• ‘Roots in the soil’: the evolution of a countryside youth service in Westmorland, 1939-c.1950

      Andrew, Rebecca; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2022-03-04)
      This article traces the evolution of the statutory Youth Service in rural Westmorland (now part of Cumbria), from its establishment in 1939 to the early post-war years. It focuses on how the county’s Youth Service innovated and developed new ways of working with young country people in their spare time, and the challenges of introducing urban-focused policy into rural practice. It argues that to be effective in work outside urban areas, the national Youth Service had to adapt to existing patterns of country life and leisure. Tensions between this external organising body and local communities are also considered. The article draws on official Youth Service records, including minute books, correspondence and annual reports, alongside local press accounts and oral history testimony. In doing so, it enhances our understanding of the professionalisation of informal education, and the leisure habits of rural youth, during and immediately after the Second World War.
    • The Social History of a Medieval Fish Weir, c. 600-2020

      Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2021-10-27)
      This paper presents the longue durée social history of a medieval fish weir. It reveals the significant role of fishing and fish weirs in the construction and reconstruction of social structures and cultural identities. It focuses on an enigmatic annual ceremony – the construction of the Horngarth or Penny Hedge at Whitby, North Yorkshire. It begins by arguing that this descends from the construction of a medieval intertidal fish weir. It then explores the possible social and cultural contexts in which it originated and the social and cultural circumstances that perpetuated its construction to the sixteenth century. It proceeds to consider the social and cultural changes that undermined its original function and transformed its significance in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, and how an invented tradition about it became important to the local identity and national reputation of the town.
    • Disrupting the Rituals of Grief: Conflict, Covid-19 and the Fracturing of Funerary Tradition

      Critchell, Kara; University of Chester (Peter Lang, 2021-09-01)
      This chapter considers the disruption of the funerary ritual during the Covid-19 pandemic and reflects on the connections between these disruptions and state intervention in funerary practice during the Second World War. Through an analysis of how such intervention has occurred, and the language of sacrifice that has been evoked in both instances, it will be suggested that the fracturing of the formal rituals of death and commemoration has not only led to complicated grief amongst individuals, but that it could also result in long- term societal trauma.
    • Book Review: Planning in the Early Medieval Landscape, by John Blair, Stephen Rippon and Christopher Smart

      Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (Oxford University Press, 2021-08-12)
      A book review of John Blair, Stephen Rippon, and Christopher Smart, Planning the Early Medieval Landscape (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020).
    • Collaboratory, coronavirus and the colonial countryside

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (JAS Arqueologia, 2020-12-01)
      Introducing the second volume of the Offa’s Dyke Journal (ODJ), this five-part article sets the scene by reviewing: (i) key recent research augmenting last year’s Introduction (Williams and Delaney 2019); (ii) the key activities of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory in 2020; (iii) the political mobilisation of Offa’s Dyke in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns; (iv) the ramifications of accelerated efforts to decolonise the British countryside on both archaeological research and heritage interpretation on linear monuments; and (v) a review of the contents of volume 2. Together, this introduction presents the context and significance of ODJ volume 2 for both research on the Welsh Marches and broader investigations of frontiers and borderlands.
    • Commerce and Consumers: The Ubiquitous Chest of the Late Middle Ages

      Wilson, Katherine Anne; University of Chester (MIT Press, 2020-12-01)
      Contrary to their ubiquity within written, visual, and material sources, chests have largely remained overlooked in studies of the late Middle Ages. Bill Brown’s “thing theory” helps to explain the ways in which chests can transform from unnoticed “things” in the background to meaningful “objects” when viewed through their entanglements with commercial, consumer, political, and moral concerns. The interdisciplinary study of chests in the late Middle Ages brings together a range of evidence including inventories, guild accounts, court pleas, contemporary writings, images, and material culture from Burgundy, France, and England.
    • Interpreting Wat’s Dyke in the 21st Century

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
      Linear monuments offer special challenges in the context of the public archaeology of frontiers and borderlands. This chapter tackles the interpretive neglect of Britain’s second-longest early medieval earthwork, Wat’s Dyke, showing how its sparse and sporadic archaeological attention is reflected in poor and out-dated public archaeology and heritage interpretation. I evaluate the current media and mechanisms by which various publics – including global digital audiences, visitors to the Anglo-Welsh borderlands through which the monument runs, and local communities living in the Dyke’s environs in Flintshire, Wrexham and Shropshire – can access, experience and learn about Wat’s Dyke. Having identified how Wat’s Dyke is fragmented and obscure in the landscape despite its monumental presence, and how its digital resources are inadequate, I then propose new avenues for developing innovative interpretations of Wat’s Dyke for both existing and new audiences which aim to provide up-to-date and engaging resources and connect the monument to the rich cultural landscapes, past and present, through which it runs. I argue these recommendations provide the basis for both enhancing awareness and knowledge. I also argue they provide a more robust resources for current and future generations of research and public engagement. I also suggest they serve to combat the risk of pseudo-archaeological narratives and extremist political appropriations of Wat’s Dyke.
    • Public Archaeologies from the Edge

      Williams, Howard; Clarke, Pauline; Gleave, Kieran; University of Chester; University of Salford (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
      The chapter serves to introduce the first-ever book dedicated to public archaeologies of frontiers and borderlands. We identify the hitherto neglect of this critical field which seeks to explore the heritage, public engagements, popular cultures and politics of frontiers and borderlands past and present. We review the 2019 conference organised by Uiversity of Chester Archaeology students at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, which inspired this book, and then survey the structure and contents of the collection. We advocate that public archaeologies should seek to incorporate and foreground perspectives ‘from the edge’. By this we mean public archaeology should make frontiers and borderlands – including the people living with them and seeking to traverse them – paramount to future work.
    • Undead Divides: An Archaeology of Walls in The Walking Dead

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
      In 2010, the zombie horror genre gained even greater popularity than the huge following it had previously enjoyed when AMC’s The Walking Dead (TWD) first aired. The chapter surveys the archaeology of this fictional post-apocalyptic material world in the show’s seasons 1–9, focusing on its mural practices and environments which draw upon ancient, biblical, medieval and colonial motifs. The study identifies the moralities and socialities of wall-building, dividing not only survivors aspiring to re-found civilization from the wilderness and manifesting the distinctive identities of each mural community, but also distinguishing the living from the undead. The roles of the dead and the undead in mural iterations are also explored. As such, dimensions of past and present wall-building practices are reflected and inverted in this fictional world. As part of a broader ‘archaeology of The Walking Dead’, the chapter identifies the potentials of exploring the show’s physical barriers within the context of the public archaeology of frontiers and borderlands.
    • Envisioning Wat’s Dyke

      Williams, Howard; Swogger, John G.; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
      In response to the challenge set by one of us (Williams this volume), this chapter explores new avenues for a public archaeology of Wat’s Dyke. A host of digital and real-world initiatives for public and community engagement are suggested, but the focus is upon one new initiative: the What’s Wat’s Dyke? Heritage Trail which aims to envision Wat’s Dyke within the town and suburbs of Wrexham using a comic medium. From this basis, the potential is explored for using the linearity of Wat’s Dyke as a gateway to explore the complex historic and cultural landscapes of the Welsh Marches from prehistory to the present.
    • The Biography of Borderlands: Old Oswestry Hillfort and Modern Heritage Debates

      Williams, Howard; McMillian-Sloan, Ruby; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
      Responding to the recently published edited collection exploring the hillfort and landscape context of Old Oswestry (Shropshire, England) by heritage professionals connected to the Hands off Old Oswestry Hillfort heritage protection campaign (Malim and Nash 2020), this chapter reviews and reflects on the significance of the overall ‘life-history’ or ‘biography’ of Old Oswestry hillfort and its immediate environs to the present-day emotive and mnemonic significance of the monument. It argues that this biographical dimension fosters the hillfort as a locus of borderland identity, which explains the affinities of local inhabitants to Old Oswestry and frames the ongoing debates and conflicts regarding its significance and setting. Giving greater attention to researching and communicating this biography promises to inform and foster future public engagement and community action.
    • Plants as persons: perceptions of the natural world in the North European Mesolithic

      Taylor, Barry; University of Chester (Taylor and Francis, 2020-09-08)
      Amongst many hunter-gatherer communities, plants, animals and other aspects of the ‘natural’ environment, are bound up in, and gain significance and meaning from, specific cultural traditions. These traditions intricately bind the natural world into broader ontological understandings, which include concepts of animacy, the origins of the world, its structure and composition, and the behaviour of supernatural beings. Through these traditions, elements of the environment are imbued with an ontological significance that informs the way people perceive them, and how they interact with them through economic or ritual practice. There is a growing body of evidence that comparable traditions also structured the ways that hunter-gatherers interacted with their environment during the European Mesolithic. Much of the research has focused on the significance of animals, but this paper argues that plants were perceived in a similar way. Through a series of case studies from the North European Mesolithic, it shows how trees in particular were understood as powerful forces, playing active roles in people’s lives, and how interactions with them were mediated through prescribed forms of social practice
    • Living after Offa: Place-Names and Social Memory in the Welsh Marches

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (JAS Arqueologia, 2020-08-01)
      How are linear monuments perceived in the contemporary landscape and how do they operate as memoryscapes for today’s borderland communities? When considering Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke in today’s world, we must take into account the generations who have long lived in these monuments’ shadows and interacted with them. Even if perhaps only being dimly aware of their presence and stories, these are communities living ‘after Offa’. These monuments have been either neglected or ignored within heritage sites and museums with only a few notable exceptions (Evans and Williams 2019; Williams 2020), and have long been subject to confused and challenging conflations with both the modern Welsh/English border and, since the 1970s, with the Offa’s Dyke Path. Moreover, to date, no study has attempted to compile and evaluate the toponomastic (place-name) evidence pertaining to the monuments’ presences, and remembered former presences, in today’s landscape. Focusing on naming practices as memory work in the contemporary landscape, the article explores the names of houses, streets, parks, schools and businesses. It argues for the place-making role of toponomastic evidence, mediated in particular by the materiality of signs themselves. Material and textual citations to the monuments render them integral to local communities’ social memories and borderland identities, even where the dykes have been erased, damaged or obscured by development. Moreover, they have considerable potential future significance for engaging borderland communities in both dykes as part of the longer-term story of their historic environment.
    • Archaeologies of rules and regulation: between text and practice

      Williams, Howard; orcid: 0000-0003-3510-6852 (Informa UK Limited, 2020-04-30)
    • ‘A Spectacle for the Cameras’: The survival of a Lakeland leisure tradition, 1930- c.1955

      Andrew, Rebecca; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2020-04-27)
      This article examines the survival of rushbearing, a rural leisure tradition in the English Lake District. As a region popular with tourists throughout the 20th century, this case study offers important insights into how their presence shaped this ‘traditional’ leisure activity. Not only did annual rushbearing ceremonies offer opportunities for the region’s sense of place to be presented to outsiders, they were also an important way for local communities to reaffirm their connection to the Lake District and its past. These occasions were, however, increasingly influenced by an awareness of external influences and outside judgements, as the region’s popularity as a tourist destination boomed from the inter-war years. Although youth culture was increasingly standardised at a national level during this period, at a local level, young countrymen and women played an integral role in rushbearing’s survival, which promoted an idealised version of ‘traditional’ country life. This annual community event is therefore a useful example through which to examine the interplay between rural leisure traditions, tourism, and the role of young people in the countryside during this period.
    • Archaeodeath as digital public mortuary archaeology

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-04-06)
      Since 2013, I have been writing an academic WordPress weblog (blog) – Archaeodeath: The Archaeology and Heritage of Death & Memory. In earlier publications, I have published preliminary reflections on the benefits of Archaeodeath as ‘digital public mortuary archaeology’ (DPMA), considering how it affords a mode of open-access public dissemination of mortuary archaeology, and a venue for debating and critiquing the archaeology and heritage of death and memory (Meyers and Williams 2014; Williams and Atkin 2015). Building on these discussions, this chapter reviews five-and-a-half years of the Archaeodeath blogging to the end of 2018, presenting the character of the blog’s content and its reception, identifying challenges and limitations of the medium, and (equally significantly in understanding its utility) considering key decisions regarding how I choose not to deploy this blog. I identify Archaeodeath as more than outreach or engagement, but as a digital platform increasingly both integral to, and transforming, my academic teaching and research practice.
    • Displaying the Dark Ages in Museums

      Williams, Howard; Clarke, Pauline; Bratton, Sarah; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-03-02)
      How museums and heritage sites in England display the early medieval past is the focus of academic and public interest and debate. Despite ever-pressured budgets and limited resources, the stories told about the early medieval past in these environments are of key importance for the story of this island, and have become increasingly important in the context of political and cultural crises of English identity, and extremist appropriations of the Early Middle Ages. Reviewing current and past displays of early medieval material culture at the Museum of Liverpool, the World Museum (also in Liverpool), and Chester’s Grosvenor Museum, this chapter evaluates the Early Middle Ages in city museums serving multicultural regions in the English North West and West Midlands. Consequently, we identify recommendations for potential future museum engagement with the ‘Dark Ages’.
    • Death and memory in fragments: Project Eliseg’s public archaeology

      Williams, Howard; Evans, Suzanne; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-03-02)
      The public archaeology of death has frequently focused on the ethics and practices of excavating, displaying and curating human remains and mortuary contexts. Yet the focus of investigation is often restricted to whole, articulated bodies and tangible, complete monuments. Far fewer discussions have tackled the complex challenges of engaging the public with fragmented, partial human remains, ephemeral mortuary material cultures and dislocated funerary monuments. Equally, few studies have tackled the distributed nature of mortuary and memorial traces through their artistic representation and replication. This article addresses the challenges of Project Eliseg’s (2010–present) public archaeology when fragmentation, absence and distribution – both temporally and spatially – pervade the mortuary and memorial archaeology under investigation. We address how the public outreach of our fieldwork both succeeded and faced challenges to engage local people with the monument itself, partly because the monument is fragmented in multiple regards and partly because it is not primarily or exclusively in situ, but is instead both materially and conceptually elsewhere within the landscape of Wales and beyond.
    • Public Archaeology for the Dark Ages

      Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-03-02)
      This introductory chapter identifies the principal issues and themes in the public archaeology of the Early Middle Ages, exploring the specific and compelling challenges of investigating and evaluating the early medieval past in contemporary society mediated by archaeology. In doing so, we review and contextualise the contributions to the 3rd University of Chester Archaeology Student conference: ‘Digging into the Dark Ages’, which took place at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, 13 December 2017. The resulting book comprises a selection of the student contributions and a range of additional chapters by heritage professionals and academics. The book’s structure and contents are then outlined: the first-ever collection dedicated to ‘Dark Age’ public archaeology. It is argued that for future research, critical public archaeologies are essential for ethical and engaging early medieval archaeology in both theory and practice.