What's in a name?
Did you know that Burton Constable literally means 'Fortified Settlement [of the] Constable"? The word Burton is of Anglian origins, meaning that it was brought in by the Germanic tribe called the Angles in the 5th Century, who founded the ancient kingdoms of Mercia, Northumbria and East Anglia, giving their name to England and the English.
Originally just called Burtone, when William the Conqueror commissioned the Domesday Book following his victory in 1066, the site housed a small village with cob built houses made of mud, wood and straw, interspersed with dirt tracks. This tiny settlement in the middle of the East Yorkshire was fortified by the presence of a nearby stone tower to defend against marauders amid troubled times. Over the years this tower became part of the structure of the grand Tudor manor house as the hall expanded, where it still forms a part of the structure today.
Following several name changes according to the whim of it's inhabitants (to Santriburtone in 1086 and Erneburgh Burton in 1190), the Hall eventually became known as Burton Constable in the mid-13th Century following the marriage of Erneburga to Ulbert, Constable for Count of Aumale in 1190.
How Many People Lived Here?
The Domesday Book records c. 40 families living here. In 1293 the village was home to 15 cottagers (vassals to their liege lord but with a certain degree of independence) and 21 villeins (who had very few rights of their own). This number appears to have remained stable for some years.
Why was Burton abandoned?
Determining the exact cause for a village's loss is often difficult - vast numbers of these Deserted Medieval Villages lie hidden beneath the turf of England; nearby Wharram Percy in the Yorkshire Wolds is perhaps the best known instance. Most such sites were abandoned due to the enclosure and the rise of pastoral agriculture, which replaced the traditional method of 'strip farming' where each villager would farm a long narrow piece of land and supply food to the manor, keeping only a little for themselves. Another major influence of course was the Black Death, a devastating plague which came to Burton Constable in 1348.
The Black Death came to Burton at a time when the village was already struggling; the land's value was falling, the village mill's value halved and rents were rising. The two factors combined to see the village's population fall steeply; it seems likely therefore that when the Constable family extended the Hall in the late 1400s they saw it as an opportunity to clear and enclose that land for their leisure gardens, moving the tenants to another estate.
The wood and mud materials used to make thehouses in these small villages would have disintegrated quickly without proper upkeep, vanishing into the landscape. If you stand today and look across North Park you can still see the ghosts of the houses and trackways that once bustled with people and animals, where the air would have rung with hammering and clattering sounds of everyday life. Today, all is silence, birdsong, and the lowing of the sheep or cattle that so frequently displaced these small and fragile settlements