Harold Fox: an appreciation: Graham Jones

A review of the life and works of the former chairman of the Society, the late Professor Harold Fox.

Towards a reverse image. Botanical research into the landscape history of the eastern Netherlands (1100 B.C. – A.D. 1500): Bert Groenewoudt, Henk van Haaster, Roy van Beek and Otto Brinkkemper

Analysis of a large number of pollen samples from pools and wells has led to a more detailed understanding of the vegetation development in the eastern Netherlands between c.1100 B.C. and A.D. 1500. During the Neolithic and the Bronze Age settlements were islands within a forest landscape, with natural clearings as the obvious starting points for further exploitation. Especially during the Iron Age the higher grounds became rapidly deforested. A semi-open landscape was formed relatively quickly, as was the case in the northern Dutch sandy areas. The Iron Age and Roman period landscape seems to have been almost as open as it would be during the Middle Ages, something which has also been established for south-east England. Deforestation proceeded at a slower pace in the lower and wetter parts of the landscape, but here too the effects of human presence are already visible during late prehistory, at least in the proximity of settlements. A sharp increase of heath can be observed, the result of deforestation and soil exhaustion. Sometimes it is grasses that increase rather than heather, as was probably the case on relatively fertile and degradation-resistant soil types. The late prehistoric mosaic landscape was probably still characterised by a high degree of spatial dynamics. On the other hand, many of the medieval and younger essen (open fields) are likely to have been open areas and in continuous use for agriculture from the Iron Age until the present day. These areas had apparently become stable elements in an otherwise dynamic landscape long before the Middle Ages.

Reading the pastoral landscape: palynological and historical evidence for the impacts of long-term grazing on Wether Hill, Ingram, Northumberland: Althea L. Davies and Piers Dixon

Many upland environments are valued for their openness, which is often actively maintained by extensive pastoral agriculture. Documentary sources indicate the complexity and longevity of regulations designed to protect the hill grazing resource from over-exploitation but these systems leave relatively few traces on the ground. Consequently pollen analysis is an important method for establishing the impact of centuries of grazing on the quality of hill pastures. This is demonstrated at Wether Hill, Northumberland, where a pollen sequence details changes in vegetation composition and diversity over the last 1,500 years  or  so. These are correlated with historical evidence over the last c. 800 years for a more complete understanding of the socio-economic context that governed the use of hill grazing. Changes in grazing regimes had a profound influence on these hill pastures, contributing to permanent changes in the relative abundance of heather, grasses and herbs, and causing a severe decline in habitat diversity within the last c. 200 years. The results have many regional parallels, indicating extensive reductions in the biodiversity of upland habitats. This has implications for future management and conservation policies and shows the contribution that an understanding of environmental and land-use history can make to debates surrounding current environmental issues.

Medieval fields in north-east Scotland: Colin Shepherd

The understanding of the evolution of the north-east landscape of Scotland is bedevilled by a lack of secure dating horizons and a clear appreciation of the agricultural methods employed. It is suggested that both shortcomings can be mitigated by the careful study and cross-referencing of documentary evidence, eighteenth century estate plans and the extant historical landscape. The suggested reconstructions of episodes of landscape development allow the recognition of datable horizons and a suggested structure for the evolution of the medieval and later landscapes in the area. A further consequence is to demonstrate how the native families of the area, in an increasingly feudalised environment, utilised and adapted aspects of agricultural technology found widely across contemporary European lands.

Uninhabited cadastral units on large-scale maps 1630–1655: indicators of late medieval deserted farms?: Olof Karsvall. National Edition of the Oldest Geometrical Maps, the National Archives, Stockholm, Sweden

The oldest Swedish large-scale maps are an important source of information about late medieval desertion. A large number of uninhabited cadastral units (utjordar) were surveyed and specified on maps during 1630–1655. The maps contain economic and spatial information about deserted farms not available in older sources. About one hundred uninhabited cadastral units in two different hundreds have been studied and compared. Lands belonging to deserted farms are specified and marked separately with boundaries and figures on the maps. It is possible to identify them, make comparisons and describe different regional characteristics. In the study area uninhabited units are for the most part concentrated on centrally located plains. Their positions within hamlets vary and the linkages to farms who cultivate these units show different patterns of contact. Many of these uninhabited units can be found in sixteenth-century Cadastres. As cadastral units, surveyed and specified on maps, uninhabited units are likely to be traces of medieval crises and agrarian structural changes. The project ‘National Edition of the Oldest Geometrical Maps’ is currently making an inventory of the oldest large-scale maps. When the maps become available, digital and well known, it will encourage new research.

The Worcestershire Tithe and Enclosure Map Project: creating a research archive: Victoria Bryant and Maggi Noke, Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service

This project provides access via CD and the Web to digitised eighteenth- and nineteenth-century maps and associated apportionment information. The aim is to transform these important historical documents into a searchable research tool, making the information within them more accessible and helping to preserve the originals. 

England’s Landscape: a review article: Christopher Taylor

Reviews the eight volumes of this English Heritage series published by Collins in 2006.



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Volume 29 (2007)