An Archaeology of Town Commons in England

BookAn Archaeology of Town Commons in England

An Archaeology of Town Commons in England

'A very fair field indeed'

English Heritage


July 15th, 2014

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This is the first published overview of the archaeology of urban common land. By recognising that urban common land represents a valid historical entity, this book contributes towards successful informed conservation. It contains a variety of interesting and illuminating illustrations, including contemporary and archive photographs. Historically, towns in England were provided with common lands for grazing the draft animals of townspeople engaged in trade and for the pasturing of farm animals in an economy where the rural and the urban were inextricably mixed. The commons yielded wood, minerals, fruits and wild animals to the town's inhabitants and also developed as places of recreation and entertainment, as extensions of domestic and industrial space, and as an arena for military, religious and political activities. However, town commons have been largely disregarded by historians and archaeologists; the few remaining urban commons are under threat and are not adequately protected, despite recognition of their wildlife and recreational value. In 2002, English Heritage embarked upon a project to study town commons in England, to match its existing initiatives in other aspects of the urban scene. The aim was to investigate, through a representative sample, the archaeological content and Historic Environment value of urban commons in England and to prompt appropriate conservation strategies for them. The resulting book is the first overview of the archaeology of town commons - a rich resource because of the relatively benign traditional land-use of commons, which preserves the physical evidence of past activities, including prehistoric and Roman remains as well as traces of common use itself. The recognition of town commons as a valid historical entity and a valued part of the modern urban environment is an important first step towards successful informed conservation. An important consideration for the future is maintaining the character of town commons as a different sort of urban open space, distinct from parks and public gardens.

'a beautifully presented and informative work, of use to those with a general or academic interest in urban environments and archaeology, and to those with a more personal or professional concern'
Eleanor Straughton, Conservation and Management of Archaeology Sites

'A really useful volume, well researched and written, and full of interest in its detail.'
Bob Silvester, Landscape History

'Attractively produced and readable, this will be useful not just to urbanists but also to anyone with an interest in common lands.'
British Archaeology

Author Information

Mark Bowden is based in the English Heritage Archaeological Survey and Investigation team. Graham Brown is based in the English Heritage Archaeological Survey and Investigation team. Nicky Smith is based in the English Heritage Archaeological Survey and Investigation team.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half-Title Page2
Title Page4
Copyright Page111
1 Introduction10
2 The land before the commons20
3 Farming on town commons29
4 From the land42
5 Defence of the realm53
6 A social dimension to town commons65
7 High days and holidays76
8 Present and future85