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Scheme of work

Settlement Patterns

Settlement Hierarchy


MEDC Urban issues

Land use and Manchester

Manchester; traffic issues

Urban sprawl

LEDC urban issues

Site and Situation

So you are Lord Cerdic and you have landed in Britain in 552AD. You have traveled with your family and followers to Wessex and you are looking for somewhere to create a home. Open the file, this is what you have found. Follow the instructions and decide where you will settle. Use the template

The location and growth of a settlement depended upon its site and situation. The site was the actual place where people decided to locate their settlement. The growth of that settlement then depended upon its situation in relation to accessibility and availability of natural resources.

Site Factors

  • reliable water supply
  • away from flood risks
  • defence
  • building materials (stone or wood)
  • fertile land
  • sheltered from winds
  • fuel supply (wood)
  • south-facing slope (aspect)
  • flat land, easy to build on
  • natural harbour

Situation Factors

  • route centre
  • gap town
  • lowest bridging point on a river
  • port
  • minerals for export

Settlement patterns

In rural areas the settlements tend to follow some simple patterns. The most basic is the isolated settlement. Dispersed or isolated settlements are those in which the farmhouses are situated away from each other.


Nucleated settlements and dispersion

Typically in rural areas the basic unit is the farm house and its associated buildings. In the past these have sometimes collected together as a nucleated settlement. This has not really happened in France where you often find small buildings apart from one another. The medieval farmers often worked the common fields collectively and it was easier to have a central location for the houses. The centre was often a spring or well with the church adjacent, e.g. Holybourne Hampshire and, Abbotsbury in Dorset which is situated at the bottom of a chalk escarpment and where water is available.

In the upland areas of the British Isles one tends to find individual isolated farmsteads. Here dispersed settlements are typical as the land is of poor quality and each farm has to be large to be economically viable. Population densities are low and the farms are large and wide spread. E.g. east of Kielder water, Northumbria

These are extremes and no region has all nucleated or all dispersed, reality is a mixture of the two.



Nucleated or clustered settlements often form at crossroads or route centres.



Dispersed settlements have no obvious centre and are often hamlets spread over fertile farmland.



Linear settlements: settlements grow along a road (e.g. in a narrow valley) or along the coast. Ribbon development is when housing grows out from a town along a main road.

OK let's look at some actual sites now.

Open GE, and Digimap and look at the following settlements;

  • Corfe Castle
  • Glastonbury
  • East Harting
  • Portchester
  • London
  • Dolgellau
  • Warkworth, (Northumbria)

For each take a "snap shot", put into Word and then describe the settlement in terms of it's site.

Now look at these;

  • Mileham,
  • Borth, (Ceredigion)
  • Long Sutton, (Hampshire)
  • Botallack, (Cornwall)
  • Rhulen, (Powys)

Take a "snap shot" and say what is the type of settlement pattern