Saturday, 17 December 2016

The View From Above

 Landscape research 1600 to 1970

End of year review .

The volunteers have begun to tackle several different strands of archival research, all currently focused on the century 1750-1850 and the parishes of Cannock, Rugeley and Colwich. Much of what we are looking at comes from the archive of the Paget family, who owned the Chase. A group looking at miscellaneous estate memoranda have found a number of interesting documents that illustrate the management of the Chase, such as lists of sheep herds and the marks used to identify them, and notes about colltages built on the edges of the Chase. The correspondence of estate agents forms a similar kind of resource, shedding light on a number of different management issues, in particular poaching. A more formulaic source is provided by estate rentals: here, a group are transcribing selected rentals in order to build up a picture of landholding around and on the Chase; we hope to compare these with the earliest maps of the Chase (notably the tithe) in order to locate holdings and the place-names that go with them, with the ultimate aim of building a picture of the social geography of the area.
Another group is looking at parish records, creating spreadsheets of baptisms, burials and marriages that will enable us to run a number of statistical calculations on the local population. This will tell us how the area compared to the national average, and should shed light on issues such as migration. A group looking at census returns is tackling similar issues, particularly migration (from records of place of birth) and the kinds of occupations practiced by the local inhabitants. We hope to use trade directories for similar purposes.
Finally, we have a student looking at quarter sessions and magistrates records, pulling out records of crimes committed on the Chase; again, this is often poaching, but also includes activities such as illegal heath burning and fern cutting.

We have enough material to keep us busy for the next few months, but are planning to hold a special session to take stock of our current progress in mid-January.

Best wishes,