Across The ‘Thames’ from Binsey

Seacourt is one of the earliest DMVs to be excavated in Berkshire. Initial excavations in 1937-9 seem to have taken place in the ‘original nucleus’ of the village, finding domestic structures, medieval pits and part of the village church. [1] The site has also produced Roman pottery implying a farm or hamlet nearby, whilst pottery of the tenth-twelfth century must represent the first stages of the medieval village. [2] The village site seems to have been bordered by Marleywood Plantation on the west and Wytham or Seacourt stream on the east. [3] The second phase of excavations in 1958-9, in advance of the construction of the Oxford Western by-pass was focussed on the central area of the earthworks. [2] This included the main north-south street that runs along the length of the area given over to the by-pass. [2] The 1958-9 excavations revealed evidence of structures no earlier than mid-late twelfth century suggesting that this area was a late twelfth-thirteenth-century extension from the original village core. [2] In 1959 rapid recording was undertaken of the fuller area of the main street uncovered in advance of road construction. [2] Wooden buildings in the village seem to have been replaced by stone-built houses, probably in the first half of the fourteenth century. [2] The site did not reveal evidence of the typical longhouse with animals under the same roof. Instead houses were simple one or two-roomed cottages. [2] The pottery sequence seems to come to an end by the late fourteenth century, suggesting desertion had occurred by c. 1400. [2] The excavations did not manage to locate tenth-twelfth-century activity at the site but the presence of pottery supports documentary references to an earlier phase of settlement. [2] Later excavations at the site in 1987 revealed further settlement remains west of the by-pass, [4] whilst analysis of aerial photographs has shown another main north-south hollow way surviving in this area. In total at least nine house platforms have been identified. [4]

The documentary evidence suggests that the Domesday vill of Seacourt was reasonably populous, whilst in contrast only three tax payers were recorded in 1327 and 1332, [5, 6] and the vill’s 1334 Lay Subsidy assessment also seems low, perhaps suggesting contraction before the Black Death. The estimated desertion of the site by c. 1400 is supported by a letter dated 1439 which notes that the church had collapsed and only two buildings remained occupied in the village. [1] It has been suggested that Seacourt’s decline could be linked to the rising prosperity of nearby Oxford. [7]

Appears in the Gazetteer of Deserted Medieval Villages known in 1968.References:[1] Bruce Mitford, R.L.S. 1940. ‘The Excavations at Seacourt, Berks, 1939: an Interim Report’, Oxoniensia 5: 31-41.
[2] Biddle, M. 1961-2. ‘The Deserted Medieval Village of Seacourt, Berkshire’, Oxoniensia 26/27: 70-201.
[3] Oxfordshire HER Record No. 2356.
[4] NMR Pastscape Record No. 336317.
[5] The National Archives E179/73/6 rot 13.
[6] The National Archives E179/73/7 rot 13d.

[7] Scheduled Monument List Entry 30830.Pre-1974 county:BerkshireHistoric parish:SeacourtPresent county or unitary area:OxfordshireModern parish:WythamGrid reference:SP 486 074Latitude:51.763631Longitude:-1.296446


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