Landscape and environment in prehistoric West Mainland, Shetland: K. J. Edwards and G. Whittington
The archaeological landscape of Shetland’s West Mainland is characterised by extensive field and settlement systems, dating back to Neolithic and Bronze Age times. Field walls, lynchets, houses, clearance and burial cairns survive as a result of burial beneath blanket peat and a lack of subsequent cultivation. The existence of peat, sub-peat soils and loch deposits has enabled pollen analytical investigations of vegetational, environmental and land use change to take place.
Evidence from two deep basins is contrasted with the spatially-precise data obtained from a large number of sub-peat soil pollen profiles closely associated with the archaeological features. Although this is part of a continuing long-term study, it is possible to say that Neolithic communities had access to birch and hazel woodlands and that clearance and probable pastoral activity led to soil erosion. Heathland and blanket peat were early vegetational elements in the landscape. Spatial patterning is evident in the soil pollen records which may portray events towards the end of the lives of the settlements; by then, soils were thin and poor, and arable activity was probably subservient to pastoralism.
Apart from the spatial disposition of vegetation, the evidence raises questions of soil status and degradation, the purpose of clearance cairns, and cultivation, the relative importance of pastoral and arable activities, and social and economic concerns at the regional scale.
The ‘Scole-Dickleburgh field system’ revisited: T. Williamson
Over a decade ago I suggested that in parts of East Anglia the basic pattern of fields and lanes was of late prehistoric, rather than medieval, origin. One example of such a putative relict landscape, around Scole and Dickleburgh in the claylands of south Norfolk, has recently been critically reassessed by David Hinton. In the article that follows Hinton’s arguments are, in turn, challenged: but the opportunity is also taken to re-examine the real character and significance of the Scole-Dickleburgh system, and of other supposed relict field systems, in East Anglia and elsewhere.
Eleventh century Labours of the Months in Prose and Pictures: D. Hill
The potential of the eleventh-century ‘labours of the months’ to reveal information about Anglo-Saxon agricultural techniques may have been underestimated. This paper examines the veracity of the Julius and Tiberius Calendar pictures and concludes that they offer more reliable evidence than has often been appreciated.
Towards an environmental history of the Bowmont Valley and the northern Cheviot Hills: R. Tipping
The many and complex landscape changes that have occurred in the northern Cheviot Hills in the last c.1000 years are reviewed. The approach taken is to examine this period using, predominantly, palaeoenvironmental techniques, and the intention is to indicate the power of such reconstructions when allied to a secure and precise time scale. Palaeoenvironmental analyses identify important landscape changes not generally detected from documentary or archaeological data. The discussion here will address issues relating to medieval sheep-ranching, to the impacts on landscapes and society of the ‘Little Ice Age’, and the loss of biodiversity introduced by intensive sheep-grazing in the last c.250 years.
The evolution of Highland townships during the medieval and early modern periods: R. A. Dodgshon
This paper considers how Highland townships changed over the medieval and early modern periods. It examines both structural and sectoral change. As regards the former, it draws the basic distinction between large and small townships but argues that ongoing processes of township disaggregation and aggregation blurred this distinction, creating a range of complex, hybrid forms. As regards the latter, it argues that we need to clarify the different ways in which townships were sectored. Many townships were fashioned around infields that comprised small detached blocks of arable so that the imposition of assessment can be seen as imposing a unity of status on them, as well bringing them within a single scheme of husbandry. However, in some instances, field names belie internal differences within infield that may hint at still older differences in status and meaning. Expansion beyond infield was distinguished by its non-assessed status, but equally, we need to understand how expansion reduced the flow of nutrients from pasture to arable, forcing adjustments in husbandry that helped to underpin emerging differences in status between assessed and non-assessed land.
The Villages of Nidderdale: R. Muir
Village morphology is studied along the length of Nidderdale, in North Yorkshire. A close relationship between village forms and topography is apparent. In the lower valley section, where the environmental characteristics resemble those of the lowland zone, villages are found to display the dynamic qualities of realignment, contraction and migration that have been recognised in villages in the Midlands and southern England. Of the five villages studied in this zone, two, or possibly three, have shifted, two villages have become lost and one has completely changed its orientation. In the middle valley section, where the setting assumes an upland character, the villages studied are found to result from processes of late nucleation associated with water-powered industrialisation. In the more remote and sparsely-populated upper valley zone, such villages as exist have evolved from monastic grange settlements.
The impact of commons registration: a Norfolk study: S. Birtles
This paper explores the purpose, process, and legacy of commons registration, the result of which was the creation of the county registers routinely used by historians as an index to surviving commons. In so doing, this research attempts to assess the degree of continuity between what is recorded in the registers and historic common land.
The study begins with a brief review of the history of common land with an emphasis on the legal and perceptual changes that have occurred since enclosure. From the mid-nineteenth century most people came to consider common land less an agricultural appurtenance and more as areas of open space to which everyone had common access. At the same time, legal definitions shifted away from using common rights to define common land and towards other criteria that encompassed open, neglected or uncommitted sites. As it was this category of land at which the Commons Registration Act was aimed, it is not surprising that the already loosening legal definitions relaxed still further, which, together with a registration procedure so streamlined that very little existed by way of a screen against unsuitable nominations, meant that any kind of land could conceivably become common.
Norfolk’s commons registers record the existence of 346 commons and 146 village greens, now the only land legally common in the county. A careful look reveals that this list includes many poor allotments (charity land usually dating from enclosure), public pits, traffic islands, and other open land of questionable origin. In fact, less than 25 per cent of Norfolk’s registered common land would have satisfied that definition before 1965.
Nevertheless, despite their being of limited value as a guide to the survival of historic commons, the registers do put forward a special variety of landscape set apart by the mere accident of registration. As such, statutory common land presents new challenges for both historians and conservationists.
Review article: Managing the Historic Landscape: Glenn Foard and Stephen Rippon
Review of The Register of Landscapes of Outstanding Historic Interest in Wales, by Richard Kelly of the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust for Cadw (Welsh Historic Monuments), the Countryside Council for Wales and the International Council on Monuments and Sites.
Volume 20 (1998)