Friday, 15 January 2016

Notes from the field: Letcombe Bassett

Over Christmas I got a chance to go out for a short walk with my wife and the nippers up at Letcombe Bassett, a village I’d not been to before. It has got a lovely little church and some good solid box-frame late medieval box-frame houses (which I'm planning to blog about another time).  However, what caught my eye as we headed up the hill following a footpath past the church was a series of earthworks to the south of the church. The trusty OS 1:10 000 map did not show the actual features and it wasn't clear whether the ‘Old Quarry’ label referred to that area or other adjacent lumps and bumps.

Later on I chased up the earlier OS maps, and nothing is shown even on the 19th century First Edition map, although it was clear that the church and the earthwork sat together in a larger roughly rectangular enclosure defined by field boundaries and the edge of the churchyard. Pleasingly, with the recent freely available access to Lidar data I was able to get a better sense of the shape of the earthworks I saw. The lidar plot showed a roughly square embanked enclosure approximately the same width as the churchyard.

Stupidly it was only at this point that I thought of checking the Historic Environment Record (doh!), which indeed flagged up these earthworks describing them as an enclosure and house platforms of probable medieval date. I’d suggest that we can go a little further than that- the distinct smaller embanked enclosure and its juxtaposition immediately next to the church at the top of the village make it more likely that we are looking at the site of the manor.  The manor of Letcombe Bassett went through various hands in the medieval period, and ended up in the hands of Queen’s College (Oxford University) in the mid-16th century. I've not had a chance to do much research, but there is a College Farm in the village. I'm guessing that as an absentee landlord, the College no longer required a manor house, and the Letcombe estates were farmed from College Farm. This would give the 16th century as a possible point at which the putative manorial enclosure fell out of use. 

No comments:

Post a Comment