Stay Home, Save Lives, and discover more about the historic landscapes of Surrey

April 21, 202011:54 amLeave a Comment

In common with all non-essential workers, HER team members are now working from home or, in the case of one of the HER Assistants, in a redeployed role as part of Surrey County Council’s frontline response efforts to the Coronavirus outbreak (for further information and advice please see the dedicated pages on the Surrey County Council website). Life for the time being is very different for everyone in Surrey, as elsewhere, with most of us unable to travel as far and wide as we would normally do. With this in mind, the HER hopes to be able to provide some welcome distraction, education and perhaps even a little entertainment in the coming weeks through a greater frequency of blog posts.

Because you’re reading this online, and most likely in your house, I thought the best place to begin was by sharing something that can help you find out a lot about the historic landscape of Surrey from the comfort of your own home. The following guide (click on its title to open it) was produced mainly to reinforce what participants at a recent public event in which the Surrey HER was heavily involved saw/heard/did over the course of the day, but also with a mind to creating a “one-stop shop” to help anyone using the internet to research Surrey’s historic environment:

The Surrey HER Guide to Researching the Landscapes of Surrey in the Middle Ages (April 2020)

I drew upon years of my own online research experience in putting together the guide – it feels a bit like giving away a lot of trade secrets! Unsurprisingly, it covers a lot of different things. Some of the contents are links to good introductory sources for subjects like the histories of particular parishes and accessing old Ordnance Survey maps, while others are more specialist, being derived from academic journals and research projects. The guide is split into several sections, covering different topics (archaeology, historical records, place-names) or geographical scales – as far as possible with the historic county of Surrey to the fore (consequently it includes some resources relevant to areas no longer inside the present administrative county boundary).

A bit of background to the event that inspired the guide

The research guide was compiled as a follow-up to a study day all about the medieval landscapes of Surrey held at the Surrey History Centre in Woking on 14th March, shortly before the announcement of the national lockdown, which was put on as part of Surrey Archaeological Society’s Sustainable Impact project (funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund).

Surely a familiar sight to some readers, the entrance to Surrey History Centre at the end of the Medieval Landscape study day (photo copyright Rob Briggs / Surrey Historic Environment Record)

The aspiration for the day was to give exposure to less well-known fields of study to do with Surrey in the Middle Ages and subsequent centuries. Therefore, instead of presentations about the archaeology and buildings found in medieval towns and villages, it featured ones on subjects like manorial records, field-names, and seasonal stock grazing, plus a display of original source documents put together by our History Centre colleagues. The day also included a practical workshop put together by the HER and led by yours truly, in which participants were divided into five tables who studied different historic maps showing the lands of the Manor of Pendhill (now Pendell Court) in Bletchingley in 1622, 1762, and the early 1840s in order to extract historic field-name spellings, consider the etymologies of these names, and in turn what they might indicate about past landscapes. Which may sound a very daunting series of tasks, especially for beginners, but many people found it so engrossing that the session overran!

Copies of the maps used as part of the HER’s historic map and names analysis exercise; the original maps are all kept at the Surrey History Centre (photo copyright Rob Briggs / Surrey Historic Environment Record)

As it says in its introduction, the guide is by no means an exhaustive compilation of links to online materials. In fact, I would welcome suggestions of additional web-based resources (ideally ones which are free to access) from others, so they can be added to future editions of the guide. Please contact [email protected] with any recommendations you might have – we’ll make sure to give you full credit if you wish to see your name in print.

Rob Briggs, HER Officer

Written by HER Assistant

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