British Collection Highlights:

Seacourt Deserted Medieval Village, Oxfordshire

One of the highlights of the British Collections is the archive of excavation material from the site of the deserted medieval village of Seacourt. The Ashmolean holds a large collection of artefacts from this site including pottery, metal work and building material.

Seacourt was one of the first deserted medieval villages to be extensively excavated in the 1930s and 1950s before the A34 Oxford Western Bypass partially destroyed the site. The dig revealed timber and stone buildings, foundations of the church, burials, a road, and objects, including many ceramics. Documentary sources show that there was also a manor house and mills at Seacourt.

The village of Seacourt had developed by about AD 990. By the 1430s it was virtually deserted.Many medieval villages suffered a similar fate caused by changes in land use and the economy in the 1400s. The Black Death struck the population of Seacourt during the 1350s.

"the church itself of Seckworth [Seacourt] was collapsed, that the houses and inhabitations in the parish were uninhabited and exposed to ruin, with the exception of two only,….the said church had no parishioners"
John Pigg, M.A., Vicar of Seacourt quoted in Lateran Regesta,1439.

The evidence from the deserted village reveals information about medieval daily life. A variety of household goods such as cooking vessels and dress accessories were found along with building materials. Tools and other implements used in agriculture and fishing were also recovered.

One excavated wooden building dating to around 1250 is thought to be a house with an adjoining kitchen and a separate outbuilding. It was rebuilt in stone in the 1300s. Another stone building, probably with two storeys may have been an alehouse.

Objects from Seacourt are on display in the ‘England 400-1600’ gallery on the second floor.

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Aerial Photograph of Seacourt Deserted Medieval Village (Click to enlarge)

Aerial photograph of Seacourt deserted village, showing house platforms and foundations and the road to them. Taken by Major George Allen on 28 May 1939 (Album ref 17, 6)

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Aerial Photograph of Seacourt Deserted Medieval Village (Click to enlarge)

Another aerial photograph of Seacourt deserted village, also showing house platforms, foundations and the road to them. Taken by Major George Allen on 28 May 1939 (Album ref 17, 7)

Further Information

Seacourt Revisited - An online study module in ceramics (Ashmolean Museum's Potweb website)

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January 2012