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The development of historic field systems in northern England: a case study at Wallington, Northumberland

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Soetkin Vervust, Niels Dabaut, Professor Sam Turner



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Wallington in central Northumberland is a late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth century country house with associated pleasure grounds. Much of the surrounding estate is agricultural land, though there are also expanses of moorland and conifer plantation. The character of Wallington’s landscape, now divided into fifteen separate farm holdings, was to a large extent shaped by estate management practices and improvements in the eighteenth-nineteenth centuries. Today’s settlement pattern is made up largely of dispersed farmsteads, with field systems which reflect the orderly rectilinear layout of planned enclosure, being separated mainly by long and fairly straight stone-faced banks. In medieval and early modern times by contrast, the landscape is thought to have been quite different, with nucleated villages set amidst irregular open fields which were farmed collectively. The process of long-term landscape change from open to enclosed field systems has been inferred across the whole of Northumberland but it can be difficult to understand in detail. Absolute dating evidence for field systems before the eighteenth century is generally lacking and the origins and development of historic earthworks including boundary banks and the remains of arable farming are poorly understood. This paper presents results of research which used retrogressive landscape analysis (based on documentary evidence, archaeological data, aerial photographs and historic cartography) to identify five areas for detailed geoarchaeological investigation and sampling with optically stimulated luminescence profiling and dating (OSL-PD). The results provide new perspectives on the development of landscape character at Wallington which have wider relevance for north-east England and beyond.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Vervust S, Kinnaird T, Dabaut N, Turner S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Landscape History

Year: 2020

Volume: 41

Issue: 2

Pages: 57-70

Online publication date: 13/12/2020

Acceptance date: 02/06/2020

Date deposited: 02/06/2020

ISSN (print): 0143-3768

ISSN (electronic): 2160-2506

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/01433768.2020.1835183


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