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The Post-Medieval Period#


Paul Courtney


The period c. 1500-1750 is generally seen as a period of transition between the medieval or feudal world and the 'Industrial Revolution' (Holton 1984). Both the Reformation and the Dissolution were revolutionary events whose significance we now tend to underrate in a secularised society (Gaimster and Gilchrist 2003). The population of England nearly doubled between 1541 and 1651, followed by a period of stagnation or slow growth before the accelerating take-off of the late eighteenth century (Wrigley and Schofield 1981). Population growth and inflation in the sixteenth century was accompanied by an increase in the landless or near-landless poor. However, for the majority of the population, consumer goods became more available and probate inventories point to growing standards of living, especially after c. 1650 (de Vries 1993; 1994; Weatherill 1988).

The debate over the nature of social and economic change from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and the relative roles of evolutionary and revolutionary change, is ongoing and complex, as demonstrated by the Age of Transition conference held at the British Museum in November 1996 (Gaimster and Stamper 1997). However, economic, social and cultural change is often complex and may be cyclical, regional and sectoral in nature. Periodisation is a practical necessity, but has to be treated with caution: for example, the usefulness of the medieval/post-medieval divide has been questioned (Courtney 1997a; Giles 1999; 2000). The merits of a period-based division between industrial and post-medieval archaeology is also the subject of debate, although practitioners from both disciplines are increasingly collaborating (Barker and Cranstone 2004). A major problem is the continued lack of archaeologists with formal training in the period. The creation of a number of university posts in post-medieval or industrial archaeology over the last decade has been a major step forward, although more posts are desperately needed. The number of textbooks available is also growing rapidly (Crossley 1990; Johnson 1996; Newman 2001).

The archaeology of the last four centuries is a major growth area in world archaeology. In particular, the USA has seen an enormous explosion in the number of trained historical archaeologists working in academia or the cultural resource field over the last two decades (Courtney 1999). Scholars are increasingly aware of the international dimension of the subject, as represented by the joint USA/UK conferences held in 1996 by the Society for Historical Archaeology and the Society for Post-medieval Archaeology (Egan and Michael 1999). Post-medieval archaeology also promises to replace prehistory as the hotbed of theoretical development with its fusion, or sometimes collision, of archaeology, anthropology and history and worldwide perspective (Courtney 1996b; Johnson 1996; Orser 1996; Tarlow and West 1999). It is becoming increasingly evident that historical archaeologists have a major contribution to make to debates on the origins of the modern world through their studies of landscape and material culture.

The region

Landscape historians fall between environmental determinists, who believe one can divide regions satisfactorily on physical characteristics (Phythian-Adams 1993), and those who see environment, economy and culture as geographically overlapping spheres or networks whose relationships shift over time (Courtney 1994, 111). The East Midlands is essentially a political creation although much of it shares similar characteristics. It lacks a leading urban metropolis today and its largest town, Lincoln, ranked only eighteenth nationally amongst English provincial towns in the 1525 lay subsidy (Sheail 1998, i, 50-2). Whilst the region is physically dominated by its east-west rivers, its economy is increasingly ruled by its north-south road links. However, it lies beyond the area most directly orientated to the needs of London's economy in this period. The East Midlands presents a complex mixture of rich agricultural land alongside wood-pastoral or upland areas associated with proto-industry. Two areas present particular problems, the High Peak (Crossley 1991) and the Lincolnshire Fens (Darby 1982), in that our political boundaries cleave them from their wider ecological and economic zones. In both cases flexibility in applying a regional approach is needed.

There are no regional archaeological manuals for this period, but Chambers' (1932) pioneering study of Nottinghamshire in the eighteenth century, Thirsk's (1957) and Hoskins' (1950) respective studies of Lincolnshire and Leicestershire farming, Steane's (1974) Northamptonshire landscape volume, the Lincolnshire county history series (e.g. Beastall 1978; Holmes 1980), and Beckett's (1988) regional history of the East Midlands all offer useful frameworks. The Agrarian History of England and Wales (Thirsk 1967a; 1984a and also 1984b) and the Cambridge Urban History (Clark 2000) also contain useful regional syntheses. The Historical Atlas of Lincolnshire has many useful maps (Bennett and Bennett 1993) and Northamptonshire Heritage's GIS database of mapped historical data will also hopefully be published in due course.

The introductory chapters of the Victoria County History (VCH) series provide some useful, if often now dated, syntheses on such topics as agriculture, transport and industry. Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire also have county record societies which have published many useful primary documents. The 1524/5 lay subsidy returns with county as well as national maps and analyses (Sheail 1998) are a useful resource for studying the uneven distribution of population and wealth within the region. The relative poverty of the Bunter Sandstone region of Nottinghamshire, for example, stands in marked contrast to the affluence of the Trent valley (ibid., i, 136-9). Sites mentioned in the text are shown on Figure 54.

Fig 54: Distribution map of post-medieval sites mentioned in the text
Distribution map of post-medieval sites

Urbanism #

Urban networks

The urban hierarchy of the East Midlands is headed by county towns dating to the pre-Norman period, none of which has dominated the region. Below them are numerous small market towns, most of which were creations of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Lincolnshire also has a number of towns, notably Stamford and the port of Boston, which formerly competed with the county towns. Industry played an increasing role in the development of both county and small towns in the early modern period, for instance the leather and shoe industry at Northampton, framework knitting at Leicester and weaving at Kettering. The economic and demographic success of the small towns is particularly varied and was often dependent upon their location in relation to major trade routes. Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire, is thought to have suffered when its resident lords did not return after the Civil War (Moxon 1971, 351-3). Innkeepers and tradesmen normally formed the elite of small towns. Urban inns, often clustered around the market place, became the favoured location for making commercial transactions (Clark 1983; Everitt 1973). The availability of accommodation for both men and horses in inns and ale-houses was listed by the War Office in 1686 and 1756 (PRO WO 30/48-9). There was also a growth in the number of itinerant traders, carriers or hawkers in the early modern period (Everitt 1967; Spufford 1983).

The urban resource

The quality of the documentary resource, notably in the form of borough records and deeds, is undoubtedly greater for the county towns and larger centres such as Stamford and Boston. However, survival of deeds even at this level can be patchy. The voluntary Survey of Ancient Buildings in Lincoln has constructed tenement histories for buildings in the Cathedral Close and Castle Bail (S. Jones et al. 1984-1996). Its successor, the Survey of Lincoln is currently working on the rest of the town. The recent publication of the intensive urban survey provides a detailed assessment of the present state of knowledge and a framework for future research (Jones et al. 2003). Nottingham and especially Lincoln, with its Dean and Chapter archives, are particularly rich in their early modern deed collections. The larger centres have also received the most attention from historians and the urban development of the region has recently been synthesised from an historical perspective (Clark 2000). The extensive urban survey of North-amptonshire towns will soon be published (Foard forthcoming) and several other counties await surveys as part of English Heritage's extensive urban program. Such surveys offer the opportunity to synthesise the growing 'grey literature' and shed light on urban development through comparative analysis.

Important studies on the social and economic history of small towns and their rural hinterlands include those for Melton Mowbray and Lutterworth in Leicestershire (Fleming 1980; Goodacre 1994). Goodacre's study (ibid., 21-34) includes a detailed analysis of the marketing infrastructure in the Leicester-Coventry-Northampton triangle, from small towns to villages with inn accommodation. Everitt (1967) has published data nationally on markets and fairs in the period 1500-1640, while the Centre for Urban History at Leicester University has compiled population data for all early modern English small towns (Clark and Hosking 1996).

Post-medieval archaeology faces a number of specific problems within towns. The build-up of archaeological soil deposits in most towns in northern Europe ceases around 1300 as a result of improved building construction and the urban government's organising of waste disposal to the surrounding countryside. As a result, buildings from the late medieval period onwards stand at the same level as modern buildings. Re-used stone foundations and cellars from the late medieval or early modern period are thus often very difficult to date and are susceptible to damage during demolition. Nottingham also faces the particular problem that successive rebuildings start by scraping down to the sandstone bedrock (G. Young pers. comm.).

Post-medieval archaeology in towns has therefore tended to be dominated by the study of standing buildings, or the ceramics and other finds recovered from cut features like pits and ditches in gardens. Unfortunately, permanent brick- or stone-lined cesspits, which have proved such a rich source of dateable assemblages on the Continent, are relatively rare in British towns. Another major problem is that, whilst the population of many towns rose in the early modern period, this is rarely reflected in urban growth. Rising populations seem to have been absorbed by infilling empty plots and adding extensions to existing buildings or subdividing them (Taylor 1992). Nevertheless more sensitive approaches to machining may enable post-medieval house plans and sequences to be recovered. Excavations at Bonners Lane in the southern suburb of Leicester and at St Nicholas Place in the urban centre have both proved productive (Finn 1994; 2004; Meek 2000a; 2000b; R. Kipling pers. comm.)

A surprising amount of architectural evidence from the late medieval and early modern period survives in both the larger and smaller towns, often encased within later brick facades. Such remains in small towns are particularly susceptible to loss without recording. Recent survey work in Hinckley, Leicestershire, has identified a number of timber-framed houses, often hidden behind later facades (Finn 2000; Ryder 2000). Particular attention needs to be paid to modifications of buildings in the early modern period, which might shed light on the emergence of greater privacy and/or more crowded urban living. Evidence of early modern infilling and industrial activity was found on abandoned medieval plots in the market settlement of Mountsorrel, Leicestershire (Lucas 1987). The yards or passages south of the market place in Newark, Nottinghamshire, have been shown to be a Georgian development (Fairclough 1976; Todd 1977).

It is important to reconstruct the social history of individual buildings where they can be tied into documentation, although this is likely to be restricted to higher status structures, especially in the less well-documented boroughs. Important case studies of urban inns include the Peacock Inn in Chesterfield and the Old Flying Horse in Nottingham (Borne et al. 1978; Douglas et al. 1987). Buxton Hall, Derbyshire (Thornes and Leach 1994), and the long demolished Lords' Place in Leicester (Courtney 2000) are examples of research on sixteenth-century aristocratic town houses. Ongoing studies include the Lincoln urban survey and Trevor Fould's documentary work on Nottingham Castle.

Systematic analysis of probate inventories can shed light on building development, for example, Alan Dyer's (1981) analysis of inventories from four Midland towns. His analysis concluded that some towns had renewed their housing stock in the late Middle Ages, ahead of Hoskins' sixteenth-century 'Great Rebuilding', followed by a second phase of rebuilding in the late seventeenth century. He also found evidence in some towns for single-storey construction and division of larger houses into 'maisonettes' in the early seventeenth century. Evidence for subdivision into 'tenements' was found in the survey of the Peacock Inn, Chesterfield (Borne et al. 1978). This kind of adaptation to a rising population ought to be a main concern of structural research in towns. In contrast to Dyer's results, a recent survey of timber-framed buildings in Newark suggests a phase of rebuilding in the sixteenth rather than the seventeenth century (Samuels 1995a). It would be interesting to compare these results with the documentary evidence. Beckett and Smith (2000) have used a database of Nottingham probate inventories of 1688-1750 to identify the consumer-conscious 'middling sort' and study their role in the physical reshaping or 'renewal' of the borough.

Research potential

The demolition of suburbs in the Civil War, as was the fate of Leicester's poorest suburb outside the south gate, also provides a potential dated marker-horizon in urban development (see also below). Unfortunately buildings revealed in the Bonners Lane excavation were only partly excavated, but totally destroyed when the contractors failed to abide by the agreed boundaries of destruction. Documentary evidence suggests that rebuilding was prolonged and piecemeal.

The build-up of garden soils noted in the less developed parts of towns (e.g. north-east Leicester) is still poorly understood (see Foulds 1997 on medieval gardens). Evidence for the introduction of market gardening is evident in many towns from the sixteenth century through the appearance of Dutch-style bedding trenches, although these may also indicate herb gardens, depending on location and layout (Cooper 1996, 32-3; Courtney 1994, 14-5). It might be possible to locate extra-urban civic rubbish dumps such as those documented at Leicester in a document of 1508 (Courtney 1998, 116; see also E.T. Jones et al. 2000, 98 for Northampton). Indeed, a seventeenth-century dump has been excavated at Castle Street, Plymouth (Gaskell Brown 1979). Another area of potential research is urban water management, including the study of mills, flooding, industrial location, piped water supplies, wells and pumps (Dunckel et al. 2004; Guillerme 1988).

Of prime importance must be any finds or environmental assemblages which can be related to individual households, whether or not these can be identified in the documents. The material culture of the urban poor, sometimes concentrated in poorer suburbs, is also a national priority. The lack of archaeological study of the urban and rural poor, despite the fact that the relevant resource is often well preserved and is disappearing rapidly, is a major indictment of current research designs. Another important aspect of towns in this period is the emergence of a professional class (e.g. lawyers, doctors) with their concomitant architecture. The building and adaptation of public buildings to meet changing administrative and other needs, such as schools, prisons, almshouses/hospitals and town/market halls, is of major importance (e.g. Chorleton 1993; Courtney 1996a). The changing use of social space within such buildings is a growing field (e.g. Giles 1999; 2000). Stocker's (1997) study of the iconography of the Lincoln Stonebow suggests that the rebuilding of this gate in the early sixteenth century was linked to the town renegotiating its fee farm obligations with its feudal overlords. Courtney (1996a) has utilised the changing locations of civic buildings as evidence of changing urban social space in Leicester.

To make effective use of smaller-scale PPG16 interventions, it is vital to treat sites as part of a wider urban landscape and to fully understand the processes of deposit formation and destruction. The integrated use of physical remains, documents and old photographs and drawings is also an essential prerequisite to understanding post-medieval urban landscapes. At Nottingham, for example, the eastern side of the English Borough was abandoned c. 1350 and not reoccupied until c. 1600 or later (G. Young pers. comm.). Most of all, we need to have intelligent research designs if archaeology is to shed light on this technically demanding period. The study of urbanisation is a major key to understanding both the region and the nation. However, the high cost of urban excavation means that it is often difficult to raise adequate post-excavation and publication funding through the PPG16 process. There seems little prospect, for example, of the important series of recent excavations in the southern suburb of Leicester, including important post-medieval finds and environmental assemblages, being fully published, with the exception of those at Bonners Lane (Finn 2004). Synthetic publication of such important 'grey literature' is highly desirable.

Rural Landscapes: Towards an Holistic Approach#

For convenience this section is broken down into landscapes of display (country houses and gardens), agrarian landscapes and woods and commons, whereas in reality they all form part of a highly integrated rural landscape. The aesthetic landscaping of country houses (for example, the use of lines of trees to shape views) often extended into the lands of the surrounding tenant farms. Indeed, a combination of economic and aesthetic motives underlay the improvement of both farmland and parks. Furthermore, much industry in this region was located in the countryside and its seasonal nature was entwined with the seasonal rhythms of the agricultural year in a dual economy. Patterns of land ownership and tenancy, as well as the varying agrarian regimes, are important underlying factors in understanding the uneven pattern of improvement and modernisation in the rural landscape.

Landscapes of display

The distribution of great houses and their gardens in the landscape is far from random. Alan Everitt (1966; 1969), for example, noted that seventeenth-century Leicestershire was a county dominated by the manor houses of the 'old' gentry located in villages, while Northamptonshire was notable for the many stately houses of the newly rich within isolationist landscapes (Figure 55). He suggested that sales of royal forest in the latter county played an important role in creating this pattern. A similar concentration of grand houses and designed landscapes is also found in the Sherwood area of Nottinghamshire, where the sale of Sherwood Forest offered similar opportunities (Baddeley 1994; 1996).

Fig 55: Lyveden New Bield, Northamptonshire
Lyveden New Bield

Many surviving aristocratic and especially gentry houses survive, although many others have also been destroyed over the last century. The surviving examples are mostly listed in the Pevsner volumes and some are covered by articles in Country Life. Published surveys of country houses exist for Northamptonshire (Heward and Taylor 1996) and, at a more popular level, for Derbyshire (Craven and Stanley 1982), Leicestershire (Cantor 1998) and Lincolnshire (Leach 1990-1; Leach and Pacey 1990-3). Architectural studies of rural elite houses include Quenby and Nevill Holt in Leicestershire (Green and Schadla Hall 2000; Hill 1999), Wollaton Hall (Figure 56), Beeston manor house and Grove Hall, Nottinghamshire (Johnson and Cox 1985; Marshall 1996; Wallwork 1982) and Gainsborough Old Hall in Lincolnshire (Lindley 1991). Nevill Holt has also been the subject of an estate study (Broughton 1985).

Some monasteries, such as Lenton Priory (Nottinghamshire), were totally abandoned after the Dissolution (Barnes 1987). Other monastic buildings, both conventual and granges, were converted to secular dwellings in the sixteenth century. An integrated study of buildings and gardens was undertaken by Field and Clark (1991) at Langtoft Hall Farm, Lincolnshire, a former monastic grange, ahead of redevelopment. Ongoing research at Leicester Abbey utilises it as training project for Leicester University students and is aimed at developing the site as a general educational resource. The project has already shed light on the conversion of the abbey gatehouse into a residence for the Hastings family in the sixteenth century. The project combines the use of limited non-destructive excavation alongside the use of building and geophysical survey and documentary research (Buckley 1997). Building and geophysical survey has also been used at Launde Abbey, Leicestershire, to identify the former monastic components within the later house and gardens (Beavitt 1995).

Fig 56: Wollaton Hall, Nottingham
 Wollaton Hall

There has been a lack of regional research on the post-Dissolution land market in the East Midlands, apart from Cameron's (1975) article on Nottinghamshire and Hodgett's (1975, 39-62) chapter on Lincolnshire. Most monastic granges and demesnes appear to have been leased to secular farmers prior to the Dissolution. This enabled some enterprising individuals to build up estates with the freedom to create parks and gardens if they wished, as did the sale of the royal forests.

One of the advantages of studying great estates is the often rich estate archives, especially the availability of estate maps. Among published sources are the series of survey maps by William Senior of the Chatsworth estates in Derbyshire of c. 1600-28 (Fowkes and Potter 1988). Nichols (1980; 1987) catalogued the local maps available for both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire prior to 1770 in both local and national repositories. Broughton (1984) has catalogued the estate collections of Leicestershire and Rutland held by the county records office. The National Register of Archives catalogue is invaluable in tracking down estate archives across the country and the manorial index will hopefully be extended to the East Midlands. The Public Record Office (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk) and British Library manuscript (http://searcharchives.bl.uk/) catalogues are also available on line. Other useful web databases are the Vernacular Architecture Group's list of dendrochronological dates and volumes III and IV of their bibliography (http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/).

Northamptonshire has the best-studied gardens and many are recorded in the Royal Commission Survey volumes (RCHME 1975; 1979; 1981; 1982). A recent English Heritage project to enhance the Register of Parks and Gardens has identified about 150 gardens in the county (Hall 2000). Cantor and Squires (1997) have published a useful book on historic parks and gardens in Leicestershire. Steane (1977) has also published a paper on Tudor gardens in Northamptonshire including details of an elm pipe and pottery spigot from the water supply system of an eighteenth-century fountain at Boughton. Brown and Taylor (1972) have also published an in-depth study of the garden earthworks at Lyveden, Northamptonshire. Garden ponds, although sometimes cleaned out, may have potential environmental evidence, such as fish bones and pollen.

The Royal Commission survey of West Lindsey has also recorded gardens and parklands, mostly of the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries (Everson et al. 1991). Several garden earthworks were also surveyed in Leicestershire, for example at Kirby Bellars, as part of the earthworks survey program in the 1980s (Hartley 1987, 10-11, fig. 26). Many deserted villages across the region, for example Staunton Harold in Leicestershire, became incorporated within parks. The recent discovery by Janet Spavold and Sue Brown (pers. comm.) of a late medieval or Tudor detached garden at Southwood, Derbyshire, on National Trust property, indicates there is much work on basic identification still to be undertaken. Baddeley (1994; 1996) has studied the gardens and parks of north Nottinghamshire and Gillott (1985) examined the running of a royal deer park at Bestwood in Sherwood prior to its sale in 1697.

The recognition and recording of gardens is a priority, not least because of their susceptibility to destruction without recognition (see A.E. Brown 1991b; Taylor 1983 for general background). Documentary and map sources are clearly much less rich for the gentry than the aristocracy, but we must recognise the value of garden remains across the whole social range. Basic surveying complemented by geophysical survey where possible is a priority. The value of excavation and environmental evidence for shedding light on gardens has been demonstrated by such projects as Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire (Dix et al. 1995). More comparative excavation is needed across the region if we are to understand how gardens were modified as fashions, and individual family fortunes, changed.

Gardens need to be understood as part of the wider manipulation of the landscape by landowners, including parks and the creation of tenant landscapes (Bettey 1993). They also need to be understood in relation to their function as places of upper class display and ostentation. Williamson (1995), for example, has demonstrated how the eighteenth-century garden reflected the rise of 'polite society' marked by increased social interaction between the aristocracy and gentry and professional classes below them. In particular the use of space in gardens needs to be regarded as an extension of space within the elite house. A major trend in modern scholarship has been the study of how landowners manipulated the wider landscape both to provide suitable views from their house and garden but also to impress and delight the approaching guest (Locock 1994; Upton 1988; West 1999; Williamson 1995).

Excavation is an important tool both in dating earthwork features and in uncovering sequences of garden development. The moat at Bulwell, Nottingham, proved after excavation to be a nineteenth-century landscape feature rather than medieval as first thought (Drage 1979). Excavation can also potentially shed light on garden features, planting beds, and structures such as orangeries and greenhouses for forcing plants. Gardening tools, flowerpots, glass covers and garden ornaments are all recovered in excavation (Noël Hume 1974). Environmental evidence such as soil structure and pollen can shed light on soil preparation and on both the species of plants and how they were utilised in parks and gardens (for techniques, see Currie and Locock 1991; Dix 1997; 1999; Kelso and Most 1990; Pattison 1998). Many gardens had elaborate water management and drainage systems, as at Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire. Recent work for English Heritage in the Fountain Garden at Bolsover Castle (Derbyshire) has uncovered remains of piping which fed the Venus fountain (Dix 1995; 1999).

As well as possessing ideological and spatial aspects, polite houses and landscapes were also functional. Masters, servants and tenants lived, worked and interacted in these landscapes. We need to learn more about the material culture of all the inhabitants of the polite landscape. Even resistance might just be discernible in this landscape of lordly domination, for instance, in the material culture of servants and tenants (see McGuire and Paynter 1991). It is also important to understand the geography of elite landscapes across the region and the interaction between aristocracy, gentry and an emerging middle class. Some of these social patterns will have very ancient roots while others will be more modern in origin.

Agrarian improvement

Overall, the period 1500-1750 is marked by gradual, but not revolutionary, change in the agrarian economy and landscape, although change in the form of enclosure could be revolutionary for individual communities (Overton 1996a; 1996b). In particular, the period is marked by growing regionalisation and early experimentation with improvements such as enclosure and water meadows, and new crops like clover. However, many scholars would now place the roots of both improvement and regional diversification back in the late medieval period (Dyer 1997). Two main periods of desertion linked with livestock enclosure have been recognised, reflecting rising wool and leather prices, c. 1450-85 and c. 1504-19. It is now apparent that desertion often came about through gradual amalgamation of holdings (engrossment) in already vulnerable townships, rather than by enforced eviction (Beresford and Hurst 1971, 11-16). Early general enclosures and desertions tend to concentrate on the clay soils of the East Midlands' watersheds or wolds (Fox 1989).

The historical work of Finch (1956) and Martin (1983) on Northamptonshire is relevant for the rise of Tudor sheep farming and its role in the nascent capitalism debate. Kerridge (1967) is still an important source on Tudor and Stuart improvements but needs to be read alongside other work, which takes a more evolutionary line (Campbell and Overton 1993; Glennie 1991; Overton 1991; Thirsk 1967a; 1984a). In contrast, the sheer scale of agrarian, demographic and industrial change in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, despite various revisionist attacks, still stands cumulatively as a true revolution in human history (Berg and Hudson 1992; Overton 1996a; 1996b).

Thirsk's (1967b) mapping of English farming regions for the period 1500-1640 was a crucial landmark in the regional analysis of English agriculture, and Mingay (1984) and Hey (1984) have subsequently analysed the farming regions of the East and North Midlands for the period 1640-1750. Whilst such broad-brush characterisations remain useful, they hide a great deal of local complexity. All three of Thirsk's broad farming types occur across the East Midlands: mixed farming, wood pasture and open pasture. The most widespread regime was mixed corn and stock farming. Livestock bred in the fens and uplands (as far away as Wales and the Lake District) was moved into the mixed farming regions for fattening before supplying London and the other growing urban centres. Corn was shipped out along the rivers into the coasting trade or even across to Holland. Variations in this regime occurred on the clay watersheds or wolds and on the chalk/limestone uplands of Lincolnshire, the latter supporting a sheep and barley husbandry.

The main wood pasture regions were the royal forests of Rockingham, Salcey and Whittlewood in Northamptonshire, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire and the non-royal Charnwood and Leicester 'forests' in Leicestershire (see Fox and Russell 1948; Crocker 1981; Pettit 1968; Squires 1981, for important local/regional studies, widely differing in approach). The main areas of open pasture were the Pennines and the Lincolnshire Fen. Piecemeal enclosure of open fields and from the waste and commons occurred across the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially in the wood pasture regions. Resident lords also sometimes bought out tenancies in order to create enclosed landscapes of improvement.

Enclosure in Leicestershire in the period 1485-1607 was the subject of a pioneering Ph.D. by Parker (1948). He also published an important study on the impact of enclosure in Cotesbach on the west Leicestershire claylands (Parker 1946-7; 1949). Socially, the period was marked by growing stratification. At the bottom was a landless class, which increased with the inflationary decades of the sixteenth century and the disruption of the mid seventeenth century. Sixteenth-and seventeenth-century enclosure generally tended to have a depopulating effect. Nevertheless, the loss of cottagers was sometimes more than made up for demographically by servants who lived on the properties of freehold and tenant farmers. Most servants tended to leave upon marriage. Service on farms was generally dying out by the early nineteenth century but the construction of tied cottages created a new dependency.

In Northamptonshire forest areas, some villages trebled their size between the 1524 lay subsidy and the 1670 hearth tax (Pettit 1968). This contrasts with the deaneries of Nottingham, Retford and Newark in Nottinghamshire, whose population appears to have fallen slightly between archiepiscopal visitations of 1603 and 1676 (Wood 1942). By the seventeenth century a distinction between open and closed villages had emerged (Goodacre 1994, 225-40). Open parishes or townships with multiple freeholders tend to be associated with concentrations of squatters and labourers, domestic rural industries and non-conformity. By contrast dominant lords in closed parishes restricted cottagers and squatting in order to stop them claiming on the poor rates and/or to restrict non-conformity and radicalism (Holderness 1972).

Major sources for studying the landscape include estate records, especially maps and deeds. Probate inventories may record livestock and crops as well as often giving room names and contents. There is also the physical evidence of the countryside in its surviving field shapes, woods, roads, farms and dwellings. Estate maps and nineteenth-century tithe maps are a vital source for the changing landscape. However, there is a danger in concentrating on places with good estate records and maps, which are likely to be those areas most subject to capitalist landlords and improvement. Field systems, especially open fields, have been studied most intensively in Northamptonshire (see Hall 1993 for a recent synthesis and reference to local surveys). Papers by Barnes (1999) on Orston (Nottinghamshire) and Doe (1973) on Beeley (Derbyshire) are useful local studies indicating the considerable scope for adaptation and improvement of agriculture within open field systems prior to enclosure.

Studies on the Peak include Wrightman's (1961) work on open fields, Somerville's (1977) study of 'newland' encroachments upon the wastes, and Shimwell's (1974) paper on blanket peat erosion resulting from sheep grazing. Jackson (1962) and Carr (1963) have also published on the extent and types of open fields in Derbyshire. Ridge and furrow has been sketch plotted in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire (Field 2000; Hartley 1983; 1984; 1987; 1989b). A recent project of English Heritage and Northamptonshire Archaeology has been mapping ridge and furrow in the south Midlands east of Birmingham and assessing parameters for preservation as part of the Monument Protection Program (Hall 1993; 2000). Reclamation, not all entirely successful, of the Lincolnshire marshes and peat fen began in the seventeenth century and became more intense in the following century (Darby 1982; Holmes 1980, 121-30).

The Parliamentary enclosure acts start in the 1720s, although most date to after 1750. However, they need to be understood within the longer time-frame of agricultural improvement. Tate (1978) has published a national listing of acts and awards as well as many local guides. The Russells (1987) have made a notable contribution with their numerous township studies of parliamentary enclosures in Lindsey (see Tyszka et al. 1991 for a bibliography). Other local studies include those of Eddinton and Hartshorne in Derbyshire and Brackley in Northamptonshire (Dalton 1991; Spavold 1984; Lowerson 1978). Doctoral theses have been written on the Parliamentary enclosure movements in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire (M.E. Brown 1995; Hunt 1955; see also Hunt 1957). Yelling (1977, 46-58) used south-east Leicestershire as a regional case study for the long-term history of enclosure and its associated debates. Neeson (1979; 1993), Anscomb (1988-9), Hall (1998-9) and Hollowell (1998; 1999) have all produced theses and/or publications analysing general aspects of enclosure in Northamptonshire.

Whether or not Parliamentary enclosure had a negative or neutral impact on the economy of the small landholder has been the centre of a long-standing debate. Two of the most significant modern studies have both argued that cottagers suffered overall as a result of losing common rights and the lack of opportunities to earn wages (Neeson 1993; Snell 1985). It is also clear that experiences could vary considerably depending on the geography of wage-earning opportunities. Smallholders in such geologically favoured areas as Mountsorrel, Leicestershire, and Corby, Northamptonshire, were able to survive after enclosure, by finding work in the quarries, while the cottagers in many clayland villages fared less well (Joyce 1999; Moore-Colyer 1997; 1999).

Woodland, common and squatting

The larger areas of woodland in the East Midlands were concentrated on the poorer soils. Many disappeared in the post-medieval period while others were largely exploited as sources of coppice wood, being cyclically cut to produce wood for charcoal burning or crafts such as chair making. Tony Squires' studies of medieval and later woodlands in Leicestershire are a notable regional contribution (Squires 1983; 1995; Squires and Jeeves 1994). Of some importance are the woodland surveys of the Crown. As well as giving valuable information on the changing extent of woodland, these often shed light on the surrounding woodland pasture countryside. Perhaps the most impressive single source is the recently published edition of the 1609 Crown Survey and map of Sherwood Forest (Mastoris and Groves 1997).

Many maps and other records also survive for the Northamptonshire Crown woods (Pettit 1968; Hall 2000). The studies by Pettit (1968) of North-amptonshire's royal forests and an excellent amateur history for Passenham by Brown and Roberts (1973) make good starting points for research on the woodland pasture landscapes of Northamptonshire. A major problem is the difficulty of actually dating the origins of settlement in these areas (Bishop et al. 2000; Hall 2000). The current Whittlewood Project may shed further light on post-medieval as well as medieval woodland settlement evolution (Jones and Page 2003). There is a need to study woodland features such as lodges, wood and park banks, charcoal pits and ponds (with their potential environmental deposits). Many of these features are highly susceptible to destruction through forestry, agriculture or development. The integrated use of documentary, archaeological and ecological evidence has proven a useful approach to woodland history (Rackham 1980; 1986). Woodward's (1984; 1992) studies of the evolving ecology of Groby and Swithland woods in Charnwood, Leicestershire, offer useful local case studies.

Commons and waste also formed an important source of pasture for many townships. The practice of temporary cultivation or 'brecks' in Sherwood Forest continued into the eighteenth century (Fowkes 1977). Concentrations of squatters are frequently found around the wastes, commons, woodlands and roadsides of the woodland pasture regions. Squatting benefited the farmers by keeping the landless off the poor rates, often gave their own children a start in life and benefited the Crown or rarely resident lords who collected the fines (de facto rents) from the squatters. The lack of security in squatter tenure no doubt acted as a social control upon the poor. However, proactive lordship, as in the Charnwood area of Leicestershire, could keep such landscapes free of squatters. Many wastes and commons suffered partial or complete enclosure, initially through stealth or agreement and later by Parliamentary Act.

The mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlement found in the wood pasture regions and the tendency for the fields there to be under grass offer particular problems to the settlement archaeologist. A desktop study by Clay and Courtney (1995) highlighted a possible squatter or industrial settlement on the edge of waste at Cloud Hill in Leicestershire. This case highlights both the potential and problems of such sites. Most of the cottages had already been demolished but subsequent fieldwalking produced pottery of the fifteenth century onwards (Liddle 1995c). Unfortunately, a single, surviving cottage ruin was subsequently destroyed by the laying of an electricity cable (P. Clay pers. comm.). Such sites are disappearing rapidly from the edge of woods and commons through erosion by everyday agricultural and forestry activity. A more proactive approach is needed to the locating and dating of settlement sites in wood-pasture regions. The American rapid survey system of shovel-pit testing has a potential role (Schaffer and Cole 1994)

Vernacular architecture

Another major source for understanding the countryside is the vernacular architecture of both housing and agricultural buildings. The largest systematic survey is that published by the RCHME (1984) for north Northamptonshire and, for the present, it must serve as a benchmark for comparative analysis across the region. The late Maurice Barley's The English Farmhouse and Cottage (1961) also has many examples from the north of the region and demonstrates the value of glebe terriers and probate inventories for studying housing. Some of the introductions of the second editions of the Buildings of England also provide brief introductory essays on vernacular architecture, notably those for Nottinghamshire (Barley and Clifton-Taylor 1979), Leicestershire (Smith 1984) and Lincolnshire (Roberts 1989). Sub-regional studies include unpublished theses on Leicestershire, the Trent Valley, Rutland, Kesteven and the Lincolnshire parsonage (Marsden 1952; 1958; Roberts 1972; 1980; Webster 1965).

Mud or cob-built buildings are found across the Midland claylands (Fig. 57; e.g. Field 1984b; Samuels 1980; Seaborne 1964). However, the technique of combining with timber studs appears to be unique to Lincolnshire, especially Lindsey. Rodney Cousins (2000) has recorded over 700 examples, about half demolished, in his recent study of this house type, dating from at least the late seventeenth into the mid nineteenth century. However, only a few examples have been the subject of detailed survey (Field 1984; Miller 1991; Roberts 1974a; 1975). Roberts has suggested that the lack of investment shown by this method and associated 'archaic' framing techniques in early modern Lincolnshire may reflect a lack of investment due to the prevalence of short leases (Roberts 1974a; 1974b; 1975).

Surveys of buildings in north-east Derbyshire by Bob Hawkins and others show a transition from timber-framing to stone in the sixteenth century and improvements over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Derbyshire County Council, the Peak National Park and the RCHME formerly funded a dendrochronological dating project. This concentrated on cruck buildings, especially farm buildings, in the National Park and demonstrated a preponderance of dates in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with few after 1600. Barbara Hutton's (1991; 1992) surveys of timber-framed buildings in South Derbyshire suggest that the improvement of farmhouses is concentrated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Fig 57: Toad Hall, The Cross, Walton by Kimcote, Leicestershire. A probable example of a south Leicestershire `Mud and Frame` building. This distinct sub-regional style combines a `basic` timber framework with solid mud lower walling. Although similar in some respects to the `Mud and Stud` of Lincolnshire, characteristics such as heavy principal roof trusses are clearly rooted in local vernacular traditions. Identification of surviving example can be difficult as the mud walling is often replaced with brick and the surviving timbers wrongly interpreted as the poorly preserved remains of a box-framed structure
Toad Hall, The Cross, Walton by Kimcote, probable example of a south Leicestershire `Mud and Frame` building
Such chronological variations in the 'Great Rebuilding' originally proposed by Hoskins can probably be found across the region and class-based divisions are also likely. The desire to invest in new buildings probably relates to a complex mixture of factors such as population increase and patterns of wealth and consumption. The investor's feeling of economic security is also important and may reflect tenurial as well as economic conditions (Hoskins 1953; Machin 1977; Taylor 1992). Another major interest in vernacular architecture has been the use of building materials (see also Industry below). Northamptonshire is especially rich in its variety of building stones (Hudson and Sutherland 1990; Parry 1986-7). Brick was known in the region from the fifteenth century in high status buildings such as the castles of Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire, and Tattershall, Lincolnshire, but even in the claylands brick only becomes the norm in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Barley and Clifton-Taylor 1979; Smith 1984).

A growing line of research is in the social history of houses, for instance, Matthew Johnson (1993; 1997) has linked changes in the plans of yeoman houses to changing patterns of family relationship. It is often difficult to tie probate inventories to lesser status buildings but in any case they give valuable information on the use of rooms and the material culture within them. Buildings also need to be understood within their landscape settings, for instance, some villages show social segregation with 'chapel ends'. At Anstey Green, Leicestershire, cottages appear only on the north side of the green, opposite large farm houses on the south side (Courtney 2003). Alcock's seminal and interdisciplinary study of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire (1993), is an example of what can be achieved in an admittedly exceptionally well-documented village with good vernacular survival. Another important field is the study of cultural regions. Leicestershire is an area where both cruck and timber-framed building techniques coincide, and a wide range of timber-framing styles is found in Leicester (Smith 1984; Webster 1965). In Lincolnshire there is a strong Dutch influence (Neave 1994).

Research potential

An understanding of agrarian landscapes is clearly essential for conservation and heritage management purposes. A major problem is that the agrarian landscapes often present a superficial image of timelessness, hiding the constant attrition of relict landscape features caused by changing farming techniques. Many classes of evidence may be lost entirely because they are being slowly eroded by agricultural practice rather being the subject of large-scale redevelopment. A major first step is to characterise the landscape. Characterisation mapping needs to be extended, especially using GIS. The county-wide Derbyshire project shows the potential of this method: a series of time slices were created, based on the surviving historic map evidence (Barrett 2000c). Such an approach offers a useful planning and analytic tool. However, it is no substitute for the detailed documentary and topographic reconstruction of localities (Courtney 2003). There is also a need to include heritage conservation issues in agri-environmental projects, for example, the Countryside Stewardship scheme.

More work needs to be done on the ecology of hedgerows and woods, for instance to shed light on original planting schemes (Woodward 1984; 1992). The 1997 Hedgerow Regulations offer new opportunities for preservation (Hall 2000). We also need to record and preserve more examples of such endangered features as wood and park boundaries. Environmental evidence has an important role in the study of improved animal husbandry and the introduction of new plants, as well as in the reconstruction of specific rural and urban environments (Albarella 1997a; 1999; Armitage 1984; Giorgi 1997; 1999). The sheep of Leicestershire and Lincolnshire were said to the largest in the country by Daniel Defoe, and the 'Old Midland Longwool' is said to have been large-boned, long-legged and hornless (Armitage 1984, 139-40; Trow-Smith 1957, 165). However, environmental work in Leicester has failed to show indications of size improvement before the eighteenth century (Gidney 1999; Thawley 1981). Baxter (1998, 59) suggested that this disparity may reflect the selective purchase of non-improved sheep (useful for their horns) for consumption within the borough.

Early enclosure often led not to desertion but to occupation by tenants. Evidence for such sixteenth- to seventeenth-century occupation has been recognised on recent deserted village excavations at Eye Kettleby and Brooksby in Leicestershire (N. Finn and D. O'Sullivan pers. comm.). Dairy farming emerged in the same period, especially in the wood pasture regions, but also accompanied enclosure in champion areas. There are possibilities for studying its material culture (buildings and ceramics) through excavation. The Ticknall kilns in south Derbyshire were major producers of dairy ceramics (D. O'Sullivan pers. comm.). There is also much scope for comparing the material culture and consumption patterns of different classes and sub-regions. There is a major need for more detailed recording and dendrochronological dating of houses of all classes. A major concern is the number of historic buildings being demolished or radically altered without detailed survey across the region. There is also a lack of regional and sub-regional synthesis. Excavation of abandoned farms or cottages is an urgent priority, with enormous potential for examining the material culture of individual households.

Industry and Communications #

Dual economies

A seminal essay by Joan Thirsk (1961) on industry in the English countryside emphasised the sociological patterns associated with different agrarian regimes. In particular she noted that wood pasture regions tended to be associated with weak manorial controls, rising early modern populations and early industrial growth in the early modern period. She argued that the low labour demands of pastoral orientated economies allowed workers to practice by-employments, providing essential craft or industrial labour in the summer. The regional model of early industrialisation was given a more theoretical and European perspective by Franklin Mendels (1972). However, a number of his ideas - for example, that proto-industrialisation led to a fall in the age of marriage and thus stimulated a rise in family size and population - are controversial. Many areas where British industry was located saw rising population through immigration and such responses as a falling age of marriage were also a feature of non-industrial agrarian areas, perhaps a reflection of the growth of capitalist agriculture (Houston and Snell 1984).

Another central problem is also how the economy progressed from proto-industrialisation to full indus-trialisation. Areas like Leicestershire developed urban steam-powered textile factories in the nineteenth century alongside a continuing rural and domestic-based framework-knitting industry. Other areas of proto-industry like north-west Northamptonshire de-industrialised. This suggests the futility of divorcing regional analysis from an understanding of structures and processes at national and international levels. There is also growing interest in the way that some regions and even nations, notably the Netherlands, modernised without undergoing industrialisation.

A major recent development in the study of early industrialisation has been the interest in the role women and children played in the work force (Sharpe 1998). Jan de Vries (1993; 1994), for example, has suggested that the Industrial Revolution was preceded by a consumer-led industrious revolution. He has argued that the period c. 1650-1750 was marked by increased standards of living as women and children became more actively involved in the labour market in order to buy the new consumer goods, many of them direct or indirect products of colonialism. This, he argues, was an important start to a supply-led Industrial Revolution in which producers fuelled growth by technical innovation and changes in organisation to push down prices. An example that illustrates that such phenomena can be observed in the archaeological record is provided by the polder boat wrecks in Holland which show a shift from dependence on male labour to family workforces in the seventeenth century (Courtney 1997a, 11; van Holk 1997).

Some key industries

The furnaces of the charcoal iron industry were concentrated in the Chesterfield region but spread to south Derbyshire after 1650. Iron forges were more geographically widespread (Riden 1991; Johnson 1960). Lead mining was the dominant industry in the High Peak and has been the subject of a great deal of documentary research and field recording (e.g. Crossley and Kiernan 1992; Kiernan 1989). Other industries in north Derbyshire included millstone manufacture and sickle/scythe making at Eckington (Battye 1999; Polak 1987; Radley 1963-4).

The archaeology of the Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire coalfields is of national importance. These coalfields were exploited from medieval times and there are considerable surface remains in many areas (Owen 1984). Fred Hartley (2000 and pers. comm.) has plotted the Leicestershire bell pits onto SMR maps, while Derbyshire County Council is currently plotting remains from air photographs associated with coal mining in an English Heritage funded project. Extensive remains in west Nottinghamshire have yet to be surveyed (Bishop et al. 2000). The most important finds have been the fifteenth- to seventeenth-century coal workings surveyed during open cast mining at Coleorton, Leicestershire in 1985-95. Some mines were over 100 feet deep by AD 1500 and were reached by timber-lined shafts. Artefacts recovered include miners' tools and stools and even a sixteenth-century jacket (Hartley 1994a; 1994b).

The wool textile and leather industries were of some importance in the East Midlands. From the late seventeenth century, framework knitting was wide-spread in towns like Leicester and the villages of west Leicestershire, south Nottinghamshire and east Derbyshire. It was especially associated with 'open' villages. (Chapman 1972; Mills 1982; Palmer 2000; Rogers 1981). Broadcloth making in Northampton as elsewhere was probably in decline by the late sixteenth century. This was due to the shortage of domestic short wool as enclosure led to larger animals with longer fleeces (Bowden 1971, 41-56; Dyer 1980, 76). Worsted manufacture using long wool prospered from the late seventeenth century in parts of Northamptonshire. Wool combing was concentrated in the claylands of north-west Northamptonshire, especially at Long Buckby, while weaving was concentrated in and around Kettering (Hall 2000; Hatley 1967-8; 1973, xvi-xvii; Randall 1970-1; 1971-2). The leather trades were important in the towns of Leicester, Ashby de la Zouchand Northampton, with the latter emerging as a major shoe making centre in the Civil War period (Edwards 2000, 132, 136 and 153; Shaw 1996, 112; Page 1910b, 310-30).

Many of these early industries were domestically organised and did not utilise specialist buildings at this date. They are often difficult to detect from excavation, although tenterhooks, for example are, sometimes recovered. Of national importance was the excavation of the late fifteenth- to seventeenth-century tanning complex at the Green, Northampton (Shaw 1996). This site also highlights the potential of chemical and animal bone analyses (Evans 1996; Harman 1996). Animal bone data suggest that excavated wood-lined pits of the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century in Bonners Lane, Leicester, were for tawing, that is tanning sheep hides (Baxter 1998; Finn 2004). Excavated post-medieval horse bones from a site in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, probably indicate a horse knacker's yard (Baxter 1996).

Documented urban industries include tanning, dyeing, fulling, smithing, pewter manufacture, pin making, gold- and silversmithing, brewing and malting amongst many other crafts (e.g. Charman 1949; Chinnery 1986; Dyer 1980). Tanning pits and a malting kiln of fifteenth- to sixteenth-century date have been excavated in sandstone caves at Nottingham (Waltham and MacCormick 1993). In Newark a mid seventeenth-century limekiln was excavated on the back of the medieval southern rampart (Todd 1974). Further post-medieval limekilns on the site of the levelled northern rampart are less clearly dated but it has been suggested may have been built for the post-siege reconstruction (Kinsley 1993b).

In the countryside quarries and brick making on the claylands are widespread. The Ketton/Weldon quarries on the Rutland/Northamptonshire border have been studied (Best et al. 1978). The Nottinghamshire alabaster carving industry continued into the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (Barley and Clifton-Taylor 1979, 47-8). Quarrying and digging was also undertaken in suitable locations as a source of marl for fertilising soils, clay for bricks, tiles and pottery, and limestone for lime manufacture. McWhirr (1997) has surveyed the Leicestershire brick making industry before 1610 and Robinson (1999) listed the early brick buildings of Lincolnshire. Salt making continued on the Lindsey Marsh into the early seventeenth century and excavations of salt pans at Wainfleet St Mary have yielded fifteenth- or sixteenth-century pottery (Sturman 1984; McAvoy 1994). Fishing was also practiced on the Lincolnshire coast as well as on most inland rivers (Cooper and Ripper forthcoming; Pawley 1984). Tile production is known from documentary evidence in Boston and Lincoln and a fifteenth- to sixteenth-century kiln excavated at St Marks, Lincoln (Field 200). Early modern brick clamp-kilns have been excavated at Anstey, Leicestershire (Beamish 1995) and Flintham, Nottinghamshire (Alvey 1982).

Mills were used not just for grinding corn but also for drainage and industrial purposes such as fulling and oil manufacture. They often changed their function many times. Many local gazetteers list mills but little academic analysis or synthesis has been undertaken. However, Steve Dobson is currently undertaking doctoral research at Leicester University on Northamptonshire post-medieval watermills. An example of the benefits of detailed architectural study is the survey undertaken on Norbury Mill in Derbyshire, which indicated the adaptations made to a seventeenth-century mill (Drage et al. 1989).

Glass making is documented in Nottinghamshire in the early seventeenth century at Wollaton and Awsworth, and at Nottingham by 1675 (Parker 1932; Samuels 1995b; Smith 1962). It is conceivable that archaeological evidence might extend the known distribution of this industry. Earthenware production centres in the early modern period include Nottingham; Ticknall, Derbyshire; and Plumpton and Grafton Regis/Potterspury, Northamptonshire (Brears 1971; Parker 1932). In Lincolnshire wasters suggest a large number of centres producing similar glazed red-wares including Old Bolingbroke, Bourne, Boston, Grimsby, Kirkstead, Toynton, Old Bolingbroke, Fiskerton, Coningsby and Bicker (Brears 1971; Field 2000). Other local potteries in the region probably remain to be identified. It should, however, be remembered that documented urban 'potters' were often makers of pewter pots.

The major Ticknall ceramic industry has been the subject of a long-term documentary study by Janet Spavold and Sue Brown (Spavold and Brown 2005). They have identified 28 kiln sites in the area through fieldwalking. Their work on the regional probate inventories, when published, should shed major light on ceramic trade and consumption patterns. Deirdre O'Sullivan excavated a kiln dump at Heath End, Leicestershire, near Ticknall. Alan MacCormick (pers. comm.) is working on a fieldwalking assemblage from Peate Place, which has close parallels with some of the highly decorated Cistercian wares excavated in the Dissolution drain deposit at the Austin Friars in Leicester (Woodland 1981).

Excavation has uncovered three kilns respectively of medieval, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century date at Potterspury (Mayes 1968; Woodfield and Ivens 1998-9) and a seventeenth-century kiln from Paulerspury in south-west Northamptonshire (D.N. Hall 1974). The recently excavated sixteenth-century kiln suggested experimentation with down-draught technology, possibly influenced by Rhenish stoneware kilns. There have been unpublished excavations of kilns at Boston and Old Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire. The evidence of ploughed-out kilns and kiln dumps around the latter village points to large-scale production (Coppack 1976, 21-2). All the major earthenware production centres in the region declined in the eighteenth century. Stoneware manufacture had begun at Nottingham and in Derbyshire by the late seventeenth century but no kilns have been excavated. As a result little is known of this industry's technological development (Oswald et al. 1982; Parker 1932). The threat by development to surviving ceramic production sites of all types is of major concern.


The early eighteenth century saw the first major investment in the transport infrastructure since the thirteenth century (Harrison 1992). New trusts enabled the first of a wave of turnpike roads and bridges to be built. Parliamentary enclosure also often involved new road construction and the straightening of route ways. The best-studied routes of the pre-turnpike area are those of the Peak district (e.g. Hey 1980; Radley 1963b). Roads and bridges were maintained locally through the institutions of parish, borough and county. Ferries and fords were also important means of crossing rivers. Even on the Trent virtually everywhere was within two miles of a crossing (Courtney forthcoming). It is noticeable that the line defining the easternmost limit of surviving cruck construction crosses the supposed barrier of the Trent at right angles (Smith 1981, fig. 2).

The maritime trade of Lincolnshire declined in the post-medieval period due to silting and changing economic patterns. However, the Trent continued to be a major trading artery (Wood 1950). In the early eighteenth century, William Wooley described the shipping of lead, salt, and pitch from the customs house at Wilne Ferry, Derbyshire, by 20-ton barges to Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Elsewhere he describes the shipping of Derbyshire lead by horse from Wirksworth to Wilne Ferry, Sawley and Derby as well as Bawtry, Yorkshire, on the River Idle (Glover and Riden 1981, 57 and 177). An act to make the Trent navigable from Wilne Ferry to Burton on Trent was passed in 1699, but was obstructed by the vested interests of wharf and boat owners. However, the Derwent was made navigable to Derby in 1721 and improvement works began on the Nene navigation in the same decade (Alsop 1985-6; Hatley 1980-1; Williamson 1936; Willan 1936, passim; Wood 1950, 20-6).

Archaeological evidence of river use includes a seventeenth-century kid weir, for preventing erosion of riverbanks, excavated at Dove Bridge in Derbyshire (Southgate and Salisbury 1999). Iron fittings from boating poles, dated to the sixteenth century, have been recovered from former water courses of the Trent in Nottinghamshire (Salisbury 1997). Sunken boats or quay remains of this period should be given a high priority if encountered. The former impact of flooding, prior to major channel modification, on riverside settlements (including major towns) is also poorly appreciated today.

Industry in context

Natural resources such as raw materials and fuel played a significant part in the location of industry but could sometimes be moved considerable distances, especially by cheap water transport. Another key factor was the availability of labour which was highly dependent on agrarian regimes, social structure and demographic patterns. These are intimately interlinked although it would be foolish to reduce such patterning to environmental determinism (see McGlade 1995). Much variety occurs at the local level. Most industry in this period was domestic and seasonal in organisation, part of a dual rural-industrial economy.

The development of industry is central to many historical debates about economic growth, demography, social change and consumption. The changing structure of gender relations in the workplace is also emerging as a key element in industrialisation. Lace making, a part-time domestic occupation for women, was able easily to fit into the rhythms of the mixed farming areas of the South Midlands, including parts of Northamptonshire.

Archaeologists, particularly through their long-term perspective on landscape change, can contribute to the study of early industry, its origins, location and demise. As well as looking at technological invention, the study of patterns of capital investment and the adaptation of technology are extremely important. Some industries like the eighteenth-century pottery industry were transformed through changes in organisation and marketing, and numerous micro-innovations, rather than by the adoption of a single macro-invention such as the steam engine (Barker 2004; Courtney 2004).

Research potential

The lead, coal and tanning industries are of national importance. Also of note are the regionally important ceramic industries, especially Ticknall and the emerging Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire stoneware industries. Many other industries existed across the East Midlands in this period, although not all have left obvious archaeological traces. There is a need to continue mapping and characterising industrial landscapes especially in the wood pasture and upland regions. It is especially important to understand the changing balance between arable, woodland, waste and commons and industrial use. There is a case for selective preservation of these landscapes notably in areas like north-west Leicestershire, which are heavily threatened by urban and rural development.

GIS has enormous potential in this field, both for research and in aiding conservation policy. However, this needs to be supplemented by detailed local studies utilising documents, landscape and material culture if we are to understand the processes at work. The work of Nevell and Walker (1998; 1999) in the Manchester area is a good example of the integration of landscape history and material culture. Their work also emphasises the need to understand changing patterns of land ownership and social structure. Ongoing research questions include the relationships between agrarian regimes and industries, and the linkages between different industrial sectors. Chemical water pollution, for example, meant that fulling had to be located upstream of tanning (Guillerme 1988, 99).

Excavation can add to knowledge of industrial processes and work organisation. Attention needs to be given to work sheds and storage facilities as well as the main production plant. Scientific analysis, for example of slags and residues, has a key role to play in understanding industrial processes. There is also a need to explore the origins of specialist industrial settlements and the living conditions and material culture of industrial workers.

Battles and Fortifications#

A permanent army only emerged after the Restoration and there was continued resistance to having it stationed at home. The militia formed in 1588 have left few physical traces, often utilising gentry homes as armouries. The main area of interest to the military archaeologist in the East Midlands is the English Civil War (Sherwood 1974; Holmes 1980, 141-99). This period saw fortification of a number of towns such as Leicester (Fig. 58), Nottingham, Northampton and Towcester, and almost certainly many of its gentry houses. There were major sieges at Leicester (1645) and Newark (1646), and the decisive battle of the first Civil War took place at Naseby (1645). Not surprisingly, studies undertaken in this region have played an important role in pioneering battlefield archaeology in Britain.

Fig 58: Civil War ditch revealed during excavation at Mill Lane, Leicester
Civil War ditch at Mill Lane

The Royal Commission surveyed what are the best-preserved Civil War siege works at Newark (RCHME 1964). Small-scale excavation has taken place on the monuments over the years (e.g. Manning 1958). Currently their state is being reassessed with the aim of producing a new conservation plan (e.g. Holyoak 1997). Little remains at Leicester other than the musket loops in the north wall of the Newarke precinct. A major study by the Courtneys (1992) reinterpreted aspects of the 1645 sieges using archaeological, architectural, topographic and documentary evidence. More recently PPG16 excavations and a watching brief for a new water main have produced traces of ditches on the south side of the walled town, probably representing both siege and post-siege defences (Finn 1994; Gossip 1998). The Civil War provides a potentially useful dating horizon in reoccupied castles or in destroyed suburbs. Artefacts from excavation or fieldwork are also useful in that they contrast with the higher quality material found in armouries (Courtney 2001a).

Documentary and topographic research has also shed new light on the defences of Northampton (Foard 1994-5). The work of Glen Foard (1995b; 2001b) with metal detectorists at Naseby has led to a major reinterpretation of the battle. Foard combined a topographic reconstruction of the battlefield with analysis of military finds (musket balls, lead powder holders and flask tops) plotted by detectorists. Similar analysis is ongoing at the minor rural siege at Grafton Regis in Northamptonshire (Foard 2001b). The main need is to conserve battlefield sites or at least to study them on the Naseby model. The finite resources of archaeological patterning on such sites is very susceptible to loss through long-term unrecorded collecting.

Churches, Chapels and Burial#

Few new Anglican churches were built in this period, for example, Staunton Harrold, Leicestershire and All Saints, Northampton. As well as demolitions associated with the Reformation, many minor churches and chapels were demolished in the earlier part of this period for economic reasons, for example, St Peter's and St Michael's in Leicester. A few redundant churches are currently under threat from redevelopment or decay and vandalism. Areas of research interest include the various liturgical rearrangements of the interiors, the vandalisation of anything seen as ostentation by puritans, and the monumental evidence for changing views of death and society (e.g. Duffy 1994; Finch 2000; Hickman 1999; Llewellyn 1991; Tarlow 1999). Stocker's (1996) pioneering analysis of the re-use of building materials after the Reformation in Lincoln could be complemented by studies in other towns. The adaptation of buildings such as guildhalls for new functions can also be studied through architectural or documentary evidence (Courtney 2001b; Giles 1999).

Churchyard stones need detailed recording as they face threats from natural erosion, subsidence and vandalism. Several schools of decorative gravestone masonry exist in the East Midlands, for example, the Swithland slate school in Leicestershire (Herbert 1941-5). Healey (1991) has drawn attention to the special vulnerability of the small and plain gravestones of the seventeenth century. A major problem is the lack of standardisation in recording gravestones and the need for centralised collection of records (see Mytum 2000 for recording guidelines).

The Royal Commission published an outline inventory of chapels in the Midlands (excluding Lincolnshire). Full recording was undertaken of the relatively few chapels dating to before 1800 (Stell 1986). The recording of any Lincolnshire chapels of this period is thus a priority. There is a growing interest in the material culture associated with burial, for example, coffin furniture (Cox 1998; Litten 1991). Post-medieval burials have considerable research potential for providing information on diet, demography and health. In a recent overview, Mays (1999, 331) noted that the only published example of a 'full osteological study of a substantial assemblage' from the post-medieval period is that from the Spitalfields crypt.

Material Culture#

The fifteenth/sixteenth centuries and eighteenth centuries saw major transformations in both the organisation of the pottery industries and the nature of their products. The study of technology and economic organisation of the ceramic industry needs to be integrated with marketing and consumer patterns. The post-medieval period is marked by changing patterns in the distribution of wealth, social status and competition. Regional patterns also need to be defined and analysed within regard to national and international contexts, for instance, the impact of continental merchant and courtly culture upon artefact usage (Verhaeghe 1997). Cumberpatch (2003), for example, has suggested that the preference for brown-coloured ceramics in the early post-medieval period reflects a radical change in consumer aesthetics.

The county towns and a few others have yielded post-medieval pottery from excavations, although often from small pit groups or residual contexts. A lack of clear guidelines in PPG16 briefs with regard to finds of this period needs to be addressed. Key artefact groups include the Dissolution deposit in the drain of the Austin Friars, Leicester (Woodland 1981); late seventeenth-century well assemblages from Nottingham and Lincoln (Alvey and MacCormick 1978; Mann forthcoming); and a late seventeenth- to early eighteenth-century cesspit assemblage, including vessel glass, from the High Pavement in Nottingham (Alvey 1973). Other published material includes several sixteenth- and seventeenth-century pit and well groups from Full Street, Derby (Coppack 1972), two early eighteenth-century pit groups from Lincoln (Coppack 1973b) and a group of nine seventeenth-century tygs, used as paint pots, from Roughton church in Lincolnshire (White 1980).

A publication on the medieval and post-medieval glass from Lincoln is due out shortly (Henderson forthcoming). The clay tobacco pipes from Lincoln excavations of 1970-74 (Mann 1977) have also merited a volume to add to the many local studies across the Midlands (e.g. Hammond 1985) and a substantial excavated assemblage has recently come from Leicester (Higgins 1999, 215). Published rural collections of finds are even rarer, but include the material from Bolingbroke Castle and Eresby manor house, Lincolnshire, Strixton manor house, Northampton-shire, and Donington Hall, Leicestershire (Drewett 1976; D.N. Hall 1975; Liddle 1977-8; Marjoram 1984). Andrew White (1989) has produced a doctoral thesis on Lincolnshire pottery between 1450 and 1850, and has also studied earthenware pancheons, stamped with potters' names, from the same county (White 1982). Much potential data on rural pottery usage must exist within fieldwalking collections, but this material is rarely classified and quantified by ceramic specialists.

More finds groups will be published as the urban backlog proceeds, notably in Lincoln. A number of important sites/assemblages look likely to remain unpublished including the Mountsorrel, Leicester-shire, pottery, the eighteenth-century inn assemblage from the Bowling Green, Leicester and the early eighteenth-century pit group from Halifax Place, Nottingham. The latter group, probably representing a house clearance, is of national significance (G. Young pers. comm.). Hurst (1991) summarised the state of knowledge on imported ceramics in Lincolnshire but it would be useful to have similar information for other counties. In particular it would be interesting to measure the penetration of imported wares into the region as an indication of growing inland trade. However, there is a pressing need for urban and regional syntheses generally.

Major gaps in knowledge include our poor understanding of rural material culture and of the urban and rural poor in particular. The non-dating uses of ceramics and other artefacts need to be more widely appreciated. They have the potential to illuminate deposit formation, trade, changing dietary and social habits, and the rise of consumer fashion (Courtney 1997b; Cumberpatch and Blinkhorn 1997; Moorhouse 1986). Any material culture or environmental deposit that can be tied down to an individual household is of national importance. We need to follow the American example of developing an archaeology of the household and its life-cycle. This is a key social and economic unit, which is capable of being recognised through archaeological and documentary sources (Beaudry 1999; Deetz 1982). Finally we should aim to integrate material culture with landscape history to produce an archaeology that seriously tackles the changing relationships of political, social and economic power, which underlie the genesis of capitalism and the modern world. However, the study of large-scale socio-economic structures and cycles needs to be balanced by the study of the changing patterns and rhythms of everyday life as experienced by communities, families and individuals.

A Research Agenda for the Post-Medieval East Midlands#

General issues


Potential research directions

Rural landscape issues

Country houses and gardens

Potential research directions

Agricultural landscapes, vernacular architecture and commons

Potential research directions

Industry and communications

Potential research directions



Material culture

Potential research direction


This document is in part a synthesis of the county-based contributions by Dave Barrett (Derbyshire), Fred Hartley (Leicestershire and Rutland), David Hall (Northamptonshire), Naomi Field (Lincolnshire) and Mike Bishop, Virginia Baddeley and Jason Mordon (Nottinghamshire). I also owe a debt to those who attended and contributed to the discussion sessions held at Leicestershire County Hall and Snibston Discovery Park, especially Deirdre O' Sullivan who chaired the discussions. The following also generously provided information or comments: Steph Mastoris, Yolanda Courtney, David Barker, Mick Jones, Gordon Young, Richard Buckley, Neil Finn, Angela Monckton, Chris Johnson, Marilyn Palmer, Sarah Tarlow, Graham Cadman, Glenn Foard, Chris Cumberpatch, Alan MacCormick, David Smith, Brian Dix and Janet Spavold. I also wish to thank Nick Cooper for administering the project with his usual quiet professionalism and for providing moral support and tolerance as computer crashes, bronchitis and the deadline converged. My own interest in this period is largely due to the friendship and encouragement of numerous colleagues in the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology and its American sister organisation, the Society for Historical Archaeology. To join SPMA contact Dr. Kate Giles, Department of Archaeology, University of York, King's Manor, York YO1 7EP.

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