The extent to which Anglo-Saxon society was capable of large-scale transformations of the landscape is hotly disputed. This interdisciplinary book – embracing archaeological and historical sources –
explores this important period in our landscape history and the extent to which buildings, settlements and field systems were laid out using sophisticated surveying techniques. In particular, recent research has found new and unexpected evidence for the construction of building complexes and settlements on geometrically precise grids, suggesting a revival of the techniques of the Roman land-surveyors (Agrimensores). Two units of measurement appear to have been used: the ‘short perch’ of 15 feet in central and eastern England, where most cases occur, and the ‘long perch’ of 18 feet at the small number of examples identified in Wessex. This technically advanced planning is evident during two periods: c.600–800, when it may have been a mostly monastic practice, and c.940–1020, when it appears to have been revived in a monastic context but then spread to a wider range of lay settlements.
Planning in the Early Medieval Landscape is a completely new perspective on how villages and other settlement were formed. It combines map and field evidence with manuscript treatises on land-surveying to show that the methods described in the treatises were not just theoretical, but were put into practice. In doing so it reveals a major aspect of previously unrecognised early medieval technology.
'Planning in the Early Medieval Landscape – the title of both the book and the research project on which it is based – is a major contribution to the long-running and much-debated question as to when and how the English medieval countryside took shape. [...] These and many other insights are presented clearly and concisely in a compact volume that is likely to become an essential reference text for all Anglo-Saxonists.'Neil Faulkner, Current Archaeology
'This fascinating book... introduces us to disparate and intriguing pieces of evidence... It has implications for historical transitions, including the impact of the Norman Conquest.'
Thomas Pickles, English Historical Review