• Cheshire castles in context

      Ainsworth, Stewart; Gaunt, Peter; Williams, Howard; Swallow, Rachel E. (University of Chester, 2015-07)
      This thesis considers a little-examined region of medieval Britain through the concept and significance of power and place applied to the architecture and landscapes of castles. Over the last thirty-five years, castle studies have shifted in their interpretations of the defensive, offensive and aesthetic landscape contexts of medieval fortified residences and have adopted a new line of research. It is now understood generally that, apart from occasional military activity, most castles were used less for military purposes and more for administration and display as the lords’ residences. No such study has been made of castles in medieval Cheshire, to critically evaluate and apply new approaches in castle studies to the Cheshire evidence. This thesis concerns the number, location and distribution of castles raised in medieval Cheshire — which included current areas of north-east Wales and Greater Manchester — under the quasi-independent earls of Chester and their tenants, c.1070–1237. The study is primarily one of landscape history and archaeology, which together span many disciplinary boundaries. It draws upon previously un-studied or under-studied documentary and cartographic sources, as well as new interpretations of archaeological features at and around castle sites. An original research approach is thus employed to revisit and reinterpret the changing social, political and historical frameworks of fortified élite residences in medieval Cheshire. Within the context of current debates on the historic landscape, in-depth exploration situates related castle case studies within their respective spatial and temporal environs.
    • Discourses in stone: Dialogues with the dissenting dead 1830-1919

      Smithson, Alison-Mary (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-04)
      Graveyard studies have been rich sources for archaeologists, historians, social scientists, anthropologists, genealogists, art historians and others to investigate a diverse range of interests in death and the mortuary practices of former societies. Evidence from the size, material properties of gravestones and other memorials has advanced theories about characteristics of the lives of earlier people; the environment they lived in; their health; domestic situations; familial and social relationships; status; employment history and personal religious observations and beliefs. Rather fewer are studies that consider what memorial epitaphs and inscriptions can convey about some of these factors, and particularly the meaning and expression of emotion conveyed by choice of text chosen to commemorate the dead. This thesis engages with the ‘conversations’ on gravestones: salutations (‘In loving memory’ etc.); inscriptions and epitaphs, and imagery (motifs and carvings) on nineteenthand twentieth-century memorials of four religious Nonconforming denominations. Sample locations offer contrasting social, linguistic, economic and religious environments, and suggest comparisons between practices in west Cheshire and north-east Wales. The research questions are as follows: • is there a consistently characteristic style of Nonconformist epitaphic and decorative memorialisation in the sample area? if not, are there recognisably distinct denominational characteristics? This study has concluded that each denomination exhibited a number of distinct characteristics earlier in the study period, but these distinctions eroded over time, in particular after the 1880 Burials Act, and under the influences of commercialisation of memorial media; increasing secularisation, and the effects of religious union.
    • Landownership and settlement change in south-west Cheshire from 1750 to 2000

      White, Graeme J; Gaunt, Peter; Bird, Polly (University of Liverpool (Chester College of Higher Education), 2007-12)
      This 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.
    • Sculpture and Place: a biographical approach to recontextualising Cheshire’s early medieval stone sculpture

      Gondek, Meggen; Williams, Howard; Kirton, Joanne (University of Chester, 2016-02)
      Researching early medieval stone sculpture has long been enabled and constrained by approaches devised and subsequently honed over the last century focusing on form and ornamentation. These approaches largely prioritise the physical appearance of sculptural fragments, often distancing them from the physical and cognitive contexts in which they operated from their creation to the present. This thesis brings together popular strands of research from other areas of archaeology - landscape, biography, materiality and monumentality - to explore how early medieval stone sculpture operated in place and time, from their construction through processes of use and reuse. The study recognises that sculpture did not function independent of physical location or the socio-political context with which it was connected and that many sculptures have life-histories which can be charted through individual monuments, assemblages of sculpture, and regional patterns. Using a tenth-/eleventh-century assemblage from Cheshire, the biographies of the county’s early medieval monuments and architectural fragments are explored in relation to their physical location and the local historical frameworks with which they are connected. Through this original and distinctive approach, Cheshire's corpus of early medieval stone sculpture is both revisited and reinterpreted to emphasis the power of place and the biographies of stone sculpture.