Historic Village Atlas Northumberland : Methods
Villages do not exist as self-contained units, but rather as focal points within the wider landscape. It is important, therefore, in attempting an understanding of the development of villages themselves, that the study villages are investigated in the context of their wider landscapes, which may be definable by bounded areas, such as parishes and townships, or by topographic features such as river valleys.
Modern villages exist within clearly demarcated territories known as civil parishes, which are generally based on the boundaries of earlier territorial units labelled townships – units of settlement with pre-Norman origins which were regarded as discrete communities within each ecclesiastical parish. The ecclesiastical parish represented a unit of land paying tithes to a parish church, and in upland Northumberland these parishes were often vast, incorporating entire dales and numerous townships.
A township has its own settlement nucleus and field system and is thus an area of common agricultural unity and is often equivalent to the medieval vill – though the latter frequently refers to a taxation unit or administrative entity, whereas a territorial township refers to the physical fabric of the community (fields, buildings, woods & rivers). Township boundaries sometimes follow pre-Norman estate divisions and in some cases may even be earlier - it seems likely that a system of land organisation based around agricultural territories was in operation in Roman or pre-Roman times. Therefore, in some instances very ancient boundary lines may have been preserved by later land divisions. The various forms of parish and township and their development over time are discussed more extensively in the historical synthesis in Section 3 of each Atlas.
In order to carry out a study focussing on the village core whilst attempting also to understand it within the local and regional context, a variety of approaches has been taken using information derived from a wide range of sources, including existing archaeological and historic buildings records, historic maps and documents, historic and aerial photographs and published information.
Each Village Atlas is divided into sections. In Section 1 the location of the village is discussed and an indication is given of the area covered by the present study.
Section 2 provides a background to the sources of information used to compile the report, listing the archives consulted and some of the most significant maps, documents and photographs used to compile a list of cultural heritage sites.
Section 3 provides a listing of all the historic and archaeological monuments identified within the study area and synthesizes the collected data to provide a summary of the known history of the settlement.
Section 4 contains suggestions for future work and sets out the report's conclusions regarding the village's historical development which in turn inform the judgements regarding the levels of archaeological sensitivity applied to different parts of the settlement and displayed graphically on the 'sensitivity maps'.