Settlement, territory and land use in the East Midlands: the Langton hundred, c. 150 B.C. - c. A.D. 1350



An inter-disciplinary approach has been adopted for the study of historical process in the landscape of one particular area of south-east Leicestershire. The value of combining archaeological data with documentary evidence is its potential for assessing the long-term interplay between human behaviour and environmental structure. The primary reason for the choice of study area is that it forms a typical East Midland land unit spanning the landscape zones of river vale and hinterland watershed. The archaeological field survey revealed a densely settled late Iron-Age and early Roman countryside intensively exploited for cultivation but with the late Roman period showing a contraction of settlement in the hinterland. These trends continued into the early Anglo-Saxon period when there was an intensification of settlement in the valeland, whilst a sparsity of finds and the location of minor wold names point to the presence of wood-pastures around the watersheds. The early medieval centuries saw a return to widespread cultivation before the first moves towards enclosure after c. 1350. It is argued that the origin of villages and open-fields should be sought in the social and institutional framework of Anglo-Saxon society. A close relationship between taxation, the number of tenant holdings and township size demonstrates that the fiscal carucate was linked to a late Saxon agrarian reality. The duodecimal carucate was also fundamental for the administrative framework of Anglo-Danish Leicestershire with Langton hundred probably being one of twelve territorial tithings within Gartree wapentake. However, it is contended that the Leicestershire carucate was a twenty per cent revaluation of the Mercian hide pointing to a longer-term continuity of land management. An attempt is made to relate the reconstituted hidages to a putative regio based on the natural territory of the upper River Welland, but it is more strongly argued that township-sized land units were in place by the 8th century. A dispersed settlement pattern had been transformed into a nucleated one by the late Saxon period, whilst the organisation of the open-fields of Greater Langton suggests that township-wide rights to common arable predate the 10th century. With possible first moves towards nucleation in the late 7th or 8th centuries, the suggestion is that the rise of Mercian royal authority and its related administration was a critical catalyst shaping the evolution of the village and open-fields.




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Bowman, P., “Settlement, territory and land use in the East Midlands: the Langton hundred, c. 150 B.C. - c. A.D. 1350,” Centre for English Local History Theses and Papers, accessed September 29, 2022,