[ELH] Dr Graham Jones: Landscape History

During the two years of the British Academy Readership awarded to Prof. Harold Fox and his subsequent research leave (2000-3), I was privileged to cover his teaching for the MA Course, Societies, Cultures and Nation. The following notes and links are retained for the benefit of students taking the Certificate course in Local History at Vaughan College and any others who feel they may benefit.

St Michael and All Angels, Edmondthorpe, farm buildings, and in the foreground remains of landscaped trees around Edmondthorpe Hall fishpond. Photo by Andy Tryner (Alfreton, DE55 6EJ) appears in Melton Borough/Leicestershire County Council leaflet, Framland Church Trail.

Useful on-line map and mapping resources

For those interested in computerised mapping, I have compiled a list of sites as an introduction to Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
An essential tool for exploring the historical landscape is now publicly available on-line, the late nineteenth-century 6-inch Ordnance Survey series.
Large-scale field drawings on which the first one-inch Ordnance Survey maps were based is available on the British Library "Collect Britain" site.
MAGIC is the acronym of the UK Countryside Agency's GIS library: 'Multi Agency Geographic Information for the Countryside'.
Soilscapes is an interactive map of English and Welsh surface geology produced by the National Soil Resources Institute at the University of Cranfield.
The UK National Environmental Agency now has flood plain maps for the whole of the country on line.
There is also now an on-line coverage of air photographs at a site known as 'Getmapping', though be aware that this is a commercial site.
To use the 'Getmapping' site, you will need the postcode of the area you wish to view. Postcodes can be found on the Post Office Web site. Click 'Post Code Finder' to reach the search engine.
Streetmap provides maps of UK locations when you specify post-code, or lat/long, or OS grid refs., etc.
Multimap provides maps at various scales, plus aerial photographs.
Photographs of towns and villages in Britain can be found by entering the place-name in the search bar of Any-Village.
Map24 allows route-planning and georeferencing.
SkyLibrary is a commercial site specialising in the sale of oblique aerial photographs. Its coverage was in its early stages at the time of compiling this page.
Ordnance Survey Gazetteer, with links also to OS mapping services.
Falling Rain, a worldwide index of cities and towns.

Other useful resources on the Web

for landscape historians include
The Helix Images Collection, managed at De Montfort University, includes our own Hoskins and Attenborough photographs of locations across Britain, as well as the Hulton Getty and other huge image collections. Just enter the name of the place you are interested in on the page linked here and click on 'Search'.
A web gallery of buildings and their building stone, compiled at the University of Georgia and therefore with a heavy American preponderance. A site devoted to current British quarrying and traded stone, including regional inventories, is at British Stone.
A Key To English Place-Names under construction at the Institute for Name Studies, Nottingham.
The Anglo-Saxon Plant-Names Survey. An excellent starting place for plant names (especially those of herbs), is Geoffrey Grigson's An Englishman's Flora.
An Illustrated Herbal.
Worcestershire Natural Regions, the county's Biological Records Centre's site. Particularly useful is the map.
The Field-Names of Herefordshire. All the 124,405 field names in Herefordshire taken from the 1840 tithe maps, posted as part of the county council's Sites and Monuments Record.
Listed Buildings in England, the National Monuments Record's inventory.
Architectural History: an introductory site.
The Electronic Sawyer, the on-line version of Peter Sawyer's Handlist of Anglo-Saxon Charters.
Medieval English Towns - Stephen Alsford's compendious site.
Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs in England and Wales to 1516, compiled by Dr Samantha Letters and hosted by the Institute for Historical Research.
Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England, a database of individuals with contextual information, compiled by a team at the Universities of London and Cambridge.
The Workhouse, Peter Higginbotham's excellent site: descriptions and plans of hundreds of workhouses across the UK.
Mapping Margery Kempe provides an excellent introduction to the layout of the typical medieval church. After which you may want to explore
Bristol's medieval churches, my 'clickable' map of the city's 'sacred cosmography'.
John Speed's Maps of Towns and Cities, a feature of Maryanne Horowitz's pages at Occidental College, Los Angeles.
William Camden's Britannia, with an English translation by Philemon Holland, hosted at the University of Birmingham.
The Society for Landscape Studies
Forests and Chases, c. 1500 to c. 1850, 'towards a multi-disciplinary survey'.

Honing your map-reading and observational skills

This means getting out of the house and filling your lungs with fresh air!

Spend 2.50 on an Ordnance Survey One-Inch map of your area, which you should find quite easily by visiting second-hand book shops. (Restrict your use of the Landranger series to finding your way around, because they don't show parish boundaries and also mask the historic landscape with mapping of motorways and housing estates). In addition, buy, beg, or borrow a copy of Margaret Gelling and Ann Cole's new paperback, The Landscape of Place-Names (Shaun Tyas, Stamford, 2000)*; and get hold of the English Place-Names Survey volume for your county (if it exists) and/or A. D. Mills' paperback, A Dictionary of English Place-Names (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991).

Thus equipped, head out into open country and just wander around, but with objectives in mind. First, find your way on the map and learn to read map conventions - not just the roads and footpaths, but the contours and water-courses also. Second, try your skills at 'translating' the names of the places you visit, and keep your eyes open for examples of place-names which accurately describe what you see, or what you can imagine being there in the past. Observe also, changes in the landscape since the map was published (there will be many, not just new or improved roads, housing estates and so on, but also changes to woodland and loss of water-meadows, for example), and try to think about these changes in terms of why they have taken place and what changes are underway or are likely in the future.

Finally, since you have spent your last 2.50 on an old map, find a parish boundary and walk it. You might want to devote a separate outing to this. The object is to think about the bounds of the parish in practical terms, that is, asking questions about past land-uses and land-use allocation, stable boundary markers, and relationships between likely 'mother' and 'daughter' settlements (including relationships which may be mirrored and preserved in place-names).

After all that, I think you deserve your return to domestic comfort.

*ISBN 1 900289 25 1 (or 1 900289 26 1 if you prefer the hardback). The publisher's address is 1 High Street, Donington, Spalding, Lincs.

PS: You will find OS 6-inch maps of your chosen area by clicking on the following phrase in blue: 6-inch Ordnance Survey series. Click on 'County Gazetteer' and then on the name of the place nearest to where you're headed. You can download by clicking the right-hand mouse button; save the map image file into an appropriate folder; and then open the file in a graphics programme from which it can be printed. There are no Copyright difficulties.

[Leicester University] [*]
Last updated: 18 November 2005 12:29
Dr G.R. Jones

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