The topographical legacy of the medieval monastery: evolving perceptions and realities of monastic estate landscapes in the southern Welsh Marches
Date: 3 June 2019
University of Exeter
PhD in Archaeology
This thesis assesses the impact and legacy of the medieval monastery on the historic landscape up to the present day, examining both physical topography and how landscapes have been perceived and experienced; exploring not only what mark has been left, but also what embedded memory, recognising that the stories about landscape are as ...
This thesis assesses the impact and legacy of the medieval monastery on the historic landscape up to the present day, examining both physical topography and how landscapes have been perceived and experienced; exploring not only what mark has been left, but also what embedded memory, recognising that the stories about landscape are as important as material evidence. A hypothesis that the topographical legacy of monasticism has remained a central element (though often hidden or unseen) underscoring the genius loci of the places looked at is explored, examining how this has influenced landscape evolution, experience and remembrance. Monastic estates have traditionally rarely received comprehensive attention from landscape archaeologists and historians, and few studies have attempted to track the subsequent evolution of these estates beyond the Dissolution within the context of their monastic antecedents. The research questions of this project are addressed through the detailed examination of landscapes associated with several monastic houses in the southern Welsh Marches and the tracing of their later progression. Adopting an interdisciplinary and multi-layered approach, a core emphasis on topographical change and continuity is supported by an examination of shifting conceptions of cultural value. Consequently, the study interweaves themes which have long dominated historical and archaeological discourse around landscape with a more recent interest in how places and landscapes are perceived, appreciated and codified in both the past and present. The tools of conventional landscape history and archaeology are deployed, combined with approaches more commonly associated with cultural geography to provide a comprehensive analysis – a deep topography - of the perceptions and realities of these complex landscapes. Presented here is a research project which can ultimately contribute to informing decisions on how such landscapes with complex pasts and presents are managed, utilised and presented to the wider public; an urgent need, now more than ever, as competing land-use pressures play out across rural and urban Britain, and the cultural and economic value of ‘heritage assets’ is increasingly seen to be realised on a landscape rather than a fragmented site-based level.
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