Reconstructing the Landscapes of Medieval Villages, Their Fields & Pastures before 1300
with Dr Sue Oosthuizen (University of Cambridge)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 31st January, 2015.


Physical and documentary evidence for the layout of medieval villages, their fields and pastures frequently survives – not only in medieval buildings like houses and churches, but also in property and parish boundaries, rights of way, hedgerows and so on. This course takes a practical approach both to recognizing such clues in the landscape and, through worked examples, demonstrates how they can be used (often in conjunction with maps and documentary evidence) to establish some initial explanations for their medieval origins and development.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                Reconstructing medieval settlement – Beginning with the underlying geology and topography, the session moves on to the identification of key components in medieval village – like manorial centres, greens, and free and dependent tenancies – and the relationships between them.

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                Arable fields: origins, forms & identification – The identification of medieval open fields in modern landscapes can be easier than might be imagined, at least in broad outline. This session identifies their key components and techniques for their reconstruction, as well as the range of ways in which they were organised.

12.40 – 13.45:                Lunch break

13.45 – 14.35:                 Pastoral husbandry in the medieval landscape – Clues to the existence and extent of medieval greens and commons are often more widespread than is often realized. The session discusses their principal characteristics and how to recognise them, as well as how they were managed.

14.35 – 14.55:               Tea break

14.55 – 15.45:                Complications and conclusions – Particular forms of settlement and field system are not evenly distributed across England. This session discusses those differences and possible explanations for them.

c.15.45:                            Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

(* marks the most important)

*Aston, M. & Gerrard, C. Interpreting the English Village (Windgather, 2013).

Beresford, M. The Lost Villages of England (Sutton, 1954).

Gelling, M. & Cole, A. The Landscape of Place-Names (Dyas, 2000).

Hall, David. Medieval Fields (Shire, 2010).

Hoskins, W. G. The Making of the English Landscape (Guild, 1988 ed).

Morris, R. Churches in the Landscape (Dent, 1997).

Oosthuizen, S. Landscapes Decoded (Hatfield, 2006).

Rackham, O. The History of the Countryside (Phoenix, 2000).

Roberts, B. K. The Making of the English Landscape (Dent, 1987).

*Taylor, C. C. Village and Farmstead (George Phillip, 1983).

Some Useful Website Addresses

  • Many sites, including upstanding earthworks, deserted villages and field systems, can be found through the Heritage Gateway which contains county Historic Environment records, as well as in the volumes of the RCHM
  • Air photographs can be found on Googleearth, whose most recent versions (6 and later) include a feature called ‘Historical Imagery’ which may contain air photographs of your area from 1947 onwards (not available on Apple machines, alas)
  • One of the best portals for maps is that provided by the Map Room of the Cambridge University Library
  • Many of the Victoria County Histories, very often including a parish-by-parish history of manors, churches and local economy, can be found on
  • Digital copies of the first edition ” Ordnance Survey maps can be found on
  • And finally, English Heritage has a set of websites, including Pastscape (descriptions of sites or buildings), Viewfinder (historic photographs), and ImagesofEngland (listed buildings). Use as the portal to these sites.

About Susan Oosthuizen

Susan Oosthuizen is Reader in Medieval Archaeology at the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education where she directs programmes in the historic environment (landscape and garden history/ archaeology). She is affiliated to the University’s departments of Archaeology and History and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and a former President of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. She holds an MA from SOAS (University of London), and a PhD from the University of Cambridge and has published widely on the Anglo-Saxon and medieval rural landscape. She is currently completing a book on the Anglo-Saxon fenland while, at the same time, undertaking a longer-term project on the governance of medieval transhumance in Europe.