The project has come a long way since 2002/3, when it was chosen to be among those housed in St John’s College’s new Research Centre and the aim was to assemble a corpus of Early Modern maps and plans. In the period since then it has transformed the way in which it is necessary to understand Forests and Chases over a much longer period: from the emergence in the eleventh century of those bounded areas protected by special laws and courts for hunting, gathering and grazing, until modern times when their legacies are still evident in the character, organisation, and perception of this island’s landscape. The publication in September 2009 of on-line mapping (see ‘Research Outputs’ below) marked a significant milestone. Together with the gazetteer (again see ‘Research Outputs’) and published commentary by Drs Langton and Jones and their collaborators, a new baseline of knowledge has been established from which research can go forward and new theories develop. A crucial next stage is to publish a printed version of the project’s electronic atlas of forests. Phillimore, the leading publisher of historical atlases, has agreed to do this, and a funding application is in the pipeline.
Without the generosity of the College in providing seedcorn funding and continuing support for Dr Jones’ salary, room and computing, this progress would not have been possible. External funding has been generous, too. A grant of approx. £3,000 by The Marc Fitch Fund in 2004 to cover travel, accommodation, and other costs, enabled the compilation of a pilot cache of early modern maps and plans. Record Office research visits then and since have yielded a large cache of high-quality digital images for a hard-copy archive of these artefacts as well as availability via the project web-site and burning to CD on demand. Completion of the electronic atlas of forests and chases and its accompanying gazetteer/dataset was made possible by two years’ further funding by The Marc Fitch Fund, this time as a Special Research Project (£33,870), supported by a further contribution from St John’s College (£14,710). This allowed a detailed examination of hunting in England and Wales between circa 1000 and circa 1500 and web-publication of the main features of the layered mapping of forests as they have been identified.
Dr David Fletcher, of London Metropolitan University, held (from February 2008) a two-year British Academy Small Research Grant, in association with Dr Langton and Dr Jones, to create a cartobibliography of the maps produced for the Reports of the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the State and Condition of the Woods, Forests and Land Revenues of the Crown, which were delivered to Parliament 1787-1793 as the first systematically produced cartographic aids to government in Britain. This work is progressing well: already approaching 100 maps have been discovered in The National Archives and various County Record Offices, and Fletcher is completing cartobibliographic analyses of the maps. A commentary is in preparation and it is hoped in due course to make the maps more widely available.
Dr Fletcher has also explored, with the help of a visiting Fellowship at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, the papers of the Hastings family, holders of a number of forest offices in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Further Transatlantic funding enabled Dr Jones to develop his electronic mapping skills with a residency at the GIS (Geographic Information Science) Center of the University of California at Berkeley.
Applications to the Leverhulme Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘Resource Enhancement’ programme were short-listed.
Very soon after its inception, the project widened to take in crucial but under-investigated areas of interest to a range of academic and public audiences. The emphasis shifted now towards thematic research, rather than concentrating solely on the collection and publication of early maps, though this remained an important part of the work. This shift reflected helpful comments made by assessors of a submission to The Leverhulme Trust.
The number of collaborators consequently increased, with the aim of undertaking a number of discrete but significant investigations to stand as exemplars and provide reference data for future research. The cornerstone of this new approach was the symposium held in the St John’s Research Centre at Easter, 2005, as part of the ‘St John’s 450’ anniversary programme of special events, in which public and commercial bodies took part (see ‘Conferences’ below). The success of the symposium reflected the national recognition of this aspect of the work of St John’s Research Centre.
A second conclusion reached as a result of the symposium was that it was necessary to extend examination to the medieval period and then to take a chronological approach which was not truncated at some arbitrary date by some prejudged need to treat Early Modern forests and chases differently.
A third conclusion was to put additional effort into exploring the forests and chases of Wales, which otherwise appeared at risk of being rather overlooked.
The research output is already amply demonstrating the project’s exciting and groundbreaking potential for radically revising a major chapter in the story of Britain’s past and for making a significant contribution to the planning and management of Britain’s landscape and resources in the future.
Continued collection and analysis of data from medieval and early modern sources has led to further serious revision of fundamental customary assumptions about the extent, status, and functions of forests and chases (see also ‘Publication’ below). Indeed, the project has succeeded in attracting national and international attention for its central thesis, that conventional historiography has been guilty of neglecting a major element of Britain’s pre-industrial economy. Influential audiences requested papers which set out the case and provoked discussion (see ‘Papers’ below). A report on the project appeared in the Spring/Summer 2005 Newsletter of the Society for Landscape Studies, whose membership includes most, if not all the UK’s leading scholars in that and related fields. Other groups and journals issued similar invitations.
One of the surprising results is the number of unsuspected Welsh forests revealed by Dr Langton’s interrogation of the catalogues of The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office), the National Library of Wales, and other repositories, available online via Archives-To-All (‘A2A’). These were then mapped by Dr Jones and they demonstrate significant differences compared with their English counterparts – probably reflecting aspects of Marcher lordship and preserving something of more ancient structures as well as providing insights into the ‘after-life’ of forests and chases in the early modern period.
The extent of forests and chases
Hundreds more forests and chases previously unacknowledged in the literature have come to light. In the twelve months to the end of September 2009, another 100 were identified, taking the total to 980, 648 in England and 332 in Wales. The extent of these discoveries was hardly envisaged when the project began in its present configuration in 2003.
Examination of source material
Documentation from sources (including the Hundred and Quo Warranto rolls from several reigns and several Welsh series), and analysis of the results, has filled nearly 50 box and other files.
Work on extending and reconciling the datasets, electronic mapping, and enhancement of the project web-site has proceeded to plan. The basic dataset has 980 records (one for each forest or chase) and more than two dozen fields.
In 2005 the programme began of digitally mapping forests and chases and associated spatial features against a background of the pre-1850 parish and township boundaries mapped by Kain and Oliver map for the Arts and Humanities Data Service (Prof. Kain’s generous help is warmly acknowleged), itself layered over the Ordnance Survey’s 1:63,360, one-inch-to-the-mile, sheets (New Popular Edition). The work has now been done for all 115 individual map-tiles, though updating is being carried on continuously, and the chief layers published to the web. This has created an electronic resource for public access and distribution via standard inter-operable software applications and constitutes the first comprehensive atlas of forests to be published. The on-line atlas also includes a parallel regional coverage in 21 parts. Behind these lie an equal number of complex electronic map files, each with up to a dozen layers, supported by 49 documentary data files, one for each county, plus, for each map file, notes on sources, conventions, etc. Layers not shown on the web-site will be made publicly available in the projected print version of the Atlas, as well as on disk and through deposit with the UK Data Archive (based at the University of Essex).
One of the additional public resources created has been a coverage of the project maps as a KMZ file in Google Earth.
A glosssary of about 800 terms descriptive of aspects of forests and chases has been compiled and published on the project web-site.
The project web-site carries the outline layers from the ‘one-inch-to-the-mile’ mapping, a compilation of early maps and plans provided as large, hot-linked images, explanatory texts, the glossary, lists of Statutes, and a growing list of linked sites. Initally the purpose of the web-site was to increase awareness of the project and the contribution being made by the college, and to provide public access to the map collection and other material collected and analysed. Valuable advice about the deployment of the digital images was provided by David Rumsey, the American cartographic historian whose own web-site has won a number of awards and academic acclaim. Dr Jones undertook additional web publishing, database, graphics, and other technical training with the Oxford University Computing Services. He also took part in an Arts and Humanities Data Service GIS workshop at the University of Portsmouth.
In the 12 months to September 18, 2009, more than 5,700 visits had been made to the College web-site for the purpose of accessing project data, with almost double that number of page down-loads. Around a third of visitors continue to be from the USA. The site is visited by between 15 and 25 unique visitors every weekday and less frequently at weekends, which perhaps indicates that it attracts greatest attention from those with a professional interest in the topic. Visits to the web-site have generated inquiries and useful contacts, and the web-site has also achieved high visibility in Google and other search-engines for the College as well as the project.
Oxbow Books have now taken up their full quota of the second printing of Forests and Chases of England and Wales, c. 1500 to c. 1850, published by the College in 2005 (300 copies for distribution in the UK and USA), and only a dozen copies remain for occasional needs (e.g., for collaboration with scholars at other institutions).
In addition the College generously agreed to underwrite a second edited volume in the same St John’s format, Forests and Chases of Medieval England and Wales. This volume will comprise ten chapters from authors who presented papers on particular aspects of the topic from different disciplinary backgrounds to the Leeds International Medieval History conference in 2008. This volume will have a planned total of about 135,000 words with 16 pages of illustrations in colour as well as numerous black-and-white images in-text. Examination and analysis of additional source data since the Leeds conference has contributed to substantial revision and expansion of Langton and Jones’s chapters.
In sum, the following publications have been made by and in association with the Research Centre project:
John Langton, ‘Seeing the forests for the trees’, TW Magazine, 1 (2003), pp. 20-23.
– ‘Forests in early-modern England and Wales: history and historiography’, in John Langton and Graham Jones (eds), Forests and chases of England and Wales c.1500-c.1800: towards a survey and analysis (Oxford, St. John’s College/Oxbow Books, 2005; repr. 2008), pp.1-9.
– ‘Forest Vert’, in Alec Rhodes (ed.), Southeast Woodland News, 6 (2006), p.1; repr. in Friends of Ashdown Forest Newsletter (2006) and in Deer: the Journal of the British Deer Society (Autumn, 2006), p. 63.
– ‘Swanimotes and woodmotes’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 41-48.
– ‘A common of hunting? Forests, lordship and community before and adfter the Conquest’, in Langton and Jones (2009, forthcoming), pp. 39-68.
Richard Almond, ‘The forest as hunting ground’, in Langton and Jones (2009), pp. 69-80.
Elizabeth Baigent, ‘“A splendid pleasure ground [for] the elevation and refinement of the people of London”: geographical aspects of the history of Epping Forest 1860-95’, in Elizabeth Baigent and Robert J. Mayhew (eds), English geographies 1600-1950: Historical essays on English customs, cultures, and communities in honour of Jack Langton (St John’s College/Oxbow Books, 2009), pp. 104-26.
– ‘Mapping forests and chases, c. 1530 to c. 1670’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 21-28.
Sarah Bendall, ‘Mapping the English forests: Needwood 1598-1834’, in Baigent and Mayhew (2009), pp. 23-38.
– ‘John Norden’s cartography’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 31-34.
Jean Birrell, ‘Families and friendships: Hunting in the medieval English forest’, in Langton and Jones (2009), pp.81-90.
Robin Butlin, ‘Forests and chases in the Middle Ages: Concluding remarks’, in Langton and Jones (2009), pp. 179-81.
Caroline Cheeseman, ‘Ownership and ecological change’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 67-74.
Paul Coones, ‘Squatting and encroachment’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 37-40.
Mandy de Belin, ‘Hunting practice: Changes and impacts’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 75-79.
David Fletcher, ‘Parliamentary surveys’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 17-20.
Glenn Foard, David Hall, and Tracey Britnell, ‘A GIS of Rockingham Forest’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 94-95.
Carl Griffin, ‘Custom and protest’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 49-54.
Michael J. Freeman, ‘Crime and custom in forest communities: Whichwood Forest, Oxfordshire, c.1760-1850’, in Baigent and Mayhew (2009), pp. 86-103.
Andrew Hann, ‘Labour policy and rental policy on the Ditchley estate, 1700-50: parallel paths of transition’, in Baigent and Mayhew (2009), pp. 71-85.
David Lovelace, ‘Electronic mapping of Mocktree Forest and Bringewood Chase’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 92-93.
Robert J. Mayhew, ‘“These Trees shall be my Books”: forests as a geographical imaginary in English literature, c.1600-1800’, in Baigent and Mayhew (2009), pp. 39-58.
Ruth Paley, ‘The Peerage and forest legislation’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 29-32.
Sylvia Pinches, ‘Customary rights and charities’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 33-36.
Amanda Richardson, ‘Putting the ‘royal’ back into forests: Kingship, largesse, patronage and management in a group of Wessex forests in the 13th and 14th centuries’, in Langton and Jones (2009), pp 143-162.
Marie Rowlands, ‘Forests and religious dissidence: Supremacy to toleration, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp.55-60.
Beryl Schumer, ‘Assarting in the medieval Forest of Wychwood’, in Langton and Jones (2009), pp. 102-26.
Robert Silvester, ‘Historical concept to physical reality: Forests in the landscape of the Welsh borderlands’, in Langton and Jones (2009), pp. 163-78.
David Smith, ‘Gypsies, tinkers and travellers, and the forest economy’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 61-66.
Rachel Thomas, ‘Woodland and woodland management in lowland medieval forests: An illustration from Bernwood’, in Langton and Jones (2009), pp. 91-101.
Judith Tsouvalis, ‘State management and “scientific forestry”’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 87-88.
Paul Warde, ‘Woodland fuel, demand and supply’, in Langton and Jones (2005), pp. 80-86.
Angus J. L. Winchester, ‘Vaccaries and agistment: Upland medieval forests as grazing grounds’, in Langton and Jones (2009), pp. 127-42.
Dr Langton addressed the University of Cambridge economic history seminar and the Institute of Historical Research ‘Locality and Region’ seminar series in the University of London, and gave the opening ‘keynote’ paper in the 2005/6 seminar series of the Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester.
Dr Langton also spoke at the annual conference of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society in 2006, and Dr Jones drew attention to the project at the ‘W. G. Hoskins and the Landscape’ conference in 2005 at Leicester, where Hoskins developed his major ideas.
Arising from scholarly interest in the Leeds presentations (see ‘Conferences’, below), Dr Jones was invited to give a paper at the 2009 Congress on ‘Palaces and the Royal Hunt’ in a series of sessions on ‘Architecture, Archaeology, and Landscape of Power’ (moderator, Sally Dixon-Smith, Curator of the Tower of London). Other speakers included Simon Thurley of English Heritage, and scholars from France, Germany and Scandinavia.
Dr Jones also contributed a paper to the 2009 International Congress of the American Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo.
Drs Langton and Jones, as well as Drs Elizabeth Baigent and Caroline Cheeseman, gave papers on their forest research at the conference ‘Nature, People, Work: An Appreciation of the Historical Geography of Jack Langton’, held at the Oxford School of Geography on June 26, 2009.
Dr Langton gave a paper on forests and chases to a (surprisingly) well attended and lively meeting of the Wadhurst Historical Society in June, 2008.
In the same year Dr Jones spoke inter alia at the Medieval Archaeology of Leicestershire conference.
The Symposium at St John’s in April 2005 attracted 74 experts from government and other public agencies, amenity groups, and academic institutions. The comment of a staff member of English Nature was particularly gratifying. It was, he wrote, ‘a breathtakingly successful conference; probably the most inspiring I have been to in the last 35 years’. The Proceedings of the symposium quickly followed: Forests and Chases of England and Wales, c. 1500 to c. 1850: Towards a survey and analysis, co-edited by Dr Langton and Dr Jones and distributed by Oxbow Books.
A further successful conference was held in the College at Easter, 2008, followed by a series of three sessions (each with three speakers and respondent) at the Leeds International Medieval Congress in July. These were attended by as many as fifty participants. Speakers were from the Universities of Birmingham, Chichester, Leeds, and Lancaster, and St John’s (Drs Langton and Jones); Natural England; and the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, together with independent scholars from London and Yorkshire. The sessions were highly praised by the leaders of the round-table discussion at the end of the congress and the papers will form the basis of the project’s second edited volume (see ‘Publications’ above).
Enquiries by post and e-mail arrive often and many result in some new collaboration or exchange. Names of some of our corresponding scholars are given on the page marked ‘Collaboration’.
As the programme has developed, a number of other researchers has been drawn in: indeed, it has become a catalyst for research and publication. Twenty-six other scholars have published work done in association with the project (see ‘Publication’ above).
Discussion with UK colleagues on a number of important themes continued during 2008/9 as a result of the impressive attendance at the Leeds International Medieval Congress and the conference held in the College earlier the same year) (see ‘Conferences’, above).
A doctoral student from the University of Würzburg, Lorenz Kemethmüller, spent two periods of research based at St John’s, the first for six weeks; on both occasions funded by travel and study bursaries from his university. His specialism is castles in forests: he met a number of the leading scholars in the field, undertook field work, and made extensive use of the College library and others in the university.
Herr Kemethmüller’s first visit was followed by an invitation to Drs Langton and Jones to attend an international conference on forests in the historic landscape, to be held at Würzburg. His supervisor, Prof. Helmut Flachenecker, previously a senior researcher at the Max-Planck-Institüt für Geschichte, has been a collaborator with Dr Jones since 1999.
Among other recent exchanges with overseas colleagues has been an approach by Prof. Joanna Brooks of the University of California at San Diego, a scholar of Anglo-American literature and culture who is pursuing research with a view to compiling an alternative narrative of the culture of English colonial settlement in North America. Specifically, she believes that insufficient attention has been paid (due to the dominance of the ‘religious liberty’ and ‘land of opportunity’ themes of attraction) to the destabilizing ‘push factors’ that contributed to the growth of a disposable surplus population of the English poor. She hopes to explore with the help of the project the extent to which deforestation was a major factor in this social, cultural, economic, and nutritional destabilisation, and also how far patterns of disafforestation and land privatisation initiated in England were replicated in the Americas and contributed to customary ideas about wilderness and to programmes of conquest and exploitation.
Marks of esteem
On the same day as the conference to celebrate his achievements (see ‘Papers’, above), Langton was presented with his festschrift, Elizabeth Baigent and Robert J. Mayhew (eds), English Geographies 1600-1950: Historical essays on English customs, cultures, and communities in honour of Jack Langton. This was published by the College in the same Research Centre format as the two project volumes. Forest research is the theme of the contributions by Sarah Bendall, Michael Freeman, and the editors.
Dr Jones was appointed a Senior Research Associate in the School of Geography and the Environment (now part of the University of Oxford Centre for the Environment). In 2009 Jones completed his second three-year term as a committee member of the Society of Landscape Studies, and continues to be Joint Editor and Reviews Editor of the Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society.