Stories from the Edge: Creating an Identity in Early Medieval North-West Staffordshire
thesisposted on 04.09.2017, 12:18 authored by Matthew Keith Blake
This thesis takes as its research area the southern half of Pirehill Hundred, Staffordshire. Despite being in the Mercian heartland, it is an area that has remained on the periphery of discussions by scholars of the early medieval period. To bring this area into focus this study has undertaken both a multi-disciplinary and a multi-focused approach. Chapters one and two discuss burial mounds, both in terms of survival and their cultural context and the lives of local saints. Both are viewed in terms of their historical context as well and through the lens of storytelling and the formation of identity as expressed in the landscape. The discussion pulls in wider themes concerning the power of the dead as expressed in the landscape. The chapter on the stone sculpture of Staffordshire brings these monuments back into a Mercian context, seeing them as a continuation of this wider narrative as well as bringing to the fore broader discussions around land ownership. This is later linked through a series of case studies to the propensity for early medieval manors to be found on the edge of watery landscapes. It is through these detailed case studies that evidence is provided for a series of ‘symptoms’ by which early medieval settlements can be discerned. The role of the powerful family Wulf is discussed in the final chapter, placing this family and their landholding firmly in a Staffordshire context. What links this thesis is an understanding of ‘edgy-ness’, either in landscape terms with the desire for early medieval manors to seek out the edge, or how this region has remained on the edge of academic discussions. Above all else this thesis is a study of the landscape of the often overlooked rural landscape of early medieval Staffordshire.