Childerley, Great and Little



Site type: DMV

Although these appeared to be actually two separate settlements, particularly in the early years, they were treated together by the 1968 Gazetteer and this is continued here. After 1279 they were usually taxed together so can be hard to separate as two settlements in their own right. They both had chapels, and were also parishes until they were united in the 1500s. [1]

The remains of both settlements are located within the park of Childerley Hall. The remains of Great Childerley are situated to the east and the south-east of the hall. The village complex was made up of several hollow ways, a cobbled street, a church called St Mary’s, a manor house site, various buildings and house platforms, fishponds and several quarry areas. [2] The remains follow a complex grid of varying sized hollow ways. Overall the various features of the village follow the direction of the main hollow way which runs east to west. [2]

Excavations were carried out at Great Childerley in 1961 and 1962 by J. Alexander and volunteers of the Extra Mural Department of Cambridge University. [2, 3] The excavations revealed many features including a cobbled surface which was thought to have been part of a yard. This contained fourteenth-century pottery and showed evidence for two separate phases of medieval occupation with artefacts such as a whetstone and a quern stone. [3] Excavation also revealed that ploughing had damaged several house platforms but there were several twelfth to thirteenth-century platforms which remained unharmed. [2]

Little Childerley was situated to the north-west of the hall. Until the 1950s, the earthworks of the village were still visible, but were unfortunately destroyed by ploughing between 1955 and 1959. [4] The area is now covered by a plantation of trees. A faint trace of an east-west hollow way can be seen to the north-east of the hall, with ridge and furrow present to the south and this may be a continuation of the main hollow way in the settlement, now lost.

The RCHME reports that old photographs and accounts show the main feature of the settlement as a track which ran straight with an east-west orientation with a patchy cobbled surface, indicating a street. [2] Flanking the track were rectangular platforms with ridge and furrow abutting the exterior of the platforms. Eleventh to thirteenth-century pottery was discovered associated with these features. [2]

In 1991, an archaeological watching brief was undertaken prior to the installation of a pipeline which ran from Boxworth to Childerley. An investigation at Little Childerley revealed two cobbled surfaces and these were considered to be medieval trackways. It was also established that the area had high potential for preservation of organic materials due to its waterlogged remains. Finds included Saxo-Noman pottery, animal bone and a copper alloy pin. [5, 6]

Both villages are listed separately as different manors in the Domesday Book, with a minimum population of 14 for Great Childerley and 11 for Little Childerley. By 1279 the total number of tax payers had nearly doubled to 25 inhabitants for Great Childerley and 20 inhabitants for Little Childerley. [4] From that point onwards, Great and Little Childerley began to be assessed together. In 1327, between the two villages there were 22 inhabitants, but 76 paying the Poll Tax by 1377. From the early fifteenth century we start to see a decline. In 1411, Great Childerley is recorded as having 15 tenants. By 1524 there was a single tenant and two hired labourers. [4] In 1563 there were 3 households, and between 1639 and the 1670s the only house inhabited in the parish was the hall. [4]

Depopulation was gradual with early enclosures recorded at Little Childerley which disappeared by 1500. [1, 7] It is supposed that the final depopulation of Great Childerley took place when the fifth Sir John Cutts extended the park in the seventeenth century. [7]

Appears in the Gazetteer of Deserted Medieval Villages known in 1968.

[1] NMR Pastscape Record No. 369179.
[2] RCHME. 1968. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire: Volume I. West Cambridgeshire. London: RCHME: 44-47.
[3] Cambridgeshire HER Record No. 03613.
[4] Wright, A.P.M. 1989. ‘Childerley’, in A.P.M Wright and C.P. Lewis (eds) A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely. Volume 9: 39-41. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[5] Kemp, S. and T. Way 1992. Medieval Village and Deer Park of Childerley. Cambridgeshire County Council Unpublished Report.
[6] NMR Pastscape Record No. 369182.
[7] Oosthuizen, S. 2009. ‘The Deserted Medieval Settlements of Cambridgeshire: A Gazetteer’, Medieval Settlement Research 24: 14-19.
Pre-1974 county:
Historic parish:
Present county or unitary area:
Modern parish:
Grid reference:
TL 357615

Documentary resources
Domesday reference:
CAMB 3,6. 32,44. 41,16. Appx O
Domesday minimum number of individuals:
Taxation 1291 (main):
Taxation 1291 (portions):
Lay subsidy 1334 total paid:
792 (Great Childerley and Little Childerley)
Poll Tax 1377 number who paid:
72 (Childerley)
Poll Tax 1377 total paid:
304 (Childerley)
Poll Tax 1379 number who paid:
No surviving record
Poll Tax 1379 total paid:
No surviving record
Poll Tax 1381 number who paid:
No surviving record
Poll Tax 1381 total paid:
No surviving record
Lay subsidy 1524 number who paid:
No surviving record
Lay Subsidy 1524 total paid:
No surviving record
Lay Subsidy 1525 number who paid:
3 (Childerley)
Lay Subsidy 1525 total paid:
112 (Childerley)
Lay Subsidy 1543/4 number who paid:
Not recorded
Diocesan returns 1563:
Census 1801 total population:
47 (Parish)
Census 1841 total population:
54 (Parish)
Census 1841 inhabited houses:
E179 date and type last doc:
1678 March 20 act for raising money by a poll
Additional information
Alternative names:
Presumed date of depopulation:
NMR number:
369179, 369182
HER number:
CAMB 03613
Investigation history:
1961-62 Excavations (Great Childerley).
1973 Field Visit.
1991 Watching Brief (Little Childerley).
Cartographic or photographic records:
CUCAP NF7-17 Taken 8 March 1954.
CUCAP PH68-74 Taken 29 March 1955.
CUCAP XT89-94 Taken 28 March 1959.
CUCAP AFJ24-27 13 June 1962.
CUCAP 70KnJK17-20 Taken 18 January 1993.
Crawford 3320/10/75, 1233/10/87 [1].
RCHME. 1968. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire: Volume I. West Cambridgeshire. London: RCHME. p. 44 plan, p. 46 plan (Great Childerley).
Site status:
Not Scheduled
x coordinate:
y coordinate:
Beresford, M.W. 1954. The Lost Villages of England. London: Lutterworth Press: 343.

Beresford, M.W. and J.G. Hurst (eds) 1971. Deserted Medieval Villages. London: Lutterworth.

Oosthuizen, S. 2009. ‘The Deserted Medieval Settlements of Cambridgeshire: A Gazetteer’, Medieval Settlement Research 24: 14-19.
See also:
NMR Pastscape (Great Childerley)
NMR Pastscape (Little Childerley)
Open Domesday