At the request of the parish council, through Mr John Dunning, a single field of well-preserved earthworks in the village of Bishop Burton, North Humberside [East Riding of Yorkshire], was surveyed by members of the Humberside Archaeology Unit on 22nd January 1992.

The field, which is centred on NGR SE98783975 and is bordered on the north by the York Road (A1079) and on the south by Pudding Gate, lies towards the north-west of the village opposite the entrance to the Bishop Burton College of Agriculture (see fig. 1). This field, as well as those in the immediate vicinity, all exhibit earthworks characteristic of a shrunken medieval village surrounded by its former open fields.

Earthwork description (see fig. 2)

The northern part of the field falls away towards the York Road. Here, the earthworks are dominated by a levelled area or terrace (a) which measures 30m by 10m and which extends to the north as a prominent platform. Another similarly levelled area lies further to the east (b), although its eastern end has been cut by a recent field boundary. Between the two platforms, a shallow depression which may represent a former path or trackway runs in a north-south direction almost as far as the York Road.

To the north-west, a long rectangular platform (c) lies at right¬ angles to the road. This feature measures 30m by 7m with a narrower area to the north where a recent drainage channel has been cut through; the channel joins two areas of shallow ground to the east and west. A narrow bank of recent origin and containing a pipe runs along the western side of the field and connects to a man-hole cover.

The rear of the three platforms or terraces is marked by a bank which appears to be the remains of a natural field boundary. The western end of this feature has been artificially steepened and contains a prominent right-angle; within this area is another levelled area (d). A tree protected by a square shelter has been planted in the centre of the bank while a circular earthwork at the eastern end represents a large tree hole.

The southern section of the field contains four enclosures or crofts. (e, f, g and h) positioned along the street frontage of Pudding Gate. Of the four, enclosure f is the best preserved and measures 35m by, 25m. Enclosure e contains the traces of a rectangular platform 20m by 7m on its eastern side while enclosure g has a slightly sunken area 10m by 8m to the north. The rear of enclosure h contains another platform but this appears to be a natural feature. The divisions between the enclosures are marked by banks; that between g and h is the most prominent and this forms one side of a levelled area which leads to a piece of land at the rear.

The enclosures are separated from this piece of land by a bank and ditch. This 25m wide area is devoid of earthworks and its northern edge is marked by a shallow bank which may be the remains of field boundary. Between this and the enclosures to the north is another flat area although this appears to contain some ridge and furrow (i).


As with their modern counterparts, medieval villages commonly consisted of a number of rectangular enclosures or crofts positioned at right angles to the streets. These crofts represent areas of individually-held land lying behind the house plots (tofts) which would have been located along the street frontages. Behind the crofts were the open fields which were communally farmed on a rotational basis.

Elements of the medieval topography can still be seen in Bishop Burton both in the earthworks and the remaining field boundaries (see fig. 1). The medieval village appears to have been centred around the church and the streets to the west. The village has a long history and is associated with the Bishop of York's palace which is mentioned in the documentary record from 1340. The regular alignment of the streets, e.g. Pudding Gate, Cold Harbour View, Callas, Joby Lane and Church Lane, appears to suggest some element of planning, a feature commonly seen in East Yorkshire villages.

Within the surveyed field, a number of enclosures or crofts (e to h) divided from each other by shallow banks can be recognised along the southern part of the field. Two of these, e and g, appear to have buildings within them and it is likely that additional buildings are located along the southern boundary. A levelled track or path between enclosures g and h allows access from Pudding Gate to the centre of the field. In the northern part of the field, the two prominent platforms (a and b) are likely to represent additional buildings, with another structure to the south-west (d). The Ordnance Survey maps show that in recent years these platforms had trees in square shelters on them; these have been plotted on figure 2. Between the two areas of occupation, an area of ridge and furrow marks part of the former open fields.

It should be stressed that this interpretation is based solely on the earthwork evidence and no historical research has been undertaken of this site. Such work may result in a re-definition of the some of the features described above.


The earthwork survey was undertaken by Ed Dennison, Michael Hemblade and Alison Williams of the Humberside Archaeology Unit using standard tape and offset techniques. The text and figures were produced by Ed Dennison.

Download this file (Earthwork survey fig1.jpg)Earthwork survey fig1.jpg[ ]142 kB
Download this file (Earthwork survey fig2.jpg)Earthwork survey fig2.jpg[ ]99 kB