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Landownership and settlement change in south-west Cheshire from 1750 to 2000This work analyses the impact of landownership on the physical development and other factors affecting settlements in south-west Cheshire between 1750 and 2000, seeking to demonstrate the hypothesis that landownership was the overriding influence on settlement growth or decline. To assist in this the work also addresses the related problem of how most accurately to analyse landownership in townships. It therefore presents an original methodology using the Herfmdahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) in an historical context to determine the amount of landowner concentration in a township. The use of HHI as a measure of landownership concentration (indicating the extent of large landowner control) is presented as a more accurate, easy to use, quantifiable method of analysis than the traditional distinction between 'open' and 'closed'. Following a demonstration of HHI's superiority over the traditional terms using examples in south-west Cheshire, HHI is used to analyse the effect on settlement development of landownership trends in the area. HHI is then used to analyse the effect of dominant landowners on the main population trends, transport infrastructure, farming, enclosure and twentieth-century planning and legislation in relation to settlement development in the area. HHI supports the main conclusion that decisions made by large landowners and subsequently planners in south-west Cheshire had a continuous and profound effect on settlement patterns and development from the mid-eighteenth century up to the end of the twentieth century. The intervention and influence of the major landowners and twentieth-century planners hindered settlement growth. Landowners had both a direct influence on settlement development through the buying and selling of land and an indirect influence through their role in determining the transport infrastructure and their bequest of a prevailing pattern of land use, which in turn was preserved via modern planning decisions. Following the decline of major landowners during the early twentieth century, planning laws restricted building in agricultural areas with the aim of preserving agricultural land. Analysis of land tax records in conjunction with HHI shows that although landownership consolidation took place, the number of smaller landowners was maintained and even increased in places and such building as took place was focussed on the increasing number of smaller plots. HHI also demonstrates the discernible trend that in south-west Cheshire the settlements that were the larger, more open settlements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were those that increased in size both physically and in terms of population throughout the period while the smaller closed settlements tended to stagnate or decline. Overall the research has demonstrated that settlements flourished in low HHI townships with less control by large landowners, that settlements in high HHI townships were rarely allowed to grow, and that patterns established in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were perpetuated into the late twentieth and early twenty-first century by a conservative approach to planning.
Society and the land - the changing landscape of Baschurch, North Shropshire c.1550-2000This study focuses upon elements of continuity and change in the developing landscape of the parish of Baschurch in north Shropshire during the period c.1550-2000. In considering a relatively neglected part of the English rural landscape, the writer examines whether landscape change in this area was unique or mirrored experiences in neighbouring parishes and the county as a whole. Shropshire as a county is understudied in terms of its landscape history and so this research project aims to redress this balance, whilst at the same time contributing to the growth of knowledge regarding rural landscape studies generally. The writer examines the themes of population, farm and fieldscape, land use, settlement and buildings, and transport. Analysis draws upon a wide range of documentary sources including a large collection of probate inventories, existing primary and secondary literature and oral testimonies, alongside an examination of structures and features in the present landscape. Analysis reveals the diverse nature of the landscape of the parish. It exhibits varying patterns of landownership, enclosure, field systems, land use and settlement. Research shows that in some instances experiences mirror those exhibited by neighbouring parishes: for example with regard to the enclosure of open arable lands, the rise of dairy farming and the emergence of settlement in areas of former woodland. Overall, this research demonstrates the importance of landownership during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries in influencing the extent of landscape change. Landowner involvement affected field systems, farm size, land use, settlements and emerging transport networks. Research shows that single landownership of a township has often led to landscape change, whereas change has occurred more slowly, or has been inhibited, in areas exhibiting multiple landownership. This study reveals that during the twentieth century the role of the dominant landowner as a major influence on the landscape has been superseded by local government planning departments. Although subject to landowner involvement, the importance of transport developments in understanding landscape change is also highlighted. In addition to enhancing our knowledge of the rural landscape of north Shropshire, this research project reveals that through its varying patterns of landownership, field systems and settlements, the parish of Baschurch is a microcosm of the west midlands and borderlands landscape as a whole.