Enroled…Thank you so much! Let’s keep the adventure going…

So now I’m back in the fold of the academic community.


And I wouldn’t be here with the help of the online community of people who may never have met me, but have read my posts on this blog and felt able to contribute to funding my research.

Am I nervous about restarting? Yes. But, having been able to keep a toe in academia through attending conferences and seeing material published in books and journals whilst I have been a little bit out of the loop is very comforting.

Time I feel to provide a comprehensive update of what I am writing about and why it needs to be done.

My PhD will consist of four chapters when completed. These will be:

1. Introduction to the topic and previous research undertaken.

2. Parks

3. Gardens

4. Temporary and Permanent Designed Landscapes

In addition to these, there is a Bibliography and a Gazetteer – created so each landscape component can be entered onto either a regional or national archaeological database.

Some of the people mentioned in the research will be be very familiar to you. The ‘big’ names like Owain Glyn Dŵr or Edward I make an appearance, but not as the leader of a rebellion, or as ‘The Hammer of the Scots’, but rather as men who created landscapes to enjoy with their families and utilise for economic gain.

I’m also writing about men like Reginald Balle, who lived in the village of Hope in north east Wales (Longitude: 53.118235; Latitude: -3.0328984) during the middle of the fourteenth century and how he profited from the creation of a brand new park just outside the village. And the numerous un-named servants who for 15 days in May, for at least a century and probably much longer, would have to climb trees to capture fledgling sparrowhawks in Pennant Lliw, near Llanuwchllyn in central north Wales (Longitude: 52.876692; Latitude: -3.744210).


You may have visited some the places I’m writing about, for example Conwy castle (Longitude: 53.280082; Latitude: -3.825695) on the shore of the Conwy Estuary and the River Gyffin. Others, however are a bit further off the beaten track, like Hornspike on the Wales-England border Longitude: 52.903693; Latitude: -2.775291).

This research needs to be done for the simple reason that it has never been done before in a complete way. This research pulls together information from many different sources in three different languages and helps archaeologists, historians and literature specialists all work together to look at this area of the country.

So, please, if you enjoy my blog and would like to help. Either share the link for my blog, or if you are able to contribute then you can do so at: http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks

Thank you…and enjoy watching the work unfold here.


Tweeting isn’t only for the birds…

You might have read last week’s post about Cefn Park near Wrexham (Latitude 53.045083; Longitude -2.9931521) https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/patterns-in-the-palimpsest/ and how I identified that it dates back to at least the turn of the thirteenth century.

However, I made a mistake in attributing its ownership, and I’ll explain how and why this week.

After completing my blog post, I sat back and thought I might carry on developing a theme within my the introductory chapter of my PhD. So, I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. In the hallway between the Living Room and the Kitchen I have hanging up two old maps.

One is an original John Speed map of Denbighshire and Flintshire, left to me by my Paternal Grandfather, and the other is a hand-tinted Robert Morden map of Denbighshire, which came from the estate of my Maternal Grandfather. I look at them often, sometimes from inspiration and sometimes for motivation.

So, whilst the kettle boiled, I stood looking at the maps…and ever so slowly one of the many pennies which have dropped and I’m sure will continue to drop during this research, dropped.

How could the park have been disparked and then re-parked on the same boundaries? It was intact on the early 17th century maps, and so few of the parks I’ve been studying are actually recorded on the maps? With tea made, I went back through the sources.

As I wrote last week, the Extant of Bromfield and Yale was taken in 1315 for the new English Lord describing who owed what service to the him after he had replaced the Welsh Prince following the Edwardian Conquest of 1282-1283. One-fifth of Abenbury, within which Cefn Park is situated, is recorded as being held by the Queen (the wife of King Edward II). So, I tweeted Kathryn Warner, all round Edward II expert to ask her advice.

One of the other parks in my study area, that at Eyton, which I wrote about in https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/making-the-familiar-unfamiliar/ was given, in part, to Eleanor of Castile by her husband, King Edward I. Could the one-fifth of Abenbury mentioned actually be Cefn Park, and have been given to the Queen by her husband. It would explain why the new English Lord John de Warenne had to create two new parks at Holt and Glyn if he didn’t have access to Cefn Park.

Whilst I waited for Kathryn’s reply, I set to measuring. Cefn Park measures roughly 200 acres, and the area of Abenbury is 1,000 acres, so this calculation appears to correlate with the available evidence.

Kathryn got back to me, and said although she hadn’t come across this park specifically, the grants of land to Eleanor, wife of King Edward II were scattered through several different sources and because of the mangling of Welsh words, it might take someone who spoke Welsh to spot it when it was found.

This then appears to be how the park survived the fourteenth century, as a Royal possession, before being granted to a favoured family in the following century. That this could happen elsewhere can be found in a document of 1318 for the park at Brynkir, one of the parks I found last year and which has recently been the news here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-23882385

The manor of ‘Dolpenmayn’ (in which the Park of Brynkir is situated) was one of those given by King Edward II to his son and daughter ‘for their sustenance’. The relevant blog post by Kathryn Warner is here: http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/edward-iis-daughters-eleanor-and-joan.html

I’m pleased that I was able to work out how these Parks all relate to each other, and also how historians and archaeologists can work together to answer questions about the medieval world.


Making the Familiar, Unfamiliar

Academic disciplines move at different speeds. So a piece of information that may be common knowledge to one group may be completely unknown to another. In this case, ignorance really isn’t bliss.

To illustrate my point, here’s one a thousand years (or so) in the making.

Eyton (Latitude 52.991226; Longitude -2.968168) is an area to the south of Wrexham. The name, which means “Island Settlement”, is applied to a village, and also to several buildings including ‘Eaton Hall’ and ‘Eaton Grange’, as well as to landscape features including ‘Eyton Bank’ and ‘Park Eyton’. You will have noticed that in the case of ‘Park Eyton’, the words are reversed. This is because it should be ‘Parc Eyton’, and therefore, is in the Welsh, not the English language.

Why? Well, let’s start with a date nearly everybody knows. 1066. William the Conqueror arrives from France and before you know it is King of England (this blog isn’t about the minutiae of that topic – you can read those elsewhere). The Welsh, well, to be honest, they didn’t really notice. Their Chroniclers are still dealing with the fallout from the death of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn “King of the Britons” who had been assassinated three years previously.

During Christmas 1085, William commissioned a survey of the land he held and of the people living on it. Originally it was known as the Winchester Roll / the King’s Roll or the Book of the Treasury, but by 1180 it was known as the Domesday Book.

The western edge of William’s land holdings was, to be honest, a little blurry. Wales, certainly in the North, had not been ‘conquered’. A little singed and plundered, yes. But not conquered. At the time the Surveyor’s for the roll / book passed through, some places were under new control, and Eyton provides an excellent example. The entry covers Trevalyn, Eyton and Sutton Green. This is an area approximately 14km (8 miles) long and 5km (3 miles) wide. Importantly for my research the Surveyor’s list 2 ‘enclosures’ or ‘hays’. The full entry can be found here http://www.domesdaymap.co.uk/place/SJ4148/sutton/ and explains what it all means at the same time.

The Surveyor’s role was to record items of value, so an enclosure for the capture and control of deer (which is what a ‘hay’ is) would have been recorded. Just because of where it is in Wales doesn’t necessarily mean the invading Normans or the previous neighbours next door, the Anglo – Saxons, built it.

So. The medieval historians are aware of a deer enclosure in Eyton. Are any other academic disciplines like to have encountered it? Well, yes. The academics studying medieval Welsh poetry were aware of two poems by different authors mentioning ‘Eytun’ http://www.dafyddapgwilym.net – Poem 154 is by the very famous and very, very funny Dafydd ap Gwilym and is one of the examples.

Documents survived from 1269 and 1270 discussing who the park belonged to and how it should be divided up on the death of its owner. Parish historians had identified that Parc Eyton was a distinct landholding during their research into the Tithe Maps (a map of a parish or township, prepared following the Tithe Commutation Act 1836. This act allowed tithes to be paid in cash rather than goods. The map and its accompanying schedule gave the names of all owners and occupiers of land in the parish) produced in the early 19th century.

First archaeological record of Parc Eyton? 2004. http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/308744/details/PARK+EYTON%2C+PARK%2C+RUABON/

First Map of Parc Eyton which shows the original boundaries and suggests how large the landholding eventually became? Last Week. I made it.