Interpretation of the structures

Crow Close has always been referred to as the site of a deserted medieval village. Based on an examination of the air photographs the preferred model was of houses along the E-W hollow way with crofts behind and scattered houses around a triangular area, possibly a village green, in the middle of the field. The magnetic and resistance surveys provide good evidence of several buildings in the area of the junction of the hollow ways. Indications from the resistance survey are that the junction itself is masked by a large spread of rubble that may conceal more buildings. Elsewhere, including four small rectilinear structures clearly visible on air photographs (Figure 17), there is no geophysical evidence of houses, though WWII activities may have concealed such evidence in the western part of the field. There are several small areas of positive magnetic anomalies and high dipolar responses, which could be pits or buried ferrous rubbish, but there is no pattern to them and the likelihood is that they are caused by buried WWII debris. Many small magnetic spikes from all over the field were screened out of the magnetic data because it was suspected that they were caused by wartime debris.

From the information available it is difficult to describe the earthworks that have been verified as possible buildings as representative of a deserted medieval village. The two largest buildings near the hollow way junction are too big to be medieval farmsteads and wrongly orientated to be churches. They are more likely to be large houses, the one bisected by a field boundary possibly being older than the other to the north of it and marking the site of the original medieval house. The smaller structures identified by geophysics nearby could be associated farm buildings or tenants’ cottages. This conclusion best fits the historical evidence that this site may have been the seat of the Porter family.

Field boundaries

The field boundaries themselves appear to date from more than one period. Two of the fields in the south west (K and L) are shown as closes on the 1586 conjectural map and their tenancies are known, but there are no other boundaries within Crow Close shown on this map. The area was freehold at the time and details about it were not given in the manorial survey. Most of the other boundaries are ditched and form a regular relationship with the hollow ways, suggesting that this set of small fields may have been laid out when the hollow ways were in use.

The boundaries between fields A, B, C and D can be seen on air photographs to extend northwards into the area of housing. Most of the area north of Crow Close is described as pasture within East Moor on the 1586 conjectural map, but there are three closes north of the north-western part of Crow Close (Figures 17 and 18). Two of them, due north of the present playground, were demesne land worked by Thomas Spyby; the third, which is the easternmost and due north of field E, was freehold in the name of Alexander Rowarth. It is presumed that these closes were used for grazing, which suggests that they and possibly the area of Crow Close to the south of them ceased being arable at some time before 1586. The most likely time for this was after the Black Death in 1348-49 and before 1450 when the Porter family is first recorded as the most prominent freeholder in the parish. It is possible that they built the first big house in Crow Close at this time.

The playground itself is transected by three ditched boundaries, which are seen on air photographs to extend into the area of the two westernmost closes to the north of Crow Close. The boundary between fields B and C runs into the boundary between the two closes farmed by Thomas Spyby and must predate 1586. The others do not coincide with any boundary present on the 1586 map and must have been laid out later. The implication of this is that the creation of fields A, B, C and D in Crow Close took place after 1586 at a time when they and the closes farmed by Thomas Spyby in 1586 to the north were under common ownership. This had clearly taken place before 1776. On the 1776 map and the tithe map (Figure 18) the area of the three closes north of the playground is freehold and presumed to be part of the Porter holding. On the tithe map (Figure 18) they fit within lot 513. The base map has not been corrected for scale or fitted to the national grid for this figure, which will explain the small amount of misfit around the northern and eastern edges. The best estimate of the time that these ditched boundaries within Crow Close came into existence is during the 1680-90 general enclosure, when it is likely that the Porter family consolidated its holdings in one place and acquired some of the adjoining land that had previously been owned by the Earl of Chesterfield.

Field A is very narrow and the air photographs that show the extension of these ditched boundaries to the north indicate that this narrow strip also extends northwards. It may never have been a field, but was possibly a strip of grazing along the eastern side of what is now Cogley Lane. This arrangement, commonly referred to as green lanes, is common in the East Midlands.

The areas of ridge and furrow in fields G, H and I could have been part of East Field, which could also have been converted to pasture in the mid 14th century. The apparent obliquity of the boundaries between them with respect to the ridge and furrow and the fact that the boundary between fields H and I bisects a building platform suggest that they may be late, though there is no independent evidence that they also are general enclosure boundaries.

Fields M and N do not fit this pattern. If the northern of the two large building platforms is the later Porter manor house, it is conceivable that M and N at least are part of the grounds to the house.

Field F is divided into six small fields. These boundaries do not show the same characteristics as the others and may represent a much later episode of land management.

Hollow ways

The east-west hollow way passes westwards directly into a set of roads and tracks that link Crow Close with the centre of Bingham and there is documentary evidence that this roadway was maintained into the 19th century. The north-south hollow way may not have been a single road. The branch going north from the site of the possible big houses might have been an access road from the farm complex to the common grazing on East Moor to the north or just to the areas of the Porter’s holding that were newly acquired at the time of general enclosure. The branch running south first meets Husband Street, which passes along the southern border of Crow Close. Husband Street was the main road through Bingham. The hollow way could then have continued southwards directly into the large area of freehold south of Grantham Road that belonged to the Porter/Sherbrooke/Lowe family. It seems, therefore, that the best explanation for the hollow ways is that they were made to serve the needs of the farmers living in Crow Close and probably do not pre-date the arrival of the Porter family here presumed to have been before the mid 15th century.

Deserted medieval village

Whether or not any part of this site was occupied before the Porter’s house was built cannot be demonstrated from the information at present available. The small sites around the central triangular field (Field M) that give no or indeterminate geophysical signatures may be house platforms that preceded the construction of the big house, possibly built of timber and thatch, though no evidence of hearths was found in them. What is clear is that Crow Close was identified as the site of a deserted medieval village by interpreting the earthworks preserved in the field. The evidence from this study is that a better interpretation of them may be of a post-medieval hall and farm complex.



The laser survey revealed some features that were not evident on the air photographs, but the general sharpness of the structures on the air photographs was not matched in the laser survey. This is no fault of the method, but the effect of half a century of erosion of the features in a field that is grazed by cattle all the year round.

The complementarity of the magnetic and resistance surveys was well demonstrated. Both methods revealed structures that the other did not and where they identified traces of buildings the anomalies did not exactly coincide, but seemed to be reacting to different elements within the buildings.

Sequence of events

The following sequence of events is postulated as a basis for further investigation:

  • Most if not all of the area was under open field arable cultivation in the early Medieval period
  • At some time before 1586, but most likely between the mid 14th and mid 15th centuries the arable land was converted to pasture. This may have been a result of strip consolidation into a large block by the Porter family and the construction here of their first house. No evidence has been forthcoming of pre-existing occupation of the site. However, this cannot be discounted. Just to the east is the Romano-British site at Carnarvon Primary School and evidence of medieval activity there has been revealed in the excavations carried out prior to building work.
  • Fields K and L did not belong to the Porter family in 1586, but existed then as closes, one of demesne land and the other tenanted.
  • The second house was built possibly in the 17th century
  • The Porters extended their ownership of land around Crow Close by acquiring the three closes north of Crow Close and the two in the south-west corner. This took place after 1586 and before 1776.
  • The field system as represented by the ditched boundaries was established some time after 1586. There is no information to help set a younger date for this, but the most likely date for it and the acquisition of the land to the north is during the 1680-90 general enclosure of the parish. At this time the Porters were likely to have come to some sort of accommodation with the Earl of Chesterfield and consolidated their land holding into two large blocks.
  • The house remained occupied until 1754. There is documentary evidence that the Hutchinson family farmed this land in the late 18th century, but it is unclear if they lived here or at Starnhill Farm, which they also rented. There is no indication of the existence of a building on this site on Sanderson’s map of 1835, nor on the tithe map of 1841, thus the buildings had been allowed to fall into ruin before then.

Only excavation will solve the problems of this field. Work on the known buildings may give evidence of their age, but equally important would be excavations at the several small sites seen on the laser plan and air photographs, but which yielded no geophysical signature. Their distribution, should they be found to be sites of houses, would make the interpretation of Crow Close as a deserted medieval settlement more realistic, though there appear at present to be too few remains to justify calling the site a village.

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