Torpel Manor Research Project

Steven P Ashby, 2016

Data copyright © Steven P Ashby unless otherwise stated

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Torpel Manor Research Project

Torpel Manor Field is home to an important and visually impressive series of medieval and later earthworks, preserved by English Heritage as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. As such, the site is well-known locally, but, until recently, its character, context and development were poorly understood, as little archaeological work had been undertaken. The aim of this project was to address this issue and, through a combination of non-invasive survey and archival work, to characterise the social and physical landscape of the site, which lies in an area of considerable archaeological interest.

The field is the site of a ringwork castle or fortified manor, and is surrounded by earthworks that are indicative of further settlement and activity, probably in the post-conquest medieval period. There is an adjacent deerpark, and standing remains of what may well be an associated hunting lodge. Barnack features a medieval limestone quarry and seems to have been a major production centre for funerary monuments, and Saxo-Norman fabric is preserved in nearby churches. The site’s apparent lack of later development made it a good candidate for investigation, with particular potential to consider activity throughout, and before, the medieval period.

More generally, the close study of a midland fortified site in its landscape context is an exciting opportunity. The site lies close to other villages of early foundation and significance, such as (i.a.) Stamford, Barnack, Maxey and Peterborough. The site has the potential to illuminate wider considerations of settlement, trade, and elite power in the medieval period. Its situation on the edges of the ‘midland’ and ‘ancient’ zones of medieval agriculture makes it a particularly interesting site through which to examine the development of the landscape and field systems, and their relationship to the adjacent villages and castle/manor.

Work undertaken in this non-invasive project included earthwork survey, gradiometry, and resistivity. This has allowed us to more precisely characterise the site's earthworks, and to propose a chronology for activity there. A number of previously unrecorded sub-surface features were identified. The integration of these findings with new documentary research (not included herein) allows a more complete biography of the surrounding landscape to be written.

All work was undertaken with the generous help and support of the Helpston area's local community, most notably Ms Frieda Gosling, the Torpel History and Archaeology Group, and the Langdyke Countryside Trust. Funding has been provided by a grant awarded to the Langdyke Countryside Trust by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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