.G. Clack, Trans. D. & N. new series 5, 1980, 62.
53.... L. Addis, op. cit. n.47, 111.
54.... L. Addis, op. cit. n.41.
55.... C. O'Mahoney, op. cit. n.44.
56.... Rouletted Raeren stoneware is unusual but has been found at Gloucester. A. Vince, Western Archaeological
........Trust Excavation Monograph 4, 1983. 138.
57.... S. Jennings, Eighteen Centuries of Pottery from Norwich, East Anglian Archaeology Report 13, 1981, 106, 107.
58.... M.R. Holmes. Antiquaries J. 31, 1950-51, 173-179.
59.... A. Thwaite, Connoisseur, 1973, 255-62.
60.... Our thanks to Dr. Young for this opinion. For West Brandon sec G. Jobcy, Archaeologia Aeliana, ser. 4, 40,
61.... R.A.F. vertical photographs. 1951 Flight 540/642 nos. 4325-4333. National Monument Record, London.
62.... S. Goransson, Geografiska Annaler, 43,1961, 80-104.
63.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 12.
64.... M.UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 11.
65.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 17.
67.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 7.
68.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 6 and 3.8. Spec. 7.
69.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 7
71.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 2.
72.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 11.
73.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 7.
74.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 4.
75.... FPD and UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 28.
76.... B.K Roberts, Medieval Archaeology 16. 1976, 33-5o.
77.... D. Austin, in M.L. Faull, Studies in Late Anglo-Saxon Settlement, 1984, 197-207
78.... UDDPD D&C. 3.8. Spec. 2.
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