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Lost medieval village of Studmarsh

Archaeological investigations at the National Trust’s Brockhampton Estate indicate that humps and bumps spread across grassy fields either side of a small valley are likely to be covering remains of a lost Herefordshire medieval village.

Herefordshire Council’s archaeologists have been working with the mental health charity Herefordshire Mind to deliver a joint learning project at a site that was mentioned as a settlement in medieval documents, but disappeared more than five centuries ago.  Excavation began by digging into some of the platforms, ditches, banks and other features which make up the site to try and find out what lay beneath.

Joined by over 50 volunteers and participants, including people recovering from mental health problems, and visited by nearly 200 people keen to see what was going on, the two and a half week dig which took place last month, focussed on two excavation areas. 

The team unearthed the foundations of the end corner of a large stone-built structure with walls up to one metre wide,  and a stone lined foundation to support a timber framed cross wall and external doorway. This amounts to evidence that this was a major building and probably a house for a locally important person.

Along the hillside, what appeared to be rubble foundations for a much smaller building were found.  This building had wattle and daub walls and seems to have been rebuilt at least once.  Charring suggests it was finally burnt down.   Pottery is the main way of dating such remains and that found in and around the remains dates to the 13th and 14th century.

Ian Bapty, lead officer for the project said: “All this is quite exciting.  A reasonable preliminary interpretation is that we have not only found the lost village of Studmarsh, but that the presence of these two very different buildings demonstrates that it was very much a village as we understand that term.

“The current pottery evidence suggests the village was abandoned in the 14th century. While we don’t know for sure why the village declined, the impact of catastrophic events around that time such as the Black Death, may be significant factors.”

Work will continue to look at all the archaeological evidence that has been gathered and see how the evidence connects with historical documents relating to Studmarsh and its environs.