Abandoned Communities ..... Buckinghamshire
The county of Buckinghamshire has many deserted medieval villages. In this section we will focus on two of them, Littlecote and Lillingstone Dayrell. About five hundred years ago the landlords who owned these villages decided to move away from traditional methods of agriculture. They enclosed their lands in order to turn them into sheep grazing areas, and in doing so evicted the remaining tenants from their homes.

More information on the widespread trend towards enclosure is given in the section on Wharram Percy, especially at this address.

The site of Littlecote is in the parish of Stewkley about seven miles north of Aylesbury, at OS SP831241. It was listed as a vill in the Domesday survey of 1086. The manor itself was held by Walter Giffard, but at that time two other parts of the hamlet were occupied by Miles Crispin and William Fitz Ansculf. Over the next four centuries the manor had a series of owners, until in 1481 it was acquired by Elizabeth Pigott, wife of Thomas Pigott.

My information about the history of Littlecote, otherwise known as Lidcote, comes mainly from the report on the site published by English Heritage. If you wish to order a copy of the report you should quote National Monument number 29416.

A survey carried out in 1323 indicated that the village had 140 acres of arable land worth 3d an acre. There was a manor house with a fruit garden, and the chapel of St Giles lay in a field nearby. There were fifteen free tenants.

Enclosure of land for sheep farming had begun by the early 1490s, when Thomas Pigott enclosed 40 acres and evicted 24 inhabitants. His successor, William Sheppard enclosed a further 100 acres in 1507, evicting eight more tenants and causing the village to be completely destroyed.

By 1517 the government had become concerned about the possible consequences of the depopulation of much of rural England. A Commission of Inquiry was established by Cardinal Wolsey to investigate the issue and where appropriate take action to reverse excessive evictions. As a result of evidence gained in relation to Littlecote William Sheppard was summoned to appear in front of the Court of Chancery and ordered to rebuild two houses. According to a Buckinghamshire jury of 1565 Sheppard complied with this order, but after his death in 1545 his two sons demolished the houses. The jury estimated that altogether 84 people had lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of the enclosure of Littlecote.

Lillingstone Dayrell, today a dispersed settlement of about a dozen houses, lies about four miles north of Buckingham, at OS SP 704398. At the time of the Domesday survey it was known as Lelinchstane and held by Walter Giffard, mentioned a moment ago as the main owner at Littlecote. Its value was 60 shillings, and it included 600 acres of arable land, land to provide hay for five teams of oxen, and enough woodland for 1200 swine.

In the twelfth century the village was acquired by the Dayrell family. Their surname was added to its name.
Littlecote, with the area of the Scheduled Monument shown in red.

This map and the larger version have been reproduced with the permission of English Heritage and Ordnance Survey. © Crown copyright. They are for information purposes and should not be reproduced without prior permission.