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History of the landscape

Roman artefacts and the excavation of a Roman temple suggest communities were established within the Lyveden valley from around 100AD. A strong flowing stream along the valley bottom, with an iron rich clay soil, gave an ideal site for developing industry. Iron smelting was established during the 11th century, and later a vibrant medieval pottery industry produced 'lyveden-ware' which was exported throughout the Midlands.

The villages of Magna Lyveden, Potters Lyveden, Great Lyveden and Little Lyveden developed along the valley bottom throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, with a combined population of more than 200 by 1400AD.

The Lyveden valley was also a rich hunting ground. Surrounded by the forests of Rockingham, it was in 1328 that a licence was granted to Robert de Wyville, Bishop of Salisbury, to enclose part of the forest to form a deer park. The surrounding land was farmed in a three-field system of crop rotation. Records connected to the forfeiture of land of John Holt in 1388, describe 64 acres sown with wheat, barley and peas, and an inventory listing cart horses, a cart, ploughs, oxen, pigs and 48 cattle but only 5 sheep.

Archaeology suggests this mixed farming economy of arable, pasture and meadow continued well into the late 15th century. But a gradual depopulation of the villages had begun, and by 1540, now under the ownership of the Tresham family, the villages and vibrant communities had almost vanished. This coincides with the Treshams obtaining a licence to empark 120 acres of wood, 250 acres of pasture and 50 acres of meadow, which had all been laid down to grass by 1544. John Leland who visited the area between 1535 and 1543 commented that "the old manor house is still standing, amid fine meadowland . [yielding] 200 annually".

Later in the 16th Century, instead of leasing the land, the Treshams began farming on their own, going into sheep farming on a big scale. By 1597 the Lyveden pastures held over 6,000 of Sir Thomas Tresham's sheep and plans were now afoot for the conversion of Lyveden into an impressive family seat.

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Part of 1600 map of Lyveden and surrounding estates - click on image to see larger map.

Historical information pages