Minsters, estates and parish boundaries : the churches, settlements and archaeology of early medieval Norfolk
The primary aim of this research has been to examine the development of the parish in Norfolk. This has been achieved by focussing on the earlier arrangements of great estates and pastoral care. The development of parishes is often linked to the nucleation of settlement, provision of local churches and the development of open field agriculture. In Norfolk these developments are poorly understood due to a lack of early documentary evidence, a complex pattern of landholdings portrayed in Domesday and the disruption caused by Scandinavian settlement. Traditional views on these territorial organisations are critically re-examined using an extensive compilation of settlement, church and archaeological data from the county SMR. This study has revealed a complex landscape that cannot be easily generalised. It challenges existing views about the distribution of settlement and local churches, the usefulness of Domesday and previous assumptions about the impact of Scandinavian settlement. Case studies have been analysed in detail to demonstrate the many subtle differences in the landscape evident at a local level that are not apparent at a county level of consideration. There is evidence to support the idea that great estates were once present in the county, but there is little to demonstrate that a system of minster churches once existed. This research has also shown that parish units can be used to demonstrate many aspects of the landscape that cannot easily be recovered by other methods. At the core of this study is the use of GIS data management software which has proven to be a powerful research tool for landscape analysis and allows contrasts and comparisons to be made with the data that would not have been possible by other methods.