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Reading A Landscape

27th September 2019 @ 6:06am – by Charles Cavill
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Audlem History Society meeting – Thursday 19th September

Before introducing the speaker, chair, Jeremy Nicholls informed members that the Society has donated £100 to the appeal for St James's Church urgent repairs.

Jeremy then welcomed Claire Moores who gave an illustrated talk entitled 'How to read a landscape'. Landscape is not just a snapshot of present-day usage, it is a mirror of the societies that created it over millennia. Landscapes reveal geography, history, archaeology and sociology. From ancient time people have used woodland as a valuable resource, and this is reflected in place names such as Ashton and less obviously Acton (oak) and in place names ending ley and wood. Pagan people venerated yew trees and the presence of ancient yew trees near a church can indicate that Christians took over a pagan religious site.

In parts of Cheshire salt workings have transformed the landscape: as salt is extracted the land above slumps creating lakes such as Winsford Flashes, whilst the waste products from salt production are now put to good use at Anderton Nature Park.

Cheshire shows evidence of extraction of peat and minerals including coal, whilst social elites created hunting forests and deer parks such as the one at Lyme Park. As the country became more prosperous, existing roads needed improvement and repair leading to the creation by Acts of Parliament of turnpike trusts to charge tolls to pay for this work. Tolls were charged at the turnpike or toll gate as commemorated here in Audlem.

Industrial development also led to the canal and later railway systems. Tithe maps show the ownership and names of individual fields giving useful information about historic land use and the names of streets and lanes also contain useful clues to past events. Claire gave an interesting talk which encouraged us to do further local research.


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