The Evidence on the Ground
Eydon as a Planned Medieval Settlement
This is a work in progress - sorry
by Kevin Lodge
In a recent paper in EHRG’s 2010 booklet of research report, ‘Poverty, Plots and the Palace’, author Kevin Lodge traced the settlement patterns of the village of Eydon from its beginnings up to the present day. In it he described the village as ‘..possibly the best preserved example of a planned medieval settlement in South Northants’ . In this paper he looks for the evidence on the ground of that planning, searching for the original property boundaries and house plots. In a further paper, he will look at when, by whom and for what purpose the village was planned.
From above, the village certainly looks planned, with its compact size and layout of two parallel main streets with cross lanes and property boundaries. It was this layout that prompted the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments (RCHM), in their survey of archaeological sites of South West Northamptonshire, to say ‘.... several villages appear to have been created or extended by deliberate planning, for example… Eydon’ .
Figure 1 (right) shows the outline of Eydon’s streets, the most striking features of which are the two main parallel roads, both approximately 12° east of north. We are not sure why they are so aligned, it may have been chosen simply to give the longest flat road along the east side of Eydon Hill. Linking the roads are property boundaries and a lane (School Lane). For some reason, these are non-orthogonal (ie don't cross at right angles) to the road, but are offset so they are 6° north of west. Interestingly, these non-orthogonal road crossings can be seen in other medieval planned settlements, such as New Sarum (Salisbury, founded in 1217-20) and New Winchelsea, (founded 1283-90), both shown in Figure 2 below.
Whatever the reason for these alignments, their characteristic angles of 6° and 12° act as a signature, allowing us to trace the evidence for this planning in the village. We can find it all over Eydon, from the south and west boundaries of the churchyard right up to the top of the village, to a line between the Moreton and Byfield roads. All this area seems to have been planned and laid out as one unit.
(There is also some evidence that the layout may have stretched further. The footpath to the neighbouring village of Culworth seems to extent the alignment of the High Street, continuing south on a line approximately 10° off north, until it crosses the brook at the parish boundary. Only then does the path actually turn towards Culworth.)
Figure 1, (above, right), is an 1884 map of Eydon with the roads and cross lanes emphasised.
Figure 2, (above) shows the street plans of two planned mediaeval towns,
On the left is New Sarum (Salisbury) planned 1220 and right, the northern part of New Winchelsea, laid out in 1292
New Saraum taken from Nash’s Plan of 1721. Plate 5 from Beresford [Ref 2] and the Reconstructed Burgess Plots of New Winchelsea are from Fig 8.1 from Ref 4.