2.8 A New Landscape


From 9th century, the increasing intensfication of agriculture and population growth led to a transformation of agriculture and settlement in the ‘champion’ lands of lowland England changes which still define the basic stucture of the rural landscape around us today – and the classic English village.


Glorious Ewelme

Since I have used Ewelme as my example of a nucleated village, you might want to see the video that Henry and I put togethet back in the day.


Last time we heard about something we might gather up into the catch-all phrase of seignuralisation, a very European process actually, where royal land ended up in the hands of private citizens – privatisation you might say. In the English idiom the process was driven by the needs of the Viking wars, resulting in a highly efficient, centralised Anglo Saxon State, which was able to take action to mobilise resources to respond, and increase the income of geld. The old, vast scirs and multiple estates were broken up, and much of the land passed into the hands of lords who were often resident on estates. They took more of their estates in hand – managing them directly as demesne, or as Inland. They increase the demands they make on the land and the people who work it, bring more land into cultivation, increase dues and rents, above and beyond the traditional feorum and boon days demanded on the ceorl. A process of intensification. And they create their own little world – often took control of the church, bringing the priest to live locally rather than far away at the parochial minster – and trousering part of the Church Scot while they were at it. Life for ordinary people became very much focussed on smaller estates and associated church – a process of localisation.

While this is going on the commercial economy is growing too; the growth of emporia came first, the early ‘wics’, and the largest become manufacturing centres as well – York, Ipswich, Norwich, Westminster, Southampton. The 31 Wessex burghs add a massive step forward, and the West Saxon conquest of the Danelaw another, as the idea of Burghs are taken across England. With growing towns comes a stronger, more commercial cash economy too and population is also growing; estimates of English population by mid 11th century are now about 2.5 million people.

Today I am going to talk about one of the ways in which many communities react to all these changes, which will have a spectacular and lasting impact on a substantial part of the English countryside and how it looks.

If you know the countryside of England well, you will know that there are a few faultlines in the way it looks. There are the obvious things – in the west and north is the preponderance of Highland, granite rather than chalk; and these area which will not change much, they will remain more likely pastoral than arable as a general rule, with dispersed settlement. There are some quite specific areas -such as the swampy fens of the Humber, the Somerset levels and most famously the fenlands of East Anglia, various types of coastline and so on, fine. But there’s one which is less obvious until someone clever points it out to you, as someone clever pointed it out to me. I tried not to faint, and it concerns lowland England, maybe two thirds of England – I’m guessing.

There’s a map in the PDFs on the website by the way to help, page 46, and said map shows two types of lowland England. In a vast swathe across central England, from Dorset in the south through Hampshire and Oxfordshire up to the midlands, the vale of York and Norfolk is an area that has come to be called planned countryside, or Champion land. I’m going to go for the latter, for Champion land, partly because it brings back happy memories of George Formby and his Ukele, partly because I just like saying Champion, but mainly because it’s more descriptive – the word comes from the French campagne, for countryside, for countryside of the open, rolling, big sky variety.

So you’ve got that big strip of Champion land, and Then you will see two wide strands, one to the west and north, and one swathe to the south east of that central strip, which is called Ancient countryside. These two types of landscape have very different characteristics, and it is from the 9th to the 13th century that they are forged.


In Champion land you will tend to see nucleated villages of the type that fill picture postcards along with holyhocks and that sort of thing, houses crammed together, very often church and manor house slap bang in the middle. There might well be isolated farms in the countryside – but on inspection, it turns out they tend to originate in later times, from 18th and 19th centuries, so they’ve been added later. There are relatively few local roads in these area, and they tend to be straight, and they are roads with a purpose – they go somewhere specific like a town or another village usually. If you are a walker, you might struggle a bit; there are fewer of those fantastic footpaths that are also part of England’s glory, and you might struggle to do a circular walk without using a metalled road and fight the cars.  The hedges are straight and a lot of them very narrow, and weedy. There’s less woodland, unless they happen to be some big forestry project. I have a map in the PDF, page 47 of part of the Benson Hundred. On the left hand side, the West you can see what I am talking about – not much woodland, straight roads, big fields.

On the right had side of the map, up in the Chilterns, if you look very carefully it is very different. This is ancient countryside. There are loads of wiggly roads, some of them aggressively pointless and duplicating, loads of twisty paths going all over the place plus a deal of them that seem to have very little point; you will find some very ancient, sunken lanes. There’s a mixed economy of pasture, arable, woodland, the hedges sometimes are really thick. And settlement is quite different; yes there are villages with church and  hall – but there are a load of isolated tiny settlements and hamlets – it’s all much more dispersed.

This is a difference which has been long recognised actually, as far back as folks like John Leland the 16th century antiquarian, who set out to record the countryside that was part of him and which he, like me, loved. The ideas, though, have been refined and built on my more recent historians like W G Hoskins, Oliver Rackham and Richard Muir. Plus I’ve had two more recommendations since the episode – Timmy recommended Nicholas Crane and his History of the British Countryside, and Gavin recommended books by Tom Williamson. Now I am an utter novice, and still in the starry-eyed acolyte phase, but I cannot tell of the pleasure of walking round some corner of England and being able to decipher some small clue about how previous and possibly ancient generations lived an shaped the landscape. I’m not saying this characteristic is restricted to England, far from it, it’s just that this is where my ancestors lived.

As it happens also, our South Oxfordshire example which I have been using is a rather good place to spot the differences between Planned and Ancient countryside, because the Oxfordshire plains are good strong, classic Champion land – to the west – whereas soon as you go up the scarp, you are back into a different world of largely ancient unplanned  countryside – to the east on the map. I’ve also posted some pics of a couple of villages, as I’ll explain later.

Anyway, so lowland England contains these differences. Whence, gentle listeners, and I say again whence? How did this happen?

So, back to our medieval peasants and lords. First the lord, saliva dripping from redened fangs More…give me more…ever more. Obviously you’ll be delighted to hear me trading in crude stereotypes, can’t get through the day without a crude stereotype. Cut to the Peasants. Into a huddle go our brave peasants.

I say, gather round. Now look, no point beating about the old bush. We need more, chaps, the thegn has made it quite clear. And anyway, we’d like to be a bit better off too. So how are we going to do it? Any ideas, speak up there!

Lots of murmuring. Until they come to this. OK Howzabout this then; the problem at the moment is that we all have our individual little fields, and they are not always well designed for ploughing any more with such a big teams especially on the heavier soils we’ve started cultivating. The fields are too small and square, and there is a lot of wasted space since turning a plough and team is a difficult process, and there are all those hedges which are unproductive if we are talking about arable here. Also, we are being quite inefficient in the kit we use, there’s a deal of duplication, everyone’s doing their own thing. So, here’s the idea. We put a lot of our land together into big shared fields and dig up most of the hedgerows so that they are open and easy to use for big ploughs.

Each massive open field will be split up into long strips, and handed out to each ceorl, so that each person ends up with the same amount of land they had before, just that they are now split up into these strips. Strips will be distributed all over the place, so that its fair, and everyone has a mix of land, good and bad. We’ll use really long strips so we don’t have to turn that ruddy great long plough so much.   Then also we’ll rotate these fields every 2 or 3 years, with animals grazing the stubble of the field left fallow to feed our livestock and manure the land and let recover. Plus, while I’m on it, these long strips can be built up a bit into ridges so that they increase the surface area under cultivation, and drain into the furrows between them. Let’s call them ridge and furrow. Result – we need fewer ploughs and oxen for the same amount of land, labour can be focussed. As a result we can plough more land, produce more arable, generate more income lower costs. Just by polling our resources. Alas Clar?

Look me in the eye and tell me it isn’t an idea of some genius, go on. And while we are on it, having everything together like this will make it easier to share jobs, materials, experts in particular skills and most of all ploughteams.

While we are on it, there is another aspect here. We can share rights over other resources – woodland, meadow, pasture to make them go further; we can make this land with common rights on it. This will help pasture the animals during winter when we are growing cereals, help us cultivate more arable land. What do you say, friends?

This is course is the famous open field farming, about which much has been written over the years. It used to be thought that it arose from a fundamentally different culture and philosophy, a community based culture – which got sociologists terribly, terribly excited. There has been enough poo pooing of that theory to produce a quantity of manure that would cover the largest of open fields. Historians have pointed out that the development of the practice to any large extent starts far too late to explain it as a basic cultural impulse. This carries with it the re-dating of the whole thing; it was once thought that the practice was brought by the Germanic tribes and could date back to the 1st century. But that is part of the general poo pooing, and so it’s thought unlikely now, and later, 9th to13th centuries. It’s also been noted that the rise of the open field system of agriculture, which will come to occupy fully 1/3rd of English land, was by no means as complete or homogenous as once thought – when I were a lad for example, this was what was basically taught as how every medieval person lived. In practice everything would have been messier, more local variation tweaks  and wiggles; for example, it could be that farmers originally might not have committed all their lands to the general pot and held some back.

Also the idea of common land is often overstated. The figure of Dennis has been envisioned, the idea of an anarcho syndicalist collective, as some kind of pre communist communism, where the community all owned the land. Such is not really the case. Common land was owned by a landowner; common land really means common rights, it was essentially a right to share some aspect rather than a shared ownership. So Baggins here would own the land, but Proudfeet and Sackville Baggins’ would have some stints. A stint is a defined and restricted right of access – it might be, for example, to graze 2 cows for 3 days a week. Just for instance. A stint. In addition the idea of sharing and of common right seems to have been within the culture for some time, well before open field farming took a firm hold, probably way back. But one source of solid written evidence comes as early as Ine of Wessex’s, and his late 7th century law, which we have heard speak before. Here’s the law in question:

If peasants have a common paddock or other shared land to fence, and some have fenced their part, some haven’t, and [animals] have eaten their common fields or grass, then those who are responsible for the gap should go and make amends to the others who have fenced their part for the damage that has been done there; they should seek from the livestock such justice for themselves as is appropriate.’

The law tells us by implication that at this time, late 7th century, ceorls already might hold land in common, or they might share the land, hold parcels of it. A grass enclosure is the type of land most likely to be involved, but it could also be arable. The peasants evidently do not work together on fencing, everyone is responsible for their own bit, and nor is it clear if cultivation of the land is cooperative.

It therefore makes the point to us that common rights are not dependent on open field farming – they existed independently, and previously. So conversely, the enclosure movement, enclosing land again from the 15th century onwards will not necessarily mean ending rights of common, although often it does. Essentially Open fields and Common Rights are not the same thing – it’s just that common rights are usually needed to make open field systems work.

However, there is no doubt that the open field system required a high degree of co-operation and collaboration; planting schemes, harvesting times, and critically making sure no one took too much from common rights. In the Anglo Saxon world, these are issues that get resolved in public institutions. They might be connected with the tunscipe we talked about often – common farming relied very heavily on people getting together and planning.

But for larger issues and disputes, it is the Hundred court of moot which is the forum – the laws of Edward the Confessor in the 11th century talk about the moot bell, ‘rang to gather together all who in English are called the folcgemote’. These are places like Ceolwulf’s Tree in the Benson lowlands, and there, the tithings and ealdormen and the reeves would gather and thrash the issues out. Ine’s 7th century law mentions common issues of law such as fences not being repaired, over grazing, livestock being allowed to escape and damage to crops that sort of thing.

The spread of open field farming between the 9th and 14th centuries changed the way out countryside looked, the legacy of which can still be seen. It spawned an entire vocabulary, much of which is now forgotten, but can still appear in placename. Selion for the curved S of the strips, so shaped as the plough veers to the left to prepare for the turn, there’s a lovely picture on a snowy field in page 38 of the PDFs; the ‘headland’, and section of the field where the plough would turn, ‘furlongs’ for collections of strips within each field. A Gore was a wedge-shaped piece of land caused by the distressingly uneven character of nature.

There is just one surviving open field system left in England. It is at Laxton in Nottinghamshire, where I believe there is still also a manorial court or court leet, and it was up for sale recently. I had a look at the money box but sadly not. But it is still quite easy in many places to see the marks of the open field; the easiest are those fields often of pasture, which have been unploughed since enclosure. You can often see the bumps of the old ridge and furrow, and which are now, I believe, protected by law.

In our South Oxfordshire, case study, the wide open plain below the scarp was most suitable for open field farming, and it predominated there; in Lewknor for example, which is a parish partly at the foot of the scarp there survives a 16th century estate map of the open fields showing the open fields, and the areas of field owned by All Souls College Oxford. Equally on the dipslope over the far end of the old Benson estate by Henley, a map of 1585 shows the traditional enclosed field structure of Harpsden.  Both those images are in the PDF website, pages 37 and 43 respectively, so please go and have a look.

The area around Benson was also perfectly designed for a planned, open field system. The area is dominated by heavy clay – fertile, but needing heavy plough and lots of labour. In the 8th century the layout appears to have been pretty traditional, with a basic separation between outfields of pasture and infield of arable, with plenty of small private fields called ‘closes’. Eventually this will become a vast single field of 2,500 acres worked in strips. That might be small in Oklahoma but it’s massive here. I am told that if you are to eat an  Elephant, then in makes sense to eat it in chunks – and it’s the same if you are creating an elephant of an open field. So the transformation probably happened in chunks, over centuries, probably accelerated when the Norman landlords arrived and pushed change harder. Benson is a great example. If you happen to be in the area, stand on the top of Howe Hill and look down to Britwell Salome over the plains you can see an example in all its glory – vast fields even now, despite the divisions of the thin, weedy and straight enclosure hedges of the early 19th century. The question, I suppose then might be – what benefits and impacts did this change have on wealth and life and agricultural efficiency?

Well it is quite difficult to be precise about all of that, and how far it lead to increased production. Historians seem to worry about this, and it’s difficult certainly to see a massive uplift, but then the evidence is difficult, distant and hidden. Much of it, afterall, has been eaten. Arf, and arf. What’s clear is that change is piecemeal, it doesn’t happen everywhere as I have said, and according to local decisions and circumstances. Ceorls, peasants, reeves local lords were not idiots; they knew their land and what it could do, and they changed their circumstances only when they were convinced it would bring a benefit. So for example, although the land above Chiltern Scarp in Harpsden I have just mentioned never went for open fields, there are some places above the scarp where they did. In the village of Cookley Green, for example, the vast majority of the countryside in unplanned, small fields ad enclosures; but there were two big open fields at one stage, on the most productive, flattest land, though gone by 1609.

It’s also really important never to forget the idea of local differences, and by local, I mean farm to farm, village to village, not just region to region, like Cookley Green, bits and bobs. A more common arrangement than simply monolithic open fields would have been a flexible ‘infield–outfield’ system, which would reflect the characteristics of different fields and land, which I think we have described before; the land nearest the settlement cultivated every year, and manured regularly, outfield taken into cultivation as required, and returned to pasture when fertility declines. Some Individual areas in an estate might be kept outside the big open fields to reflect local conditions; some waterlogged ground, or where certain crops struggle because it might catch the prevailing wind coming up the valley and thus could not be used for young stock. Considerations like this would always have remained important, we must not impose uniformity for the sake of a neat story.

Local variety therefore remained to maximise success, and I might also point out that control over landscape was more limited than it is now; fertilisers, chemicals, machinery, modified seeds didn’t exist. So I can remake the point that the lives of ordinary people were more deeply affected by their environment than we are now.

Specialisation on a regional basis comes rather later to England than our period, and the vast majorities of families and estates produced for a sort of subsistence plus – they produced all they needed to eat, and tried to produce a surplus for cash. This is rather than say specialising in wheat across the whole estate, and buying your meat from elsewhere; or raising sheep and buying the grain you needed. This is because supply of anything you might need is just not reliable enough in an unsophisticated, poorly integrated economy, and cash is not deeply embedded.

However within estates, there would of course be enough specialisation to maximise the use of land as far as possible. We have spoken about this before – Bickerton as a village for bee keeping, Swyncombe possibly as a place for keeping pigs.

While I’m talking pigs, permit me a brief digression about one of God’s more wonderful animals, the versatile and thoroughly adorable Piggy. One of the better known, and often repeated facts about medieval farming is the thing about the common right of pannage – the right to take your pigs to the woods to fatten them on acorns or beechmast. And the Chilterns are traditionally an area of beechwood, although probably not as far back as Anglo Saxon times to be fair. But it’s easy to overdo how important pannage would have been. Oliver Rackham points out that such acorn and beech crops tend to be very unreliable; so pannage would be no more than a top up, an extra at a particular time of year. Most of the time, the swineherd would need to produce fodder for the pigs, or use fallow field – a more reliable resource. Anyway, by way of illumination of the life of a swineherd, and another way of comparing life of the free ceorl and the Inland peasant. Here’s the arrangements on Bath Abbey for Swineherds on Warland

It befits the tenant swineherd that he give his animals for slaughter according to [the custom] that stands on the estate…that he gives each year fifteen pigs for slaughter, ten mature and five young. He has [for] himself [any] that he rears over that.

…Also, the duty of the swineherd is that he sends slaughtered pigs well-prepared after [their] slaughter, then he will be full-well worth his perquisites. … he must be ready all the while to work, and horsed for the lord’s needs.

This is a very different situation to the unfree swineherd of the inland. The inland peasant gets far fewer goodies  – he simply raises his lord’s herd, and then gets back is a bit of a sweetener as a thank you for raising them

To the bound swineherd who holds the lord’s drift is due a little pig, and his perquisites when he has prepared the bacon, and all the other rights which pertain to bound men.

Just to give you a bit of a word of the week moment, the gobbet uses the word ‘drift’ as the process under Forest law of driving animals through the forest to establish a right of way. You may also come across roads called drift or the drift, which are often drovers roads, for moving animals – there’s a nice back way near Windsor I used to use when I was still young and thrusting, a lovely straight and wide, largely unused road down which I could hurtle while carefully observing the law.

Where were we? We were just emerging from a bit of a double digression about the noble pig wiggin and the lives of swineherds. So, overall then, despite the difficulty of the evidence for increased output, we can cautiously conclude that the impact of the growth of open fields system was in all likelihood to increase the emphasis on arable production in those areas it was adopted and a more intensive way of going about it, and across England as a whole arable production is likely to have increased considerably.

In terms of impact though, the other major change concerned settlements, and the emergence in champion land areas of the good old traditional English village, a feature of the landscape which seem inevitable but which is in fact, not! By the village I am probably guilty of a loose language, I am speaking of a clearly nucleated village, which has one, defined centre, usually grouped around church and manor house.

The last time we spoke specifically of settlement, I was talking about individual scattered farm settlements being the standard, and to this we have added the emergence of the new lords of manors from the fissioning of the large multiple estates – with their hall, court church and outbuildings in a centre enclosed by a stockade. Outside the lord’s centre, buildings may have begun to gather together independently of open field systems but in a very straggly, organic, random, sort of way. For example, one historian talked of the ‘interrupted row’ as a common feature. That’s where farms had been established close to each other and formed a sort of street, but with large gaps between each farms. Settlements might also be very polyfocal, which is a highfalutin way of saying they had no really defined single centre, but existed in a series of nearby clusters.

Now with the impact of an open field system, those settlements begin to cluster together around the lord’s enclosure, closer together. This maximised space again, and allowed the development of largest possible fields. It made it easier to share the resources of plough, or gather together to bring in the harvest. As villages became better defined, in some cases, they would split, especially if they had originally been polyfocal; and in this is sometimes lies the genesis of one of the features of English placenames, the Great and little thing. As in, memorably Great Snoring and Little snoring, Peatling Magna and Peatling Parva; or east and West – East Grinstead and West Grinstead.

Nor was that all. Since lords were demanding more, and production was intensifying, settlement intensifies as well. So entirely new villages begin to appear through the period. Often the start might be some existing building around which others then cluster to create a new village, irrespective of the advance of open field systems, to fulfil some sort of agricultural practice.  A nice example of this in the weald of Kent, in the very south east corner of England, Garden of England they used to call it, where lives Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells. Kent is very uppy and downy, with the characteristics of ancient countryside, and was a very wooded area. Part of its agricultural tradition was the rearing of pigs. Pigs had traditionally been driven in the autumn to the south west of the county to feed on beech mast and acorns. While they did that, the drovers would use temporary settlements, in the same spirit as temporary highland settlements in, I don’t know, in the alps or like the ones I met on a walking holiday in the Cantabrians in northern Spain, or indeed like shielings of Northumbria.

In Kent, these temporary settlements can often be identified by the suffix -denn, which gives you a good idea of the dangers of place names, since we introduced the den suffix previously as a narrow hill. Context is all. Now those Kentish temporary settlements, places like Tenterden for example, began to be permanent rather than a seasonal thing as population grew and intensified. So they began also to bring some land under cultivation. The same process happened in Cornwall and the Lake District, where shielings occupied in the summer pasture areas gradually became permanent farmsteads.

You might ask what the process was by which the changes were implemented. In my little sketch-ette I presented the original idea as a sort of chat between peasants. You may scoff at this, pshaw, you might say, based on the not unreasonable notion that this is an increasingly seigneurial society as we have been describing so surely it would have been forced on people, by the newly resident lords instensifying production.

But you would be at least partly wrong to so think. In many places these decisions to implement a new system and remodel the settlement may very well have been made together by a large number of villagers – geneats, kostetlan, bordars. I hope in the section on warland, I showed that throughout Anglo Saxon and Medieval periods there remained a significant community of free peasants, acting with independence as part of a broader community and state. However where this does happen it was most likely that a few well off peasants, owning most of the land in an area, got together and agreed what would happen; the idea of the whole community meeting was probably reasonably rare, the smaller were most likely pulled along by the larger. Also, there are plenty of places still where there was no resident, manorial lord. Some of these can be identified probably by place names – Charlton, for example is a reasonably common name, derived from Ceorl’s tun, or peasant’s settlement. So in those places, the decisions would of course be driven by villagers.

This more organic and bottom up approach was probably often reflected also in the way that village settlements came together. So, one of the features of early medieval villages had been the walking village, which is a rather delightful and thoroughly convincing model. Houses were made of wood, and wood rotted. So, let’s say you are a Bordar or Gebur living on a toft, so with a small cottage and a patch of land. Rather than repair the house as it rotted, you’d just leave it and build a new one at the end of the row of tofts. And so over time the village walked down the road. But where settlements now had a lordly centre, and where now they had an incentive not to invade the shared land of the open fields, that process becomes rarer; you’d instead either infill between interrupted rows, or rebuild your toft.


So having said a word in favour of the existence of peasant action, you were quite right, the most common model was indeed probably driven from above by the lord. There was plenty of incentive for the lord to re-organise their manor where they could. If the open field system was indeed the most efficient form of agricultural organisation, you would of course be maximising the return from your own demesne – the demesne being, just to remind you, the land held directly by the lord and worked by his estate workers, rather than being rented out. Where the process was driven by the lord, the demesne land would also be distributed among the strips in the Open Fields like any other of the villagers. Though you can bet the lord’s strips would be the best of them, life being what it is. It was in the lords interest of course to promote the latest and most efficient agricultural improvements; if your tenants were doing a bit better, well then, they would be likely to use your market, and your mills, and they could afford a bit more rent when the lease came up again.

Slightly more nebulously, re-organising the village allowed a landlord more control over their tenants, because they were all in the same place and easy to get to, under the eagle eye of the Manorial Barad Dur. So it helped their reeves monitor the work of the peasants and the delivery of their dues and work. In some cases, once the open field was implemented, the development of the settlement could be a bit by bit process, a change here and new toft there. In others, a new village could be developed in a very structured process indeed in one go. The lord might lay out a new area of land with identically sized tofts and tenements with a small cottage and along thin patch of land stretching out behind. It might be an enforced move, with workers with the same terms and conditions of tenancy all put in one place to live side by side. Or they might move villages and settlements lock stock and smoking barrel; in the Benson scir, it looks as though the village of Newington may have been created specifically as a new settlement, moving ceorls from their small farms and hamlets.

As it happens, our areas of south Oxfordshire is also a good place to see the nucleated village of the planned countryside. I have selected the quite beautiful village of Ewelme for you if you would like a look, including from Googly maps in the PDF  – pages 39-42. It has a classic nucleated village structure, in what is a quite a large place; I’ve included a picture of the gorgeous chapel and Alice Chaucer’s tomb, since Ewelme was an amazing place, caput of the Earls and Dukes of Suffolk. Henry and I did a quick vid of the place on You tube, I’ll put a link on the episode post.

And then if you are feeling industrious you can compare that to the manor of Swyncombe up the hill, and there you find simply the central elements of the Thegn’s estate – farm, house, church. That’s yer lot for nucleation; individual farms are then scattered around in small hamlet – slides 43 and 44.

Now that’s basically it, but one more point about the impact of all of this. There will emerge a much later theory from David Underdown which is worth mentioning here; it related to the 17th century civil war period. You might well ask what on earth why I’m talking about it, but I’ll try to make it relevant.

David Underdown’s thesis was that in western England, communities tended to react differently to the call from King and from Parliament, and his attractive idea is that it might have something to do with settlement patterns. So, in Ancient unplanned countryside with dispersed settlement, wood pasture, more pastoral, Underdown saw a greater adherence to the parliamentary cause.  He figured this might have something to do with the dispersed nature of settlement, and the more individual nature of life; independent farms organising themselves and their households. Which might have encouraged non conformist religion, less deference to a more distant lord, less reliance on collaborative working with fellow villagers who were further away and less frequently seen.

So conversely, the nucleated village of the plans, focussed on arable encouraged a different type of culture. Much more collaborative; working together was essential. There was much greater opportunity to get together, more of life was focussed on the church. Also the lord was closer, and therefore deference maybe stronger and more deeply embedded. In the civil wars, they tended to prefer the royalist cause.

So look, I advance that idea to you about one possible impact of the planned countryside and this transformation. Going back to the start, historians have rejected the idea that nucleation and planned countryside arose for cultural reasons, instead emphasising economic and social changes. But it may be that they instead did generate cultural changes where they occurred.

Okey dokey den, I hope you have enjoyed that and I have to say that we are now very very close to the end of series two, and I have no idea if there will ever be a new series. We do at least have one more to go, with is all about the Norman conquest. One of the big questions I raised at the start was whether or not the conquest brought fundamental social changes, or just a change of ownership. Abd that is what we will discuss then next.



2 thoughts on “2.8 A New Landscape

  1. David, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every one of these history of Anglo Saxon England, series 1 and, especially, 2. I know that history marches on, but I a admit that I’m sorry to see Series 2 coming to an end.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Chris, I appreciate it. I loved the subject matter, but must admit I thought most would find the series a little dry, so thank you for your kind words. I might have a few short episodes to add on to the end.

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