Deserted Villages in the Upper Windrush Valley
Deserted village settlements are known at Pinnock, Castlett, Roel, Aylworth, Hyde, Harford, Taddington and Lower Aston.
Deserted sites in populated village settlements are also evident at Hawling, Guiting Power, Temple Guiting and Naunton.
Due to the limestone foundations used in dwelling construction, much topographical evidence of our lost villages has survived. Mounds, lumps, depressions and holloways outline former roads and house platforms.
Many are surrounded by vestiges of the medieval open field agriculture system with its ridge and furrow land.
The Domesday Survey of 1086 listed their ownership, population (of taxpayers), the cultivated land area in hides (about 126 acres), the number of plough teams (both demesne and tenant), woodland, mills and their combined worth.
Their demise is seen as slow and multifactorial; each deserted settlement would have its own story of abandonment. Favourable climatic conditions in the early 14th cenrury enabled Englands population to reach a highpoint. The adverse weather changes at the start of the 'Great Famine' in 1315 prevented three years of adequate manuring, planting and forage conservation resulting in weakened human and animal populations vulnerable to malnutrition and disease.
The 'Great Murrian', or cattle plague, of 1320 that followed, (thought to be Rhinderpest), would not have missed this area. Sheep, draught oxen, milking cows and beef animals would have succumbed in large numbers.
The Black Death of 1349-50, with its periodic resurgence into the 15th century, reduced the population further. Roel for example is recorded as losing around 66% of the tenant families. Economic forces may also have played a part in population depletion.
Sheep pastures were increased in the late 14th century, at the expense of cultivated lands. This lead to a reduction in the associated peasant population as the labour requirement to manage them was much reduced.
The dissolution of the Order of the Knights Templar in 1309 brought disruptive changes in the ownership and management of the manors of Guiting Power, Castlett, Guiting Grange and Upper Guiting. They were seized by the king and given to the absentee overlord, Hugh Dispenser the Younger, and the Knights Hospitallers.
Castlett, a slave village, no longer existed soon after 1350 and Roel's last tenant left the village in 1443.