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Medieval Hockliffe

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county's historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The church, remaining dwellings and earthworks at Church End mark the site of the original medieval village of Hockliffe [HER 16880]. It is apparent that settlement in this area was greater than it is today. Well defined earthworks of the former village remain, with property boundaries, house-platforms and a possible hollow-way surviving, particularly on the north-west side of the churchyard beside the lane leading to Hockliffe Grange. It appears that settlement shifted eastward towards Watling Street during the later medieval period [HER 11639]. Church Green, or Goose Green, now a small triangular grassed area with tarmac roads on each side, together with the church formed the focus of the medieval village [HER 11637]

 Aerial view of earthworks at Hockliffe [Z56-93]
Aerial view of earthworks at Hockliffe [Z56/93]

The most substantial earthworks in the village are a Scheduled Ancient Monument to the south of Church Farm. A small subrectangular enclosure lies within a square platform and consists of an artificial mound approximately 30 metres by 28 metres, with traces of a slight bank around its perimeter. The surrounding ditch is visible around all but the northern side of mound and defined by an outer bank. It is interpreted as a moat surrounding a dwelling. The square outer enclosure is 80 metres in width, creating a level platform to the south, east and west of the ditch. It projects from the natural slope of the hillside and probably contained outbuildings associated with the occupation of the central mound. A hollow way approaches from the south west and forms a channel across the outer enclosure. A second entrance to the south is indicated by a narrow depression running cross the platform. A lower platform on the south east side of the outer enclosure contains further low earthworks indicating buried structures. Further raised areas lie to the north of the moated site, comprising a large level terrace flanked by smaller platforms. These are thought to be the remains of further buildings associated with the moated site and the church. On the hillside to the south west of these and of the moated site are cultivation earthworks (ridge and furrow) associated with the settlement [HER 10]. Although it has been suggested that they could have been constructed during the Civil War the most likely explanation for these earthworks is that they were connected with the medieval manor before it was divided in the fourteenth century. This division of Hockliffe Manor between co-heirs at the beginning of the 14th century is probably the reason that there are no references to a manor house or "capital messuage" in any of the documents relating to the manor which survive for the later medieval period.