Origins

The history of the Medieval Settlement Research Group

The Deserted Medieval Village Research Group was formed in 1952, with the objective of compiling lists of DMVs (deserted medieval villages) for each county in England. This project had been begun by Maurice Beresford. The group also organised the excavations of the deserted village site of Wharram Percy (Yorkshire) directed by John Hurst. The Group received and recorded reports on fieldwork, excavations and documentary studies of DMVs, mainly in England but also in other parts of Britain and overseas.

The whole subject was placed on a secure footing, and the listing of sites reached an advanced stage, in 1971 with the publication of Deserted Medieval Villages, edited by Beresford and Hurst. In 1972 a new name, the Medieval Village Research Group, reflected a widening scope in settlement studies. The Wharram Percy investigation continued, along with many other important excavations and field work projects. Existing or partly deserted villages were studied, along with dispersed settlements. A further extension of the field of interest was marked by the formation of the Medieval Settlement Research Group from the merger of the MVRG and the research group which had gathered data on moated sites. The new group embraced all types of medieval settlement, including castles, churches and monasteries, and looked back before 400 and after 1600. It was influenced by the advances in landscape history, and its members studied fields, parks and woods. Such work continues. The group recognizes the importance of towns, but tends to focus on the countryside. Wharram Percy ended in 1990, and its final report was published in 2012. The Group encourages new field work projects, holds a series of conferences, and has pursued an ambitious publishing programme, including Medieval Rural Settlement, edited by Neil Christie and Paul Stamper as well as its annual peer-reviewed journal Medieval Settlement Research.

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