To what extent can an archaeological survey of Cusworth village throw light on the layout of the manorial estate prior to the mid 18th century? By Roger Luffman.

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Plan of procedure:

By walkover of the modern village and park, together with a study of surviving documents, maps, illustrations held in Doncaster Borough Archive, Doncaster Reference Library and Cusworth Hall museum. Examination of planning applications affecting properties within and adjoining the study area, in conjunction with a study of early ordnance survey maps for the area has identified sites seeming to preserve features from the earlier village. My attempt to talk to local residents was unsuccessful. The following buildings and features were chosen for further investigation by typological study, survey and analysis:

1) Building style features on cottages within the village core and wider estate, together with typological features dating the boundary wall of the estate and cottages to the period before the building of the current hall. The examination of building features proved an unsuitable dating mechanism, as the style persisted for c300 years without major change.

2) The boundary wall of the walled gardens, part of which shows a brick wall dated to c 1740 on the stone base of an earlier garden wall, apparently built in the late 17th century. This study, together with the examination of features in the village wall, mentioned in (1) above, and the study of relevant maps proved successful, and forms the basis of dating within this project.

3) Cusworth Glebe, house dated by owner to 1583, which together with the adjoining Church Cottage (1760), are reputed to be on the site of the previous hall. My attempts to contact the occupiers were unsuccessful.

4) The barn; a large building some 50 metres east of the existing hall, which contains earlier features, either in situ, or reused from an earlier building. The results of this analysis are detailed in Chapter 4. Major landscaping works were started in the park by Doncaster Council during the recent winter and are ongoing. The objective is to restore the park so far as possible to its state when completed in the mid 18th century. These works have obscured some of the features that were studied during this project, but have made others easier to access. This improved access seems to have confirmed my conclusions about the use of the two types of wall for dating purposes.

The Southeast facing promontory shows signs of human habitation since at least the Iron Age (1) Around 1560 the manor was acquired by Leonard Wray of Adwick-le-Street from whose descendants Robert Wrightson bought the Manor and Lordship of Cusworth including the existing hall in 1669 for the sum of £2,500. He had improvements carried out; the homestead barns and cottages were enlarged in 1702. Robert died in 1708; as he had disinherited his eldest son by his first marriage, John, the estate was left to his eldest son by his third marriage, Thomas. Apparently Thomas carried out no alterations or improvements to the estate, though he commissioned the cartographer Joseph Dickinson to produce maps of his estates, including those at Cusworth. Thomas died in 1724, and his widow who lived until 1741 retired to a dower house, north of the hall, which still survives, William Wrightson, his younger brother, succeeded him.

The original Cusworth Hall acquired by Robert Wrightson was situated centrally within the village beside the road to Sprotbrough and High Melton. Described as a five gabled building of Elizabethan appearance, an impression can be gained from an engraving by Samuel Buck dated 1720 housed in the British Museum.

Though the accuracy cannot be determined, Buck is regarded as a usually accurate illustrator. The Hall is also shown, together with some outbuildings to the west on Dickinson’s plan of the estate 1719, which shows the Hall as a single block building with archway and courtyard, contradicting Buck’s Engraving. In 1726 a dovecote was added, and all these outbuildings remained intact and in use until 1952. They formed an L shape and enclosed a rectangular forecourt known as the Estate Yard.

From 1726-1735 William enlarged the house gardens. The New House Accounts  show the purchase of thousands of bricks used in the building of high walls to surround a Bowling Green, flower, greenhouse and kitchen gardens, a lower garden called Low Piece and an Orchard. Subsequently these were known as the walled gardens. In 1726 a summerhouse was added, now known as the bowling pavilion. Though he had spent a large sum on improvements to the village and his walled gardens and orchard, William found that extending the house was more difficult as it backed onto the main road through the village. He decided therefore to build a new larger hall at Cusworth on a different site.

The New House Accounts show that the foundations of the present Cusworth Hall were dug in March 1740 on a new site.  Sometime later the Medieval Cusworth Hall was dismantled, and its site and possibly some of the materials were used in the construction and alteration of several other buildings.

This study will attempt to determine what survives of the immediate predecessor to the modern estate, and the extent to which it may be detectedin the modern landscape. The earliest known map featuring the village in any detail is Grover’s map dated 1711. This very large map of the area northwest of Doncaster does not show the garden at Cusworth, though there is documentary evidence it was already in existence and is recorded by Dickinson in a field bookcontemporary with his 1719 map as being 3 Rods 14 perches in area. It seems Grover’s map was only partially detailed. 

Dating Typology

To correctly determine whether features were earlier or later than the existing hall I required a robust dating typology. First I viewed estate buildings to establish whether a seriation pattern was visible. Two buildings had dated lintels. Both had been restored, one particularly badly, the only feature surviving in remotely original condition was the lintel, in the other case the lintel had also been restored. Whilst both seemed in their original positions, they were rejected as dating evidence due to possible re-use. Next I examined corbel types of house gables to establish whether a seriation pattern was present. Unfortunately the pattern was identical on them all, regardless of the period to which they belonged, the house oldest in appearance; (Keeper’s Cottage) was built in the 19th century, over 100 years later than the oldest cottage. This type of corbel has been used for around 300 years and is still apparent on the limestone houses built in Cusworth village in 1982! However, the road layout on Grover’s 1711 and Dickinson’s 1719 maps closely followed the pattern still existing in the village today, except for the diversion made around the rear of the village in order to divert traffic away from the new hall. This diversion is clearly dated to a Writ and Inquisition; Ad quod Damnum application of November 1744 Doncaster for the inclosure of land affecting the King’s Highway in Cusworth requiring the turning of the road, on behalf of the owner, Mr. William Wrightson and NOT to the application made in 1765 to divert the road to the Two Mile plantation at Scawsby. This has confused other researchers, as the sketch map of the park made prior to its landscaping shows the diversion already in effect. This map features the new house, so it must be post 1740, but does not show the wings added by Paine c 1749-1753. Therefore the road seems to have been diverted before 1753 at the latest. Comparison of the map accompanying the 1765 application with the relevant section of Grover’s 1711 map, from which it seems to have been taken shows that Wrightson proposed the entrance to his new hall to be reached by a diversion along the northern boundaries of fields, along the modern Long Plantation off Barnsley Road (A635) to a point due north of his new hall.  

Was there any feature that could be dated exclusively to before or after the diversion of the road, and hence to before or after 1745? The stone walls bordering the lanes and roads have two types of cap, a rounded type used on walls which cartographic evidence shows to have existed prior to Dickinson’s 1719 map, and a flat stone lintel used exclusively on the new section of the road built after the 1745 diversion.  This typology enabled areas of the village to be clearly dated either to before or after the building of the new hall at Cusworth during the 1740s. Typically these stone walls are of a random limestone rough-coursed or uncoursed build, varying between 30-40cm thick, and between 1m 20 cm and 1m 60 cm in height. During my survey context sheets for these features were completed of which copies were kept. 

By reducing Dickinson’s 1719 map and the location map dated 1930 to the same scale and then superimposing them, features common to both would be easily distinguishable. This process showed that the two maps broadly agree on individual features, although the eastern end of the 1719 version is twisted southwards by around 10 degrees compared to its modern counterpart. I suspect this may be due to 18th century surveying techniques being less able to cope with severe gradients and sudden changes in gradient. The outer boundary of the garden wall is clearly visible at the lower part of theplan. The northern boundary of the village follows the line of the new lane. These areas will be fully discussed further down the page.

The Village Wall

 The wall bordering New Lane is of the pre 1745 type throughout, originally some 500 metres long, though subject to extensive alteration and rebuilding as a result of 20th century housing development. The most northerly cottage shown in the blue tracing of Dickinson’s map fits the location of the restored cottage. The street side wall of this cottage is built as an upward continuation of the wall at this point, further confirmation of its age. At location 3 the wall resumes its pre 1745 character. This wall continues westwards along the lane where it makes a butt joint with a wall of similar style, which is absent from the 1719 map. Its flat capped top signifies its the later period. The flat-topped wall continues along the remaining length of the diverted lane, broken by the 1767 main entrance to the new hall. At the western end of the park the wall continues to border farmland, though in a ruinous condition. Where the top is in situ it is flat, confirming the later date. Projecting southeastwards into the park, the wall respects the site of the shrunken medieval village of Cusworth, situated at the northwest corner of the extreme western field on the 1719 map, surviving only a mound in the field recorded as a grid reference SE54700404 (SAM 29943). The wall makes a butt joint connection with the older style wall; though not shown on the 1719 map this wall forms a boundary wall to a croft presumably built between 1719 and 1745. Here the new style wall is at its lowest 1.05 cm in height; the old style wall 1m 20cm in height. A short distance on, the wall is interrupted by the archway gate to a croft, probably Tinker Croft shown on Dickinson’s 1719 map. It then proceeds in a generally southerly direction into the village.

All the wall features described in this passage are dateable both by typological, and/or by documentary evidence to the period preceding the building of the new hall, and therefore appear contemporaneous with its predecessor.

The garden wall and old hall remains.

This southern part of the garden wall encloses a roughly rectangular area, and has a total length of c800 metres. The western area is shown on Dickinson’s 1719 map and is one of the oldest surviving parts of the site. It was extended between 1726 and 1740 as a series of walled enclosures, which absorbed a large part of Near Horse Close. 

The wall consists of fairly regular limestone blocks approx. 25×40 cm., laid in rough courses, and bonded with lime mortar, height 1 m 20cm, thickness c20cm. The stone has a smooth finish. The wall runs straight for 125 metres from the village to its south-eastern corner, broken by a locked gateway 50 metres from the village, used in 1930, but now disused. The whole section is on a gradient of approx. 5% as the lane falls towards the lake. The wall turns 90 degrees towards the south-west, and runs 40 metres to a blocked gateway. This former gateway appears to be part of the work carried out 1726-1740, the area was not enclosed in 1719, and the gateway is not shown on any ordnance survey map. Its blockage took place before 1854. The posts are 1 m 25cm high x20x40cm. The finish of the wall stone is smooth, bonded by mortar. The blockage is 1 m 20cm wide x 1 metre high. The posts are smooth, the blockage rough finish. They are heavily worn, and the blockage roughly keyed into them. The hinge bearing post is badly cracked, and the remains of a white substance secure the wrought iron brackets, probably lead. The blockage is part mortared, part dry stone unsecured, with no sign of mortaring. The 1930 map indicates this was part of the orchard. The wall then makes a right angle turn and runs 25metres back towards the lane. I felt the area too unsafe to access, as many stones were loose, and the ground badly overgrown. According to all maps consulted this is the boundary wall of the orchard, which continues uphill to the village. At the location which seems close to the position from which Buck’s sketch was drawn, the wall changes type, it is now 4metres high, and built of red brick keyed to the base of the limestone wall demolished on this 100-metre section. Buck’s 1720 sketch shows a low limestone wall, and this seems to be part of the garden improvements commissioned by Wrightson. The 4 metre high red brick wall was built as part of the works carried out 1726-1740. The ‘New house accounts’ show large quantities of building materials including red brick from Epworth were bought during the 1720’s-1730’s. The limestone foundation is random and rough finished; the wall constructed in Flemish garden wall bond, bonded with lime mortar; very heavy weathering of both brick and mortar is apparent. Dimensions bricks- 24×10 x 6cm ; stone 20×20 20x40cm. The south west corner, where the wall turns 90 degrees is located in a dense wood and is used as the boundary for modern housing within the former garden. Broken glass covers the top for security. Here it is 3 metres in height, its top level, the lower height due to the rising gradient. At the end of the south east face the bricks are crudely keyed into the original stone wall. The corner itself consists of smooth rectangular ashlar blocks, 40×60 cm. A large crack is visible in the top of the western face next to the corner. Some lime plaster survives on the western face. The wall runs straight in the north westerly direction up the hill for approximately 100 metres until location 11, the blocked gateway is reached.

This gateway is shown on the 1719 map leading from the garden into the park, though it was blocked before 1930. That this gateway had high status is indicated by the high quality nature of the wall consisting of regular squared limestone blocks, the gateposts being bordered by large 60x40cm ashlar blocks. The posts consisting of large single stones 2m65cm tall x 35cm width. A linear pattern is incised on them, and a decorative cap consisting of nine visible stones tops each post. The top surface of the wall is partially obscured by heavy ivy growth. The former gateway is 3m90cm wide. The blockage consists of variable largely rectangular limestone and large ashlar blocks, secured by lime mortar. The surviving former gate, stored at Cusworth is dated 1733, thereby securing the date of the feature. This portion of the wall includes the outer wall of buildings which were in use by the estate until 195243. The obverse of the left side gatepost is visible in a garden wall in Coach House Drive. The top has been lowered by approximately 20cm. The right hand post is invisible under dense ivy growth.  

The wall continues as the boundary wall of a modern bungalow until it reaches location 12, west of Cusworth Glebe, believed to contain elements of the former Cusworth Hall demolished in the late 1740’s. The 1711 map shows a gateway at both ends of the hall, not shown on the 1719 map. There are two large limestone gateposts each 1 m65cm high, comprised of close fitting ashlar blocks 60X30 cm, surmounted by a 30cm tall rectangular pointed cap, with a 5cm deep squared base. The width of the road through the gateway is 3m25cm. These seem to be the western gateposts of the fold yard of the former hall, still in situ The eastern fold yard gateway has vanished, though there are two similar gateposts at the eastern entrance to the barn. Cusworth Glebe is another house on the Cusworth estate. The high redbrick wall is built on the foundation of the earlier limestone wall. 

It is built of limestone with a red tiled roof. The single story part has two large (2 metre) window sills in situ on each side of a possible former entrance roughly filled by limestone blocks of varying sizes, and secured by lime mortar. It is inhabited, though I have been unable to contact the residents in an attempt to obtain further information.

To the east is Church Cottage, dated to 1760 with a large modern plaque claiming to be on the site of the former hall. This seems likely in view of the large stone window mullions in the rear garden of the building. This section of wall enclosing the former garden area is securely dated as a feature of the late 17th early 18th century village landscape, both typologically and by several surviving cartographic and documentary sources………………..

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