HEA LT H , D IS EASE , AND PO PU LA TIO N
The study of population changes is of fundamental importance in any local history. In non-urban communities especially it may be the master-key to the history of the community over several centuries. The great majority of English parishes were for many centuries more or less self-contained communities, producing nearly all their material requirements within their own boundaries. Thus the local schoolmaster who wrote the history of the parish of Warton in north Lancashire in the early eighteenth century says of his parish:
O f the Midland parish of Wigston Magna I have written elsewhere in the following terms which might well apply to almost any parish in England:
houses, barns, and boundary walls-it had its own clay, used in the preparation of the long-lasting ‘mud walls’. The boulders in the clay, of every size from pebbles upwards, provided the necessary footings for all these mud walls, and the mortar that bound them came from Wigston’s own lime-pit. Wheat-straw or selected reeds from some special corner of the parish provided the material for thatching houses and copings for mud walls. The parish had its own sand-pits and gravel-pits, the latter especially valuable when the coming of turnpike roads in the eighteenth century made better surfaces necessary; and when the general use of bricks for domestic building came in in the last quarter of the seventeenth century good brick-earth was found right in the village.