So what have I been doing since I last wrote a blog post? Well, researching and writing of course! Actually, I thought as I’m about to start Year Two of my PhD I’d give you – the people who are making this whole adventure possible – a progress report on where I am up to with the research process.
Research Progress – Parks:
When I began the research process, the existence of the medieval park, particularly in North Wales was considered to be an ‘import’. That is to say that the examples identified were created during the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century by incoming Lords. These lords, and their new Lordships, which King Edward I created in large areas of North East Wales were shown to have ‘new’ parks in them by the documentary evidence for their creation. The general consensus among historians was that Welsh royalty had hunted where they wished, and that there had been no requirement for management and regulation of hunting,hunter and hunted.
The last study of the quantity and distribution of medieval parks in Wales had been published in 1983 as part of a national gazetteer of England, and although useful as a starting point it did not contain any distribution maps of the parks identified. In north Wales eight parks were identified, whilst for Shropshire (within my defined study are of the north west of the county) there were ten. The current total I have is forty eight, an increase of thirty parks.
Some of these parks were identified in a 1994 study by Shropshire County Council, whilst others had been recorded in documentary sources not utilised in the 1983 study. An important part of my research is to attempt to identify,from an archaeological perspective, the physical location of these parks on the ground and produce a distribution map which can be used by future researchers to refine my work further.
Research Progress – Gardens:
The historical understanding of high-status medieval gardens has, until fairly recently, been a subject which historians have primarily been the most prolific in understanding and interpreting. Garden archaeology, as a discipline in its own right has benefited greatly from the application of non-intrusive techniques, such as Geophysical Survey and LiDAR, where both the surface of the ground, and the buried features beneath can be interpreted without the need for excavation. Whilst not a perfect science, it does provide an important extra dimension to the research process.
The definitive text, entitled ‘Mediaeval Gardens’, was published in 1981. Since then there has been no subsequent attempt to produce a successor to this volume, and from my own point of view I have been concentrating on collating evidence, rather than working on its interpretation. However, during this process I have managed to identify the location of the royal garden of Caernarfon Castle, and also understand how it was the most sophisticated in design of all the Edwardian castle gardens, with water playing a very important role in its design.
Research Progress – Designed Landscapes: Without doubt, the most important accomplishment this year has been the submission of an article to the journal ‘Archaeology in Wales’ on the medieval designed landscape around Dolbadarn Castle in north-west Wales. To have my paper accepted, containing revolutionary ideas about the way the castle functioned is something I am incredibly proud of, and as soon as it is published, I will be putting the paper on my blog.
Finally – a note about the crowd funding page at http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks
It has had 2,400 shares since it was set up and raised £1000 towards my course fees. I can’t thank all of you enough, and if you think someone else would enjoy reading what I do, please share it with them.