About UEA Landscape History

The Landscape History Group is based in the School of History at the University of East Anglia.

Environments in Public Workshop, Nov 3rd 2014

Early next month UEA will be hosting a workshop on the theme of ‘Environments in Public’, in collaboration with the Broads Authority and 3S.

You can find out more here and see the full programme here.

There’s also a chance to see ‘Tales from the River’ the night before at the Playhouse Bar in Norwich – ‘A storytelling journey along the River Trent from source to sea’.

riverbank

 

Field Trip Round Up – Spring 2014 (part 2)

Sutton Hoo

In March we hosted a trip for the UEA History Society, taking them to Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. We explored the National Trust exhibitions, walked around the burial mounds and discussed the landscape context of the site. Hopefully those who have never studied landscape history before went away with a slightly clearer idea of what we do!

The National Trust visitor centre at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk.

The National Trust visitor centre at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk.

Prof. Tom Williamson discusses the finer points of the landscape of Sutton Hoo with students from the UEA History Society.

Prof. Tom Williamson discusses the finer points of the landscape of Sutton Hoo with students from the UEA History Society.

Ickworth

At the end of March we spent a wonderful day at Ickworth with our third-year students, untangling the history of the park, its buildings, earthworks and trees. In the course of the day we covered the building of the hall, the laying out of the gardens, the expansion of the park over former farms and roads, the demolition of the old manor house, the recent restoration of the parish church and finally the construction of the walled garden and summerhouse in the early eighteenth century (see photograph above).

A group of third-year landscape history students exploring the gardens at Ickworth.

A group of third-year landscape history students exploring the gardens at Ickworth.

The rotunda at Ickworth.

The rotunda at Ickworth, originally commissioned by Frederick Hervey (1730-1803), Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry.

8Wayland Head 9Castle Acre Head

A double-header for our second year students, spending the morning at Wayland Wood with Prof. Tom Williamson and the afternoon at Castle Acre with Dr Jon Gregory. Wayland provides an excellent site for studying ancient woodland, with some good boundary earthworks and an opportunity to see coppice rotation in action. Thankfully enough leaves were out to a) give the students a crash course in identifying key species and b) mitigate the effects of a severe Spring downpour.

Outgrown coppice stools in Wayland Wood. Other parts of the wood are still managed traditionally with a regular cycle of coppicing (making it easy to get confused when we come back each year!)

Outgrown hornbeam coppice stools in Wayland Wood. Other parts of the wood are still managed traditionally with a regular cycle of coppicing (making it easy to get confused when we come back each year!)

Second-year landscape history students walking through an old area of hornbeam coppice at Wayland Wood.

Second-year landscape history students heading towards the boundary of Wayland Wood.

At Castle Acre we admired the architecture of the Ostrich Inn from both inside and out before making our way to the Priory. Walking around the precinct provided some valuable early revision in advance of the exam. We then retraced our steps back through the village to the castle, discussing its complex development and its place in recent debates on the function and meaning of medieval castles.

Castle Acre Priory

Castle Acre Priory – The west end of the church and the Prior’s lodgings, seen from the east side of the cloister.

Castle Acre castle

Castle Acre castle – the remains of the curtain wall which surrounded the keep.

London

The London field trip has become a firmly embedded part of our third year landscape module in recent year, though this year was more challenging than most due to the fact that most trains were terminating at Colchester and it was FA Cup Final day… We met part of the group at Liverpool Street and the rest at Westminster before making our way to St James’s Park, via Inigo Jones’ Banqueting House. After a tour around St James’s and Green Park we went to the V&A to see the excellent William Kent exhibition. A particular highlight was the rather large scale model of Kent’s design for a new palace at Richmond (which was never built).

London1 London2

Wimpole

This year’s exam timetable meant that there was just time to squeeze in one last field trip before the academic year drew to a close. Wimpole in Cambridgeshire was the destination for a trip which was part revision and part pre-final exam relaxation and reassurance. Wimpole has been shaped by various designers and architects including Henry Flitcroft, James Gibbs, Charles Bridgeman, Robert Greening, ‘Capability’ Brown, Humphry Repton and John Soane. A good opportunity, therefore, to test the students’ knowledge of changing estate landscapes in the post medieval period.

Third-year landscape history students on their final field trip of the year to Wimpole, Cambs.

Third-year landscape history students on their final field trip of the year to Wimpole, Cambs.

Dr Sarah Spooner attempts to convince students that the earthworks of the early eighteenth-century gardens at Wimpole do still exist underneath the very long summer grass.

Dr Sarah Spooner attempts to convince students that the earthworks of the early eighteenth-century gardens at Wimpole do still exist underneath the very long summer grass.

And that, as they say, was that. The exams went well, the sun shone at graduation and we can now look forward to planning our field trips for 2014/15.

Field Trip Round Up – Spring 2014 (part 1)

Catton

Our first post-Christmas field trip was a short one – out to the north of Norwich to Catton Park, Humphry Repton’s first commission as a landscape designer. Catton is an excellent example of the type of small, semi-urban parks which proliferated around towns and cities such as Norwich in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as can be seen here on Faden’s map of Norfolk. The lines of old oak trees in parts of the park provide hints of the former fields which were thrown together create it.

Oak pollards, once part of a hedgerow, in the park at Catton.

Oak pollards, once part of a hedgerow, in the park at Catton.

Third-year UEA landscape history students exploring Catton Park with Dr Sarah Spooner

Third-year UEA landscape history students exploring Catton Park with Dr Sarah Spooner. The hall is in the top-right corner.

Hockering

A return visit to Hockering, where we spent some time surveying the wood with our third-year fieldwork course in summer 2013. It all looked rather different on a cold January day as we followed the boundary of the wood and explored the remnants of a former deer park on the parish boundary between Hockering and East Tuddenham.

Looking along the boundary of a former deer park in Hockering, Norfolk.

Looking along the boundary of a former deer park in Hockering, Norfolk – taken from ‘inside’ the park.

Norwich

Our second year students began the spring semester with an introduction to medieval landscapes and buildings, including sessions on the architecture of the parish church. With Norwich on our doorstep it seemed a much better idea to spend time in the city rather than in the seminar room. Starting out under the impressive tower of St Giles we headed off on a miniature odyssey of Norwich churches – some open, some closed and some put to new uses. We looked at the churches of St Benedict (just a tower since 1942), St Swithin (now Norwich Arts Centre), St Margaret, St Lawrence, St Gregory (home to impressive medieval wall painitngs and an antiques market), St John Maddermarket, St Andrew, St Peter Hungate and finally St George Tombland where we were given an impromptu and very interesting tour by the verger.

St Lawrence, Norwich.

St Lawrence, Norwich. The 112ft tower wouldn’t quite fit in the shot…

Wolterton

As Spring started to spring our third years carried on their Grand Tour of East Anglian parks and gardens with a visit to Wolterton. Lying immediately to the north of Blickling, Wolterton Hall was designed by Thomas Ripley, with the design of the surrounding landscape attributed to Charles Bridgeman with later additions by William Sawrey Gilpin.

Student's admiring the south front of Wolterton Hall.

Students admiring the south front of Wolterton Hall as Dr Sarah Spooner outlines its history.

Exploring the stables at Wolterton.

Exploring the stables at Wolterton.

Thetford

Reactions vary when we inform our second year students that we will be going to Thetford for a field trip. For students heading toward Norwich from various parts of the country Thetford is somewhere glimpsed from car or train windows, a name on road signs seen while contemplating whether or not the A11 does in fact go on forever. However, a sunny morning spent scaling the motte of the Norman castle, studying the ruins of the Cluniac Priory and exploring the timber-framed Ancient House meant that most went home with a more favourable perception. We also managed to catch the Lost Tudor Sculptures exhibition, part of the Representing Reformation project.

The remains of the gatehouse at Thetford Priory.

The remains of the gatehouse at Thetford Priory.

UEA landscape history students follow Dr Jon Gregory up the motte at Thetford.

UEA landscape history students follow Dr Jon Gregory up the motte at Thetford.

Part two to follow…

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown

2016 will be the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown – the most well-known landscape designer of the eighteenth century (and probably of any century). As landscape historians we are interested in Brown and his work for a number of reasons – his landscapes are works of art in their own right, and by studying them we can understand the changing nature of society and culture in the eighteenth century. We can study their archaeology – earthworks, trees, lakes and buildings, for clues about their development and how they were created and maintained.

But how much do we know about Brown himself? He has been the subject of several biographies, including Jane Brown’s Omnipotent Magician (2012) and Dorothy Stroud’s Capability Brown, first published in 1950, and numerous other books and articles. We have recently completed a review of research on Brown for English Heritage which aimed to assess how much research has been done on Brown, but also where the gaps in our knowledge lie.

The park at Kimberley, landscaped by Brown in the 1760s.

The park at Kimberley, landscaped by Brown in the 1760s.

We held a workshop at UEA earlier this year to discuss our findings with a group of academics, researchers and representatives from organisations like English Heritage and the National Trust. This included a trip to Kimberley Hall in Norfolk, which was landscaped by Brown in the 1760s.

Professor Tom Williamson and other members of the group in the garden at Kimberley, including Professor Ian Rotherham, Dr Jonathon Finch and Dr Stephen Bending.

Professor Tom Williamson and other members of the group in the garden at Kimberley, including Professor Ian Rotherham, Dr Jonathon Finch and Dr Stephen Bending.

Looking at an ancient oak pollard in the Brown parkland, Kimberley in Norfolk.

Looking at an ancient oak pollard in the Brown parkland, Kimberley in Norfolk.

Our report has now been published as an English Heritage Research Report, and can be downloaded from their website. In it, we identify some of the problems of studying the life and work of Brown – many landscapes have been attributed to Brown which are probably not by him, whilst there are probably some Brown parks which have not been identified as such yet.

Despite his fame, there is still a lot that we don’t know about Brown and his work – hopefully the upcoming tercentenery will be a good opportunity to do more work on Brown, and to fill in those gaps in our understanding.

Download our research report on Capability Brown here.

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown: Research Impact Review Front Cover

Pathways to History – parishes of few paths

Following on from earlier posts about the density of rights of way in Norfolk, the map below highlights those parishes with the least dense networks of rights of way and those with no footpaths, bridleways or byways.

PROW map

Parishes shown in white are those with no public rights of way (in terms of footpaths/bridleways/byways). Parishes shown in blue are those with the least dense networks of rights of way.

The parishes with no public rights of way are:

Anmer
Beeston St Andrew
Choseley
Didlington
Houghton
Kempstone
Little Snoring
Pudding Norton
Shernborne
Shouldham Thorpe
Stanford
Sturston
Tottenhill
Wellingham

A typical characteristic of these parishes is the presence of single dominant landed estate, often with a large park that accounts for most of the area of the parish. Anmer, Beeston and Houghton, for example, are all parishes where landscape parks dominate the landscape. The movement and closure of rights of way in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to create such landscapes is well documented, although will be the subject of further research as part of this project in terms of chronology and distribution. Other factors such as settlement shrinkage/desertion and military requisitioning (Stanford and Sturston) also loom large in the history of these parishes.

The following parishes all contain some rights of way, but in terms of density account for the 10 least dense networks in the county (excluding those parishes with no rights of way).

No Parish/Area PROW(m) per HECTARE
1 Kilverstone 0.08
2 Necton 0.13
3 West Walton 0.15
4 Scoulton 0.16
5 Morton on the Hill 0.18
6 Litcham 0.27
7 Bradenham 0.29
8 Spixworth 0.32
9 Hilborough 0.32
10 Sandringham 0.39

These parishes continue the predominant east/west divide seen across the county and again the presence of large landed estates in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries seems to be the key factor in most cases (e.g. Hilborough, Kilverstone, Sandringham). However, the figures are also misleading in some ways. For example Sandringham today is, by Norfolk standards, a very large parish covering over 4,000 hectares (making it the fifth largest in the county) and contributing to its low density value. Furthermore this fails to take account of the land which is now accessible to those visiting the Sandringham estate; or the nature reserves at Dersingham Bog and Wolferton Fen.

Sandringham and surrounding parishes in the 1880s. A typical nineteenth-century estate landscape in west Norfolk - parkland, plantations and large enclosed fields (most of which tend not to go hand in hand with dense networks of footpaths...)

Sandringham and surrounding parishes in the 1880s. A typical nineteenth-century estate landscape in west Norfolk – parkland, plantations and large enclosed fields (most of which tend not to go hand in hand with dense networks of footpaths…)

Pathways to History – Mapping Density

Following on from yesterday’s post, these maps show patterns of density across the county, this time taking account of roads as well as public rights of way. In each case the density of routeways has been worked out in terms of metres per hectare.

Public Rights of Way (Footpaths, Bridleways, Byways)

PROW map 1

Density of public rights of way in Norfolk. Blues and greens = low density; oranges and reds = high density.

Highest = Wacton (59m per hectare)

Lowest = A number of parishes with no public rights of way (more on this to follow in another post)

Public Roads (excluding PROW)

Road density map

Density of roads in Norfolk  (blue = low; yellow = medium; red = high)

Highest = Norwich (102m of public road per hectare)

Lowest = Sturston (0m of public road per hectare)

Public Roads and Public Rights of Way

Roads and Prow Map

Combined density of Public rights of way and public roads.

Highest = Norwich (103m per hectare) Sheringham a close second with 101m

Lowest = Sturston (no public roads, no public rights of way)

As research and mapping progress we hope to be able to look in more depth at changing densities over time. It has already become clear from examining seventeenth and eighteenth-century maps of a number of places that processes such as parliamentary enclosure could dramatically reduce the number of paths and roads within a parish. However, in some cases similar processes are evident even in parishes which were untouched by enclosure acts.

Pathways to History – A question of density

When looking at patterns of rights of way across Norfolk some are unsurprising, such as the greater number of footpaths and lanes in the south east of the county and the relative sparseness of the north west. Examining the historic development of such contrasts will form a key part of our Pathways to History project, but as we sort through the results of fieldwork and documentary research we’ve started to explore and map a range of other patterns.

Firstly, we’ve been looking at the modern density of rights of way (footpaths, bridleways and byways), calculated in terms of metres of rights of way per hectare of each parish. On this basis the densest network of rights of way is to be found in the parish of Wacton, to the west of the A140 near Long Stratton. Anyone who has ever looked at an Ordnance Survey map of this area won’t be surprised by this – the mesh of paths and tracks across and around Wacton Common is striking even in an area with as many footpaths as south Norfolk. It might reasonably be expected that the other most densely ‘pathed’ parishes in Norfolk would be in this area, but the distribution of the top ten is rather more widespread.

The top ten parishes in Norfolk on the basis of density of rights of way (metres per hectare)

The top ten parishes in Norfolk on the basis of density of rights of way (metres per hectare)

No Parish/Area PROW(m) per HECTARE
1 Wacton 59.95
2 Thurne 54.57
3 Downham West 40.00
4 Beeston Regis 39.59
5 East Beckham 37.82
6 New Buckenham 36.56
7 Burston and Shimpling 33.25
8 Runton 31.07
9 Yelverton 30.75
10 Drayton 30.37

Looking at these in a little more detail they can be divided into a number of categories. Firstly, there are those parishes which have high densities due to their diminutive areas, such as New Buckenham and Yelverton. Secondly there is Downham West, which scores highly here by virtue of the long bridleways and byways which follow the course of fenland rivers and dykes. Thirdly there are those parishes, such as Wacton and Runton where areas of common land survived much later than elsewhere in Norfolk. Indeed, Runton is one of the few places in this region where open field strips survived late enough to be included on the first edition six inch and twenty five inch Ordnance Survey maps of the 1880s. Drayton is a somewhat surprising entry in the top ten, particularly as there appear to be very few rights of way on modern maps. However, the definitive map for Norfolk includes a cluster of footpaths around Drayton Wood and Canham’s Hill which help to explain the results above. You can see them on Norfolk County Council’s interactive map here – http://www.countrysideaccess.norfolk.gov.uk/interactive-map.aspx

Runton Map

Strip fields around Runton on the north Norfolk Coast as shown on the OS 6″ to 1 mile map of the 1880s.

Further research, both fieldwork and documentary, will undoubtedly shed more light on these patterns; and on the more detailed history of rights of way within individual parishes.

Pathways to History – July update

Throughout June and July our Pathways to History project has been making steady progress, with the results of fieldwork surveys coming in from all over the county. We’ve also been invited to visit a number of parishes to take part in walks with local groups, making the most of an unusually hot and dry summer. Back in June we went to Felmingham and Beachamwell, parishes at opposite ends of the county but with some similarities in landscape terms due to their sandy soils and heaths. Until the nineteenth century many of Norfolk’s heathlands were criss-crossed by dense networks of tracks, many of which disappeared as parishes were enclosed. Walking from Felmingham church to Bryant’s Heath we followed one such track (now a public footpath) which has survived, crossing the heath and then leading on towards North Walsham. A number of other tracks can also be seen on the heath, some of them significantly sunken.

Felmingham Footpath

Footpath between Felmingham church and Bryant’s Heath, NE Norfolk.

The landscape around Beachamwell, as with many parts of Breckland, is today dominated by large scale agriculture. However, it is also covered by an extensive network of footpaths, the history of which is currently being researched by a group of local people working with the CPRE. We enjoyed an atmospheric late evening walk around some of these paths and lanes via Shingham and what was once Beachamwell rabbit warren. Once again we were struck by the richness of some of the lanes in terms of ancient trees and boundary earthworks, in a landscape more readily associated with the hawthorn hedges and conifers of modern fields and plantations. Beachamwell contains numerous important archaeological sites and it will therefore be interesting to see how the routeways within the parish have both influenced and been shaped by past activity.

Beachamwell Track

Looking back towards Shingham and Beachamwell from a track leading to Langwade Green.

Boundary marker

An eighteenth-century boundary stone (marked ‘PB’), now lying in a hedge near Beachamwell.

At the start of July we spent a morning exploring paths and lanes in Reepham, along with 30 eager assistants from Reepham Primary School’s year 3 class, the Avocets. Our walk included a very impressive holloway between Mill Road and Whitwell Road (see below) and an oak pollard on Back Lane with a circumference of 7 metres. The class provided plenty of thoughtful observations and more than a few challenging questions!

In addition to working on the Pathways to History project Reepham and Beachamwell (along with Thompson and Horning) are also taking part in the CPRE’s Connecting Threads: Exploring Our Footpaths project, which aims to “raise awareness and enrich knowledge of public rights of way so that local communities value them and (literally) explore them more, and are encouraged to engage in monitoring and protecting them”. You can find out more on the project website.

CPRE Project Page

Our most recent visit was to the parish of Carbrooke, one of many splendid examples in Norfolk of a small village with an enormous parish church. In the field to the south of the church are the earthwork remains of the commandry or preceptory of the Knights of St John. As with Beachamwell, it will be interesting to see what connections can be made between such a significant site and the current pattern of roads, lanes and paths in the parish.

Carbrooke

Looking north towards Carbrooke from the end of a short footpath running between Summer Lane and Mill Lane.

An All Our Stories Weekend

Last weekend we were busy working with a number of local history groups as part of our Ideas Bank project, supporting groups who have secured an All Our Stories grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

On Saturday we ran a workshop on ‘Writing Up Your Research’ in a very sunny Cromer. We talked about different kinds of writing, how to write for different audiences and how to get the writing process started. There was lots of discussion about how to write as a group, and the importance of editing and reviewing work. The groups who attended (Quatrefoil, West Deeping Heritage Group and Little Waldingfield History Society) went away looking forward (we hope!) to getting stuck in to the writing-up process.

Andy and Sue from Little Waldingfield History Society and Maggie from West Deeping Heritage Group at the 'Writing Up Your Research' workshop.

Andy and Sue from Little Waldingfield History Society and Maggie from West Deeping Heritage Group at the ‘Writing Up Your Research’ workshop.

We will be running a number of other workshops over the summer, and into the autumn, for the groups we are working with – more details are on the Ideas Bank blog.

On Sunday, along with a handful of students, we went down to Suffolk to help with the Hoxne Heritage Group’s community dig in collaboration with the Suffolk Archaeology Unit. Hoxne is well known for its association with King Edmund, and for the Hoxne Hoard, a huge number of Roman coins and other artefacts found in 1992 by Eric Lawes, who was helping with the dig this weekend.

Jon and Simon excavated a very neat test pit, but unfortunately it didn’t contain many finds – they were philosophical in that sometimes no evidence is as interesting as a great many finds…

Test Pit 29 - opened by Jon and Simon, who found a large tree root and a handful of finds.

Test Pit 29 – opened by Jon and Simon, who found a large tree root and a handful of finds.

Sarah and Imogen hit upon a 19th and 20th century rubbish dump in a back garden which contained a mass of finds, including a handful of late medieval pottery sherds amongst the willow pattern. Josh helped with a test pit in a back garden near the boundary of the medieval park, before carrying on with Sarah and Imogen’s pit on Monday.

MA student Imogen Wegman working on Test Pit 4, which contained lots of 19th century pottery.

MA student Imogen Wegman working on Test Pit 4, which contained lots of 19th century pottery.

Two trays of finds from Test Pit 4 - mostly post-medieval and modern.

Two trays of finds from Test Pit 4 – mostly post-medieval and modern.

The full results of the dig will now be analysed by the Suffolk Archaeology Unit, but medieval pottery was recovered from a number of pits. Hopefully, we’ll be able to share some of the results here soon.