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The Affinities and Antecedents of Medieval Settlement

Topographical perspectives from three of the Somerset hundreds

Nick Corcos


The search for the origins of rural communities in England as perceived in the medieval period has exercised a strong fascination for scholars. Until well into the 20th century, such work was almost exclusively the preserve of historians and was, by and large, “document-driven”. Today, the landscape itself is “interrogated” to provide evidence in its own right, and archaeologists can give answers to many questions posed by landscape historians. In this work, the author presents a general, synthetic survey of certain aspects of medieval settlement in three contrasting areas (hundreds) within the county of Somerset, England. The objective is to give an impression of the nature of rural occupation, its affinities and antecedents, very much from a topographical perspective. The author makes extensive use of fieldwork, historic maps and records, and unpublished archaeological and landscape reports, and it soon becomes apparent that a wide range of settlement patterns and forms is encompassed both within and between the three hundreds of the present study, and this allows the reader to draw illuminating comparisons and contrasts in terms of the topographical themes that define the work.