Heaths, Commons, and Wastes:An investigation into the character, management, and perceptions of heathland landscapes in the medieval and post-medieval periods, with particular reference to the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Hertfordshire

Stone, Adam (2023) Heaths, Commons, and Wastes:An investigation into the character, management, and perceptions of heathland landscapes in the medieval and post-medieval periods, with particular reference to the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, and Hertfordshire. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

Lowland heathland is a priority habitat for conservation in the United Kingdom but is also valued as a historical cultural landscape.1 Many rare or endangered species of both flora and fauna, unable to thrive in modern agricultural or urban landscapes, inhabit heathland environments. These have long been recognised as the products of past management systems which have been in decline since at least the 18th century, and have now been largely discontinued. For the purposes of conservation, the practices which created and sustained them, based on historical examples, must be maintained or reintroduced in order to perpetuate conditions favourable to those species.

This research details both the landscape character of historic heathland within the study area, and the various management practices which influenced and changed that character. As well as making an original contribution to a subject of historical importance, and modern interest, this research will inform the future management of heathland landscapes by showing, clearly and with evidence, how they were managed in the past.

Where management practices were referred to directly in historical documents, or recorded in full, this work presents them in detail and each technique is analysed in terms of its probable environmental impacts. Where heaths appear in the documentary record, but direct references to management were not found, landscape character was reconstructed using place-name and other linguistic evidence, and by examining what flora and fauna were mentioned in association with them – many of which lived only in certain kinds of habitats.

The results of this work detail a highly variable landscape. Heaths were sometimes open and characterised by low shrubs, but also sometimes wooded – either sparsely or densely – or even largely devoid of flora in some parts. The fauna present on heaths also varied widely between regions and periods; including sheep, pigs, cattle, horses, deer, goats, rabbits, geese, and the Brown Bear. Heaths historically were found on a broad range of soil types, not all of them sandy in nature, and contained a variety of both wet and dry habitats. As the term ‘heath’ was applied to all of these landscapes historically, cultural perceptions of what constituted heathland were also highly variable.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2024 12:08
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2024 12:08
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/94257
DOI:

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