University of Nottingham

Perceptions of medieval landscapes and settlements: new directions (workshops)

Project outline

Between AD 400 and 1500, the landscape of Britain went through a series of radical changes. Disagreement persists however about how and why these changes took place. This project was designed to adopt an alternative approach to medieval settlements and landscapes, through an exploration of the culture and mentality that lay behind the forms of settlements, creating a new understanding of the medieval countryside, with implications for academic interpretation, but also for public enjoyment of the modern landscape.

Perceptions of Medieval Landscapes Perceptions of medieval landscapes


A total of 54 speakers gave papers in the four workshops and a plenary conference, attendance varying between 17 and 30 (with numbers restricted to maintain seminar atmosphere). Approximately 130 people participated in the network to varying degrees (excluding website visitors). Attempts to involve the whole of the British Isles were successful, as was the policy of including speakers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds; archaeology, geography, history, English literature, environmental science and linguistics. Participation has helped a number of early career scholars to make contacts and to gain experience of delivering seminar papers.

The network was sponsored by the Medieval Settlement Research Group, but extended to involve participants beyond this established circle, and outside of the universities (English Heritage, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments for Scotland, local authorities, Victoria County History etc).

Workshop presentations and discussions generated a new understanding of the medieval countryside with implications both for academic interpretation and the public enjoyment of the modern landscape.

Ongoing influence

The workshop series created stronger contact between scholars with similar research interests (sometimes working on different periods in history), allowing them to make new and lasting connections.

Discussions have also been influential for public service researchers, conservation policy makers and those individuals involved in the presentation of archaeological and heritage sites to the public.

The project has publicised the potential for collaborations between archaeologists and those working in the creative arts, and stronger links have been formed with enthusiasts/amateurs and popular magazines like British Archaeology. The project's international impact continues to grow through publication in a number of journals.

Activities have made a contribution to a shift in the orientation of the subject towards a 'perceptions' approach which will be further demonstrated in the emphases of future research projects and publications. Workshop discussion agreed that the attitudes and culture of contemporaries needs to be taken into account, as different social groups had varied awareness of their surroundings.

The project acronym 'POMLAS' has become something of a brand, and a number of linked research project have already taken place. These include an  AHRC funded one-year research project 'Mapping Medieval Chester' (September 2008-September 2009),which resulted in the production of an online resource (, a conference titled 'Mapping the Medieval City', a medieval festival in Chester, and a new AHRC Knowledge Transfer Partnership in collaboration with the Grosvenor Museum to create visitor/tourist displays, exhibitions and tours in Chester.

The AHRC also funded a follow-up series of workshops in which participants explored the idea of 'Sense of Place in Anglo-Saxon England' (SPASE) ( Participants included historians, archaeologists, historical geographers, and linguists. The papers presented offered novel insights on Anglo-Saxon 'place' taken from a wide range of perspectives. 

Project web page:


  1. Planning and meaning
  2. Working and sharing
  3. New people, new farms
  4. Belonging, communication and interaction

Award details

Duration: January 2007 - December 2007 (12 months)

Principal Investigator:
Professor Christopher Dyer

Dr Mark Gardiner 

Higher Education Institution:
School of Historical Studies, University of Leicester

Network sponsor

Medieval Settlement Research Group

Related links



    Landscape and Environment Programme

    School of Geography
    University Park
    University of Nottingham
    Nottingham, NG7 2RD

    telephone: +44 (0) 115 84 66071