The project is based in the Department of History at the University of Hull. The project directors are Dr Helen Fenwick and Professor Michael Turner.
A number of other researchers have contributed to this project
Dr Steven Clarke
Original Web design and implementation:
Current Web design and implementation:
The greatest acknowledgement has to be to Maurice Beresford. His generous bequest to the University of Hull has made this website possible, and we hope that he would approve of its use in this way.
The bequest has been managed by the Development and Alumni Relations Team at the University of Hull, headed by Maureen Brunton, and we must thank them for their patience with the time it has taken to bring this project to fruition.
In the early stages of the project advice was sort from a number of people. Initially this included John Chartres, long-time friend and colleague of Maurice and Chris Dyer, Honorary Vice-President of the Medieval Settlement Research Group, both of whom gave their support for what we intended to do.
Other committee members of the Medieval Settlement Research Group have also provided comments and advice and our thanks go to everyone on the committee, but especially Paul Stamper, Stephen Rippon, Neil Christie and Alan Aberg.
Our thanks also go to the numerous organisations that have provided access to their data. This includes the National Monuments Record at Swindon, who provided a copy of their list of deserted settlements and who provided access to the Medieval Village Research Group Archive. Also the numerous Historic Environment Record Offices who provided access to their data. Our thanks go to Judy Berg at the Hull History Centre for access to the Maurice Beresford papers before their full listing. 2023 Update: It should now be noted that the MEdieval Village Research Group Archive is now in Hull being prepared for deposition at the Hull History Centre. Anyone wishing to access the Archive should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Origins of the project
To see this project reach fruition was an ambition which had its origins on a visit to Wharram Percy on August Bank Holiday in 2007. I pondered why there was not a searchable and user friendly website listing of all the Maurice Beresford and John Hurst identified deserted or lost village sites. In addition such a site could include pen portrait descriptions of their history and characteristics. Surely this was not a difficult task. After all, Beresford and Hurst, and the compiler of the associated gazetteer, John Sheail, had provided Ordnance Survey co-ordinates for all the sites on their list which could be verified perhaps by aerial photography, maps and increasingly since my fateful visit, the advent of Google Earth as well as other electronic resources. The week following the Bank Holiday I shared this idea with my colleague on the archaeology wing of our department, Helen Fenwick. She agreed more or less with everything I said, but of course suggested forcefully that what was needed was funding to mount the appropriate project.
A kind of fate then took over because within a week the University had not only learnt of a particular bequest but also announced in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences a competition for funding arising from the bequest. Maurice Beresford had left a sum of money in his will to Hull University. Apparently there were no strings attached, but the University decided that it would be appropriate to apply the funds to research in areas appropriate to Beresford’s interest. His connections with the University of Hull were not negligible. He had shared a publication with Keith Allison who though not of the University had premises at the University for the many years while he was the editor of the East Riding Victoria County History. The first Professor of Economic History at Hull was John Saville. He was certainly an admirer of and probably shared political sympathies to a degree with Maurice Beresford. In the early 1970s Saville had established an annual lecture series in social and labour history and the list of the subsequent lecturers reveals a decided left of centre roll call. They included, E.P. Thompson, Rodney Hilton, Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, and on 5 May 1981, Maurice Beresford who spoke on ‘Virginia men in Yorkshire in the eighteenth century’. The other main connection with the University of Hull was when he received an Honorary Doctorate on 12 December 1986. As an alumnus he subsequently attended some degree congregations.
Helen and I put in a successful application for funds from the Beresford bequest in competition with other projects in the Faculty. Our project was to mount the Beresford and Hurst deserted village sites on a dedicated website which would be both user-friendly and interactive, to the extent that we could edit and revise it over time on the suggestions of users. Our project was recorded as, ‘Maurice Beresford’s Lost Villages of England: An Interactive Website’. As part of the bidding process we sought advice, support and some reassurances about the project from Professor John Chartres at Leeds University, a long time colleague and friend of Maurice Beresford, and also from Professor Christopher Dyer, at the time Director of English Local History at Leicester University and also the Vice President of the Medieval Settlement Research Group. This group had updated and reviewed the Beresford/Hurst lists but the comprehensive updating of those lists ceased in 1987 (Mann 1990). County and local study groups however, advertised their own revisions, in the Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Reports (1987-2007), in Medieval Settlement Research (2008 to present day), and in academic journals. In a subsequent phase of this project we intend to carry out updates in as comprehensive a manner as possible. Beresford’s original archive was deposited with the National Monuments Record in Swindon in 1989, and many of his other papers are in Leeds University Library. However, he also made two deposits to Hull University Archives. In 1987 he deposited county transcriptions of the E179 Poll Tax Returns of 1377-1381, and in 2002 he deposited two sets of material: papers relating to an unpublished project on the medieval peat industry; and research papers relating to Wharram Percy, Thixendale and the surrounding area. 
Both John Chartres and Chris Dyer were very supportive of what we intended to do. In May 2009 we interviewed for a research assistant/fellow and appointed Dr Stephen Clarke. He began work in the middle of June. We had also co-opted Richard Green on the technical side. Richard had worked on a number of projects in the University on a consultancy basis and in fairly rapid time the electronic inputting proceeded, maps were produced for pilot counties, and the project took shape. Then a series of delays occurred, but in the autumn and winter of 2012-13 and throughout 2013 the project continued apace with the appointment of two excellent researchers, Jayne Marsh and Johanna Greaves. They completed the task of inputting data and checking on the standard cross-sectional sources employed by Beresford and others, such as Domesday and the medieval poll and lay tax returns, and proceeding up to the mid 19th century censuses.
This has been both a long and also a rewarding experience. The website is now partly public property and we welcome constructive criticism from the widest possible audience.
Emeritus Professor of Economic History
Senior Lecturer in Archaeology
Mann, E. 1990. ‘The Medieval Village Research Group Archive: an Introduction’, Medieval Settlement Research Group Annual Report 5: 5-6.
Stages of Project Development
When we started the project we set our sights high. We started with the framework of the ‘County Gazetteers of Deserted Medieval Villages known in 1968’. This amounted to 2263 sites. In the preface to this gazetteer it is clear that this was a work in progress – some counties had already been subject to detailed research, for others none had taken place. The publication lists 16 counties where considerable research needed to be carried out: Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Devonshire, Durham, Essex, Herefordshire, Lancashire, Middlesex, Shropshire, Somerset, Suffolk, Surrey, Westmorland and Worcestershire. Of course in the intervening years many scholars have rallied to this call and many more settlements have been added to this list.
Early on into this project it became clear that if we were to attempt an update of the county-based lists, we would not be able to publish full entries for more than a few counties. So the initial part of the project focussed on Bedfordshire and Berkshire (the first two counties alphabetically), and the East Riding of Yorkshire, the home to the project. At the end of this initial phase (2010), we had a structure for the database constructed and the beginnings of updated lists – but only for Berkshire did we feel that every attempt to supplement the 1968 list had been attempted. We also had the framework for the website built.
As noted above a number of events then transpired which brought the project to a halt until early 2013. It was at this point that a strategic decision had to be taken. If we were to continue on attempting to update all the county lists, and provide full data, we would not manage to get many more than four counties completed for the money available to the project. In many ways this echoed issues raised in the early years of the Deserted Medieval Village Research Group. With limited funds, relying on volunteer help, combating fuel shortage and rising costs, updates in the Annual Reports tell of a lack of funds. In 1958 they proclaimed that the historical work on sites would not be completed in less than 20 years if funding were not available (Hurst 1958: 2). A few years later this had risen to 30 years…..
In 2013 what we decided would be possible was to get a ‘skeleton’ data set for all the 2263 sites from the 1968 Gazetteer completed. This would allow the website to be launched with a country-wide data set, and with valuable information, while gradually updating as and when we could. This ‘skeleton’ data set would include location information, the basic documentary sources, as well as the information on other records such as the record numbers in the National Monuments Record and the local Historic Environments Record. We would also be able to complete the entries for a small number of counties. These complete village records would also require a full description, information on investigations that have taken place at the site, photographic and cartographic records, the period or date of desertion and a classification of the site – whether deserted, shrunken, shifted, migrated or in fact whether it was doubtful.
So to the future. Ongoing we will be producing complete records for all the counties. They will be released and uploaded onto the websites each time a full county is complete. If funding can be secured the much larger task of updating the 1968 Gazetteer to record all the sites identified since this date will be undertaken.
Final word: This has been a team effort, but we are not presenting here a definitive view of every settlement. We have used the data sources available to us and have done our best but to paraphrase Beresford himself ‘although we have tried to take account of all work known to us, there must be omissions which are due to that most subjective of academic traits, sheer ignorance. Fellow authors must not mistake this for indifference’ (Beresford 1989: 4).
Stage 1: Development – Bedfordshire, Berkshire and East Riding (2009-2010 with edits 2013)
Stage 2: Skeleton data sets for all counties (April-September 2013)
Stage 3: Build-up to launch – full data sets completed for Bedfordshire-Durham and East Riding (September 2013-January 2014)
Stage 4: Full datasets ongoing completion (February 2014 onwards)
Stage 5: The updating of the 1968 lists (future grant application)
Beresford, M.W. 1989. ‘A Review of Historical Research (to 1968)’, in M.W. Beresford and J.G. Hurst (eds.) Deserted Medieval Villages: Studies: 3-75. Gloucester: Alan Sutton.
Hurst, J.G. 1958. ‘Historical Research’, Deserted Medieval Village Research Group Annual Report 6: 2.
Progress as of 25th February 2014
Outlined below is the stage at which each of the separate county lists has reached. Once further data are added to counties as detailed above, and they change categories, they will be outlined below.
2014 Complete: Berkshire
1968 Complete: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devonshire, Dorset, Durham, Yorkshire (East Riding)
1968 partial: Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Westmorland, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire (North Riding), Yorkshire (West Riding)
Awaiting data: Lancashire, London (with Middlesex)
Progress as of 31st October 2014
Introduction to Deserted Medieval villages, terminology and causes of desertion added to the text pages of the website.
2014 Complete: Berkshire
1968 Complete: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devonshire, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Yorkshire (East Riding)
1968 partial: Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Westmorland, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire (North Riding), Yorkshire (West Riding)
Awaiting data: Lancashire, London (with Middlesex)
Progress as of 16th March 2015
Blog added to the website updating people on progress.
2014 Complete: Berkshire
1968 Complete: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Cumberland, Derbyshire, Devonshire, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Gloucestershire, Yorkshire (East Riding)
1968 partial: Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Warwickshire, Westmorland, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire (North Riding), Yorkshire (West Riding)
Awaiting data: Lancashire, London (with Middlesex)
Unfortunately the host for the website had to be moved a couple of times, and in the end the website needed a a rebuild. This is currently ongoing.
Website is now back online using ArcGIS Online to provide access to data. This has required a slight shift in how the data is presented but will allow future developments such as adding more details in the future. The counties with the full data available is still as March 2015 but working is progressing on Hampshire and Herefordshire.
Errors and omissions
Please contact us with any queries, errors or omissions seen on the website. Details can be found in the contact section.
Questions about the site or its contents? A technical problem?
You can contact the team by emailing us at email@example.com
We’ll try to reply in a timely fashion but our response is likely to be quicker when the University is in session than when it is not!
Using this site
The Village Explorer is powered by ArcGIS Online by ESRI. When you enter the explorer the start view is the whole country showing the progress in completing each county. You can zoom in and out with the buttons on screen, villages will appear once you have zoomed it to the map. You have options on the left-hand side to zoom to one of the pre-1974 counties. This will provide an overview of the sites in the county, but may not show all of them as the county may extend off the screen. Depending on how far you are zoomed in, the points should be labelled. You can click on one of the settlements and a pop-up will appear containing basic data. The right-hand side panel can be revealed to show the full record. On both the pop-up and the panel, you can select zoom-in to get closer to the settlement. This works best on a computer.
You can also search for a particular name in the search box at the top of the screen – once selected this will bring the data to side panel, click on the search result a second time will zoom to the site on the map.
Each county also has a commentary page and a list of all the settlements recorded – as there are a number of settlements which have not been located on the ground so cannot be added to the map. Details of these sites are available from their county commentary page.