Techniques for reconstructing landscapes. A study of Allesley, Coundon and Stoneleigh parishes in the Warwickshire Arden
thesisposted on 26.05.2010, 11:05 by David Sheppard
This thesis demonstrates that private researchers with limited resources can use computer-based methods to reconstruct and understand old landscapes in the greatest detail and to the highest accuracy that the documentary evidence allows. The most important feature is the development of a new technique which uses inexpensive computer-aided design software to transcribe, analyse and present maps that are accurate, detailed and informative. The development of these methods was based on a study area in north Warwickshire which comprises the historical parishes of Allesley and Coundon and the northern part of Stoneleigh parish, almost all of which now lies within the city of Coventry. The new technique was used to reconstruct a sequence of detailed maps which show the changing landscape of this area from about 1600 to the early twentieth century. Several contemporary surveys were analysed and presented on these maps to illustrate some aspects of the local history. The sparseness of the documentary evidence did not allow a continuous narrative, but the new technique illuminated selected themes in ways that traditional methods have not. These themes included landholdings, land use and land value in the 1652 enclosure of the open field of Allesley, the 1626 and 1809 surveys of Allesley and the c. 1840 tithe surveys of the study area. The thesis concludes by analysing the geographical characteristics of Allesley and Coundon that may relate to a much earlier landscape, although a speculative reconstruction was not attempted because of the need for substantial extra research beyond the scope of this thesis. The methods developed in this thesis should be useful for private research on the landscape of other study areas with a similar quantity and quality of documentation. Despite the continuing growth in the power and versatility of computers, they will remain valid because they deal with the difficult interface between manuscript sources and digital methods.