West Cotton, Raunds: A Study of Medieval Settlement Dynamics AD 450-1450. Excavation of a deserted medieval hamlet in Northamptonshire, 1985-89 [Hardback]

Andy Chapman (Author)

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ISBN: 9781842173893 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2010 | Language: English 280p, b/w illus throughout, CD




West Cotton, Raunds

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The open area excavation of nearly a half of the small deserted medieval hamlet of West Cotton, Raunds, Northamptonshire has revealed the dynamic processes of constant development in a way that has rarely been achieved on other comparable sites in England. Its origins have been seen to lie in the mid tenth-century plantation of a planned settlement based on regular one-acre plots, which occurred within the political context of the reconquest of eastern England by the Saxon kings and the subsequent reorganisation of settlement and society within the Danelaw. The settlement contained a major holding comprising a timber hall with ancillary buildings and an adjacent watermill, with perhaps a second similar holding and dependent peasants nearby. It was established on the edge of the floodplain at the confluence of a tributary stream with the River Nene, on a major valley-bottom route way.



The processes of redevelopment which led to the rebuilding in stone in the twelfth century, as a small Norman manor house; the probable relocation of the manor buildings in the thirteenth century; and its final form in the fourteenth to mid-fifteenth century as a hamlet of peasant tenements have been well documented by the archaeological evidence. In particular, it has been vividly shown how the final form of the settlement, preserved in earthwork, was merely a fairly brief episode at the end of this extended process of development, while the historic evidence provides no hint of the higher-status elements that had formed an integral part of the settlement until the final century of its occupation. Desertion appears to have been a gradual process, with the tenements abandoned one-by-one through a century of economic and social disasters, of which the Black Death was the most notable, as families presumably moved to better quality land then readily available elsewhere.



The role of the local environment in the processes of change has also been well documented, with the abandonment of the watermill in the twelfth century resulting from a disruption of the water supply caused by a period of intense flooding and alluviation, when the very survival of the settlement was only ensured by the construction of a protective flood bank.



The excavated structural evidence is of high quality, and has provided numerous complete building plans ranging from the timber halls of the tenth and eleventh centuries, through the manor house of the twelfth to thirteenth centuries, to the well-preserved tenements of the fourteenth century. This is complemented by substantial artefact assemblages, and the consideration of the local economy and environment is largely dependent on the analysis of the faunal evidence and the environmental evidence derived from an extensive programme of soil sampling.

Reviews & Quotes

"The changing character of the settlement is charted meticulously, integrating material culture and environmental evidence with structural narrative, and with due regard to existing documentary evidence.. This is a successful and important publication whose significance is enhanced by, and enhances, the other studies already published under the Raunds Area Project.'"
Chris Scull
British Archaeology (March/April 2011)

"Old-fashioned in the ambition and scale of the excavation, and in the thoroughness of the data presentation, it is regrettable that a draft of this report on work done in the mid-1980s via the Manpower Services Commission was finished over fifteen years ago but was then - of necessity - set aside as archaeology went commercial and contracts and developer-funding became the Northamptonshire units funding mainstay. But clearly both the original fieldwork and the long process of bringing this publication to fruition has been a labour of love for Andy Chapman, and one can tell what an important role West Cotton has played in his life.'"
Paul Stamper
Landscape History, vol 32, No. 1 (2011)

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