Society and the land : the changing landscape of Baschurch, North Shropshire c.1550-2000
This study focuses upon elements of continuity and change in the developing landscape of the parish of Baschurch in north Shropshire during the period c.1550-2000. In considering a relatively neglected part of the English rural landscape, the writer examines whether landscape change in this area was unique or mirrored experiences in neighbouring parishes and the county as a whole. Shropshire as a county is understudied in terms of its landscape history and so this research project aims to redress this balance, whilst at the same time contributing to the growth of knowledge regarding rural landscape studies generally. The writer examines the themes of population, farm and fieldscape, land use, settlement and buildings, and transport. Analysis draws upon a wide range of documentary sources including a large collection of probate inventories, existing primary and secondary literature and oral testimonies, alongside an examination of structures and features in the present landscape. Analysis reveals the diverse nature of the landscape of the parish. It exhibits varying patterns of landownership, enclosure, field systems, land use and settlement. Research shows that in some instances experiences mirror those exhibited by neighbouring parishes: for example with regard to the enclosure of open arable lands, the rise of dairy farming and the emergence of settlement in areas of former woodland. Overall, this research demonstrates the importance of landownership during the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries in influencing the extent of landscape change. Landowner involvement affected field systems, farm size, land use, settlements and emerging transport networks. Research shows that single landownership of a township has often led to landscape change, whereas change has occurred more slowly, or has been inhibited, in areas exhibiting multiple landownership. This study reveals that during the twentieth century the role of the dominant landowner as a major influence on the landscape has been superseded by local government planning departments. Although subject to landowner involvement, the importance of transport developments in understanding landscape change is also highlighted. In addition to enhancing our knowledge of the rural landscape of north Shropshire, this research project reveals that through its varying patterns of landownership, field systems and settlements, the parish of Baschurch is a microcosm of the west midlands and borderlands landscape as a whole.