There’s plenty of exciting heritage-based events taking place in February 2024. So, if you’re looking for a fun weekend activity or something for the family during the school Half-Term holidays, take a look at the events below!

Saturday 10th – Sunday 25th February: Kids (aged 15 and under) go free to Newstead Abbey’s Historic House this February Half-Term. Check out the details here.

Saturday 17th February: Lakeside Arts will be hosting a free painting session where activities will be based on the designs and decoration of pottery found in Nottingham’s caves. Check out the details here.

Saturday 24th February: Enjoy a special story session about Stone Age hunters, mammoths, and the caves at Creswell Crags. For children aged 5-11. Book your place here.

Wednesday 21st February: Join Project Officer, Denis Hill, at the Worksop library to learn about the Midlands Railway line between Mansfield and Worksop and the effects this line had on the economy and local community (Check out the related Mansfield Worksop Railway Viaduct HER record). Book your place to learn about its history here.

An Extra Heritage Highlight: Between January and November, discover the hidden rooms of Wollaton Hall, such as the Tudor Kitchens and the Cave. Kids (under 16 years old) go free. Check out the tour details here.

Photograph of Newstead Abbey

Above: Newstead Abbey

Some of our wonderful Nottinghamshire museums are hosting a range of free February Half-Term activities:

Mansfield Museum has many free events coming up. Learn about how the Mansfield Museum Collections Officer collects, curates and cares for their taxidermy collection on Friday 16th or come and meet a series of birds of prey alongside an experienced falconer on Thursday 15th (book here). Check out the full extent of Mansfield Museum's events here.

Bassetlaw Museum is taking part in the Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity this February Half-Term. Code with special robots, learn where your waste goes, or have a go at tie-dye. For the full list of events, visit the Bassetlaw Museum website.

The National Civil War Centre (Newark Museum) is also hosting a few creative events between Tuesday 13th - Friday 16th. Join artist Vanessa Stone for some paper boat fun based on her creative work or take part in music and movie soundSYNC workshops, using a range of instruments and technologies, each day (book here). For more information, visit the event post here.

Scattered across the country are the traces of small medieval communities that disappeared from the countryside centuries ago. A deserted medieval village (DMV) refers to a settlement that was established during the medieval period in Europe, approximately between the 5th to 15th centuries AD, which has since been abandoned and left unoccupied. These were small, self-sufficient, agricultural communities, paying taxes to the feudal lords. Many of these sites are now protected as scheduled monuments.

In Nottinghamshire, LiDAR technology, aerial photography, historic records, and field survey, have so far revealed traces of 55 villages lost to time. Click here to discover their names and locations.

Have you ever seen a church in the middle of nowhere and wondered why it was built there? One local example is the ruined church of St James at Haughton. Check out the Church of St James record here.

Photograph of the deserted church of St James

Above: Ruins of the Church of St James, Haughton.

These ruins are all that remain of the church and the only indication of the medieval village that was once here. First named as Hocton in the Domesday book, it was renamed Haughton in 1316. The early Norman church was restored in the C14th and served as the parish church. Check out the deserted village of Haughton record here.

During the Tudor period, common land that belonged to the people was claimed by noblemen and enclosed, with the villagers evicted. This was the fate of the medieval village at Houghton. In 1509, William Holles enclosed a park of 240 acres. He evicted the villagers, built Houghton Hall, and annexed the church as a domestic chapel. In 1691, Houghton Hall passed into the Holles family, but they preferred to live at Welbeck Abbey and left Houghton Hall and the church to fall into ruin. By 1790, records reveal that both buildings were ‘in total decay’. The Hall was demolished in 1770 and the upper parts of the chapel were reduced in the 1960s to the ruins visible today. 

The site is visible in the LiDAR Survey of 2021. The outline of the church is clearly visible, but apart from a few sections of stone walling, there is little trace of the medieval village to be found today, in the surrounding arable landscape.

LiDAR image of a deserted church

Above: LiDAR image of the deserted church at Haughton.

LiDAR images are a good source for identifying deserted medieval villages. Earthworks (trackways, ponds, ditches, boundaries, tofts and crofts and rigg and furrow) are often the only surviving signs of occupation, and they are easier to identify in LiDAR images than through field survey.

Enclosure was a common cause of the desertion of medieval villages. In some cases, it was necessary due to changing cultivation practices at a time when sheep farming was more profitable than agriculture. This is known to be the reason for the desertion of Thorpe in the Glebe. Other reasons for population decline and desertion include famine, disease and conflict. Urbanisation was also attracting some people to migrate to towns and cities. Check out the Thorpe in the Glebe deserted Medieval village record here.

Some impacted villages did survive. Today, the village of Little Carlton near Newark, is a linear settlement, with houses built along Bathley Lane. In medieval times, the populated area was further west, close to the manor house. Today this area is farmland, but the marking of medieval trackways, sunken pathways, boundaries, house platforms, tofts, and a pond are still visible. Little Carlton is an example of a village that has either shrunk over time or shifted its central point. Check out the shrunken village of Little Carlton record here.

Map showing the shrunken village of Little Carlton

Above: The area marked in green shows the scheduled site of the shrunken village of Little Carlton.

Through the combination of modern technology and historical texts, the long-gone villages of medieval Nottinghamshire are re-emerging. Pioneering archaeological techniques might yet tell us more about their demise. At a site featured on Digging for Britain, Tephra particles were identified in soil samples taken from the deserted medieval village of East Hestlerton, in Yorkshire. This is the first direct evidence that volcanic activity in Iceland, may have caused crop failures in England in the sixth century, and perhaps resulted in the demise of some medieval villages. Could this be the case in Nottinghamshire too?