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East Riding villages

Although East Riding villages have been inhabited since before the Norman Conquest, most of the buildings surviving in these villages are no more than 200 years old.  A medieval church and a few 18th and early 19th century farmhouses and cottages represent the main tangible links with the period of penal transportation.

Almost all of the villages of the East Riding of Yorkshire date back at least to the Anglo-Saxon and Viking period, and are mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086.

East Riding villages developed as ‘nucleated settlements’, in which houses were grouped together at the centre of their farmland. This land was divided into a few large ‘open fields’ and areas of common pasture. During the period of transportation, however, the landscape changed as landowners divided the large open fields into the smaller square fields we see today. Farmers moved out from the villages to live on their newly enclosed land plots.

During the 19th century, most residents of East Riding villages would have earned a living directly or indirectly from arable farming – as farmers, labourers, tradesmen (blacksmiths, wheelwrights) serving the agricultural industry, or publicans or retailers selling to farmers and labourers.

East Riding village
East Riding villages usually have a medieval church.
Harpham village
Harpham, a village in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Photo by Stephen Horncastle. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Most villages had a stone medieval church, but in this period Methodism became very popular in the East Riding; by 1850 many villages had both a Wesleyan and a Primitive Methodist chapel.

Because there is little stone available for building in the East Riding, most houses were built of timber and mud before the 18th century, and do not survive today. However, during the late 18th and early 19th century brick became a very popular building material in the county, and houses from this period survive in most villages – if our convicts were to return to their villages today it is likely that they would remember some of houses.

Villages associated with the convicts featured in this exhibition include: Bentley, South Cave, Leconfield, Bainton (Luke Dales), Hedon (William Dring), Spaldington (Snowden Dunhill), Brandesburton (Sarah Ann Sharpe), Preston, Winestead, Kirkella (Maria Fay).