The Medieval Landscape of Tutbury



Elements of the medieval landscape, both urban and rural, still exist in Tutbury and its surrounding environs. Today the small east-Staffordshire town on the main Uttoxeter to Burton route occupies a site in which at least one thousand years of urbanisation is visible, even with the exclusion of the castle and church. The northern border of the parish is coterminous with the borders of the hundred of Offlow and the Derbyshire county boundary. With the exception of Hanbury the majority of surrounding placenames end in ‘ton’ - Hatton, Rolleston, Marchington, Scropton, Moreton, Marston and Coton, showing that a pattern of settlement was established by the Saxon period. The topography of the landscape is reflected in the number of placenames incorporating the word ‘wood’ – Needwood, Callingwood, Shotwood, Woodhouse, Woodend and Wood Gate. The soil is generally medium to heavy loam.[1] Beneath is red marl, with both marl and sandstone being deposited in almost horizontal layers, the marl being intermixed with veins of white or grey sand that produces gypsum.[2]


Although the isolated rock on which the castle stands may have been first occupied during the Iron Age as a hill fort, the origin of the town appears to date from the Saxon period. The name was first recorded in Domesday as ‘Toteberia’. If the first part of the name is not a personal name, then it could be derived from the Saxon ‘toot’ (look-out hill), the latter part of the name probably reflects that it was a burh during the Saxon period.[3] The earthworks known as Park Pale, of which three sections remain, were the defensive walls of the burh. From these the original size and shape of the enclosure can be estimated with some confidence.


The Anglo-Saxon charter of 1008 for Rolleston demonstrates that parishes that were in existence before the Norman Conquest were based upon existing estates.[4] This estate comprised of the parishes of Rolleston, part of Tutbury and a detached portion of Hanbury.[5] The boundary clauses within the charter are largely topographical and therefore provide a descriptive account of the landscape - the dyke slightly east of Anslow, the plank fence in Needwood Forest, the ‘old badger-setts’ near Anslow Leys, as well as various hedges. Where possible natural features were incorporated into the boundary, such as the river Dove, numerous brooks and ‘foul watercourses’, and the bracken hillock, where Brackenhurst Farm stands today. Along with Mare Brook, noted as the ‘boundary brook’, other named places include Craythorne, Dodslow and Anslow. Compared with those features that are still identifiable it is possible to fix some of the points onto a modern Ordnance Survey map. The charter also reveals that the road from Tutbury to Burton was in existence, as well as two fords, Stockley Ford near Stockley Park, and one near Coulter Hills Farm on a track to Agardsley. It is also possible that the hollow[6] is a reference to the road that leads south from Tutbury to Needwood. These last three, within the bounds of Needwood Forest, show that at least some form of communications already existed. If Hooke is correct in her assumption that ‘haecce’ translates as ‘hatch’, a wattle gate or half-gate [7] it indicates that the Dove near Tutbury was being used to trap fish, or as a sluice or floodgate for the propagation of the fields.


The western half of the boundary ran through Needwood Forest, which is reflected in the number of descriptions that include the word ‘wood’. The mention, and use of the edge of the wood as the boundary[8] is a likely indication that this was the extent to which the land had been cleared, especially taking into account the name of Woodend. A further clue to the extent of clearance is in the name Agardsley, ‘the wood or clearing of Eadgar’,[9] although this is more likely to have been a section of cleared ground within the forest rather than on its edge.




Domesday recorded that ‘in the burgh round the castle are 42 men living only from their trade and they render with the market 4li. 10s.’ This suggests that the main occupation was retail rather than farming, and that it was a prosperous centre of commerce. This leads us to conjecture whether the market was a well-established Saxon-trading centre, or whether it had rapidly expanded since the Conquest. The trade of Tutbury cannot have been on a national scale as its hinterland was still largely forest, so the bulk of its trade must have been in supplying the castle and the neighbouring Ferrers lands.[10]


Tutbury was the only place in Staffordshire with a market, and like many of the other fifty-eight markets throughout England, was located in a town where a castle offered protection to tradesman and travelling merchants.[11] Maitland recommends a multiplier of five[12] which suggests a population of 210, although this does not take into account the occupants of the castle. It has now been accepted that the entry which immediately follows Tutbury, listed as Burton, is actually a second entry for Tutbury,[13] recording simply the half a hide in which sits Henry’s Ferrers’ castle, with four ploughs in demesne worth 24s. Because the various parks within the immediate parts of the parish had not yet been separated from Needwood Forest the productive grounds around the castle were too inconsiderable to be mentioned.[14]




If the rock on which the castle stands was an Iron-Age hill fort it would no doubt have been adapted and improved by the Anglo-Saxons, but to what design it is impossible to tell. The majority of the visible earthworks – the motte and inner and outer baileys are of Norman construction. A palisade would have housed a variety of wooden buildings, with a wooden keep or watchtower upon the motte.[15] The original entrance was in the deep valley of the outer bailey and ran across the present cricket ground towards the river. This entrance was abandoned circa 1640 and the present approach substituted.


When Ferrers inherited the castle in 1071[16] an ‘unreclaimed tract of forest and woodland approached its walls on one side, while on the other a fine valley of productive meadows lay along the banks of the fertilising Dove’.[17] Rebellion against the monarchy caused its demolition twice, so that the earliest remains visible, with the exception of the earthworks, are the foundations of the 12th century chapel in the inner bailey. Portions of the northeast gateway date from the mid-14th century, although the flanking towers are mid 15th century. The curtain wall, and north and south towers (the latter being two adjoining towers) also date from the middle of the 15th century. An early 19th century folly known as Julius’s Tower crowns the motte, replacing a stone keep destroyed by Parliament after the Civil War.


St Mary’s Priory Church


The first church is likely to have been Saxon, possibly destroyed by the Danes, as was the nunnery at Hanbury and the monastery at Repton during the winter of 874.[18] Most parochial churches were founded between 900 – 1100, and for the size of Tutbury as given in Domesday it is unlikely not to have had one, the present building occupying the original site. It was established by 1087[19] as a Benedictine priory which also served the parochial needs of the town. The parish occupied the six western bays of the nave, and at the dissolution all but this portion of the church was dismantled, including the removal of the clerestory and the lowering of the roof. What remains is approximately one-third of the original buildings. A further two bays extended eastwards forming a chancel that finished with an apse, the site of the present apse being where the transepts originally crossed. An excavation in 1851 discovered a pre-conquest apse thirty-two feet from the blocking wall which then closed the east end of the nave. East of the modern north aisle were found the walls of the Norman aisle, and the west side of the north transept.[20] It has been suggested that the outer defences of the castle were considerably extended since the dissolution of the priory,[21] and that the area on the north side of the churchyard was once greater in extent. Thick Norman walls were discovered seventy-five feet from the church and almost in a line with the west end. A large fireplace, possibly belonging to the prior’s lodge, was unearthed seven feet below the surface. The landscape suggests that an alternative entrance once existed from the original route into the town.


The Town


Under the lordship of the Ferrers family Tutbury had increased from 42 to 182 burgages by circa 1140.[22] They were also responsible for the creation of Newborough with 101 burgages. The inhabitants of these burgages were chiefly confined to trade – wool combing at Tutbury and bleaching at Newborough,[23]  and held land either by military or soccage tenure, in addition to a number of bondservants.[24] The survey taken by the dutchy court recorded that by 1558 Newborough was in decline, its market abandoned, and it was then inhabited by gentlemen, husbandmen and merchants.[25] Tutbury also exploited gypsum found locally. The early workings were open pits, many located in Castle Hays Park, the circular indentations still visible in the landscape. The second order of the west doorway of the church, constructed between 1160-70,[26] is carved of gypsum. The fact that some of these pits lie beneath ridge and furrow indicates the age of some of these workings, such as those at Woodside Farm near Shotwood Mill. The industry appeared to be so prosperous that during the 15th century blocks of gypsum were also given to customary tenants for house repairs.[27]


Originally the Dove would have been forded. The first mention of a bridge is an order given in 1403 for an allowance of timber for repairs.[28] During the winter of 1960 a considerable piece of the bank was washed away revealing forty wooden stumps being in seven rows approximately two feet apart.[29] The fact that the current road bends slightly before crossing the Dove suggests that the present route into the town is slightly east of the original one which was more in line with the castle. Coxin also states that the first stone bridge stood twenty yards higher up the river than the present one and consisted of nine gothic arches with projecting buttresses between. Mosley claims that a chapel stood at the north end above a gateway that formed the entrance into the town.[30] It was due to this road being thin and in a poor state of repair that the present one was built between 1815 and 1817.


It may be conjectured why Monk Street rather than High Street did not develop as the main street, thereby forming the more common town plan of the main street being flanked by two back lanes. With evidence that the ford and first bridge located further west than the current one it then provides more logic for the street layout. The main route would have turned east after crossing the Dove into a longer version of Lower High Street before turning into the present High Street. Lower High Street was formerly known as Cheapside. ‘Ceap’ derives from Old English meaning ‘to barter’, and therefore can be taken as an extension of the market. Previous to this it was known as Dove Street, an early 13th century charter[31] mentions half a messuage in Dove Street showing that it was developed at this time.  The main part of the weekly market was held in the wide High Street, and by 1190 at least one shop had appeared in what was referred to as the market place.[32] The burgesses held a common oven in High Street first mentioned in 1343[33] which was located near the high cross, opposite the town hall.[34]


The Dog and Partridge inn is the only medieval building which now remains in the High Street, although most of the current structure dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. The remaining buildings in the High Street are Georgian, behind which lie the tofts and crofts where the medieval buildings once stood, backing onto the crofts of Monk Street. At the top of the High Street lies Ludgate Street, formerly Lydgate, its narrow width being typical of a medieval urban street, a stark contrast to the wide High Street that housed the market. This street ran to the Lyd Gate in the town wall, that originally stood in the common field immediately behind Ludgate Farm.[35]




The majority of the landscape between Tutbury and Needwood was formerly parkland, in some instances the boundaries of one park almost touching the next. Deer parks were an integral part of the manorial economy and required considerable capital to establish, being classed as part of the lord’s demesne land. The essence of a park was that it was separated from the surrounding land by some physical division,[36] usually an earthen bank topped with an oak palisade or fence. The optimum shape for a park was circular, although local conditions sometimes dictated otherwise, and the number of ‘gates’ that survive in name only locate the entrance to these parks.


Castle Hays Park was formed in 1261,[37] and by 1297 the parks of Barton, Roleston, Hanbury, Stockley, and Agardsley were in existence.[38] Tutbury Park (later Castle Park) was established by 1329.[39] A survey taken during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) described Castle Park as being one mile in circumference containing 67 acres and a rood, of which 40 acres were described as ‘good meadow, the rest very beautiful pasture’.[40] Castle Hays Park was described as three and a half miles in circumference containing 749 acres, 12 being meadow, the remainder good pasture, the majority being shaded by 5500 oaks, of which 400 were described as young.[41] This combination of woodland and grassland was beneficial to the park, the former providing cover for the deer, as well as a forest environment for hunting, the latter furnishing fodder for the deer.


The majority of disparking appears to have taken place during the 16th century, Castle Hays Park in 1549,[42] Hanbury Park by 1550,[43] and Castle Park in 1599[44]. Castle Hays Park was then used to keep the king’s horses, as well as the depasturing of cattle and keeping of sheep, its extent detailed on the estate map of 1765. Hanbury Park was reserved for the king’s stud mares,[45] and Castle Park as a pasture for cattle and sheep. An Elizabethan description of the manorial boundary of Tutbury[46]  incorporates Rolleston and Castle Hays Park Pales, Stockley Park Gate and Belmot Bridge. A detailed estate map of 1765 exists for Castle Hays Park, which can be easily plotted onto the Ordnance Survey map of 1900 , although whatever embankments or hedges were used to define its boundaries are not as visible as might be expected. A description of Needwood Chase taken in 1445[47] describes the northern boundary from Stubby Lane Gate at Draycott in the Clay to Castle Hays Park by a number of gates and by hedge only. The southern half of Hanbury Park’s boundaries are easily plotted on the modern Ordnance Survey Explorer map, yet even at Hanbury Park Gate little remains to show that it was once the entrance to the former park. From the main road from Six Roads End to Needwood the ditch and line of trees that run along the course of the boundary appear almost as natural features. However, the course of Agardsley Park can be easily interpreted from a vantagepoint along Holly Bush Lane. A closer inspection reveals a small earthen bank topped with a hedge that forms the northern part of the boundary. This may previously have been larger, possibly with a ditch that has become silted up.




Because the majority of the landscape was given over to parkland most of the fields date from disparkment. However, along the banks of the Dove from Tutbury to Fauld lie numerous examples of ridge and furrow. The fields adjacent to the castle divided by the river are known as ‘Trenches’, ‘Lower Trenches’ and ‘Upper Trenches’. These fields display the characteristics of being either pre- or early medieval with long wide furrows, some running at ninety degrees to the majority, with erateral curves at the ends of the ridges. Also discernible are the headlands used as access tracks. Their survival was probably due to widespread disparkment that meant more suitable land for arable use became available elsewhere. Particularly good examples can be seen in the field north of the weir and around the copse known as Old Dove Plantation. However it was not just along the fertile Dove that medieval farming took place. Numerous examples are abundant in the landscape, the field opposite the British Gypsum works at Fauld and the fields immediately west of Lane End Farm on the Tutbury to Rolleston road being just two well-preserved examples.


Conduit Meadow, opposite Chapel House Farm, bounded by Red Hill Lane and Belmot Road acquired its name from being the site of the spring bequeathed to the priory circa 1220, together with the rights to make and maintain conduits to carry a water supply to the priory.[48] The spring was slightly higher than the priory and the water ran the half a mile in pipes, which were removed during the 18th century.[49] The spring also supplied the fishpond, the site of which is located beneath the police houses in Wakefield Avenue. This was originally known as Fishpond Lane and no doubt originated as an access track to the pond.


The fields that have subsequently appeared on Castle Hays Park appear to have been enclosed by private agreement. They form a stark contrast to the smaller symmetrical fields south of Anslow Gate, enclosed by later Act of Parliament. The road from Anslow Gate to Woodend displays the classic signs of being a road planned by the enclosure commissioners. Here wide grass verges stand on each side of the road. They may have originated either as access tracks to fields, or follow the course of medieval footpaths between villages that had been in existence since Saxon times.




When the Ferrers family lost possession of the castle in 1266 it passed into the hands of the earls of Lancaster. The Ferrers family had made Tutbury the caput of their honour, and it appears to have still prospered under the Lancastrians as the numerous parks begin to appear shortly after this date. It was not until Henry Bollingbroke, the third duke of Lancaster became Henry VI in 1392 that Tutbury lost its resident lord. A survey of the population in 1563 recorded 95 households,[50] almost half of what it had been during the middle of the 12th century. The Coucher records that the tolls of the markets and poundages were rented for over £2 a year in 1156.[51] By the time of Elizabeth I the bailiff of the tolls for markets and fairs was only answerable to the sum of 3s 4d annually on account of the decay of the markets.[52] These statements suggest that the town had begun to decline earlier than the Civil War which has previously been cited as ‘the beginning of the end for Tutbury’.[53]




By reading the clues in the landscape, augmented by documentation, it has been possible to reconstruct components of the medieval landscape. By the Saxon period a series of small settlements existed as clearances within the vast expanse of Needwood Forest, whose eastern boundary extended to Tutbury. The evidence along the banks of the Dove reveals intense arable cultivation, with further examples scattered throughout the landscape. By the later part of the 12th century Tutbury had prospered to become more densely populated than its neighbours, and had become established as a prosperous trading centre. This was probably due to a combination of being the caput of the Ferrers estate, as well as supplying it, and being on a main thoroughfare to Burton. Both Tutbury and Newborough were originally closed communities with the landlord influencing growth and exercising social control. During the later medieval period the majority of the landscape was occupied by a series of parks, although these were relatively short-lived. The departure of a resident landlord also meant loss of trade for the market, and the dissolution of the priory can only have increased its decline.


Elements in the landscape have revealed aspects of Tutbury’s history which appear not to have been recorded, although a combination of documentary sources, aerial photographs, maps and fieldwork were also used. Features in the landscape often required the use of documentary sources to illuminate their existence, while also providing clues for further investigation of the landscape. Components of the medieval landscape augment a local history study and assist to unravel that which is not written.




Tutbury Castle Hays Park Estate Map. 1765. Stafford Record Office. D615/M/7/42.

Tutbury Tithe Map and Award. 1840. Lichfield Record Office.

Ordnance Survey First Edition One-Inch Map. Sheet no.34. 1836. Reprinted 1970 David & Charles.

Ordnance Survey Map 1900. Accessed via

Ordnance Survey Landranger Map no.128. 1989.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map no.245. 2000.

Aerial Photographs accessed via

Coxin, J L Tutbury Bridges two-page typed document (Nov 1961). Stafford Record Office D3353/9/6.

Allcroft, A Hadrian Earthworks of England MacMillian (1908).

Beresford, Maurice History on The Ground History Handbook Series, Sutton Publishing (Revised edition, 1998).

Edwards, Rev N Medieval Tutbury A C Lomax’s successors, Lichfield (1949).

Greenslade, M W and Stuart, D G A History of Staffordshire Phillimore, 2nd edition (1984).

Hackwood, F W Staffordshire Stories 1924, republished E P Publishing (1974).

Hooke, Della The Landscape of Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire: The Charter Evidence. Dept of Adult Education, Keele University (1983).

Maitland F W Domesday Book and Beyond – Three Essays in The Early History of England Cambridge University Press (1897).

Mee, Arthur The King’s England – Staffordshire Hodder & Stroughton (1937).

Mosley, Sir Oswald The History of The Castle, Priory and Town of Tutbury Simpkin & Marshall, Longman & Co, & Ridgeway London (1832).

Mosley, Sir Oswald The Natural History of Tutbury John Van Voorst, London (1863).

Slade, C F The Staffordshire Domesday extracted from VCH vol IV, Staffordshire County Library (1985).

Morris, John (General ed.) Domesday Book – Vol. 22 Leicestershire ed. Morgan, Philip from a draft translation prepared by Griffin, Michael. Phillimore (1979).

Saltman, Avrom (Ed.) The Cartulary of Tutbury Priory in SHC Series IV, Vol IV. HMSO (1962).

Shaw, Rev Stebbing The History and Antiquities of Staffordshire – two vols, vol I. (1798).

Taylor, Christopher The Making of the English Landscape – 25 Years On in ‘The Local Historian’ Vol 14, no. 4, (1980).

Welldon Fin, R Domesday Book – A Guide Phillimore (1973).

[1] Conversations with Mr Webb, Piltons Farm, Longhedge Lane.

[2] Sir Oswald Mosley The Natural History of Tutbury (1863) p1.

[3] Rev N Edwards Medieval Tutbury (1949) p14.

[4] Della Hooke The Landscape of Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire: The Charter Evidence (1983) p32.

[5] Map of  Staffordshire Parishes before 1830.

[6] Hooke - point 11 in original charter –  op. cit. p100.

[7] Hooke op. cit. p41.

[8] Hooke - points 18, 19 & 22 in original charter – op. cit. p100.

[9] Hooke op. cit. p96.

[10] C F Slade The Staffordshire Domesday (1985) p23.

[11] R Welldon Fin Domesday Book – A Guide  (1973) p92.

[12] F W Maitland Domesday Book and Beyond (1897) p148.

[13] Slade op. cit. p23.

[14] Sir Oswald Mosley The History of The castle, Priory and Town of Tutbury (1863) p6.

[15] Edwards op. cit. p15.

[16] M W Greenslade and D G  Stuart A History of Staffordshire (2nd ed., 1984) p36.

[17] Mosley op. cit. p6.

[18] Mosley op. cit. p2.

[19] Edwards op. cit. p27.

[20] Edwards op. cit. p22.

[21] Sir Alfred Clapham in Edwards op. cit. p84.

[22] Mosley op. cit. p15.

[23] Mosley op. cit. p15.

[24] Mosley op. cit. p14.

[25] Rev Stebbing Shaw The History and Antiquities of Staffordshire Vol.1 - Tutbury  (1798) p45.

[26] VCH Vol II p198.

[27] VCH Vol II p198.

[28] J L Coxin Tutbury Bridges (1961) p1.

[29] Coxin op. cit. p2.

[30] Mosley op. cit. p48.

[31] Avrom Saltman The Cartulary of Tutbury Priory (1962) - charter 165.

[32] Saltman op. cit. – charter 78.

[33] Mosley op. cit. p128.

[34] Mosley op. cit. p158.

[35] F W Hackwood, quoting from ‘The Coucher’, Staffordshire Studies, (1924) p114.

[36] Maurice Beresford History on The Ground (Revised ed., 1988) p192.

[37] VCH Vol II p350.

[38] Inquisition of Edmund, earl of Lancaster, 1297 in Shaw op. cit.  p40.

[39] VCH Vol II p350.

[40] Mosley op. cit. p155.

[41] Mosley op. cit. p156.

[42] VCH Vol II p355.

[43] Mosley op. cit. p142.

[44] VCH Vol II p355.

[45] Mosley op. cit. p142.

[46] Shaw op. cit. p56.

[47] Mosley op. cit. p130.

[48] Saltman op. cit. - charters 204 & 205, early Henry III.

[49] Edwards op. cit. p35.

[50] Edwards op. cit. p148.

[51] Mosley op. cit. p128.

[52] Mosley op. cit. p158.

[53]  Website: (Jan 2003)